Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bobby Parnell Has Suddenly Become Very Important

Bobby Parnell was very impressive last night. As Gary Cohen noted during the broadcast, Parnell threw over a dozen pitches at 100 mph or faster, as well as a couple at 102. I didn't see it, but the NY Times claims that he threw a pitch at 103 as well.

Putting aside the issue of whether the gun was fast (it was), Parnell was throwing some serious heat last night. The fastball was darting and tailing, and the slider was a wipeout pitch. If Parnell can continue to pitch like that, he is going to be very very good. Very.

You may recall that we were less than friendly to Parnell here in the spring:
[Parnell] 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 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.
Well -- it's not premature anymore! Whether it was the conversion from starting to relieving, or another year of maturity, or a true victory for "stuff" over stats, Parnell appears to have truly rounded into form. Not only as a thrower, but also as a pitcher. He's not painting the corners with regularity, but he is throwing more strikes and letting his electric stuff do the work for him.

Check out his improvement in the last year. Granted, he's only had 24 innings in the majors so far this year, but there are components that we can point to that DO have probative value.

1. His strikeout rate has risen to 9.38 per nine innings. That's real good.

2. His walk rate has decreased to 2.25 per nine innings. That's great. Obviously, that makes for a fantastic K/BB ratio.

3. As for his balls in play, he's been inducing ground balls 54% of the time so far this season. That's great.

4. His fastball, which used to be good, has gotten even BETTER. His average fastball velocity is 95.9, which is up from 94.5 last season.

5. His stats in the minors this season don't support this outrageously good performance, but they were better than in 2009, and evince a clear pattern of improvement.

I'm not ready to say that Bobby Parnell should instantly be installed at the closer, as Matt Cerrone of Metsblog advocates:
He’s 25–years-old, pitching as well as he ever has in a Mets uniform, he’s clearly part of the future, and the team needs to be auditioning potential closers in the event Francisco Rodriguez is not on the team next season.

Why is this role instead going to Hisanori Takahasi, who is 34 years old and not guaranteed to be on the team after this season.
I'm not going to get my feathers ruffled that Hisanori Takahashi had one save opportunity. But we agree that Parnell should be challenged, should be tested, and should probably see some saves the rest of the way as the Mets fade from relevance.

In light of what has happened with K-Rod, Bobby Parnell has suddenly become a much more important figure for the Mets. Not only has he pitched well, but with a potential vacancy in the closer role next year for a team with aspirations of contending, the identity of our future closer is very important. If we can fill the role from within with a guy like Parnell or with a committee -- and if K-Rod is released or traded -- we won't need to fill the role with an expensive free agent acquisition. That will provide us with unexpected financial flexibility which would help us a great deal.

The next few months, it appears, will not be devoid of drama.

Footnote: Why isn't anyone talking about how bad Ike Davis has been? We're not going to be within a mile of contention next year if we have a first baseman hitting .240. I like Ike, but nobody should be above reproach.

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