New York Mets: Will Frank Francisco Lose His Closer Job to Bobby Parnell?

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New York Mets: Will Frank Francisco Lose His Closer Job to Bobby Parnell?
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
Bobby Parnell takes over as closer for the injured Frank Francisco.

Watching Mets' closer Frank Francisco pitch is like playing Russian Roulette. On the one hand, he can fire bullets right past hitters.

On the other, he can blow a lead and make you want to blow your own brains out.

Doubts about Francisco's closing ability have been common all season. It's not so much that he blows saves. He's got 18 saves on the season, and 3 blown saves.

But, every outing is an adventure.

Look at his 17th save of the season, for example. Francisco preserved the Mets' lead as they beat the Baltimore Orioles, 4-3. Looks good on paper.

Here's the reality. Francisco saved his own skin as much as the game. The Mets went into the ninth leading 4-2. Francisco faced seven batters, threw 33 pitches—closers who throw more than 20 pitches an inning are usually in trouble—gave up two hits, two walks and an earned run before getting the third out.

That's not a closer's performance, and it wasn't Francisco's only shaky outing of the season.

Francisco is now on the 15-day DL after suffering a left oblique strain. Manager Terry Collins has named Bobby Parnell the closer until Francisco's return.

Question is, will Francisco still be the closer when he returns?

That depends on Parnell's performance, of course. He's already proven to the be the best of the worst bullpen in baseball.

I'll acknowledge that being a closer is a specialized, high-pressure role. And, by definition Francisco has a tougher job.

But that, as the cliche goes, is why he gets the big, big bucks.

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Yet, Francisco has been anything but closer-like, even with 18 saves. He's given up 32 hits, 14 walks, and 16 earned runs in 29 innings. That's too much of everything to sustain over the course of a season.

Parnell hasn't been setting the pen on fire, either. In 31 innings, he's given up 33 hits, 8 walks and 11 earned runs. Both pitchers have given up 3 home runs, and both have struck out 31 batters.

With such a minor margin of difference, what's the deciding factor?

That shouldn't be too hard to figure out. The deciding factor will be who's on the trade market.

Neither Francisco nor Parnell have the chops to last the season as a closer. Remember, Parnell was given a shot at the closer role late last year, and he didn't impress.

The reason that Francisco has drawn more ire, apart from his cardiac-inducing pitching, is he's paid a lot more.

Francisco has a two-year, $12 million contract. In a period when the Mets are preoccupied with financial matters, they need maximum return on their investments. Francisco is not exactly coming off as the $6 million man.

Parnell is better suited to where he is now—late-inning relief.

The Mets may not be acknowledging it publicly, but with a bullpen that has a 5.17 ERA and a closer—Francisco, that is—with a 4.97 ERA, they have to be looking for help.

When it comes down to Parnell versus Francisco in the closer sweepstakes, the winner is a "Pitcher to Be Named Later."

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