Mets Need to Open Door For Parnell To Close

Photo by Michael Baron

In a year of malcontent and disappointment, where fans are left searching for hope in yet another lost season,  the talent and potential of the team’s youth provides promise.   This promise is perhaps best exemplified by right handed reliever Bobby Parnell, who is doing all he can to show that he will be part of the solution moving forward.

Robert Alan Parnell was selected out of Charleston Southern University by the NY Mets in round 9 (#269) of the 2005 MLB draft.  At the time MLB.com offered the following analysis on the Mets selection:

Quirky delivery and solid FB. Could be an effective reliever. Medium frame. Lanky. Gaining confidence.”

It was the same draft in which NY selected Mike Pelfrey (9th overall) and Jonathon Niese (209th overall). As both Niese and Big Pelf solidify themselves as future mainstays in the rotation, Bobby is showing that he could very well provide similar stability in the bullpen.

Parnell spent his first 3 years after being drafted (2005-08) in the Mets minor league system and boasted an unspectacular 28-31 record (92 starts) with a 4.04 ERA. According to scouts his fastball was around 91 or 92 miles per hour during the first few innings before increasing to 95 or 96 as the game progressed.

Photo taken by Michael Baron

It wasn’t until Spring Training of 2009 that his live arm and mental make-up made an impression on the Mets coaching staff, prompting pitching coach Dan Werthan to make the following comments:

I think he’s impressed everybody with his arm strength, but more than that, we’ve liked his demeanor.  We like his attitude when he walks to the mound. He has confidence. He’s able to let a bad outing go or a bad pitch go and continue to make good pitches.”

Bobby eventually broke camp with the team and continued to turn heads.  In his first 25 appearances of 2009 (April/May), the fireballer struck out 19 batters and posted a 2.11 ERA (21 1/3 IP, 5 ER).  Despite flashes of brilliance early on, Parnell hit a wall in June, allowing 12 ER over 8 IP (13.50 ERA).  The 6’4″, 200 lb. rookie, however, showed resilience and determination by working 10 scoreless innings while fanning 9 batters in dominating fashion for the month of July.  But, as the season spun out of control and the 2009 Mets began their descent into the abyss, manager Jerry Manuel decided it was time to see what Bobby Parnell could bring to the table as a starter.  Take a successful young reliever and try to make him into a starter……had Jerry been talking to Joe Girardi?  The Joba-esque move was made in order for the team to evaluate the young pitcher as a potential candidate for 2010 rotation.  Unfortunately, while Parnell had succeeded as a reliever on the strength of his over powering fastball, the lack of a true  secondary pitch proved costly in his brief stint in the rotation.

As his first season in the bigs came to a close, his 3.46 ERA out of the pen (5.30 ERA overall) and a 7.5 K/9 ratio could be viewed as a success of sorts.  Not too shabby for a then 25-year-old rookie taking his first crack at MLB hitters.

Parnell was once again invited to Spring Training in 2010 but unlike 2009, his season would begin in AAA Buffalo. It wasn’t until June 20th that he would be called upon to replace Jenrry Mejia on the Major League roster. All Parnell has done since his promotion is impress, impress, and impress some more.  With a scoreless inning in Wednesday night’s game against Atlanta he has now gone 10 straight appearances (9 2/3 IP) without allowing an earned run, lowering his season ERA to 2.76 in the process.

The most impressive thing about his recent stretch is that he hasn’t walked a batter in over a month and his fastball seems to only be getting better, routinely hitting triple digits.  Think Ricky Vaughn of Major League, post glasses .  Power and control???  Sounds like a dominating combination to me, the kind of stuff closers are made of.

For a real laugh just imagine what Parnell’s #’s would look like had he not toed the mound on August 6th when he gave up 4 ER without recording an out in a losing effort to the Phillies.  If that blip on the radar could be erased Bobby would be staring at a 1.54 ERA on the season.  There’s no reason to discount that appearance, it happened and Parnell owned up to it, but even with that being said, he has only allowed runs in 4 of his 32 outings.

It has become obvious that Bobby is regaining his ‘closer of the future’ title, but with the lunacy surrounding the Francisco Rodriguez debacle, the future is now.  According to Dan Martin of the New York Post, the Mets’ young flamethrower agrees:

That’s what I want to do and what I see in my future. I need to learn to succeed and learn to fail. I’d like to get my feet wet.”

Photo by Michael Baron

With the Mets cutting lose some of their veterans (Alex Cora, Rod Barajas, and Jeff Francoeur), it’s no secret that all eyes have turned to the future.  That is, all except Jerry Manuel’s, who insists on using Hisanori Takahashi in the closers role while Parnell holds down the 8th inning.  Although Takahashi has thrived in the 9th, there are far fewer questions surrounding his ability than there are Parnell.  Hisanori has done whatever has been asked of him and while he may be able to close for a year or two, why continue on with his evaluation?  I don’t care what kind of ‘hot streak’ Jerry feels the Mets can go on, in the wake of a potential sweep at the hands of Atlanta there is absolutely no reason to keep Parnell’s audition on hold while a 35-year-old rookie who can become a Free Agent at the end of the season continues to take center stage (click HERE for Takahashi’s contract details).

Photo by Michael Baron

With that said, it is time to open the door for Parnell to close.  As NY did in 2009 (making him a starter) there is no better time to evaluate what the future holds for the youngster.  It’s a time for answers in Queens, something the team seemingly understands as their expanded roster is currently adorned with minor league talent such as Jenrry Mejia, Lucas Duda, and Ruben Tejada.  Somehow, however, the question as to whether or not Bobby Parnell can be a successful closer for this team is not being asked.  It’s time to do just that and find out if his mental strength is on par with the strength of his right arm.

Photo by Michael Baron

Reasons to smile for the 2010 New York Mets have been few and far between, but watching Parnell light up the radar gun is something that will never grow tiresome.  As terrible as the K.O.-Rod situation has been, I honestly believe fans will readily turn away from the past if the team merely shows them what is in store for the future.  The future closer for this team may very well be Bobby Parnell, now show us.

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  • Tim

    its hard to anoint a closer with no out pitch. While his control has been better than it ever has been, Parnell IS hittable (BAA over .280) and more importantly hes lucked out by not having any of his balls be driven for home runs, but the real problem with Parnell is his complete lack of a decent Second Pitch. No successful major league closer throws a fastball over 80% of the time, no matter how fast that fastball is, when a good hitter expects the fastball he’ll put it miles away, Just ask brad lidge about Pujols.

    Teach Parnell a Splitter or a Cutter or even better a solid change and he could be a very good closer, at the moment you cant expect it from him

  • Anonymous

    Tim I understand your point and agree that he needs to master a secondary pitch to truly be dominant. With that said, he has enjoyed a good amount of success in the 8th inning with his fastball so why not the 9th? I know the mindset is different, but that’s precisely the experience I would like to see him get. He will fail from time to time, maybe against guys like Pujols (nothing wrong with that), but I think the benefit of ‘getting his feet wet’ as he put, would go along way towards evaluating whether or not he has the make-up for the role.

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