Frankie Goes to Setup Role?

Francisco has struggled in April.

Somewhere in the swirling mess of Saturday’s game against the Giants is a disappointing performance by Frank Francisco.  The Mets’ closer let up 2 hits and a walk in the ninth while attempting to protect a 3-run lead.  After it was obvious Francisco didn’t have his stuff or his command, he was pulled by Terry Collins in favor of Tim Byrdak, and then Jon Rauch.

Collins’s move was the correct one, and one that most managers shy away from.  If it were K-Rod or Billy Wagner instead of Francisco, he probably doesn’t make that move.  Francisco isn’t the established closer those guys were when they were in Queens.  Instead, Frankie has succeeded in a number of roles throughout his career, and has only been a primary ninth-inning guy in 2009 and 2011.  In most years, he’s been a setup man for the likes of Francisco Cordero and Neftali Feliz.

Perhaps Collins’s mistake was to remove Pelfrey, who was cruising (yes, actually cruising!) through eight innings, and had only thrown 102 pitches – not a huge amount for the durable righthander.

But he made his bed, and Francisco had to…well…maybe do more than just lie in it.  Byrdak and Rauch did their jobs – the former struck out Hector Sanchez, and the latter induced a pop up from Buster Posey that would have been caught by any other franchise that didn’t have the living spirit of Luis Castillo around to puff it out of the reach of Kirk Nieuwenhuis.

What does this mean for Francisco?  It’s not at all prudent to make a decision about your closer after one bad game, but after a strong start, Frankie has looked shaky.  In his first four games, he allowed 3 hits, 1 unearned run, and struck out 7.  In his last three, he has allowed 6 earned runs, 6 hits, and 2 walks.

In the meantime, Rauch has been nearly perfect, Byrdak has been as reliable as he was during the second half of last season, and Bobby Parnell is simply a new man.  You wouldn’t use Byrdak to get the 27th out, he’s too valuable as a LOOGY, and can get righties out in a pinch.  But Rauch or Parnell as closer?  Possible, especially for Rauch, who has had experience as a ninth inning guy.

Make the move now?  No.  It’s only April, and every closer struggles for a stretch.  Besides, it’s not like a struggling Francisco would hurt the team any less in a setup role.  Francisco feels confident he can bounce back, and Collins says he’s still the closer.

It’s too early to panic, but not to be concerned.  It’s disconcerting to have a wobbly closer, as Mets fans are well aware.

“I trust my stuff,” Francisco said. “I was a little off (Saturday). I think I know how to make adjustments. Things are not going my way right now,” he added, “but there’s nothing you can do about it except keep fighting and see what happens.”

Paul is a freelance writer, blogger, and broadcast technology professional residing in Denver. A New Jersey native, he is a long-suffering Mets fan, a recently-happy Giants fan, and bewildered Islanders fan. He's also a fair-weather Avalanche and Rockies supporter. In his spare time, he enjoys the three Gs: Golf, Guitars, and Games.
  1. Joe April 22, 2012 at 8:01 pm
    The Giants’ fielding wasn’t A-1 either so let’s the single out the Mets for the foul up. The Nats also was pretty messy.

    There are some teams with no sure closer, especially with injuries. Some mixing and matching will occur along the way. Not sure if he would ever be replaced. Rauch can very well start to have some bad games too. Ramirez hasn’t been in a groove yet. Oh, not seeing that new and improved Parnell quite yet either.

  2. AC Wayne April 22, 2012 at 9:37 pm
    Let’s face it, Francisco sits towards the bottom half of current MLB closers – his ERA, WHIP are high for late-inning relievers…his best years were w/TEX – he was able to stabilize himself last year w/TOR as a closer w/17 saves (50.2 IP, 49 H, 18 BB, 53 SO) with every SO there most def. was either a walk or a hit in there as well

    as a Mets fan, I could care less if it’s Frankie or Rauch or Parnell, the only thing that I’m worried about is if Collins and Co. drag their feet in making their decision we could be made to witness Francisco flounder before he’s officially demoted, it is still early though so I don’t want it to sound like I’m jumping the gun but I am concerned

    Collins echoes his predecessor in one regard, he seems to avoid definitive roles with his BP, we’ve seen it before and closers by committee just don’t work

  3. DaveSchneck April 23, 2012 at 11:59 am
    Cards won WS lsat year with something akin to closer by committee. Effy F gets a reprieve but not for long – go with the hot hand.
  4. Rob April 23, 2012 at 3:51 pm
    Hey Joe: Slightly off topic, but I didn’t see a post on the Humber perfect game and I thought I’d ask you this question–How many no-hitters/perfect games have been thrown by former Mets after they left the Mets. I think that the list includes Seaver, Gooden, Cone and Humber, but I have this suspicion that there are one or two more. Any thoughts?

    Hope all is well with you!


  5. Bumbsy April 23, 2012 at 5:55 pm
    In response to Rob, in addition to your 4 (Seaver, Gooden, Cone and Humber), Ryan, Scott and Nomo have pitched no hitters after wearing the blue and orange. But we’ll get one eventuall.
  6. mic April 24, 2012 at 2:01 am
    If Kirk catches the pop fly this is a non issue.

    But there are issues:

    – Ike. He needs to be dropped. Or demoted to clear his head.
    – The bullpen is looking ragged. Fernando Cabrera is doing well at AAA.
    – I am not on the Pelfrey Sauce.

    • Joe April 24, 2012 at 3:58 pm
      I think Pelfrey works as a back of the rotation guy and can have periods of good outings. Best to enjoy it as it lasts. Such is the overall nature of your fourth guy & these days his price is about average for it. I say this as someone who more than once said I was tired of the guy pre-season.
      • Joe April 24, 2012 at 5:08 pm
        Oh. He’s hurt too. Well, sure.