by Andrew Gould
Deemed the Mets’ closer of the future for the past two years, Bobby Parnell looks poised to get another shot at handling the ninth innings in Queens.
When the Mets shifted Parnell from the starting rotation to the bullpen, they appeared to have struck gold with a chance that enabled Parnell, who has often hit triple digits on the radar, to fire away at full strength. Although Parnell certainly has excelled in small spurts, he has yet to put forth a prolonged stretch of productivity.
For all the dominant stuff he possesses, Parnell has been hit hard during his young career. Most flamethrowers who can regularly dial up a fastball in the upper 90’s tend to succeed in avoiding contact, but Parnell has yielded 224 hits in 204.2 career innings pitched. Since his 3.79 BB/9 ratio isn’t anything special either, Parnell sports an ugly 1.52 WHIP in more than three years in the big leagues. That doesn’t exactly scream closer in waiting.
He has however, thrived early in 2012 while closer Frank Francisco implodes. Francisco has allowed six runs and 11 base runners, while only retiring five batters, in his last three outings. In the mean time, Parnell has not surrendered an earned run in his last nine appearances. In 17 innings this year, Parnell has struck out 17 batters while only walking three, which is the most encouraging sign early in the season. So is it time for the Mets, who have been surprisingly competent this year with a 20-17 record, to make the change and grant Parnell with the closer’s role?
Even during a strong stretch, Parnell still holds a not-so impressive 1.29 WHIP. With a 2.36 FIP (prior to yesterday’s appearance), Parnell surely is pitching effectively, but he’ll force the Mets to sweat it out late in games. It’s also not the first time Parnell displayed glimpses of potential before regressing. Last year he entered the All-Star break with a 2.92 ERA and looked ready to take the closer’s crown once the Mets shipped Francisco Rodriguez to the Brewers. He never capitalized on the chance, falling far enough out of the Mets’ graces that they revamped their bullpen (or so they thought) in the offseason by acquiring Francisco, Jon Rauch and Ramon Ramirez.
Fantasy owners are excited at the possibility of Parnell receiving another crack at save opportunities, but he might not get the chance. Although Jon Rauch’s .235 BABIP and 4.02 K/9 ratio are far from encouraging, his past experience as closer could make him the next option if manager Terry Collins strips Francisco of his closing duties (although he did allow three runs against the Reds on Wednesday night).
None of the Mets’ options should particularly intrigue anyone, but saves are valuable wherever they can be obtained in a wildly frantic year for closers. While Parnell holds the most upside and should be the first Met middle reliever to speculatively add, don’t get your hopes up too high.