The news: according to Jack Zduriencik, Charlie Furbush is pretty much guaranteed to stay in the bullpen going forward. Though Furbush started after arriving in a trade, and though the Mariners could probably use a fifth starter out of the gate in 2013, he was excellent out of the bullpen last summer and the Mariners don't want to mess with that. They've determined that Furbush is more cut-out for relief work than starting work. There had been some thought that Furbush would be stretched out, but the Mariners' fifth starter will be someone else.
And now, an Internet blogger's thought process regarding the bombshell:
Processing the news. Charlie Furbush used to be a starter. He came over as a starter. After starting, he relieved. He relieved well, although he struggled toward the end. The Mariners have made a determination that Furbush is more of a reliever than a starter. This isn't altogether surprising news, but it does address a question a few people had been asking. So, Jack Zduriencik actually said something.
He should really get a chance to be a starter. For one thing, right now, the Mariners could use an alternative to Blake Beavan, and Furbush has worthwhile stuff. He's long been a starter before, and he's gone on record as saying he prefers that role somewhat strongly. And look at his 2012 performance. Better than a strikeout an inning. More than four strikeouts for every unintentional walk. Practically zero hits. Only three home runs, and maybe most notably, some success against right-handed hitters. Furbush was better against lefties than righties, of course, and if Furbush were a starter he'd see a much greater proportion of righties than he did in 2012, but he held righties to a sub-.300 OBP. The strikeouts were there and the walks were acceptable. You'd naturally expect worse results if Furbush were re-converted, but isn't it worth a look? The Mariners could always go back later. Nothing is permanent.
Furbush did get a chance to start, in 2011. He started 12 times. He allowed 12 home runs and ran an ERA just under seven. Batters hit .306 against him with a .512 slugging percentage, and keep in mind he made some starts in Safeco. Twice he did get through at least seven innings, but eight times he didn't even record an out in the sixth. We've seen Charlie Furbush as a starter, and that version of Furbush got put in relief. He allowed a bunch of home runs in triple-A as a starter, too.
But Furbush made strides forward in 2012, so what he did in 2011 means only so much. And if we're going to look at his 2011 starting numbers, what of his anomalously high HR/FB rate? Since when do we trust that over such a small sample? Since when do we trust anything over such a small sample? Okay, 12 home runs in 12 starts. But also 48 strikeouts and 17 unintentional walks. There are things to like, even in those statistics, and Furbush wouldn't necessarily just repeat those statistics. Why wouldn't this be worth a look?
Jack Zduriencik just said that the Mariners have always seen Furbush as a probable reliever long-term. They gave him a chance to start when he came over because they wanted to see what he could do, and because they wanted to see as many innings as they could, but they've evaluated his delivery, they've evaluated his repertoire, and nothing Furbush did changed their minds. Isn't the whole thing about Jack Zduriencik that he's an excellent talent evaluator? Isn't this where we should trust him? Isn't this where we should trust the organization? They've certainly had a number of discussions on the subject. They didn't make this decision in a minute. They have a lot of information -- a lot more information than we do -- and the Mariners have decided that Charlie Furbush is a reliever. I think we should probably assume they know what they're doing.
But isn't that basically just deferring to authority? If we can't question the Mariners on one thing, doesn't it follow that we can't question the Mariners on anything? Doesn't it then follow that we can't question any team on anything? Because they always have more information, right? And they've always had the detailed conversations? If we can't question the decisions that baseball teams make, what is our role? We need to be able to be critical.
That's not really much of an argument. Shouldn't we always defer? Shouldn't we assume that baseball teams, these booming, successful businesses, know what they're doing with their business? It isn't an argument to say that leaves us without a role as critics, because the existence of critics isn't necessary. You're basically saying we need to be able to question them because we need to be able to question them. You can see how that falls apart. Maybe the role shouldn't be to be critical. Maybe the role should be to enjoy baseball and talk about what happens in it. Isn't it better to be not wrong about things?
So, what, are baseball teams always right? Do baseball teams always make the best decisions, because they have all that information? That doesn't seem far-fetched to you? Teams get things wrong. The existence of wrong decisions justifies critical behavior.
No, of course baseball teams aren't always right. Of course they get decisions wrong. But they only infrequently get decisions wrong. How much do you trust yourself to be able to identify those instances? Doesn't that seem arrogant, to suppose that you can pick up on something that a baseball team couldn't? If a baseball team makes a bad decision, and if more information could have prevented that decision, do you really think you had that information? How much of an expert are any of us? How much of an expert are any of us, relative to the people within the game, who have done this their entire adult lives?
Well you know what, ultimately, it's not like in Charlie Furbush the Mariners are sitting on a potential ace. Even if he were to work out as a starter, what would he be worth, 2-3 WAR a season? Ehh. He's already a good reliever, and maybe keeping him in the bullpen reduces his injury risk. It's not like Charlie Furbush is Aroldis Chapman. You don't watch him and think "that guy needs to throw three times as many innings." It wouldn't be hard for the Mariners to find a starter as good as Charlie Furbush might be as a starter, so at the end of the day this might hardly matter at all. Furbush is good at what he does. What he does is relieve with his left arm. That's a hell of a lot better than nothing.
God damn Doug Fister trade.