Oct 31

2012 Mets Player Review: Bobby Parnell

BOBBY PARNELL, RHP

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: Actually, considering his new role entering spring training, the expectations of Bobby Parnell – he of the fastball of 100 mph. – were minimal. Parnell could not seize the closer, set-up and even starter roles when given the opportunity in previous seasons, so the Mets dropped him to the seventh inning in the wake of signing Jon Rauch (set-up) and Frank Francisco (closer) from Toronto in the offseason. Parnell has exceptional stuff capable of three figures on his fastball, but hasn’t consistently commanded his secondary pitches or been able to challenge hitters with his location and pitch selection. In addition, that overpowering fastball often didn’t have movement and looked like it was on a tee. Anybody’s fastball can be hit if there’s no lateral or dip movement. So, knowing his inconsistencies, despite his potential, the Mets penciled Parnell in for the seventh inning role.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: Parnell struggled early as five of eight inherited runners scored against him in April. However, Parnell righted himself and only four more out of 20 scored the rest of the season. When Rauch hit the skids and Francisco was injured and erratic, Parnell inherited their roles and was exceptional. Parnell was 1-1 with two holds and three saves (no blown saves) in September, and went 2-1 with a save in August. Parnell still had his fastball, but his sinker and command was much better as the season progressed. Parnell finished at 5-4 with a 2.49 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. Parnell had streaks of wildness in the past, but last season walked only 20 in 68.2 innings pitched. He also struck out 61 and batters hit .249 off him with a .303 on-base percentage. The batting and on-base averages were career bests.

LOOKING AT 2013: Parnell made $504,000 last season, and should be offered arbitration for 2013. With Rauch not expected back and Francisco another year remaining on his contract to close, expect Parnell to be slotted into the eighth-inning set-up role, or close if Francisco isn’t physically able. The Mets have given up on Parnell as a potential starter and now figure him as their closer-of-the-future – again. It takes some pitchers longer than others to reach their potential and Parnell had been erratic since 2008 until the end of last season. The Mets’ bullpen unraveled late last year with the exception of Parnell and Manny Acosta late. I don’t know if Parnell will ever fulfill his long-range expectations, but for the first time in several years the Mets aren’t pulling their hair out over him. That has to be a plus, right?

Oct 24

Mets That Should Come Back In 2013

When you scan the roster of the 2012 Mets, there are only a handful you can justify returning, and only fewer they should bring back. The following are the Mets you know will be back next year:

JOHAN SANTANA: I’d love for them to find a taker of his $25.5 million contract, but you know that’s not going to happen. Santana will go down as one of the Mets’ worst trades for what they got from him after signing him to a long-term deal. Never mind the prospects for they didn’t amount to much, but the salary became an anchor that dragged down the franchise, especially considering how often he was injured. The Twins’ asking price forced the Yankees and Red Sox to pull out, essentially leaving the Mets to bid against themselves, both in prospects and salary. He’s back because he can’t be unloaded. That’s the only reason.

R.A. DICKEY: I don’t know what it will take to bring Dickey back, but the Mets can always pick up his 2013 option and continue to muddle through negotiations. My confidence level of GM Sandy Alderson reaching a contract extension is low. Whether the Mets bring Dickey back to continue negotiations or to trade him is uncertain, but he’ll be on the Opening Day roster.

JON NIESE: He’s signed long-term, which is a smart signing by the Alderson administration. Young, left-handed arms are at a premium. The Mets could get a lot for him, but his real value is in building around him.

MATT HARVEY: He made such a good first impression that he’s already penciled into the Mets’ 2013 rotation, and hopefully will stay there for years to come. When teams call the Mets to talk trade they invariably ask about Harvey and are properly turned down.

NIESE: A building block.

DILLON GEE: The returns on Gee’s surgery are good and he’s expected to be ready for spring training. The Mets could find a veteran capable of giving them Gee’s production, but not at his salary. Gee has been a find, and if healthy, he’ll be a reliable No. 5 starter.

BOBBY PARNELL: Parnell did not grasp the opportunity to be the Mets’ closer and struggled as the set-up option. However, when Frank Francisco went down and Jon Rauch struggled, Parnell showed improvement in the second half. Parnell’s fastball is overpowering and he’s continued to develop his secondary pitches. That he’s healthy and can throw a ball through a wall would make him attractive in the trade market. Considering his age, that’s also why the Mets should continue in developing him.

ROBERT CARSON/JOSH EDGIN: Opportunities are found in the strangest places, and Edgin and Carson found theirs with Tim Byrdak’s injury. The Mets blew out Byrdak’s arm, and desperate for lefty help in the bullpen, dipped into their minor league system for these two. Both struggled at times, but also showed glimpses of what they could bring to the table. Unless the Mets get lucky this winter, they’ll go into spring training with these two lefties in the bullpen.

 FRANK FRANCISCO: He has another year on his contract – a foolish deal, agreed – which is why he’ll be in Port St. Lucie. But, if the Mets can make a deal for him they should as he really doesn’t add much to their porous bullpen.

JOSH THOLE: Both Thole’s defense and offense have regressed. Alderson seems pleased with the way he handles the staff, but he does get healthy. In a perfect world, the Mets would trade for, or develop, another catcher, but won’t as they have little to trade and little in the minor leagues. Thole comes back because the Mets have too many other priorities to address instead of their catching.

IKE DAVIS: Don’t listen to the trade rumors. He’s not going any where. A team void of power and is pinching pennies isn’t about to deal their 32-homer hitting first baseman. Not at his salary. Unless the Mets can get a boatload in return, what’s the incentive in dealing him? And, with Lucas Duda a question, why would they take that risk?

DANIEL MURPHY:  It’s too bad Murphy doesn’t hit for power otherwise he’d be a keeper. Murphy played better at second to the point where the Mets don’t have a red flag waving at the position anymore. As with Thole, he’s good enough to stay at his position while the Mets address other issues.

RUBEN TEJADA: Tejada more than adequately replaced Jose Reyes and should be here for years. If he has another year like he had in 2012, the Mets should think of an extension to keep him away from arbitration and free-agency. Will he ever be as good as Reyes? Probably not, but he’s more than good enough.

DAVID WRIGHT: I don’t see him going anywhere. As with Dickey, if the Mets don’t get anything done they’ll pick up his option and see what they can get in the trade market. It’s harder to trade a player these days during the winter because teams have the free-agent option to improve. I believe the Mets will eventually work out a deal with Wright, who said he wants to be like Chipper Jones and play his entire career with the same team.

JASON BAY: Like Santana, Bay is back because they can’t deal that contract. His value to the Mets is staying healthy and having a strong first half so the team might be able to deal him. But, after doing nothing the previous three years, that’s not likely.

SCOTT HAIRSTON:  It is hard to say good-bye to 20 homers, but that’s what I can see happening with Hairston, who’ll likely get a better offer in the free-agent market while the Mets wait things out. Hairston, despite being a role player, what the Mets’ most productive outfielder. Whether as a starter or coming off the bench, there should be a place for him with the Mets.

LUCAS DUDA: He’s back not based on 2012 production but potential. Duda had a rough season, but he’s strong as a bull and the Mets need the power. Yes, he’s a butcher in right field, but I’d consider flipping him with Bay and playing him in left field.

 

Oct 01

Looking At Mets’ Coaching Staff

Terry Collins will be back next season, but how many of his coaching. Jeff Wilpon and Sandy Alderson are traveling with the team on the final roadtrip, and discussing the coaching staff will be one of the topics on the table.

Published reports have pitching coach Dan Warthen returning, and considering the success of the rotation for the better part of the season, that’s not surprising. However, Warthen is in charge of all the pitchers, which includes a horrid bullpen.

Also on the downside are his mixed results with Mike Pelfrey and zero results with Oliver Perez. It is premature to credit him with any of Matt Harvey’s initial success. He should get some credit for Jon Niese making a step forward this season, and as a knuckleballer, I don’t know how much credit he gets for R.A. Dickey’s season.

The bullpen is arguably the Mets’ weakest pitching link. He’s had one year to work with Frank Francisco, who has been spotty at times, and Jon Rauch, who hasn’t pitched well. He’s had several seasons to work with Bobby Parnell, who remains an enigma.

Warthen has had three starts to evaluate Jenrry Mejia and had him during spring training. After yesterday’s loss, Mejia remains uncertain in the Mets’ pitching plans, although the plan is to send him to the Arizona Fall League to work as a starter. Warthen said a few weeks ago he could still see Mejia as a reliever, so it remains to be seen whether there is a conflict between him and upper management on what to do with the prospect.

Ricky Bones, mostly a starter during his career, is the bullpen coach. His job is primarily to make sure the relievers are ready, to get them warmed up properly, to monitor their pitch counts after getting up, plus some limited work on mechanics.

If Warthen is spared, Bones might take the hit.

Also feeling heat could be hitting coach Dave Hudgens. During the first half Hudgens received raves for how his hitters worked the count and their ability to produce with two outs. Neither of those were strong suits when the offense sputtered and became a liability in the second half, especially at home, where they had a stretch of 15 straight games of scoring three runs or less.

Nobody can blame Hudgens for Jason Bay’s failures for a third straight year, plus the mostly non-season from Andres Torres. However, he’s been exposed to Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, both of whom need to drastically reduce their strikeouts and increase their on-base percentages.

Davis had a miserable first half, but hit with power in the second half. He’s still mechanically flawed and gives away too many at-bats by consistently over swinging and trying to pull too much and striking out way too much. The same could be said for Duda, who had to be sent to the minor leagues during the season to work on his mechanics and approach.

Both Bones and Hudgens might be the fall guys for another losing season, although that mostly has to fall on the players. Unless the Mets are looking for scapegoats, there’s no real reason to dismiss bench coach Bob Geren, third base coach Tim Teufel and first base coach Tom Goodwin.

 

Sep 20

Mets Bullpen Again An Issue

It was a horrible pitch and Josh Edgin is the first to admit it. He called the fastball Ryan Howard crushed last night “a meatball,’’ and it cost Matt Harvey a victory.

Even so, Edgin has been one of the few encouraging notes out of an otherwise negative bullpen this summer and had a streak of 16 straight scoreless appearances snapped last night. One stinker and 16 good games is a good ratio.

Discouraging about Edgin’s performance is the one thing he’s counted on to do, he didn’t, and that’s get out left-handed hitters. He walked Chase Utley and Howard went deep.

“If Josh Edgin is going to pitch in this league, he’s got to get one of those two guys out,’’ manager Terry Collins said.

Actually, both would have been better.

Overall, Edgin has been good against lefties, limiting them to a .148 average. All hitters are batting .196 against him. His 30-10 strikeouts to walks ratio is good. That’s a lot to like.

On the not-so-positive side, four of the 18 hits he’s given up have gone for homers.

A lot has gone wrong for the Mets this season, including GM Sandy Alderson’s inability to build a bullpen. The Mets overused lefty Tim Byrdak to the point where he blew out his arm, thereby giving Edgin and fellow lefty Robert Carson an opportunity.

Carson hasn’t been as effective, but had his moments, such as escaping a bases-loaded, no-out jam with no inherited runners scoring recently against Washington. He has a dynamite fastball. That and being left-handed will earn him a shot next spring.

This isn’t to say the Mets’ bullpen is fixed – far from it – but they have two lefties to build around for next season. That’s more than they had last spring.

Toronto imports Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco had their moments, mostly in the first half when the Mets were 46-40, but also showed why the Blue Jays didn’t keep them. Francisco has injury problems and another year on his contract.

There’s nothing certain about the rest of the bullpen. Ramon Ramirez can’t find the plate half the time; Manny Acosta has averaged giving up over a hit and close to a run an inning; and Bobby Parnell has been inconsistent and unable to grasp the closer or set-up roles when given the opportunity.

Edgin’s blown save gave the Mets a 59-2 record when leading after eight innings, which is more than fine. However, they have 18 blown saves on the season meaning the problem has been more during the bridge innings.

Building a bullpen is a crapshoot, but essential for a team to compete. Overall, Baltimore has given up more runs than it scores but has been dominant in one-run and extra-innings games, indicative of a strong bullpen. The Pirates are fading, but kept in contention in large part because of their bullpen.

Edgin has promise, but the Mets have a lot of work to do in building their pen if they are to become competitive again. A lot.

Jul 13

Mets’ First Half Disappointments; Don’t Forget Pelfrey

No evaluation of the Mets is complete without a list of disappointments. While 46-40 at the break, the Mets have more to be happy about than not.  However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t laments.

PELFREY: Gone?

Had everything broken right in the first half, the Mets could be sitting on top of the NL East.

Here’s what went wrong:

The struggling bullpen: Most of Sandy Alderson’s off-season tinkering was made with improving the bullpen in mind. Frank Francisco has pitched well enough, but is a house of cards. He’s coming off a strained oblique, so there are no guarantees in the second half.  Set-up man Jon Rauch has also been hurt an ineffective.

Mike Pelfrey’s injury: Considering how well the Mets’ rotation has performed, is this a disappointment?  You’d have to say yes, because a well-functioning Pelfrey should be worth at least five victories. Compounding the disappointment is the injury to Dillon Gee, which could keep him out the remainder of the season.

Dillon Gee’s injury: Gee will have surgery to repair an artery in his shoulder Friday and could miss the rest of the year. The Mets have little depth in the farm system and are reluctant to part with their premier prospects.  The Mets, who will temporarily patch things with Miguel Batista, have two weeks before the trade deadline.

Jason Bay’s slump and injury: Is it really a disappointment when the expectations were so low to begin with? Probably not, but the team severely lacks right-handed pop. Bay should be activated from the disabled list within the next two weeks. GM Sandy Alderson said the need for right-handed power must be supplied from Bay. On a positive note, Bay’s injury should keep him from getting the at-bats needed for an option to kick in.

Ike Davis’ slump: Davis is starting to hit, but struggled most of the first half, almost to the point of the Mets considering sending him down to work on his swing. Their thinking in not doing so was the belief he already knows how to hit minor league pitching.

Andres Torres’ slump and injury: The Jose Reyes and Angel Pagan gone, Torres represents what little speed the Mets possess. Kirk Nieuwenhuis filled in well, but struggled the past three weeks.