Waiting for Parnell

Bobby Parnell pitched a perfect eighth inning back on July 28 against Cincinnati. Three up and three down on just eight pitches, with a strikeout to boot.

The next day, Parnell was undoubtedly the subject of breathless prose from both bloggers and the mainstream media, too much of which strains credulity looking for optimism every time Parnell has a decent outing. His supporters really seem to want Bobby Parnell to do well, because they really want to believe that he is the closer-in-waiting, or at least a dominant set-up man in the making.

He isn't.

Bobby Parnell continues to seduce Mets fans into thinking he has the makings of an elite reliever, even though the on-field results tell a different tale. For all the excitement about his blazing fastball and its propensity to reach triple digits on a good night, there aren't nearly enough outings like the one in Cincinnati to make clear-eyed observers into true believers.

Parnell is going to be 27 next month, too old to be considered a prospect by even the most liberal of measures regarding age. After nearly three seasons in the Mets bullpen, Parnell hasn't developed into the top-shelf fireman they hoped he would become. His primary value to the Mets lies in the fact that he remains cheap and cost-controlled, and even that may not be the case after the season when Parnell becomes arbitration-eligible.

The statistics tell you who Bobby Parnell really is - a middle reliever with a great fastball that still doesn't belong in charge of the eighth or the ninth inning for a playoff team.

After a cup of coffee in 2008, Parnell has spent parts of three seasons in the Mets bullpen. The numbers don't lie:

2009 - 1.664 WHIP, 10.3 hits per nine innings
2010 - 1.400 WHIP, 10.5 hits per nine innings
2011 - 1.515 WHIP, 10.2 hits per nine innings

Batters have hit .281/.355/.376 off Parnell for his career, right in line with his 2011 numbers (.279/.351/.360). He still gives up far too many hits and still walks too many batters - 3.5 per nine innings in 2011.

It would be easier to believe in Parnell's potential to turn it around one day if he had a history of success in the Mets' farm system. He hasn't. For the most part, Parnell had gotten hit just as hard when he was a starting pitcher in the minors as he has with the Mets.

Parnell was great in Brooklyn as a starter back in 2005 - but everyone who makes 10 starts for Brooklyn in a given season puts up gaudy numbers. He spent the next three years enjoying a form of social promotion, steadily moving through each level of the minor leagues despite not actually mastering the level he pitched at previously.

The starting pitcher experiment was finally abandoned going into the 2009 season, when Parnell spent most of the year getting hammered out of the Mets bullpen. Since then, he has been touted as a potential successor to Francisco Rodriguez, even if the results on the field have given no indication that he deserves to be.

General manager Sandy Alderson has to be seriously thinking about Parnell's future with the Mets - and not whether he's going to be a closer or a set-up man in 2012. Alderson has to consider whether or not to even offer Parnell a contract for next season, especially if he's in line to triple his salary through the arbitration process.

Parnell still has some trade value - blazing fastballs don't grow in trees and there are a couple of positive statistical indicators left to suggest that Parnell may one day put it all together. His K/9 rate of 11.0 this season is enticing, and his .380 BABIP certainly points to some bad luck with batted balls in play. (Parnell's career BABIP is .350, however, so luck is not entirely to blame for his hit totals this year.)

But the Mets have been waiting for Parnell for seven seasons now. It was one thing when he was a minor-leaguer and youth was still his side. It was another thing when he was making the league's minimum salary for a team that wasn't a playoff contender.

How much longer can the Mets continue to wait for a version of Bobby Parnell that may never show up?


Charles said...

The Mets continue to crank out these flame throwers that have no clue how to throw and master a second pitch. Pelfrey, Parnell, Mejia, are just some who were sent up to the Majors with a blazing fastball and little else in their toolbox. I just don't understand how a pitcher can make it through the minors and onto a major league staff by throwing a fastball that they cant locate and a slider or curve that they cant throw for strikes. It's a good thing hall of famers fail 70% of the time and it seems that the Mets are banking on those percentages when these guys get the call. As soon as Pelfrey made the bigs, Rick Peterson scrapped his curve and made him throw the slider which he still hasn't mastered, which is bad because his fastball isn't sinking as much as it used to and he isn't throwing in the mid to upper nineties like he used to. What is that? Mejia fastball has a ton of natural movement, but he cant locate his curve. Parnell, after all these years, still cant get his slider over for strikes. Unless your name is Mariano, you are not going to be successful with just one pitch, and I dont understand these promotions without these players showing they have at least one more pitch they can execute in order to make a mlb baseball player fail more then the 70% of the time that they'd get themselves out anyway. Anyway, Parnell, as sure as the sun will rise in the morning, will never be a successful closer as long as baseball players continue to love hitting fastballs, because that's all he knows how to throw.

Mack's Mets © 2012