2012 Analysis: Bobby Parnell
When we first saw Parnell as a 23 and 24 year-old, crackling 101-MPH fastballs into the catcher’s glove, he showed great promise. When we saw him continue to throw triple-digit heat but not fully dominate MLB hitters as a 25 through 27 year-old, he evolved into a tease. Now, as a 28-year-old, is he a disappointment?
I think that’s too harsh. I’d rather define Bobby Parnell as “he is what he is,” which is a hard-throwing middle reliever who will occasionally light up Citi Field with explosive fastballs past power hitters in key situations, and just as occasionally allow game-winning hits. At times, he will dominate; at other times, he’ll seem like an iron mike cranked up to max speed.
After an encouraging 2010, Parnell took a step back in 2011; in 2012, he took a step mostly sideways, perhaps slightly forward. He was still zinging the ball in the upper 90s, occasionally flirting with triple digits. However, his fastball remained as straight as ever. He mostly scrapped his on-again, off-again slider, opting instead for his on-again, off-again spike curve. He also threw more two-seam fastballs than four-seamers, changing his strategy somewhat from missing bats to pitching to contact. The results were OK; though he did lower his ERA and WHIP — allowing less hits and walks — his strikeout rate dropped from nearly 10 K/9 to 8. His BABIP was .302, which was around the league average, so luck didn’t seem to play a part in his performance.
By the end of the season, Parnell was the team’s de facto closer — just as he was at the tail end of 2011. He finished the year on a high note, with three saves in his final four appearances. But those last few weeks came against questionable competition, in mostly meaningless games, so what how do we judge it? Hard to say. I suppose it’s a good thing that Parnell didn’t blow the games he was supposed to save.
If the Mets don’t trade Parnell this winter, it likely makes the most sense to pencil him in as the setup man to Frank Francisco — with the idea that if both Parnell and Francisco can start off with a strong first half, they’ll be fantastic trade bait at the deadline. Unless he develops a mean streak or a devastating slider, Bobby Parnell is unlikely to become a legitimate MLB closer. However, he can go on streaks where he looks like a lights-out, late-inning reliever who can help a championship club — the kind that can bring back a decent prospect or two. Considering that Parnell is going into his age 28 season, he has more value to the Mets as a trade chip than as a rebuilding piece. That said, I can see the Mets working hard to build both his and Francisco’s value, and trading them to a team in need of arms — which is usually every team in the playoff hunt.