By: Stache Staff

Can Bobby Parnell become a Top Closer?


The Mets haven’t had a consistent closer since Billy Wagner, and it is no coincidence that they haven’t been competitive since Wagner was throwing fireballs in the ninth.

A team cannot compete without an effective bullpen, and the key to a bullpen is the lock on the back end.  If the Mets want to be relevant in 2013 and beyond, they will need a reliable option for the ninth.

Young power-pitcher Bobby Parnell has the closer’s job he has long yearned for as Frank Francisco’s not-so-untimely injury has opened the door for “The Cholula Flamethrower”. Can Bobby run away with the job? The fate of the Mets may depend on it.

Parnell has developed into a solid pitcher over his short career, putting up a 2.49 ERA in 2012 and a 1.08 ERA in nine appearances this year. However, most of his work has come in the 8th inning or earlier, and as we all know, the 9th inning is a different ballgame (remember Duaner Sanchez, anyone?).

Parnell is already a good relief pitcher. Does he have the tools to be a top closing pitcher? It appears as if that is the case. First of all, Parnell has the most important tool for a closer: Velocity.

Parnell routinely throws in the high 90s and can touch 100 every now and then. Bobby also has good control, as he had a BB/9 Ratio of 2.6 in 2012. He has a nice secondary pitch, with a good knuckle-curve that compliments his hard, heavy fastball.

So why is Parnell not an elite closer already? What does he have to work on?

Well for one, Parnell’s command is somewhat lacking. Control and Command are two different things. While Bobby can consistently put the ball in the strike zone, he has yet to master the art of pitching to spots— that is to say, he cannot yet throw to a specific part of the strike zone whenever he wishes.

Parnell will have to improve his command in order to keep hitters off balance and in the ballpark, as he is currently prone to serving up meatballs. Parnell also needs to develop a good changeup to be an elite closer; it will be a lot harder to hit his fastball if the changeup is in the back of a hitter’s mind.

Lastly, Parnell must become more of a strikeout pitcher. He has a very respectable 8.0 K/9 rate, but to be an elite closer, he has to stop leaving his fate in the hands of fortune— a pitcher cannot control the outcome of a pitch once it is put in play. The elite closers in the game are strikeout pitchers, and Bobby could join these guys by bumping his K/9 rate into double digits.

This increase in K/9 rate should come naturally if he can improve his command and his changeup. Lastly, Parnell needs to develop the closer’s mentality. He has to come into the game with the unflappable composure that every great closer has. If he does not allow anything to throw him off, he should be high-fiving his catcher at the end of every game he appears in.

Bobby has the tools to be a top closer, and the adjustments he still needs to make are very doable. Parnell is not a sure thing, but Mets fans should be optimistic about the future of the back end of the bullpen.

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About Michael Ganci

Michael Ganci is the Co-Founder of the Daily Stache, along with Matthew Falkenbury. Since 2008, Ganci has eat, drank and dreamt all things Mets, and he'd have it no other way. Feel free to follow him on Twitter at @DailyStache.

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