It seems like every time T.J. McFarland comes into a game, Twitter explodes with “this guy should be given a chance to start” tweets. Maybe I’m missing something, but I just don’t see it.
On Sunday, McFarland helped save the bullpen after an abysmal 2.1 innings pitched from starter Freddy Garcia. However, he still surrendered five earned runs over the 4.1 innings he took over.
In 41.1 innings pitched this season, McFarland has pitched to a 4.14 ERA. Admittedly, ERA is a lousy way to judge a relief pitcher, the most appropriate statistic to judge him on would be his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), which measures what a player’s ERA should have looked like over a given time period, assuming that performance on balls in play and timing were league average. McFarland’s 3.82 FIP makes him a slightly above average pitcher. My favorite part of McFarland’s game is his 2.57 K/BB, but his 1.403 WHIP worries me about his chances as a starter.
One of the most important parts of starting pitching is a guy’s effectiveness against opponents that have already faced him in the same game. McFarland hasn’t pitched three times through any lineup this season, though to be fair neither have many Orioles starters. The first time through the lineup this season, McFarland has kept hitters to a .254/.312/.385 slash, the second time that balloons up to a .297/.341/.486 line.
High leverage situations also haven’t been kind to him. With runners in scoring position, opponents are hitting .298/.382/.532 with a .914 OPS. McFarland’s K/BB dips to 0.57 is those situations.
According to his player card on BrooksBaseball.net, McFarland relies primarily on his sinker at 88 MPH and his slider at 79 MPH. He mixes in a fourseam fastball at 88 MPH and a changeup at 82 MPH. Right now, it’s best to leave him in long relief. Perhaps down the road his stuff will translate to a starter’s role.