Yesterday it was revealed that the incumbent closer for the New York Mets entering the 2013 season, Frank Francisco, was going to be shut down due to elbow inflammation. Francisco is in the second year of a 2-year/$12 million contract the Mets handed to him during free agency prior to last season. Needles to say, that has not worked out very well for Sandy Alderson, who has not had much luck tugging on the Wilpon's purse strings since arriving in New York.
Even before this report it was clear that heading into the Spring the Mets had no plans to bet on Francisco staying healthy this season and recently added Brandon Lyon to their pen. As a veteran with closing experience many thought he may be the guy called upon to pick up 9th inning duties should injury befall Franky Frank. That scenario has played itself out before the first pitch of the season has even been thrown and as we get ready to bet on March Madness, it's time to figure out who the Mets will now bet to close out games this season. According toAdam Rubin of ESPN New York, Terry Collins made it clear today that Lyon will not be his man if Francisco were unable to go at the start of the season and that Bobby Parnell would instead get the nod. The Mets manager even went as far as to say “he could envision a scenario in which Francisco is on the active roster Opening Day but Bobby Parnell is deemed the better closer and would handle the ninth inning.”
If it seems like we write a “Door is Open for Parnell to Close” post just about every season, it's because we pretty much do. Toss it in there with the Jason Marquis, Carl Pavano, and Roy Oswalt rumors as something we deal with each and every year as Mets fans. Earlier in the offseason the Mets and Bobby Parnell avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $1.7 million for 2013; a nice raise for the 28-year-old reliever who earned just $500,000 in 2012.
campaign was arguable the best of the right-handers young career; posting career highs in wins (5), appearances (74), saves (7), whip (1.24), and ERA (2.49). The 28-year-old allowed 19 earned runs over 68 2/3 innings of work, while walking 20 batters and striking out 61. Parnell finished the year strong allowing just one earned run over his last 17 appearances, spanning 17 2/3 innings:
The question with Parnell isn't whether or not he's a capable or even a good reliever, we know the answer there is yes. It's more a question of whether or not he can handle the pressure of being a closer and has the tools to succeed in such a role. Early on in his career Parnell failed to throw any of his secondary pitches with confidence and hitters could just wait for his fastball to find the strike zone. They would then pounce, even if it was 100+ mph. Then Jason Isringhausen came along in 2011 and seemingly took Parnell under his wing, teaching him a new pitch that the reliever unveiled with good success.
A quick look at Fangraphs.com pitch breakdown for Parnell over the past few seasons shows how the reliever has been attempting to evolve into more than just a hard throwing setup man. In 2010 Parnell threw his fastball ~81% of the time, a number which dropped to ~73% in 2011 and 2012, the big difference of course being the fact that last season Bobby chose to go with a curve rather than a slider as his secondary pitch (the Izzy effect).
Even with an expanded arsenal at his disposal Parnell struggled closing for New York last year when Francisco was out, converting just 7 of 12 save chances. Ouch. He did, however, convert his last 5 opportunities and his ERA from July 22nd through the end of the season was a remarkable 1.45 (31 IP, 5 ER, 22 K's). So, maybe there's hope once again that Parnell figured something out during his strong finish, but one thing is for certain, if ever he's going to put it all together, the time is now!
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