Tag: bobby parnell

2009 Analysis: Bobby Parnell

bob-parnellIn college, Bobby Parnell was a shortstop converted to relief pitcher. After being drafted by the Mets, he was a reliever converted to a starter. After opening eyes in spring training with a 97-MPH fastball, he was converted from starter back to relief. By the first week of August, he was converted from reliever back to starter. And before the season closed, Bobby was back in the bullpen.

The Mets have jerked around young pitchers before — Aaron Heilman and Grant Roberts are the more prominent recent examples that come to mind — and their inability to make a decision one way or the other regarding Parnell is a symbol of the organization as a whole. It seems no one has the chutzpah to take a stand and stay the course, in any area of the franchise.

But back to Parnell. We know that he can touch triple digits when used as a 15-20-pitch-at-a-time reliever. We also know that his velocity drops dramatically when used as a starter. Regardless of his role, his fastball often has heavy sink, though it just as often sits flat and high in the middle of the strike zone. He has no offspeed pitch to speak of, but he does throw a slider that is deadly about 20% of the time.

In his first professional season as a relief pitcher, Parnell showed flashes of brilliance but overall was inconsistent. Lack of command was a major issue, as was the inability to rely on secondary stuff. Once batters realized all he could get over the plate was the fastball, they sat on it.

Inexplicably, the Mets moved Parnell to the starting rotation after failing in the bullpen. Generally speaking, a pitcher who fails in relief because of a deficiency in repertoire will get slaughtered as a starter, so it was no surprise to anyone (other than the Mets brass) that the “experiment” was a colossal failure. What was more concerning was the fact that Parnell went from throwing 15-20 pitches per outing, 3-4 times per week, to throwing 80-100 pitches once every five days — in the course of two weeks. Where did the Mets come up with that accelerated plan of “stretching him out”, and what was the rush, considering that the team was well out of the race by late July? The quick conversion seemed incongruent with the philosophy of a team that has been so conservative in regard to pitch counts — particularly with young pitchers. It’s interesting that so much buzz surrounded the Yankees’ conservative approach to Joba Chamberlain’s transformation from reliever to starter, yet almost no one questioned the Mets’ handling of Parnell. Few would have faulted the Mets for treating a 100-MPH thrower with kid gloves.

In any case, the bottom line is that Parnell did not establish himself as competent in either role — though some of the blame could go to the way he was handled. It’s clear he has dominating velocity, but it’s also clear he needs more time to develop. The question is, will it be more beneficial for Parnell to pitch as a starter, or to focus on relief? It’s not impossible for a 25-year-old to learn a “plus” secondary pitch, but it’s not easy, either — and without one, starting is out of the question. Right now, Parnell is stuck n a spot from where people like Joselo Diaz, Marcos Carvajal, and Lino Urdaneta never advanced. He may remain there, or he could evolve into a Matt Lindstrom (valuable reliever throwing heat for an inning at a time) or a Mike Pelfrey (enigmatic starter throwing two pitches at similar speeds in the low- to mid-90s). Which way he goes is anyone’s guess, and the Mets seem as clueless as the rest of us.

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Mets Game 146: Loss To Braves

Braves 6 Mets 5

Shades of ’62 re-emerge.

Once again, the Mets find a creative way to lose.

The Mets jumped ahead 3-0 in the second inning, but that lead was quickly squandered by Bobby Parnell, who allowed 4 runs (3 earned) on 7 hits and 3 walks in 3 1/3 innings.

Remarkably, the Mets fought back to tie the game and then went ahead 5-4 on a pinch-hit homerun by Omiracle Santos (nickname hat tip to TheRopolitans).

Then, it was up to the bullpen to hold the fort. Brian Stokes got two outs before walking Nate McLouth, which led to Jerry Manuel’s inexplicable decision to bring in Frankie Rodriguez to convert a four-out save. Ask Mike Scioscia how many times he called on K-Rod to get more than three outs in the last three years — and his team was ALWAYS playing “meaningful games” in September.

Anyway, as expected, Frankie Fantastik failed to clean up. He got that last out in the eighth but quickly faltered in the ninth, allowing a leadoff double to Garret Anderson down the right field line (that might have been stopped by a better-fielding first baseman — or not) and hitting Brian McCann to put the tying and winning runs on base. Frankie then misplayed a sac bunt by Yunel Escobar that nearly loaded the bases with none out, but K-Rod recovered in time to get the first out of the inning by a hair. The next batter hit a deep sac fly to score the tying run, and then Ryan Church hit a two-out bouncer to first base that Dan Murphy mishandled three times in Throneberryesque fashion to allow the winning run to score.

Notes

In an incredulous lack of class, K-Rod was quoted by Kevin Burkhardt as saying about Murphy’s error (or possibly the double down the line), “That ball has to be stopped”.

Nice. Seems there’s only one driving school in Venezuela — and the vehicle is a teflon-coated bus.

Hmm … I didn’t see Murphy on the mound when Anderson hit the double, McCann was hit with the pitch, or Gorecki hit the deep fly … but yeah, let’s blame him for the loss. Makes plenty of sense. Not.

This is the sixth blown save of the season for Frankie Fantastik, out of 37 tries. Billy Wagner blew 7 of 34 last year, so K-Rod’s still doing better. But not by much. So much for the “improved bullpen”.

And for all his questionable quotes and public dress-downs of his teammates, I don’t recall Wags ever blaming someone else for a loss. Stay classy, K-Rod.

On the bright side, Parnell lasted longer than Derek Lowe, who left after 2 innings and allowing 3 runs. Both Jeff Francoeur and David Wright went 3-for-5, and Josh Thole went 2-for-4 in the two hole.

The Mets pounded 16 hits, and still couldn’t win — they left 14 on base.

Next Mets Game

The series finale begins at 7:00 PM on Thursday night. Nelson Figueroa faces Jair Jurrjens. If nothing else the Mets will have a standup, respectful guy on the mound, who will take responsibility for his actions. So there’s that.

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Mets Game 140: Loss to Marlins

Marlins 13 Mets 4

The sweepless series streak comes to an end — at the fins of the Fish, no less.

Bobby Parnell struggled from the get-go, yet hung around long enough to allow 6 runs (5 earned) on 7 hits and 5 walks in 5 innings. He did strike out 6, so there’s that. The bullpen did no better, giving up another 7 runs over the final four frames.

Oh heck, let’s just go straight to the notes.

Notes

Major League pitchers — and by that I mean pitchers who belong in MLB, as opposed to those who are simply in MLB — will generally miss their target by a few inches, when they miss. Home plate, after all, is only 17 inches wide, and the strike zone is at most 24 inches tall. So if one misses by more than 4-5 inches, that’s significant. Bobby Parnell, however, was consistently missing his target by FEET. Low, high, outside, inside — he was all over the place, looking more like a high-A ball pitcher than a Major Leaguer. It’s always a bad sign when you are regularly seeing the number on the catcher’s back from the centerfield camera view. Omir Santos was constantly reaching, blocking, and jabbing at balls that were nowhere near the intended target.

And while it’s true Bobby Parnell needs to develop his “secondary stuff”, that wasn’t the issue on this particular evening. He was missing by feet with his fastball. At some points, it appeared as though he was trying to aim the ball, and others, he needed to groove the ball over the heart of the plate after falling behind. Bad night all around.

The first inning was a killer for Parnell, and he could’ve gotten out of it if Anderson Hernandez had not muffed a routine DP grounder. But, AHern was likely on his heels because of all the balls being thrown and walks being given prior to that play. In addition, though you could say Parnell was “unlucky” because of that error, you could also say he was incredibly lucky that Dan Uggla chose not to focus in his first-inning at-bat with the bases loaded. Uggla had a horrendous plate appearance, swinging wildly at the first pitch he saw, which was a foot above the top of the strike zone, and the last pitch he breezed at, which bounced a good two feet in front of the plate. This came immediately after a four-pitch walk. Bad baseball by Uggla, but a break for Parnell.

Despite this and other bad outings, I like Parnell’s tools. His sinking fastball has good downward run and is nicely complemented by the hard 96+ MPH heater up in the zone. But he’s really raw, and needs time to polish up his game. At 25 years old, you’d hope he’d be further along, and I wonder if the decision to make him a one-inning reliever has stunted his development.

Tobi Stoner made his big league debut, and spun a scoreless sixth. I’m not sure he has MLB stuff — he telegraphs that curve and doesn’t have much on the fastball — but how can you not root for a guy who found his way here from Germany and really has no business at this level? Typically you don’t see a guy with his mediocre arsenal getting to the bigs after only 500 minor league innings. But his ability to stay healthy, get the job done, and take advantage of an incredibly poor minor league system has been rewarded with a Major League paycheck. He’s a survivor, and I hope he can find a way to stick around.

Jeff Francoeur and Angel Pagan both went 3-for-4. That was the extent of the excitement on offense.

Next Mets Game

The Mets begin a three-game series on Friday against the first-place Phillies. Nelson Figueroa faces Cole Hamels in a matchup of aces that begins at 7:10 PM.

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Mets Game 135: Win Over Cubs

Mets 6 Cubs 2

Break up the Mets!

The Mets won their second consecutive time, and for the second time in two days. In other words, they’re on a two-game win streak!

Bobby Parnell was fabulous, shutting out the Cubs on only five hits through seven stellar innings. He worked out of two tough bases loaded situations — one in the second, and one in the seventh — in what was arguably his best performance as a Major League starter.

Unfortunately, the bullpen was unable to hold the Mets’ slim one-run lead, and Parnell’s gem resulted in a no-decision. However, the Mets did win the game, thanks to the dam busting in the Chicago bullpen.

The Mets surged for six runs on six hits against three Cub pitchers in the eighth inning, breaking the game wide open and allowing plenty of cushion for the ninth. As it was, the extra insurance was helpful, as Brian Stokes allowed a run and left the game to Frankie Rodriguez with the bases loaded. Frankie Fantastic proceeded to induce a popup from Aramis Ramirez and struck out Jake “Grand Slam” Fox en route to his 29th save of the season.

Ironically, the Mets pitcher who was least effective — Stokes — was awarded the win.

Notes

Bobby Parnell looked loose and comfortable for most of the contest — when he was pitching from the windup. However, when he threw from the stretch, his body language changed just a bit — enough to look tense — and he seemed to be trying too hard to hit spots. Not quite aiming, but “spotting”, if that makes any sense.

There were a few other issues with Parnell’s otherwise outstanding performance that did not sit right with me. First, I didn’t like that he was using the slider as his main secondary pitch, mainly because it’s a pitch that should not be thrown in the strike zone and also because it’s a shortcut strategy that tends to be inconsistent — see: Mike Pelfrey. I’d much prefer to see Parnell experimenting more with his changeup and failing (and eventually finding success in the future), than getting lucky with flat sliders that float over the middle of the plate. The slider should be a “put away pitch” when he is ahead on the count.

Second, Parnell threw very few fastballs in the bottom of the strike zone. Nearly all of his strikes were above the belt, and most of his low fastballs were in the dirt or just above the shoetops. Though, it was good to see him get a number of swings and misses on pitches up in the zone and out of the zone. Bottom line is that I’m not sure Parnell’s success was of his own doing, or more the result of poor hitting.

Sorry to rain on the Parnell parade, but that’s what I saw. At the same time, I’m thrilled he was able to get this kind of a performance under his belt, for the purpose of building his confidence. He needs to know that he can get big-league hitters out, and this game was proof that he can do it. I also liked the way he responded to the bases loaded, no-out situation in the seventh — that was HUGE, and impressive, especially considering he was near the end of his rope in regard to pitch count. But he still needs a lot of polish. Blame Mike Pelfrey for causing me to be so cynical about Parnell — because to me, Parnell is right now where Pelf was in 2006.

The Cory Sullivan Theatre was performing on this particular evening, as Cory hit a solo homer and made a magnificent diving catch to prevent an extra base hit. A strong September finish by Sullivan could spell the end of Jeremy Reed’s career as a Met — though, Reed has been exceptional in his role as a pinch-hitter. The Reed – Sullivan competition is likely the most legitimate audition occurring this month.

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Cubs do it again at 1:10 PM in Flushing. Nelson Figueroa faces Rich Harden. Rumor has it that Josh Thole will catch Figgy.

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Do the Auditions Really Matter?

The Mets’ season has been officially meaningless for several weeks now, making the last quarter of the season something of a mass tryout. Heading into September, we’re hoping to see a few more fresh, young faces, and assuming we’ll garner information that will help shape the 2010 Mets roster.

Or will we?

A major consideration is this: what happens if some of the auditions go bad? For example, what if Bobby Parnell continues to have trouble getting past the fourth inning, remains very hittable, and still doesn’t have a reliable secondary pitch at the end of September? He still will be penciled in to the back of the 2010 rotation, won’t he? Somehow, the Mets will glean a shining moment or two from his outings, grasp onto it, and spin it as the reason he has “a bright future”.

Similarly, we’ll get a whiff of Josh Thole — and if he fails, does that mean the Mets will sign Bengie Molina or make a blockbuster trade to bring in a new catcher over the winter?

In contrast, what if Thole hits .400 and proves to be adequte behind the plate over, say, a 15-game span? Is that enough of a sample to mark him down as the catcher of the future? To bring back Brian Schneider at a reduced rate to be his guru? Methinks the decision has already been made, one way or the other.

And what does this last month really mean for players like Cory Sullivan, Angel Pagan, and Jeremy Reed? Are all three in competition for next year’s fourth outfielder position? Maybe, but if at least two of them are re-signed, the competition begins again next March, does it not? In fact, September likely means more to those three outfielders than to anyone else on the 40-man roster. (Though, in the end the least expensive of the three is most likely to be seen in Port St. Lucie in March — and that’s probably Pagan.)

Dan Murphy may be the biggest question of all — and one mystery that may not be unraveled by October. Should Murphy continue the strong pace he’s held for the last few weeks through September, he’ll finish around .275-.280 with a .325 OBP and maybe 10 HRs. What will that strong finish mean to the Mets plans for first base? The starting job for Murphy next year? And if Murphy slumps in September, does the plan become to acquire a first baseman?

Other than Parnell, is anyone getting a true “audition” for the pitching staff? The starting rotation currently includes Tim Redding, Pat Misch, and Nelson Figueroa. Are any of those three really being considered for next year? Figgy is coming off an outstanding start, but he’ll likely have to repeat that performance four or five times to get a legit shot at next year’s rotation. Yet, if Parnell pulls off a similar outing, many will point to it as a reason to mark him down as the #4 starter in 2010.

My point is this: during these “auditions”, people will see only what they want to see — the opinions are predetermined, and people will look for evidence to support that determination. If someone believes today that Bobby Parnell should be starting next season, it won’t matter if his ERA continues to balloon over the next four weeks — they’ll hang on to the fact that his slider has improved. If Figueroa spins three more starts like yesterday’s, they’ll be dismissed by those who view him as a journeyman at the end of his career. Should Dan Murphy slump in September, his supporters will accentuate his hot streaks and point out his advancement in the field; conversely, if he hits .350 over the final weeks, his detractors will harp on his lack of homerun power.

But that doesn’t apply only to fans — it’s also pervasive in the front office and the coaching staff. We know this because it’s the way they’ve operated over the past several years. Ironically, you need look no further than Murphy for the most recent evidence. As you may remember he was written in as the starting left fielder on the first day of spring training — it didn’t matter that Jeremy Reed flashed a better glove and was the team’s leading hitter. The handling of Mike Pelfrey at the beginning of his career was similar; the Mets made the decision that Pelf was ready for MLB and kept sending him to the mound regardless of how overmatched he looked (sound familiar?). The Mets’ expectations regarding players coming off injury is perhaps most telling. For example, the 2008 bullpen was built around the assumption that Duaner Sanchez would be the setup man –and stayed with that plan even after he failed to break a pane of glass in spring training. Similarly, they assembled the 2009 starting rotation with the idea that John Maine was 100%. Again, even after Maine struggled mightily all spring, he was expected to be the #2 or #3 starter. They had not seen his lack of command and hittability — they saw whatever it was they wanted to see (velocity? spin on the curve?), that would justify their preconceptions.

We can pretend that the final month is a “tryout” of sorts, but really, it’s four weeks to gather and collect information that supports preconceived notions. Along the way, someone for whom you have reserved no judgment may surprise you.

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Mets Game 130: Loss to Cubs

Cubs 11 Mets 4

The Bobby Parnell Experiment took another step backward.

Parnell allowed 8 runs on 9 hits and 2 walks in 4 2/3 innings, capped by a grand-slam homerun.

The offense scored four early runs against Ryan Dempster, then kind of fizzled.

Not much more to describe about this game, from the Mets’ point of view. Another long day of watching poor fundamentals, questionable decisions, walks of the opposing pitcher, etc., etc.

Notes

The bullpen was no better than Parnell. Ken Takahashi allowed a run in his one inning, and Lance Broadway gave up two in his inauspicious Mets debut.

The Mets had a chance to have a HUGE inning in the fourth, loading the bases with no outs. Brian Schneider stroked a double to score two, but Fernando Tatis was tossed out at home after stopping at third, then re-starting toward home for reasons unknown. Then Jerry Manuel gave up an out (and the game) by allowing the already struggling Parnell to hit, and having him sacrifice for the second out. Angel Pagan grounded out weakly to get Dempster out of trouble.

Tatis became the 16th Met runner thrown out at home this season.

Was it just a coincidence that the cameras were focused on the back of Jake Fox’s jersey every chance they had?

Fox’s grand slam came on an 0-2 slider that hung up in the zone. It was like deja vu all over again — the pitch took almost the exact flight of Brian Stokes’ hanger to Alfonso Soriano on the previous afternoon.

Aaron Heilman made his first-ever appearance against the Mets. He wasn’t dominating, but did well enough. He also put on a few pounds (perhaps the home cooking?) and was wearing old-school stirrups. Something else was different, too — his arm angle, which was more over the top than we’d seen in the past. He’s still throwing three-quarter, but more of a high three-quarter than he usually did as a Met. If you remember, the more Willie Randolph and Jerry Manuel (ab)used him, the more Heilman’s arm angle would drop — to the point where at times his delivery resembled that of Joe Smith.

Seeing Heilman and Parnell in the same game stoked a memory. Remember when Omar Minaya explained that Aaron Heilman wouldn’t be a starter because he didn’t have command of enough different pitches? Yeah …

Next Mets Game

The Mets can’t leave Chicago fast enough, but before they do there’s one more afternoon affair with the Cubs. Game time is 2:20 PM, with Nelson Figueroa facing Carlos Zambrano.

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Mets Game 125: Loss to Phillies

Phillies 6 Mets 2

So much for playing the spoiler.

The Mets managed to lose three out of four against the NL East-leading Phillies, helping their arch-rivals extend their cushion over the second-place Atlanta Braves and set the stage for a September runaway.

Bobby Parnell plunked the first batter he faced, allowed a three-run homer a few minutes later, and eventually escaped a five-frame effort with five runs, four hits, three walks, and three strikeouts on his line. Parnell was blasted twice by Ryan Howard, who deposited souvenirs in both the left- and right-field stands.

Not that it would’ve mattered had Parnell pitched well. The Mets offense garnered only two unearned runs on six hits off starter and winner Cliff Lee, and came up empty against the Philadelphia bullpen.

Notes

The Mets are now 16.5 games out of first place. At this rate, they could be mathematically eliminated by early September.

Cliff Lee is now 5-0 as a Phillie, allowing only 3 earned runs in 40 IP. So far, that deadline deal is looking pretty good for GM Ruben Amaro.

Gary Sheffield was the only Met with two hits, though he was brutal in left field.

Both sides played the ball like it was a hot potato in the first few innings, with Chase Utley committing two errors in the first inning — one that allowed Angel Pagan to reach base and another that let him score.

Billy Wagner pitched the eighth, striking out two and walking one.

There were no triple plays executed in the contest.

Next Mets Game

The Mets fly to Florida for a three-game series with the Marlins that begins on Tuesday night at 7:10 PM. Nelson Figueroa most likely will take Johan Santana’s spot while Sean West pitches for the Fish.

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Mets Game 120: Loss to Braves

Braves 15 Mets 2

It’s deja vu all over again … kind of.

The Mets and Braves entered the twilight zone — or perhaps the George Costanza dimension known as The Opposite. One night after the Mets blasted the Braves for eight runs in one inning, the Atlanta turned the tables and scored eight runs in one inning to pound Bobby Parnell en route to a laugher of a win.

Atlanta scored two touchdowns against the Mets before it was all over, beating up on Parnell, Nelson Figueroa, Tim Redding, and Sean Green with equal aplomb.

Notes

Speaking of aplomb, early in that nightmarish second inning, Ron Darling relayed Jerry Manuel’s description of Parnell as a young man with great poise. Talk about bad timing.

Seven of those runs were scored with two outs.

In defense of Parnell, the Braves scored four runs after Luis Castillo had a brain freeze and did not cover second base on what would’ve been an inning-ending fielder’s choice on a Garret Anderson grounder. Anderson Hernandez would have easily thrown out Omar Infante had Castillo covered, but since he didn’t, AHern double-clutched and was a hair too late to get Garret at first. But hey, who expected Garret to hustle?

Parnell threw 36 pitches in the second inning — and was sent back out to pitch the third after Jair Jurrjens quickly dispatched of the Mets with 10 pitches. He barely had enough time to sit down and get a sip of water. He threw another 23 in his final frame. Ron Darling commented that it was important to see how Parnell would respond to the adversity of the second inning. OK, I understand mental toughness, but how about the fact that most overuse injuries occur during times of fatigue? Parnell was so exhausted in the third that he walked Jurrjens on five pitches. I seem to be the only pundit concerned for this kid’s arm.

Though that brain freeze was bad, Castillo was one of the Mets’ few highlights — he went 2-for-2 with an RBI, pushing his average to .310. Dan Murphy also had two hits, including a triple.

Speaking of Murph, just prior to the first pitch of the game, SNY posted a graphic mentioning that he’d made 6 errors in 65 games at 1B. Why they would want to draw attention to that negative stat, I’m not sure. Strangely enough, Keith Hernandez blurted, “Murphy, with ONLY 6 errors at first base …”

Today’s Baseball Tip

In the second inning, Atlanta’s Omar Infante slid head-first into first base on an infield grounder. Youngsters, do not ever, ever, ever, EVER slide into first base UNLESS you are doing it to avoid a tag. As soon as you make the decision to slide, your body slows down. In addition, sliding is infinitely more dangerous than running through the bag. So there you have two good reasons to always run through first — safety and speed.

Next Mets Game

The rubber match will occur at 7:10 PM on Thursday night. Johan Santana faces Kenshin Kawakami.

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