Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bobby Parnell is Good-Not

Let me just try and pre-empt all this Bobby Parnell as eighth inning guy talk.

He is not good.

Now, I like Bobby Parnell. As a human being, he's actually amazingly awesome at baseball. He is definitely one of the thousand most talented baseball players on the planet -- so what does that make him, in the 99.99th percentile?

That said, he is NOT a good candidate to pitch any high leverage innings for the Mets. He was never good last season, he was never particularly good in the minors, and there is no reason to believe that he will be much better this year.

I realize his ERA looked nice in the early going last year. I realize he throws 98 miles per hour. But the hysteria around Parnell was off the charts. I remember Metsblog calling it "laughable" that the Nationals wanted Parnell in exchange for Nick Johnson. Nick Johnson!! A great first baseman with a career OPS+ of 125. That was when the delusion was at its height.

But back in the real world, we know that Parnell hasn't shown us any real concrete reason to believe he won't just be a poor man's Brian Stokes. Here are some minor league stats Parnell posted as a starter:

2007 - St Lucie (A+) - 3.25 ERA, 1.41 WHIP
2007 - Binghamton (AA) - 4.77 ERA, 1.53 WHIP
2008 - Binghamton (AA) - 4.30 ERA, 1.43 WHIP
2008 - New Orleans (AAA) - 6.64 ERA, 1.67 WHIP

He was mediocre in the minors and he was mediocre in the majors. He struck out a lot of guys and walked a lot of guys. He posted a tolerable ERA despite a high WHIP because a higher percentage of his WHIP came from walks -- who would then be stranded on subsequent strikeouts.

As a reliever last season (and omitting his terrible performance as a starter) he posted a great 3.46 ERA. But again, it was accompanied by a 1.50 WHIP, over a hit per inning, and almost 4.5 walks per 9 innings. He was basically a bullpen version of bad Oliver Perez.

I like Parnell's chances of improving in the future. I think he'll be an asset for the Mets. I hope he'll stick with us and I'll be rooting for him. But any projection for him which has him posting an ERA better than 4.00, or walking less than 4 guys per 9 innings, or which has him anywhere near an 8th inning lead, is WAY premature.

Edit, Friday 12:39pm: A lot of people are pointing out that Parnell was a starter in the minors and will be used in relief in the majors. That is true. I agree that one could project his future a little more optimistically than the minor league statistics would indicate - especially given his fastball. However, ugly is ugly no matter where you are. Being that he was age-appropriate for all of those levels, you've got to do better than a 6.64 ERA in Triple-A.


Lew said...

You guys have a great blog and I generally agree with what you write, but I disagree here.

We all know there is a big difference betweem starting and relieving. One of the reasons Parnell walked so many in the minors was because he was trying to develop his not-so-good secondary offerings.

In the pen, he can pretty much focus on two pitches and dial the heater up a few mph.

I am not ready to annoit him the 8th inning guy, but I think it is too much a swing in the other direction to call him "not good."

I think his walks will decline this year as he gets more established in the pen and in the ML.

I also like my rose-colored glasses!

Brian said...

Thanks for the compliment, Lew.

I'll tell you though - the stats I quoted above were only from his bullpen work. His starting work was unspeakably bad.

I'll definitely give him the benefit of the doubt that he can improve if given another full year in the bullpen (where I think he belongs).

He will really need to work on things though. His fastball actually graded out as a below average pitch last year despite its speed -- maybe because he threw it 78% of the time. His slider was actually above average.

I'm optimistic about his future usefulness (and maybe he's got a 5% chance of becoming really good) but I don't think he's even close right now.

Chris Wang said...

I totally agree with you. Too many fans fell in love with Parnell in the first two months of the season because of his ERA while his WHIP was mediocre. I cautioned people to temper their expectations because he walked too many hitters to keep his ERA at that level. In the first two months, his ERA was better because he kept the ball in the park; but the wheels predictably came off when he continued to allow 1.50+ base runners per inning. For Parnell to turn into a quality 8th inning setup man, he will have to lower his walk rate significantly; otherwise he's actually a worse version of Sean Green...

Brian said...


Predictably, I agree with your agreement of me (haha).

I will say however that high walk/ high strikeout guys are more likely to be able to have a high WHIP and still succeed. You see it all the time.

That's because a walk is less harmful than a hit, and a strikeout is the best kind of out. So Parnell doesn't necessarily have to get that WHIP under 1.30 to be good.

Anonymous said...

parnell was blowing away the red sox, where were u then?

im not saying he is the second coming

but he has the potential to be a gr8 8th inning man/closer, seriously when he was shutting the door day in and day out, he was more than just an asset, he WAS the 8th inning man

the guy was shifted around to the bullpen and it was his first yr in the majors with all those innings as a bullpen man, i think he deserves a break for how he pitched as a reliever/starter late in the season...

the guy was phenomenal early in the season against very good say he is not good is just not fair...