Thursday, February 11, 2010

Meet Professor Farnsworth, Your Kansas City Royals' Fifth Starter

I think I might be mentally ill if I read this and think, "Well, things could be worse..."

The "this" that is linked to above is a story in which Dick Kaegel reports that Bob McClure has stated that Kyle Farnsworth will be given the chance to fight for the final spot in the rotation in Spring Training.

My initial response to this statement would have been frothing-at-the-mouth anger if not for the past two offseasons of being anally brutalized by the team that I love.

Now I have nothing to do but shrug and console myself that at least they haven't signed another decrepit free agent to an unnecessary two-year deal that simply sets the timetable for hopeful contention back another year.

Really, what is the worst that could happen with this experiment? Last year, the Royals trotted out Sidney Ponson, Brucie Chen, and Horacio Ramirez for a combined 19 starts*. I know Kyle Farnsworth is bad, but his BB/9 of 3.4 was lower than any of the aforementioned fifth starters (Chen came closest with a 3.6 BB/9). The unholy triumvirate of scrap heap soft-tossers above all had K/9 between 4.9 and 6.5. The Prof struck out 10.1 per nine.

*Yes, I know Horacio Ramirez only registered one start, but HORACIO RAMIREZ registered one start for these lowly Royals, and he was signed to be a starter. It was such a bad signing that they only gave him one start. One. One start. I have a patch of hair missing from that start. Right in the middle of the side of my head. Gone.

I am fully aware that his strike out and walk ratios will drop when stretching out, but we sat through a lot of garbage starts last season. Would Farnsworth starts be any worse?

Now rather than wade into the waters of masturbatory hypothesizing as I am wont to do, I will let the calm pragmatist come out of its hole for just a bit.

Part of the reason I am hesitant to commit too much time to this story is that this strikes me as a sequel to Mark Teahen: Second Baseman. I could spend hundreds of words extolling the virtues of this outside the box thinking, but in all likelihood The Professor will be blowing Zack Greinke leads or pitching in garbage time. Teams say all kinds of things as Spring Training draws nearer. Paying lip service to every statement a team makes in the week before pitchers and catchers report seems a bit pointless.

As far as what to expect should Farnsworth break camp as the #5 starter, well, Dave Cameron wrote up one side of the story here, citing the example of Ryan Dempster. Rob Neyer takes a predictably less optimistic approach and hits on the one point that stuck out to me as having been neglected in the Cameron article: Dempster had once been a quasi-successful starter when the Cubs looked at unconverting him to a starter.

We can hope that his fastball magically takes on movement as he drops a few MPH off. We can also hope that he develops a secondary pitch to throw to lefties, as he almost exclusively threw his fastball to them. Sure, all of that hoping is probably for naught. After all, this is Kyle Farnworth we are talking about here, and he'll likely be back in the pen and relegated to low-leverage situations by the middle of March.

What this development does show is a glimmer of hope for those of us who have been clamoring for some outside the box thinking on the part of the Royals. While I would place the chance of this experiment working out at about 12%, it does give me a little hope. Between this and the Mark Teahen experiment that was derailed by the World Baseball Classic and the Alex Gordon hip injury, there have now been some attempts at addressing some roster issues from within the roster without breaking the bank on the free agent market.

Sure, the outside-the-box thinking hasn't been exercised while chasing down free agents--hell, inside-the-box thinking or really thinking at all seems to have been elusive when looking at 90% of the acquisitions made since the end of the 2008 Major League Baseball seasons. Still, as long as we Royals fans are stuck with the regime at the helm, we have to search long and hard for any reason to hold out hope.

If trying to stretch a shite reliever into a starter is the thing that brings me back from the ledge this time, I guess Dayton Moore & Co. have worked their magic once again...

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