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Tampa Bay Rays Have Unconventional Lefty Reliever

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Apr 7, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA;Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Danny Farquhar (43) throws a pitch during the eighth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 7, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA;Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Danny Farquhar (43) throws a pitch during the eighth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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It is not uncommon for a team to have two left handed relievers in the bullpen. The Tampa Bay Rays, however, are taking an unconventional approach to their second lefty, as the role has fallen to Danny Farquhar.

Given the specialization inherent in bullpens these days, it is rare when a relief corps does not have two lefties. At least one would be the typical lefty specialist, coming in for a batter or two before departing, a pitcher popularized by Tony LaRussa. These days, it seems as though every bullpen has that type of pitcher waiting for their time to face a batter or two.

The Tampa Bay Rays, meanwhile, have just one lefty reliever in Xavier Cedeno. During his career, Cedeno has held lefty hitters to a .223/.285/.287 batting line, with just ten extra base hits in 314 plate appearances. Although lefties are 2-3 against him this year, he has made a living as a lefty specialist.

However, if the Rays are facing another tough lefty batter after Cedeno has been in the game, they do not have a second lefty reliever to go to. Instead, manager Kevin Cash has indicated that Danny Farquhar will serve as that second lefty in the bullpen, as he cited Farquhar’s lethal fastball-changeup combination as a difference maker.

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While Farquhar does have that solid fastball, his change is really his out pitch against lefties. It breaks down and away, acting more like a screwball than a changeup. For batters unaccustomed to seeing such a pitch, and lefties in particular, it can be quite the weapon.

The advanced stats show how lethal that changeup can be against lefties. 29.6% of his changeups have resulted in a swing and miss against lefties, the fourth highest mark of any righty with 100 or more changeups to a left handed batter. And, opponents only have a .114 batting average against the change, making it an impressive weapon even on those rare occasions that the opposition gets wood on the ball.

This is, in some ways, a classic Rays move. Instead of using conventional wisdom, they are looking at what the statistics say, and basing their usage of Farquhar upon that. In this case, the statistics say that he dominates lefties. Thus far, Farquhar has proven the Rays correct in their assessment.

Next: Rays have a decision to make at catcher

The Tampa Bay Rays may only have one lefty in the bullpen, but that doesn’t mean they do not have a second weapon against them. It just so happens that Danny Farquhar is going to be that pitcher.

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