In a season where the New York Mets have a lot of questions surrounding the strength of their bullpen, one guy has been the answer for them all season.
That guy is reliever Bobby Parnell.
To say Mets relievers have struggled this season would be an understatement. New York's bullpen is the worst in the league in ERA with a 4.94 mark and 27th in opponents' batting average at .267 coming into the All-Star break.
Parnell has been the reason why those numbers are not higher as he has been the most reliable and consistent reliever for the Mets this season. He is currently filling in at the closer's role with regular closer Frank Francisco on the disabled list.
While he may not hold on to that spot when Francisco returns, there are reasons why Bobby Parnell can be a star closer for the Mets.
One reason is that Parnell has been there before. This is his second opportunity to be the closer for the New York Mets and he is not getting caught up in the moment of it.
After blowing multiple save opportunities late in the 2011 season, Parnell has been nothing but solid after being inserted into the closer role in 2012. When Francisco went on the disabled list, manager Terry Collins showed confidence in Parnell harping back to last season's experience.
"He had some ups and he had some downs and he's learned how to deal with them all, and he's come back better. This is his chance to show what he's learned." (h/t MLB.com)
Since being put into the closer role, Parnell has recorded a win and two saves while allowing only one hit and no runs in five innings of work. It is safe to say that he has learned from 2011.
Parnell's confidence is another reason he can be a star. He will be the first to admit that he was "trying to do too much" as a closer in 2011. He tried to overpower hitters with his impressive fastball and get strikeouts instead of simply getting outs.
Parnell thought like a power pitcher. He got himself into a lot of trouble by using that approach on the mound. He walked too many batters and allowed too many hits: a bad combination for any pitcher.
Needless to say, the turnaround in 2012 has been impressive. Give credit to Parnell, who spent part of spring training working with Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax. Also give credit to the Mets for sticking with him when they easily could have gone in a different direction.
The Mets showed confidence in their hard-throwing reliever. In return, Parnell has shown confidence in every bullpen role he has been put into this season.
Another reason why Parnell can be a star closer is because he has learned how to pitch, not just throw.
It can be an overused expression of a pitcher "throwing, not pitching" but it held true for Parnell. At times, he has dialed down his fastball for better command and he has developed a filthy curveball that keeps hitters on their toes at the plate.
With his new found command, he has been able to locate pitches. That was evident in his last appearance before the break against the Chicago Cubs. After giving up a leadoff double, Parnell proceeded to get the next three batters out. He mixed his fastball location and tossed a couple curveballs keeping the hitters off balance.
The last batter he faced was Cubs catcher Steve Clevenger. Parnell got ahead 0-2 and went outside with three straight 100 mph fastballs, finally painting the corner with the last one for the out and the save.
When Frank Francisco comes back from the disabled list, he will be the Mets closer again, but that does not mean he will remain there for the rest of 2012 and beyond.
Francisco currently has a 4.97 ERA on the season. While he does have 18 saves, he has been unstable this season and throughout his career. He can not be depended on all season and is bound to implode as he has done in the past.
That final reason keeps the door open for Parnell. If he continues to impress in 2012, expect him to get another chance to land the closer role for the Mets.