Wed May 11 01:53pm EDT
And here's another surprising nugget about Tampa Bay Rays closer Kyle Farnsworth(notes): He made it all the way to Tuesday night — a span that lasted 12 tidy innings! — without issuing a single walk of any kind in 2011.
Unfortunately, the first walk he did allow was of the worst variety. It came with Tuesday's game tied and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, forcing in a run and ushering the Cleveland Indians to a 5-4 walkoff win. After battling back from an 0-2 count, Indians left fielder Michael Brantley(notes) patiently drew balls one through four and let Carlos Santana(notes) gallop home with the winning run.
Farnsworth already has seven saves in 2011, more than he's had in a single season since his last stint as a team's closer in 2005. That year, he was traded midseason from the Tigers to the Braves, where he replaced Chris Reitsma as the team's fireman. He ended up with 16 saves between two teams that season but signed as a set-up man with the New York Yankees prior to the 2006 season. (I'm pretty sure they already had a closer.)
It's kind of hard to believe that a pitcher who has famously struggled with his control would have gone this long without experiencing the ultimate meltdown. Farnsworth has walked 362 batters in just 849.1 career innings at a rate of 3.84 walks per nine innings. That's a lot of free passes for a reliever without ever losing a game on one.
Contrast Farnsworth with former teammate Mariano Rivera(notes) with his pinpoint control and a wicked fastball. He's only walked 2.08 batters per nine innings and looked good doing it. He's never allowed a walkoff walk. On the other hand, there's the wild Kerry Wood(notes), who has given up a whopping 4.32 walks per nine since his debut. But even Wood has never allowed the game-ending walk.
True, walkoff walks are not the most frequent occurrence, happening just about eight times a season over the past 40 years (more history on that Thursday). But for an oft-scorned relief pitcher who has collected 55 losses in 12-plus years and has as many negative WAR seasons as positive ones, one would assume that the walk-happy Farnsworth would have given up the game-ending, bases-loaded free pass at least once in his life.
Come back to the Stew on Thursday when I'll have a more exhaustive study on the walkoff walk, including the pitchers who have given it up the most, the hitters who were patient enough to draw multiple game-ending walks, and even the name of the sole pitcher in the past 40 years to be on the receiving end of one.