Bobby Parnell once again at odds to rebound

Bobby Parnell once again at odds to rebound

Mets reliever Bobby Parnell, the team’s second-longest tenured player, is undergoing the rockiest stretch of his career during a time the team needs him to be better.

Parnell has pitched to a 5.59 ERA in 19 1/3 innings this season, though his 3.94 FIP indicates he has been a bit unlucky. Only 16 months removed from Tommy John surgery, Parnell is not the same pitcher he once was – his 92.4 mph average fastball velocity significantly trails his career 95.4 mph career average – but it does not necessarily mean he will or will not be successful in the near future. There are cases to be made for both sides, though Mets manager Terry Collins yesterday expressed ‘concern’ about the veteran reliever’s recent performance.

To be optimistic about Parnell, his peripherals suggest that he has not been as bad as his recent performance suggests. He is leaving 61.1 percent of runners on-base, significantly less than his career 70.4 percent career rate. Though it can be argued he is leaving less runners on base because he is striking out fewer batters (4.66 K/9 in 2015 vs. 7.99 K/9 career) and surrendering more walks (5.59 BB/9 vs. 3.53 BB/9 career), opposing batters are only making hard contact at a slightly greater 29.2 percent than his career 26.4 percent average. Normally, these are red flags for a soon-to-be 31-year-old pitcher, but with decreased velocity, it may take Parnell time to figure out how to work with his new arsenal while he continues to regain arm strength.

While both Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom serve as examples of Mets who have been successful following the procedure, there is a darker reality that exists. The Hardball Times in March published an analysis on pitcher longevity after returning from Tommy John surgery, and found that between 2000-09, ‘the median result for a major league pitcher returning from Tommy John surgery is appearing in about 60 games or logging about 100 innings pitched over the rest of his major league career.”

Parnell has been at odds for most of his Mets career. At odds to be successful with little command of a blazing 100 MPH fastball in 2008-09. At odds to be a closer without a strong secondary pitch, which was later developed in the form of a masterful knuckle curveball in 2012-13. Finally, to thrive in an unfamiliar environment -one in which he can not overpower opposing hitters – to try to help the team to its first postseason since 2006.

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