The Mets big off-season moves helped solidify the eighth and ninth innings.  Now the team hopes that Bobby Parnell can thrive as a reliever and take care of the seventh.

One of the minor subplots of the 2008 season was the number of times various outlets reported how much the Mets liked Bobby Parnell.  And just looking at his statistics, it was hard to understand why.  Yes, he had a bunch of wins (12 between Double and Triple-A) but his peripherals were nothing to get excited about.

At Binghamton, he had a 4.30 ERA with a 4.02 BB/9, which led to a 1.43 WHIP.  At New Orleans, a pitcher’s park, he had a 6.64 ERA and a .421 BABIP, although in just 20.1 innings.  After being a starter in the minors, Parnell got into six games in the majors as a reliever and was unremarkable, posting a 5.40 ERA with three strikeouts and two walks in five innings.

But this year in Spring Training, Parnell has made quite the impression.  He has 11.1 innings pitched, all in relief, which is the fourth-highest mark on the staff.  Parnell has a 2.38 ERA, the lowest mark among the top 20 busiest pitchers in camp.  He also has eight strikeouts, albeit with eight walks, too.

FanGraphs shows Parnell averaging 94 with his fastball in his brief audition with the Mets in 2008.  Freed from having to pace himself as a starter, Parnell was able to cut loose and give his all for an inning or two in his new role as reliever.

Checking his minor league stats from 2008 over at minorleaguesplits.com, we get a different picture of his peripherals if we examine what Parnell did in the first two innings of the game.  In 55 IP, Parnell had 48 strikeouts and 18 walks and he limited batters to a .216 average.  Here are the rate comparisons between Parnell overall and just the first two innings for 2008 (Double-A and Triple-A only):

K/9 BB/9 K/BB FIP
Actual 6.9 4.0 1.7 4.23
First 2 IP 7.9 2.9 2.7 3.85



Those numbers are encouraging.  Another thing in Parnell’s favor is what the Mets like to refer to as his “cross-over” ability or the fact that he does not show a significant platoon split versus lefty batters.  Last year in the minors, lefties hit .273 versus Parnell, compared to his .259 mark versus righties.

Given how nobody in the Mets’ pen in 2008 could seemingly retire a batter when they did not enjoy the platoon advantage, that is a big plus in Parnell’s favor.

Parnell has seemingly won himself not only a spot in the Mets’ bullpen this year, but he also figures to be the team’s primary option in the seventh inning.  Ideally he will come in and throw heat, piling up both strikeouts and ground balls while not giving up too many walks.

And if Parnell is able to fill that role, it will be complete justification for why the organization was so high on him last year.

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