By Jesse Disbrow
This is a tricky one for me, since I wasn’t really expecting anything out of the closer this season. For a team with what we thought would have (and still probably will have) a losing record, a closer is simply a luxury. But has the 2013 season changed my mind about this year and the future?
At the start of the year, it didn’t really matter who would be the closer. We had a handful of guys who had been closers and I figured one of them would do well enough to save the majority of the 20 something opportunities the team would have. Bobby Parnell would get the first crack at it and then Frank Francisco or Brandon Lyon would get the ball is Parnell faltered. I wasn’t sure Parnell would be able to work as the closer, he’s had such a poor record previous to this season.
However, Parnell was more than up to the task. I expected him to struggle from time to time, but be adequate. Instead he was a shut down closer, at least as shut down as any non- Mariano Rivera closer can be. In 49 games, he saved 22 games, pitched to an ERA of 2.19 and averaged one base-runner per inning pitched. He was very, very good until an injury took him out for what will be basically the rest of the season.
There was some talk around the trade deadline about moving Parnell. To me that’s not a good plan. The Mets farm system is solid right now. A little light on hitting prospects, but good overall. The Mets would have gotten a promising bat that might have been ready by next season, or they could have gotten a lower quality major leaguer to fill in as a role player for a few years. If they were lucky they would land Avisail Garcia, who could be a role player quality outfielder this season and potentially morph into good starter by next season.
But they wouldn’t have a closer. One writer I saw who said to trade Parnell said that a team can always find a guy for the bullpen. Except the Mets can’t. It’s essentially taken us three years of trying to find a mix of bullpen guys that worked. And Parnell himself took several years to develop correctly. It might take us two more years to find a suitable replacement. So how does that help if we’re ready to contend next season.
Look around at all the teams in the majors. Parnell is still currently tied for 20th in saves. That means approximately 10 other teams either couldn’t keep a consistent closer on the mound, or they simply weren’t in good enough positions to get 22 saves. Of the other 19 ahead of him he has a better ERA than 15 of them, including Rivera. He has as many or more strikeouts than eight of the others ahead of them, most of which have appeared in more games than Parnell (3 of the 19 ahead of Parnell have less appearances)
To get to the point, the closer postion has morphed into a Position of Strength, so much so Parnell could be one of the strongest closers in the league.