In the latest in a League-wide series, we will look at one reliever who outperformed expectations and one who failed to live up to them, along with some honorable mentions. Here are your Bullpen Breakout and Washout performances from the American League West.
The Seattle Mariners entered 2013 with 2011-12 breakout closer Tom Wilhelmsen set to finish games for them. Wilhelmsen held the role through much of the season, but failed to replicate the success he’d had previously and was optioned down to AAA on August 6th to figure his stuff out. It’s not all bad news for Seattle fans, though, as they appear to have unearthed another to take his place. After being drafted by the Blue Jays and eventually bouncing around on waivers to the Yankees, Danny Farquhar was a part of the trade that sent Ichiro Suzuki to New York. As a member of the Seattle Mariners, he has honed his pitch selection and attack plan on his way to becoming one of the elite strikeout relievers in the American League. He posted an ugly ERA of 4.20 over 55.2 innings, but Farquhar’s 34.7% strikeout rate was third best in the AL and his 1.86 FIP and 2.40 xFIP paint the picture of an extremely unlucky pitcher. (Mariners Defense Joke Goes Here) Armed with a four-seamer he runs at 94mph, a cutter that Pitch f/x pitch-type values place as the 8th best in the AL and a curve it places 6th, Farquhar’s increasing mastery of his repertoire can only lead to more success in 2014 and beyond. He ended the year racking up 16 saves as the M’s closer and looks to retain the mantle going into this year.
You could fill a couple Mariners into this space, but I’m going to focus on Travis Blackley‘s time spent in the Houston Astros’ magnificently terrible bullpen. The 31 year old Aussie had an absurdly high HR/FB rate at 26.3%, 3rd highest amongst AL relievers with at least 20 IP, which led to him costing Houston 1.2 wins by Fangraphs’ calculations and putting up a hilarious 6.74 FIP, worst in the AL. He walked over fiver batters per nine and his always weak strikeout rate simply couldn’t drag him back. Blackley is a quintessential quad-A player who enjoyed a modest breakout in 2012, starting 15 games out of 24 appearances for the AL West Champ Athletics and earning a 3.86 ERA, but his transition back to the ‘pen in Houston could scarcely have gone worse. He eventually found his way to the Rangers, who had him stress out a starter to some moderate degree of success of 15 innings, but he lacks the tools to remain in baseball for very long without making significant improvements.