In the past week, the Mets settled arbitration-eligible cases with Bobby Parnell and Ike Davis, as reported here on Rising Apple. Parnell agreed to a one-year, $1.7 million contract, a raise of about $1.2 million over his 2012 salary.
Parnell is an interesting case, as he has two outstanding pitches, a fastball in the high 90s and a knuckle-curve that he throws off speed. In fairness to Parnell, he has been asked by the organization to be a reliever, a starter, then a reliever once again. However, Parnell has not achieved consistent success in the major leagues. His production is seemingly inconsistent with his raw talent. Another young relief pitcher in the NL, Craig Kimbrel, has very similar stuff to Parnell. Kimbrel also has a blazing fastball, and throws a heavy sinker. Kimbrel has been very successful in his closer role with Atlanta. Let’s take a statistical look at Parnell and Kimbrel.
2011 IP 77 K 127 H 32 BB 48 WHIP 1.03 ERA 2.10
2012 IP 62.2 K 116 H 14 BB 27 WHIP .654 ERA 1.10
2011 IP 59.1 K 64 BB 27 H 60 WHIP 1.47 ERA 3.64
2012 IP 68.2 K 61 BB 20 H 65 WHIP 1.29 ERA 2.49
A quick look at the statistics above shows that Parnell is basically an average pitcher, while Kimbrel is dominant.
Again, their “stuff” is essentially the same (as has been pointed out on SNY during game broadcasts as well). Why can’t Parnell achieve success as Kimbrel does? Is it pitch location? Pitch sequence? The pitching coach? The catcher? As is often the case, probably some combination of all of these must be included into the equation. In any event, 2013 will be a key year for Parnell. Parnell will be 29 this year, and has been in the big leagues (at least parts of seasons) since 2008. He has earned a significant raise, and may have the closer role. Parnell will also have new catchers this year.
I’ve grown frustrated watching Parnell for the reasons cited above. He should be better than he is. One theory that I’ve heard about Parnell is that he does not use his fastball to push hitters off the plate, thereby potentially opening the outside corner for him. In late August of 2011, the Mets were in a tight game in Philadelphia, and Parnell was on to close. He was struggling, and Hunter Pence was at bat. Parnell buzzed a fastball near Pence’s chin, to the delight of Ron Darling. Parnell proceeded to strike Pence out (on a fastball low and away), and the Mets won the game. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen a lot of that from Bobby since that game. He’ll need to do more of it in 2013. The Mets are counting on him.
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