Jul 12, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners relief pitcher Danny Farquhar (40) pitches to the Los Angeles Angels during the 8th inning at Safeco Field. Seattle defeated Los Angeles 8-3. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
If you like to read sites like Lookout Landing and Fangraphs, and follow the writers of said sites along with a few other Mariners beat writers on Twitter, then you’ve probably seen some grievances concerning current closer Tom Wilhelmsen. I’m joining the parade now, too.
Not that last night’s four-run debacle (followed by more ineptitude by either manager Robby Thompson or home plate umpire David Rackley depending on which way you look at it, resulting in two more runs) was the deciding factor for me in removing Wilhemsen from a role he’s no longer qualified for, but it gave me assurance the repercussions from such a move would be slim to none.
Are there any arms in the pen that demand attention? That are clearly the next Mariners closer? No, but there are more than a couple that deserve the chance. The popular name in the last 13-or-so hours has been Danny Farquhar. Farquhar is the last remaining piece from the Ichiro trade, now that D.J. Mitchell was designated for assignment. The argument for Farquhar goes beyond the normal stat line. You have to use sabermetrics in order to get the full story on Farquhar.
His 5.45 ERA is nothing to write home about, unless you’re looking to tell a sad story of misfortune. He has appeared in 22 games, pitching 33 innings for the Mariners this season. In what is not such a small sample size anymore, Farquhar boasts a 13.64 strikeouts per nine-innings number, good for fifth in the majors, only trailing established closers such as Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel and Greg Holland.
That number comes thanks to Farquhar’s 35.7 strikeout percentage, another category Farquhar ranks top-10 in, surrounded by elite company. It’s not just strikeouts for Farquhar, either; he is inducing nearly half of his balls in play to the ground. Thus allowing him to only surrender two home runs in 33 innings pitched.
None of these numbers lines up with a 5.45 ERA, so what’s the deal? Well, Farquhar has fallen victim to the second-highest BABIP in in baseball, trailing only former-teammate Carter Capps. Part of his .378 BABIP could be a 26.7 line drive percentage – seventh-highest of relievers – but it is only a small contributor. Most of it has been bad luck and bad defense behind him, almost guaranteeing a regression to the mean. You want to write home about his 5.45 ERA? There’s your tale of misfortune.
But if there’s one thing we know about Eric Wedge, it’s that he is one of the biggest opposers of sabermetrics in the game today, going as far as to accuse the stats of being behind Dustin Ackley’s struggles at the plate. So, let’s assume he will look at that sad story of an ERA and say a resounding “hell, no.” There are still many better options than Wilhelmsen. Even a man who has given up four runs in two appearances equalling two-thirds of an inning, deserves a shot.
That man is Oliver Perez, who, time and time again, has proven to be the most reliable reliever in the Mariners bullpen. Let Capps and Stephen Pryor battle for the role once both are healthy and throwing strikes. Even Yoervis Medina has a chance to be better than Wilhelmsen once he stops walking more than 10 percent of the batters he faces.
Stop entrusting the most important innings of a game to a bartender with no control. Much of the rest of the bullpen can do a better job than he right now, and at eight games under .500, there’s no reason not to give them a chance.