A few weeks ago we discussed Bobby Parnell as question #3 in Mets spring training. The question was whether the fireballing righthander would take a step forward as a MLB pitcher — i.e., evolve into a bonafide setup man (or, dare I say, closer?) — or has he reached his ceiling?
I would like to believe there is more effectiveness trapped inside Bobby Parnell‘s right arm, and he need only focus on a few things to raise his game to a new level. In fact, three things:
1. Consistently fire the four-seam fastball to one spot: up and in to a righthanded hitter / up and away to a lefty.
I like to call this “John Maine Strategy”. Remember the Maine? The former Mets pitcher, not the naval vessel. His awful mechanics damaged his arm and prevented him from having good command — the only spot he could hit consistently was up and in, which just happened to be a great placement for swings and misses by batters from both sides of the plate. Ironically, Maine’s fatal flaw is what made him effective — until his velocity dropped.
If Bobby Parnell focuses all spring on hitting that one spot with his 100-MPH fastball, and can learn to hit it whenever he wants, he could be devastating. It could be the “out” pitch he’s been so sorely lacking — the one that gets him into the double-digits in K/9. And luckily, you don’t have to have “bad” mechanics to hit that spot — you merely need to practice. Not many pitchers can be effective throwing to that particular spot; it’s a luxury afforded mainly to those who throw 95+ MPH — which Parnell does. An added benefit is that when he’s slightly off in his location, the ball might veer frighteningly close to the batter’s chin; a little fear can go a long way toward effectiveness. If I were Dan Warthen, I’d tell Bobby to spend 90% of his bullpen sessions firing away at that one spot, until he could hit it with his eyes closed.
2. Rediscover his sinker.
Of course, a pitcher can’t throw to one spot every single time; eventually, batters will lay off or adjust. So I’d like to see Parnell rediscover the sinker he used as a minor league starter. What happened to that pitch? Maybe he needs to change his grip, and/or take a little off. Whatever it is, he used to be able to throw a heavy sinker — for strikes — so there’s reason to believe he can do it again. Parnell’s troubles come when he leaves straight-as-an-arrow fastballs a little too high in the zone, and a sinker — even if it’s “only” thrown around 90-92 MPH — would induce more ground balls and help prevent extra-base hits.
3. Against righthanded hitters, throw the slider low and off the outside corner of home plate.
With his heat, Parnell should be a strikeout machine. Throwing up and in to righties / up and away to lefties is one method of getting there. The second is a properly placed slider — off the plate and low. Too often we’ve seen Parnell try to throw the slider in the strike zone; that should never, ever happen. The slider is not an off-speed pitch and shouldn’t be used as one — it is a “put away” pitch, a strikeout pitch. Especially for someone who consistently “brings it” at 97-100 MPH, the slider should be reserved for rare occasions: to obtain a strikeout. The safest way to get Ks from sliders is to “slide” it off the outside half of the plate. This way, no harm done if you miss your spot. Instead of trying to spot the slider in various parts of the strike zone, Parnell should focus specifically on one location: down and away. And, it should be used almost exclusively against righthanded hitters.
Easy enough, right? Of course not; if it were that easy, all batters would hit .190. And if Parnell were able to accomplish all three of the above, he still might not be an outstanding reliever — but, I believe he’d be better than he’s been in the past.
I have no idea what Parnell will be working on this spring, but if it were up to me, I’d make his routine laser-focused on the above, with the end goal of having a lights-out one-inning guy to shut the door in the 7th or 8th inning.
What do you think? Am I off my rocker? Is there something else Parnell needs to work on? Should he just continue doing what he’s been doing? Answer in the comments.
About the Author
Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers.