Oh, wow. How to start. Sometimes actually doing these opening monologues is difficult simply because it means explaining my thought process which is like… well it’s like trying to explain how the following Dog – Tree Limb – Taco Bell are all logical steps in thought progression. It’s flat out crazy and even I don’t really understand how it all works. It just does. It’s why I’m a lot of fun to watch a game with or talk to in person but a lack the ability to communicate everything I’m thinking here. Maybe I should do a video blog???? Okay. No, that’s just a terrible idea. Damn you Jeff Sullivan, good looking, articulate and a good writer. I hate that guy.
That makes me think. Hey, Charlie Furbush!
So you know I really liked Charlie Furbush. Last year I went through a lot of minor leaguers that I thought could be useful targets for the Mariners and he was one that I highlighted in my notes at the beginning of the season. Then in early July I did a little research for a piece about what I would do at the trade deadline.
Funny story, total forgot my notes until half way through the article and then by that time they were useless. Not really funny to me. But it’s comical occurrence that I’m sure you could get a laugh at, because I’m simply a very disorganized individual at times.
Furbush by all accounts rocked an above average fastball that sat 92-94 from the left side. Coupled with a change-curve combo that has good movement. Now let me tell you I’m not what many prospect enthusiast call a “velo whore”. I don’t care if you throw 99 miles an hour or 89 miles an hour. I want to know how do you get batters out. Because that to me is far more important.
Don’t get me wrong. I would much rather Randy Johnson than Jason Vargas. It’s obvious that a strike out has much more value than a fly ball out. But then again strike outs to walks ratio is extremely important and being able to A) get batters out and B) keep batters off the bases is really the name of the game. Furbush represented both of those categories well in his resurgent season with Toledo in the Tigers minor league system.
He missed bats (13% SwS) and had a decent HR/BIA ratio (7%). Both of these were strong indicators that he could come to the Mariners and potentially be a successful piece of the future pitching staff. Some of the problems have been documented well by both Jeffs (Lookout Landing and Seattle Sports Insider) and Marc W (USS Mariner). Obviously I’m not smarter than either of these guys and I’m not going to bother trying to recreate the wheel when they already lent their fantastic talents to dissecting Furbush.
But, the other day Jeff Clarke (“the other” Jeff from SSI) did a cool little write up on left handed pitchers that that throw 90+ mph. You may have seen it as advertised on Geoff Baker’s blog (… AS WAS SOMETHING I WROTE. Yep, that’s a high-five to myself. And a big shout out to Mr. Geoff Baker for reading my blog, the same blog in which I disagree with nearly half the things he writes. But seriously, we should see a movie or hang out together. We could be like Tango and Cash. I totally call Cash. Plus your hair is perfect for a late 80’s Sylvester Stalone.)
I thought it was interesting that Jeff highlighted both Hultzen and Paxton but never mentioned Furbush. So I started doing a little research on Furbush and his velocity last year and it was kind of revealing. Looking at the chart below you can see that at times he touched 94 consistently on several different outtings early on in the season. But after moving to the rotation he obviously didn’t sustain that velocity and really had trouble keeping anything steady over 90.
Velocity dropping off when going from the bullpen to the rotation isn’t surprising. What was surprising was how much his average velocity dropped after coming to Seattle, where someonone (Carl Willis, maybe?) changed his release point. Are the two synonmous with one another. Not necessarily, but in my mind it makes sense. I thought it interesting because as it stands any pitcher that is able to throw harder stands a much likelier chance at being successful.
Furbush is a guy that is tough to figure out. I really hate to give up on him in the rotation and just throw him in the bullpen like Dan Cortes, especially considering he hardly has the command issues. But I see the value that he could bring to the bullpen. A guy that has two good pitches (in his fastball and curveball) and can certainly survive on that. But he also has a decent change and workable slider that against lefties could be a weapon.
The biggest problem that is pointed out many times and is obviously at the heart of this issue is that he just might not be able to sustain the velocity to keep him usable in starts. Where by the second or third time through the line-up card, he’s basically a punching bag. But looking at his start in Cleveland (9/19) according to game day he topped out at 91 mph with his fastball in the first inning and his velocity merely dropped as low as 88 in the fourth. His last two fastballs to Shelly Duncan in the top of the 5th inning were both 90 and 89, which is basically where he was at all day.
Maybe his erratic velocity range was more of a problem adjusting to the new release point and the difficulty of learning to repeat it. He still missed plenty of bats (8.5%) and had a xFIP of 4.14, which is high but still is workable when you consider all the elements and put them in context.
The next question is where does he rank among the fringy 4/5th starters already on the roster? Blake Beavan, Kevin Millwood, Hector Noesi, Erasmo Ramirez and becomes more convoluted when you add Paxton and Hultzen into the equation. It’s pretty obvious, at least to me, that even if he wanted a shot at the bullpen there are better left handed options (i.e. Cesar Jimenez, Hong-Chih Kuo and maybe even Lucas Luetge) and he’s best being optioned to Tacoma to start the year.
There is always a need of starting pitching at the major league level. People get injured and I’m not disappointed to have all these guys battling each other for jobs. But it seems to me like Furbush is on the same path as Luke French. Which is slightly disappointing because French sucks or sucked depending on how you choose to look at it since he is no longer in the organization. I guess simply because he’s no longer in the organization it doesn’t stop him from still sucking. But his sucking just simply matters less to me than what it did while he was with the Tacoma Rainier’s. Good luck sucking with the Twins, French.