The Mets bullpen has had its ups and downs. Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch started the year off with a bang by slamming the door on the Braves three games in a row. Since then, the results have been uneven…and I’m being nice. New York’s “prized” off-season acquisition has saved five games for the Amazins, but he’s been all but amazing himself. His 7.71 ERA and 1.93 WHIP are a far cry from what he did during the season opening sweep. Jon Rauch has been very effective thus far, except for his last outing in Colorado. And please, don’t even get me started on Miguel Batista or Manny Acosta. The one sure thing that Terry Collins can go to in his bullpen is Bobby Parnell.
The Mets right-hander has looked like the team’s best reliever since they reported to Port St. Lucie in February. His velocity is still there (average velocity is 95mph), but he decided to stop trying to throw as hard as he can in order to get more control of his pitches. That, plus the introduction of a new curve ball with his change up have kept hitters off balance through his first 11 appearances of 2012. His main stat line looks pretty normal (0-0, 3.38 ERA, 10.2 IP, 1.4 WHIP), but he’s been the most dependable reliever in the middle innings for Terry Collins because of his improved control. So far, he’s fanned 15 hitters and issued free passes to only two,
yielding his best SO/BB ratio of his career (7.50).
In his 11 appearances this season, Parnell has thrown his fastball 76.5% of the time he’s on the mound, but has used his curve ball 22.9% of the time to keep hitters off balance. In 2011, he was throwing straight cheddar with an average velocity of 97mph on his fastball, but his slider (88 mph) and his change up (91 mph) weren’t a huge deviation from his hardest pitch. Also, since his control was mediocre at best, he was continually behind in the count, so his opponents expected his fastball. This season, even though his average fastball velocity has dropped to 95 mph, his new curve ball is dropping off the table at an average of 81 mph. Not only does this pitch break more than his slider did in 2011, but it’s a full seven miles per hour slower than his average slider and 14 miles per hour slower than his fastball.
In addition to his improved repertoire, his K/9 ratio is in double digits for the first time in his MLB career (13.06), his BB/9 ratio is the lowest it’s ever been in his entire professional career (1.74), his LOB% is the highest it’s ever been (80.9%), and his ground ball/fly ball ratio is his best since 2010 (2.14). Seeing all of these numbers are nice and this documents the progress that Parnell has made, but it’s easy to see how much more confident he is when he takes the mound. In the past, it was always the question as to whether we would get the good Bobby or the bad Bobby.
Ron Darling made a great comment about Jonathon Niese before he took the mound in his first start of 2012. He said that people always wonder when a talented pitcher will to “get it.” When will their physical talent meet their knowledge and wisdom to become dominant. It looks as if Niese has figured himself out as a Major League pitcher (outside of last night), but this comment pertains to Bobby Parnell as well. He’s always had the stuff to be an effective MLB pitcher, but he wasn’t able to put it all together. Now, it looks like he’s finally gotten to that point that we were waiting for.
Bobby Parnell should be the first option in the bullpen for Terry Collins, no matter what. He can go two and three innings if he needs to, and his increased ability to strike hitters out makes him a good option to come in during an inning when runners are on base. So, please Terry, please stop using Acosta and Batista so much, it’s simply not working.