Season In Review: Bobby Parnell


Today on Rising Apple, our Season In Review series turns its attention to Bobby Parnell.

Bobby Parnell recently turned twenty eight years old in September and is arguably coming off his best campaign with the Mets.  He now has four full seasons of experience under his belt as he enters his prime.  While he has a staunch supporter in me, he is also one of the most difficult Mets to figure out.

How Bobby Parnell Did On The Mound:  In the 2012 regular season, Bobby Parnell established career bests in multiple categories.  First, he set a career high with seventy four appearances.  Then with a 5-4 record in relief, he set a new high in wins, and also set a career high with seven saves.  Additionally, Bobby Parnell posted his career best earned run average with a 2.49 mark.

In 68.2 innings pitched, Bobby struck our sixty one batters for an average of 8.0 K’s per nine innings.  He allowed sixty five hits and limited his walks to twenty.  For the first time in his career, Parnell surrendered less hits than innings pitched.  Bobby averaged 8.5 hits allowed per nine innings pitched which was a career best.  In the three seasons Bobby pitched at least sixty innings, twenty walks is his lowest mark although his 2.6 walks allowed per nine innings was his second best effort.  His 1.238 WHiP was likewise a career best.

Sep 19, 2012; Flushing, NY,USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Bobby Parnell (39) leaves the mound during the eighth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

Parnell briefly stepped into the closer’s role again when Frank Francisco was placed on the disabled list in mid-summer.  When he stepped in for Francisco Rodriguez in 2011, Bobby saved six games, but blew five other opportunities.  This time around Bobby Parnell fared somewhat better.  Between June 28th and August 1st, he saved four games, endured back-to-back blown saves on July 14th and 17th, and earned a win in one other game.  Overall, his second audition consisted of thirteen appearances.  Bobby pitched thirteen innings and allowed four earned runs for a 2.76 earned run average.  He allowed thirteen hits, no home runs. and issued three walks.  Over that stretch he struck out fourteen batters.

Areas To Improve Upon:   Even with a 100mph plus fastball, Parnell has remained quite hittable.  Despite improvements (68.2/65) in 2012, Bobby has tossed 256.1 innings in his career and surrendered 270 hits.  Heading into 2012 the Mets toned down his 100mph plus fastball for the sake of gaining more control.  That resulted in Parnell walking 1.5 less batters per nine innings in 2012  over the prior season.  Overall, I guess to a large extent the move worked considering Parnell’s season described above.  But only the future will really tell.

Working against him, four years into his career Bobby Parnell suffers for lack of a top quality secondary pitch.  More to the point, the Mets reliever is in desperate need of an out-pitch.  With one, Parnell is the definitive team closer.  Instead, with two strikes on batters he currently labors to get strike three.   He toyed with a split finger earlier in his career.  He then relied primarily on a slider until that pitch took a back seat to Parnell’s new curve ball.

Truth is, his curve ball is more like a slurve-ball, or a swerve ball.  Whatever we choose to call it, the pitch lacks bite.  In my opinion, a curve ball; his curve ball; needs a more dramatic break.  Right hand batters find Parnell’s version easy to take.  Instead of handcuffing lefties, his curve ball falls on their bats.  Both force him to revert back to his fastball.  Accepting his curve ball at face value, I further believe it is being used incorrectly within the count.  I get the impression better hitters are setting up Parnell rather than the other way around.

His secondary pitch, which ever he settles on, will no doubt have to improve.  In the mean time, Bobby Parnell also needs to learn how to climb the ladder with his fastball.  With his stuff, no batter should be leaning into any pitch.

Lastly, in 2013 Bobby Parnell must buck an old trend among relief specialists, which is to have on-off-on-off seasons.  His four year career appears to have fallen into that trap.  If the trend holds true, next season stands to be another bad campaign.  However, entering his fifth season in 2013, I’m expecting a mature twenty eight year old on the mound who will defy a prevalent pattern in baseball.

Projected Role In 2013:  For the reasons stated above, Bobby Parnell will remain an eighth inning specialist who gets second dibs on closing games for the Mets.  That said, he isn’t restricted to facing right handed batters only.  There is more than enough confidence in his ability to retire left and right handed hitters.  Closer Frank Francisco is in the last season of a two year pact with the Mets.  Ideally, by 2013 the Mets want Bobby Parnell to take over the closer’s role.

Bobby Parnell’s future lies in Bobby Parnell’s hands.  His body of work stands on its own.  He need not be thrown into a conversation which includes Jenrry Mejia or Jeurys Familia.  Parnell’s role is to lead and mentor them if they are indeed slated for the bullpen next season.

Contract Status and Chances Of Being Traded:  With four years service, Bobby Parnell is arbitration eligible.  Last season he signed a one year deal worth $504k.  Whether the club and Parnell’s agent settle on another one year pact, or his case goes to arbitration, the Mets twenty eight year old right hand relief specialist stands to receive a considerable raise.

Outside of some elbow inflammation suffered in 2010, Parnell has been reliable and durable enough.  The Mets might want to consider putting off Bobby Parnell’s free agency in 2015 by offering him a somewhat sweetened deal as they did with Jon Niese last off-season, and with David Wright and Jose Reyes years ago.  Of course, the money involved is relative to short relief.

It is easy for Mets fans to get a little too picky regarding his shortcomings.  I think I’m guilty of that here because familiarity can do that.  However, I’m sure other teams around the league hold him in much higher regard.  Among the other twenty nine teams in baseball, I’m positive a few clubs would be willing to make Bobby Parnell their closer now.

That said, his trade value remains high.  In fact, his trade value perhaps is currently at its highest.  Coming off arguably his best season, and two seasons away from free agency, he is small market gold.  He is also particularly valuable to the Mets.  And so I believe the likelihood he remains a part of the Mets future remains high as well.  I would be happy with that.