Drafted by the Mets in the 2005 amateur draft, Bobby Parnell never exactly blew away the competition in his first four years in the minor leagues, which he spent almost exclusively as a starting pitcher. Aside from a 1.73 ERA posted in Brooklyn in his debut in 2005, Parnell struggled with his control and couldn’t put up a sub-4.00 ERA season between 2006 and 2008. That didn’t prevent him from making the Mets’ bullpen in 2009, though, where he pitched to the tune of a 3.46 ERA over 60 appearances before the Mets plugged him in to their depleted rotation late in the season. That experiment was an utter failure, as Parnell got shelled over the course of eight starts, but if there was one concern throughout the season, it was Parnell’s propensity to issue walks.
Parnell didn’t make the Opening Day roster in 2010, spending the first part of his season with Buffalo before joining the Mets in June. He went on to make 41 appearances with excellent results. Parnell struck out 22.2% of opposing batters while walking only 5.4%, and as a result, his 2.83 ERA was supported by a 2.25 FIP and 2.54 xFIP. The only concern heading into 2011 was that Parnell’s very good walk rate was entirely out of line with everything else he’d done in his professional career.
Unlike the year before, Parnell’s 2011 season began with the Mets. Unfortunately, he pitched very poorly in April, and after he was sidelined with an injury, he had to go back to Buffalo for rehab. It didn’t take long for Parnell to get back to the big leagues, and despite the time he missed, he wound up pitching 59.1 innings with the Mets. As might have been expected, Parnell’s walk rate climbed, but he helped make up for it by increasing his strikeout rate. The only downside to the season, during which he put up a 3.21 FIP, was that Parnell didn’t pitch very well when given the opportunity to close games after the Francisco Rodriguez trade.
With the Mets’ revamped bullpen for the upcoming season, it’s doubtful that Parnell will get another shot to close games unless there’s an injury or two, but he still figures to be a good arm out of the bullpen. There will be plenty of attention paid to the new guys – Frank Francisco, Ramon Ramirez, and Jon Rauch – but like Manny Acosta, Parnell could be better. Whether or not that will happen hinges upon Parnell’s ability to cut down his walks. If all else fails, Parnell could ask everyone to call him Bob rather than Bobby to help replenish the supply of professional athletes named Bob.