The Kid can K
The Seattle Mariners have had difficulty finding a consistent performer in the closer role, something they did not expect coming into this year. Last season, Tom Wilhelmsen found success converting 29 of 34 save opportunities over 79.1 innings with a 2.50 ERA. Of all the positions the Mariners thought they may be weak, the closer was not one of them.
Fast forward to this season, and Wilhelmsen has struggled mightily. He has already given up one more earned run (23) and three less walks (26) compared to last year in only 47.1 innings.
In addition, his K/9 has plummeted from 9.90 in 2012 to 6.69 this year. Those numbers dictate disaster, which has been the exact end result.
Since early August, the Mariners have explored other options to fill the closer role and have settled on right-handed, Danny Farquhar. Taking the job by storm, Farquhar converted five save opportunities in a row, a streak that ended Wednesday night with his first blown save in a game against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Has Farquhar’s success been a mirage… a lucky streak where limited ability was temporarily exceeded? Or is he the real deal and the Mariners closer of the future?
On the season, Farquhar has a 5.17 ERA over 38.1 innings with 3.55 BB/9 and 13.71 K/9. However, since August 3, 2013 when Farquhar recorded his first career save, he has only given up two earned runs in six games, both in Wednesday night’s blown save. In fact, those were the only two runs he had given up in his last 14+ innings, where he had been efficient and effective with 2.53 BB/9 and 13.92 K/9 going into the game with the Rays.
The Mariners closer for 2013 and beyond, Danny Farquhar. Photo: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports.
To be an effective closer, you need nasty ‘stuff’ and a short-term memory. There is no doubt that Farquhar has the nasty in his repertoire. His strikeouts per nine innings worked is a good measurement for how effective he can keep hitters off-balance. Even in AAA this year, his K/9 was well over 13.
Early in his minor league career, control was a bit of an issue as he averaged nearly 6 BB/9. However, over the last two years he has found his control with a 2.8 BB/9 in 2012 and 1.8 BB/9 in 2013 across AA and AAA.
The truth is, when things go wrong for Farquhar, it isn’t because he gets hit any harder than usual. It’s because he loses his focus and the strike zone. At the major league level, he will likely sit right around 3 BB/9, and as long as he can keep it under 3.3, should continue to find success.
As for his mental makeup, Farquhar has the perfect closer mentality. After the blown save, his response was simply, “The good thing is, I failed a ton in the minors. I blew a lot of saves down there, so, tomorrow’s a new day. I’m a guy who’s got a pretty short memory. I’ll just try to forget about it and move on.”
While that could come across as him accepting failure, the reality is Farquhar had finished 155 games over 6 years in the minors.
Like every prospect, he has had his share of ups and downs.
However, being able to overcome those obstacles and continue honing his craft, as evident by his development, is what fans should want to see.
The bottom line is, the pressure of a blown save won’t wreak havoc on his game.
Going forward, I would expect big things from Farquhar in the closer role. Last year Mariner fans were teased by Wilhelmsen’s emergence. However, his success was not built off the same history of nastiness, developmental growth, and closer mentality that Farquhar has. In fact, prior to 2012, Wilhelmsen only had 2 total saves in his major and minor league careers combined.
So while Wilhelmsen was pyrite in the closer role, look for Farquhar to be solid 24k gold.
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