Can Bobby Parnell’s rocky journey have a silver lining?

Can Bobby Parnell’s rocky journey have a silver lining?

There has been little fanfare surrounding Bobby Parnell since the veteran returned from Tommy John surgery, his job Wally Pipped by Jeurys Familia.

At 31-years-old, Parnell is now the Mets’ fourth-longest tenured player -he debuted less than two weeks after Jon Niese- and the second-longest consecutively tenured reliever by one team in the National League, behind only San Francisco’s Sergio Romo.

Parnell’s return initially went better than most could have predicted after he was activated only when his 30-day rehab clock was set to expire in June. Despite decreased velocity, Parnell did not allow an earned run in his first eight appearances and maintained a palatable 0.73 ERA with a two-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio through his first 12 games.

However, Parnell’s following 11 games represent the worst stretch of his career: He gave up five times as many walks (10) as strikeouts (2), surrendered 15 hits and allowed 13 earned runs. It was in the middle of this stretch that the Mets placed Parnell on the disabled list until rosters expanded in September. After he allowed two runs during his first appearance back on Sept. 1, Parnell focused on his mechanics with pitching coach Dan Warthen.

Since he returned on Sept. 13, he has allowed only one earned run in 4 2/3 innings pitched. Most encouraging for the pitcher is his fastball, which has reached 95 mph in recent outings.

But which Parnell will the Mets, or perhaps another team, see moving forward?

Parnell’s fastball is averaging 92.9 mph in 2015, only a tick below his 95.0 mph average in 2013 when he saved 22 games. His FIP (4.11) is nearly two runs below his ERA (5.87), which suggests that though he is still above his career average FIP (3.28), he has not been as bad as advertised.

Opposing batters in 2015 are making hard contact at a 27.3 percent rate, only one percent higher than his career average rate (26.3). Parnell is inducing less weak contact in 2015 (14.3 percent) than his career average (18.5 percent), which is also a contributing factor. However, opposing batters are batting .364 when they put the ball in play, significantly higher than his .321 career rate.

It can be deduced that Parnell once more has the potential to become a highly-effective pitcher if he can overcome two significant obstacles:

  1. Adapt to hitters who have already adapted to his new post-surgery repertoire.
  2. Continue to work back from Tommy John surgery, a procedure in which pitchers average fewer than 100 innings after undergoing.

Those two obstacles are no easy hurdles to leap, but they are far from insurmountable. There are many successful relief pitchers – Francisco Rodriguez (89.6 MPH), Jonathan Papelbon (91.5 MPH) and Huston Street (88.5 MPH), to name a few – with less zip on their fastballs and continue to sustain success.

Do you believe it is too early to give up on Parnell? Metstradamus Blog’s John Coppinger and I earlier this week discussed the subject on Around Citi’s “Baseball Chronicles”.

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Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs
Photo credit: Michael G. Baron

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  • lanimilbus

    92.9MPH vs. 95.0MPH average fastball is a BIG difference, not a “tick”. And Street, Papelbon, and Rodriguez were far more established than Parnell’s one season of being a plus-reliever.

  • metfansc

    Depends on what you mean by giving up on Parnell. In terms of this year, yes we need to give up on him he has no business being on the playoff roster no matter what he does these last 6 games.

    As for next year though, I see no reason to give up on him if he can be had on a minor league contract. He has a decent chance to be good next year.

    • lanimilbus

      Minor League contract, league minimum salary, with appearance bonuses at obtainable levels – it would be reasonable to assume that if he’s appearing in that many bonus-eligible games on a league-minimum salary, he’s performing at a pretty decent level. No guarantee he even makes 2016 ‘pen – Familia, Reed, Goeddel, Robles, Gilmartin, Montero, Edgin, and Verrett for 7-8 spots, plus any free agents or trades.