I’ll give Royals fans a few moments to clean up the coffee they just spit all over the screen. Done? Good. Let’s continue. Here’s Royals’ pitching coach Bob McClure:
“Kyle Farnsworth is competing for a job in the rotation. We’re going to lengthen him out and see how it goes. Because what he showed me last year was the ability to back off a
little bit and not pitch with his hair on fire. And, to be a starter,
you have to be able to just kind of go pitch-by-pitch.”
I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a pitcher who has done less with more than Kyle Farnsworth. His fastball is not what it once was, but it’s still impressive. He strikes out a lot of people. While he’s no Joel Piniero, he doesn’t walk as many people as a guy with his velocity might be expected to. He’s had flashes of brilliance. At the same time his ERA is pretty high and almost every time he’s been asked to close or do something moderately more important than get one or two outs in the sixth inning or whatever, he’s failed spectacularly.
What’s his deal? I’ve never met the guy, but there’s a strong sense out there that he’s a few fries short of a happy meal in the brains department, which manifests itself in a Nuke LaLooshian tendency to throw gas when gas is not necessarily called for. That he just isn’t wired to think about stuff like “this guy sat dead red last time so I should maybe try a curveball this time.” Instead, he thinks “this guy sat dead red last time so I’ll go dead redder.”
All that said, this is probably worth trying if you’re the Royals. They paid Farnsworth too much money to come in and be a middle reliever, so rather than just leave him as a middle reliever, why not see if you can’t squeeze some extra value, or at the very least, extra innings out of him? If he beats the overwhelming odds against him and becomes a serviceable starter, fabulous. If he doesn’t? Well, it’s not like his failure would be the difference between winning the division or not.
In other words, I kind of like it.
The Mets lost again on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 7-5 defeat at the hands of the Braves. It’s their sixth consecutive loss and the club is now in last place in the NL East. Not exactly the start the Mets envisioned.
Matt Harvey got the start, but lasted only 4 1/3 innings. He gave up six runs on five hits and five walks with only one strikeout. After the game, Harvey said he was tight and that he threw yesterday expecting to start on Friday instead, per Matt Ehalt of The Record. Sounds like no one communicated to Harvey that he’d be starting this afternoon until it was too late for him to properly prepare.
Harvey started because Noah Syndergaard was scratched due to a “tired arm.” Syndergaard blew reporters off after the game, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. Puma then added that Syndergaard ripped Mets P.R. guy Jay Horwitz for letting reporters approach him.
By the way, the Mets also lost outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a hamstring injury. Not much else can go wrong in Queens.
If you haven’t heard, fly balls — not ground balls or line drives — are all the rage among hitters these days. Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez summed it up perfectly last month when he said, “I’m not trying to hit a [freaking] line drive or a freaking ground ball.” The goal is to maximize damage. Last year, for example, fly balls became hits about 17 percent less often than ground balls (7.4% versus 24.6%), but hitters had a slugging percentage more than twice as much as on ground balls (.539 versus .267). This refocusing has helped hitters like Martinez as well as Ryan Zimmerman reinvigorate their careers.
Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who is as much a student of new age analytics as anyone in the game, doesn’t feel that this approach is necessarily a good one, as Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto said:
Where I get concerned is the guys that make this attempt and burn out too much of their time and don’t get a chance to be their best selves, and either don’t make it to the big leagues or don’t perform their best in the big leagues because they’re always attempting this new style of hitting. I see it with a lot of guys. Everyone tells the good stories, but there’s a lot of s—ty stories of guys who are wasting their time trying things.
Votto added that while the fly ball approach is working right now, pitchers will soon adapt and the fly ball approach won’t be so good anymore. And he’s right. Baseball has always been a game of adjustments. For example, as teams have gotten comfortable with shifting their infield, hitters like the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber have both dropped bunts down the third base line for easy hits. Knowing that hitters are aiming to hit fly balls now, pitchers may stay higher in the strike zone more often as one possible solution.
Votto is just trying to stay as well-rounded as possible. He says that he wants to become “unpitchable.” Votto wants to be like Angels outfielder Mike Trout, whom he describes as a guy “who can do absolutely anything he wants” and “at all times [has] all options.”
So far, Votto is having another productive season despite a relatively pedestrian batting average and on-base percentage. He’s hitting .238/.330/.563 with seven home runs and 16 RBI in 94 plate appearances. Coincidentally, he’s been hitting way more fly balls than usual as he’s currently carrying a 42.3 percent rate compared to his 33.1 career average, according to FanGraphs. His line drives are way down to 16.9 percent compared to his 25.4 percent career average.