Tampa Bay Signs Kyle Farnsworth

Steve Slowinski of DRaysBay was the first to report that the Tampa Bay Rays and Kyle Farnsworth have agreed to a one year contract that will see The Professor get paid $3.25 million, with a team option for an additional year.

It’s easy to joke about Farnsworth.  Boy, is it easy.  I mean, really easy.  So easy in fact that Jonah Keri tweeted, “The market inefficiency here would be comedy” as a means of matching Farnsworth to the Rays’ usual approach of picking up undervalued players.

Laugh all you want, but there’s something to be said about this pitcher, and it’s not necessarily comedic. We all remember his hilarious burn out with the Yankees a few years ago, but Farnsworth has actually become a much improved pitcher since then.  By adding a two seamer to his arsenal and improving the consistency of his release point, he’s been able to keep the ball on the ground, going from a fly ball rate over 51% in 2007 to 33.6% in 2009 and 36.3% in 2010.  As a result, his home run rate has reduced drastically from 2.24 HR/9 in 2008 to 0.72 in 2009 and 0.56 in 2010.

The changes in his approach have also allowed him to rein in his control, improving his K/BB from 1.78 in 2008 to 3.00 in 2009 and 3.21 in 2010.  Without an astronomically unlucky BABIP in 2009, .387 (.40 higher than his previous career high and .77 higher than his average), Farnsworth might be included in a list of the most valuable relievers over the last two years.

Let’s take a look at his improvement:

2007: 4.80 ERA, 5.04 FIP, 1.45 WHIP.
2008: 4.48 ERA, 5.49 FIP, 1.52 WHIP.
2009: 4.58 ERA, 3.10 FIP, 1.53 WHIP.
2010: 3.34 ERA, 3.06 FIP, 1.14 WHIP.

Over the last two years, Farnsworth ranks in the top twenty in FIP among relievers who’ve pitched at least 100 innings. He’s ahead of such notables as Scott Downs, Frank Francisco, Jason Frasor, K-Rod, Huston Street and even Jonathan Papelbon.

Despite losing several members of their bullpen from last year, the Rays additions this offseason, including Farnsworth and a veritable array of interesting Minor League talent, could very well surprise the rest of the league.  The Tampa Bay Rays never disappoint.