In the course of one afternoon, the Mets lost one starting pitcher for the year, but potentially found another one. And it wasn't Wednesday's winning pitcher Nelson Figueroa. Nope, I'm talking about Bobby Parnell. He tossed three effective innings, fanning three, on the way to earning his first major league save. During the broadcast, it dawned on Gary Cohen like it did the rest of us: 'Hey, this guy might be able to start for us.' After the game Jerry Manuel confirmed our suspicion:
"That is a consideration, and that was part of the plan today going forward. That's a part of why we did what we did today."
Parnell put up a 5.40 ERA during a brief cup of coffee towards the end of 2008, but he has compiled a 3.74 ERA, 1.60 WHIP and 38/22 K/BB ratio in 45 2/3 innings (54 games) in 2009. Solid, if unspectacular numbers in his first full major league season. The 24-year-old has managed an excellent 1.10 ERA over his last 15 appearances after struggling to a 13.50 ERA in June. Thus far, all 60 of his appearances in the bigs have come out of the bullpen.
So what to expect if he enters the rotation? Eh. Don't get too excited.
Parnell had a 4.04 ERA, 1.40 WHIP and 414/204 K/BB ratio over 94 games (92 starts) in the minors. Not exactly eye-popping. Parnell can't expect to maintain a 4.34 BB/9 in the majors and be effective, especially as a starter. We all knows he throws hard (an average of 95.2 MPH on his fastball, according to FanGraphs), which is great, but only a special talent Clayton Kershaw can survive with a walk rate like that.
Then there's the question of whether he has a true quality second pitch. Actually, we know he doesn't. Parnell possesses an okay slider, with average movement on it, but he doesn't have much confidence in it. Using it as a change of pace in the bullpen is fine, but his well-documented inconsistency with the pitch will only be exposed as he is stretched out.
While I realize the Mets are in dire straits right now, ultimately I fear this will be a mistake in what is already a lost season. With Parnell coming out the bullpen, the Mets actually have a pretty valuable trade chip; getting beat up over the course of a few meaningless starts will do nothing to help his value. I can't help but think back to September of 2007, when we were forced to sit through starts by the likes of Brian Lawrence and Philip Humber when Aaron Heilman, who actually had a legitimate arsenal, sat idly by in the bullpen. Just sayin.'