Searching for Saves: Can Bobby Parnell, the New Named Mets Closer, Thrive?

Earlier today Terry Collins revealed that Bobby Parnell would open the season as the Mets closer (thanks to Frank Francisco still dealing with an elbow issue). With the newly signed Brandon Lyon right behind him, it is important that we dig into Parnell to try and determine if he can run with the job or not.

Parnell is a pitcher who has always had strikeout potential, but struggled with his control. With a fastball that has averaged 95.7 mph for his career (exactly where he was in 2012), we would love to see a higher strikeout mark than last seasons’s 8.00 K/9, but no one would complain about it either.

The real focus is on his control and groundball rate. Last season his BB/9 was 2.62 overall, after sitting at 4.10 the year before. However, 2012’s mark is a little bit deceiving:

  • First Half – 2.06
  • Second Half – 3.21

Obviously the second half is still an improvement, but fantasy owners just need to go in knowing that in its totality, the 2012 mark is slightly overstated.

However, you couple any improved control with a monster groundball rate and his strikeout ability and you suddenly get a pitcher who has the stuff to thrive. Last season he posted a GB% of 61.5%. If you want to believe that he will continue to be that good or not, over the previous two seasons he had posted marks of 56.2% and 50.6%. He simply does have the stuff to generate groundballs and pitching in CitiField, even with the adjusted fences, just makes it that much more appealing.

In addition, according to Fangraphs, Parnell also changed his pitch selection in 2012. Instead of pairing a slider to his fastball, he instead used a curveball (which he threw 26.2% of the time). There easily could have factored into to his overall improvement, as the extra five mph difference to his heater (heaveagd 82.2 mph on the curveball as opposed to 87.8 mph on his slider in 2011) easily could’ve helped keep batters off balance.

Michael Baron on (click here for the post) may have best summed up Parnell when he said:

“On the surface, Parnell has had a great season. Rather than taking one step forward and two steps backwards like he has in prior seasons, Parnell has had longer stretches of success with some bumps in the road. He has learned to vary the speed of his fastball between 92-100 mph – that differential almost serves as a fastball/change-up combination for him. He has also harnessed better command of his fastball as well as his secondary pitches.

There are still issues with Parnell. The main question is, what is he? Up until now, he had been nothing more than a flamethrower with an inconsistent approach to pitching. He has had lapses this year in which he’s reverted to being a thrower and not a pitcher, which is consistent with his past.”

That really is the question, as in the past Parnell has struggled in high pressure situations. Even last season he was credited with five blown saves and has 11 blown saves in 24 chances over the past two years.

Does he have the stuff to excel? Absolutely, but a lot can change between now and the end of Spring Training. We should consider Parnell well worth the late round draft pick, as he could run with the job and never relinquish it. At the same time, it wouldn’t be a major surprise to see him imploded by March 15 and Lyon was instead named closer.

In other words, Parnell is worth the risk, but don’t go into the season counting on him for saves.

What are your thoughts of Parnell?  Do you think he will excel as the Mets closer?  Why or why not?

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One comment

  1. GT says:

    Parnell’s got great stuff – closer talent. Problem is, he always seems to fall apart when thrust into those high pressure situations. I don’t have the numbers, but he’s been given the chance to close at least 3 times in the last 3 seasons and has yet to hold down the job. As a Mets fan I really hope you’re right that a new approach improves his chances in 2013.

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