Time to remove Tom Wilhelmsen from the closer's role, replace him with Danny Farquhar

Otto Greule Jr

Tom Wilhelmsen is scuffling and Danny Farquhar has been a revelation. Is it time to make a switch?

The rope on Tom Wilhelmsen has just about run out. It's not that Wilhelmsen is going to be this bad for the rest of the year, but last night's epic meltdown is another tick in an ever-increasing list of failures from Wilhelmsen this year. He lost it some time in June, but did he ever really have it this year? Sure, his ERA was a sparkling 0.75 through the first two months of the season, but it was a bit of an illusion. Logan uncovered this, and wrote about it on May 24th, contending that the league had possibly caught on to Wilhelmsen's curve.

This has pretty proven to be accurate, although it's also been aided by some (over)normalization to his strand rate (now 62.9%) and BABIP (still very low, .237). Tom Wilhelmsen has 18 walks and 18 strikeouts in 23.1 innings since July 1st. He's only getting a 10% swinging strike rate, and his ERA, if you're into that, is 8.10.

While the whiff rate has decreased on Wilhelmsen's curve from 2012 to 2013 (33% to 29% whiff/swing), batters just don't swing at it as much anymore period - down from 36% to 32%. This doesn't seem like much, but a major component of that has been his control, as the curve resulted in 37% strikes last year, and that's now down to just 24%.

A table about Tom Wilhelmsen's curve, for your viewing pleasure.

Strike% Swing% Whiff%
2012 37% 36% 12%
2013 25% 33% 10%

That's obviously not the only thing going on here. Wilhelmsen's control has been crap across the board, not just with the curve. Except for his change-up! His change has been good! He's throwing it twice as much, and it's resulted in 25% whiffs (up from 16%) and 34% strikes (21% in 2012). It's probably been his best pitch, but he still only throws it 9.6% of the time. Sometimes the danger of looking at pitch F/X data is overestimating the impact of specific pitches thrown. He doesn't throw it very much, which is why we're not seeing very much in his results. You know what Wilhelmsen does throw a lot? Fastballs. Curves. Not for strikes.

The collection of batted ball types has been hotly debated over recent years, but whatever you think of them, Wilhelmsen is getting hit a lot harder this year. That's certainly in part due to his penchant for allowing hitters to get into good counts where they see better pitches, but his LD% is up to 21.6%, up from 16.4% in 2012. It's helped raise his tERA from 2.67 in 2012 to 4.38 in 2013.

Tom Wilhelmsen isn't the same guy he was in 2012. That much is obvious from results and peripherals alike. It could be as simple as confidence, but the first bout of pulling him from the closer role and easing him back in didn't really seem to fix anything. The Mariners didn't trade him at the deadline, and while the hope is that he can re-establish value for the rest of the season to gain trade value in the offseason, I don't see it if they keep tossing him out like this. Tom Wilhelmsen isn't totally broken, but something is at least cracked. The Mariners probably shouldn't continue down this path any further.

Meanwhile, the Mariners have another reliever who is trending in the opposite direction, finally seeing some normalization in his ERA and strand rate. Danny Farquhar has been unreal, especially of late. Farquhar has 15 strikeouts in his last 9.1 innings, has allowed a .243 OPS against, walking four. Zero runs.

Farquhar has struggled mightily this year due to his inability to strand runners, despite his 2.07 FIP and xFIP. His FIP is 10th among all relievers. His xFIP is 4th. His 13.64 K/9 is 5th.

K/9 xFIP FIP GB% HR/9
Player A 13.83 2.28 2.20 42.70% 0.67
Player B 13.64 2.07 2.17 45.30% 0.55

Who would you rather have?

Player A is Craig Kimbrel. Player B is Danny Farquhar.

That's the level of pure domination we're talking about. It's what Farquhar is capable of, but he's been insanely unlucky and he's still inexperienced. Here are the big differences.

BABIP LOB% ERA
Kimbrel 0.270 95.1% 1.34
Farquhar 0.378 53.4% 5.45

Welp. That explains a lot. There's a couple things at play here, and one of them is some crap luck, while the other is some growing pains from a rookie. The BABIP isn't going to stay anywhere near that high with those peripherals, and the LOB% will improve with some normalization of it's own, as well as more experience. An improved ERA will follow, and is already starting to.

Danny Farquhar doesn't just have the potential to be a good reliever. He has the potential to be one of the game's best. When everyone discusses who the Mariners closer of the future is, the arrow usually points towards Stephen Pryor and Carter Capps. Not anymore. It's Danny Farquhar. Perhaps the Mariners should give him a look at closer sooner than later. It's a better role for him than moving him to a relief ace/fireman role at this point, given the struggles with runners on base which can at least partially be attributed to inexperience. It'd be best for Farquhar to start with clean innings. Groom him for the closer role in one way or another. He could be the best option there this franchise has, and Wilhelmsen hasn't shown he deserves to keep it.

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