Bobby Parnell Showing He is Closer Material

By Matt Musico

When Frank Francisco went on the disabled list with a strained oblique, all Mets fans groaned because an already struggling bullpen was dealt a blow to the one reliever that had a specific role. What was Terry Collins going to do? Continue with his “no role” bullpen and do a closer-by-committee? He decided to give Bobby Parnell another crack at closing games for the time being, and although many felt he did so because the right-hander has been the most consistent reliever this year, he has shown his potential to eventually become the Mets’ closer in the future.

In the 3-2 victory against the Dodgers on Thursday night, Parnell retired the Dodgers in order, and despite not striking anyone out, his fastball reached 101 miles per hour. In fact, he hit triple-digits on the radar gun multiple times. In years past, that would go to Parnell’s head, as he would

continue to try and throw every fastball by opposing hitters. Not this year, though. The entire 2012 season, we’ve seen the growth of Parnell as a pitcher and his approach toward hitters.

In 37 appearances, he has accumulated a record of 1-1 with a 3.09 ERA in 32 innings. He’s still striking hitters out at a high rate (8.7 K’s/9IP), but he’s shown the most control he’s ever had in his career, with a BB/9 rate of 2.3. Parnell has gotten the opportunity to close games in the past, mostly because of the electric pitches and extreme velocity he can bring to the mound. However, those previous chances were not successful because he got too caught up in trying to throw everything by hitters.

He attributed some of that to being young and watching closers strike out guys left and right on their way to finishing a game. It’s taken Parnell a few years to realize it, but the location of a pitch is just as important (if not more important) than the velocity of a pitch. The fact that he can throw 100 mph is awesome, but if it’s right down the middle, MLB hitters are eventually going to hit it. Also, velocity isn’t going to be present on any given night.

However, location and control can be present on a nightly basis, but it takes discipline and concentration to achieve it consistently. Over the winter, Parnell dedicated himself to pitching to spots more frequently, and allowing hitters to put the ball in play early in the count on a pitcher’s pitch. So far this season, it’s worked out tremendously. Unlike his previous opportunities at closer, Parnell knows that once Francisco is healthy, he will be assuming the ninth inning duties once again. He has pitched well since his early season blow up (9 saves of his last 10 opportunities, 1.26 ERA), and Alderson gave him a $12 million contract that runs through the end of next season to close games for the Amazins.

Bobby Parnell is under team control for at least the next three years, which could give him the opportunity to become the Mets closer if he continues pitching well. The organization has always felt that he is closer material, and it’s finally starting to show. Being a closer takes a unique kind of personality, and sometimes a pitcher can’t adopt that mindset right away. It’s tough for young guy to come in and immediately be a closer in a big market like New York, especially since he used to be a starter in the minor leagues. It’s taken him a few years to get acclimated, but it sure looks like Parnell will be ready to take the ball in the ninth when his time comes.