In a ridiculous saves season like this — a year in which Mariano Rivera couldn't survive April and Fernando Rodney can do no wrong — it just feels right that Mets right-hander Bobby Parnell is getting another shot at the ninth inning. He'll probably run away with the closing role.
We've had the Parnell fantasy fire-drill a time or two, including last year, and the results have been … well, obviously not great. In fact, things went so fantastically well for Parnell last season that Manny Acosta was saving games for New York in the final weeks, because Bobby lost the job. We've all been tantalized by his triple-digit velocity at some point, but this is still a pitcher with a 1.50 career WHIP. It's never been a smooth ride. Parnell became trade bait for the Mets in the offseason, after the team added Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch to its bullpen.
But here we are, six months later. Francisco is on the DL with an oblique injury and Rauch is scuffling along with a 4.34 ERA (four unearned runs on Monday). Parnell, meanwhile, has been the most reliable member of a lousy 'pen (3.19 ERA, 9.0 K/9, 1.32 WHIP), so he's returning to the final frame.
So what's different about Parnell this season?
A lot, actually.
During offseason throwing sessions, he exchanged a few ticks on the radar gun for improved command, then he took the revised approach into spring. Parnell, of course, had some velocity to spare; his average fastball this season is a still-respectable 95.4 mph, down from a ridiculous 97.2 in 2011. He continues to strike out a batter per inning, yet his BB/9 has fallen from 4.10 last year to 2.32 this season. Parnell has also added a knuckle-curve to his repertoire, throwing the pitch 25 percent of the time.
In a nutshell, Parnell is now a different pitcher from the guy we've seen in prior years, and it's not crazy to expect different results. Keep an open mind. Make the add — he's available in 75 percent of Yahoo! leagues — and let's just see what Parnell can do with his latest opportunity.
Job Security Index
30. Minnesota — Jared Burton & Glen Perkins
29. New York Mets — Bobby Parnell, Jon Rauch
28. Seattle — Tom Wilhelmsen, Brandon League, Charlie Furbush
27. Chicago Cubs — Carlos Marmol, Shawn Camp
26. Toronto — Casey Janssen, Francisco Cordero
25. Boston — Alfredo Aceves, Vicente Padilla, Scott Atchison
24. Detroit — Jose Valverde, Joaquin Benoit
23. Miami — Heath Bell, Edward Mujica, Steve Cishek
22. Arizona — JJ Putz, David Hernandez
21. Chicago White Sox — Addison Reed, Matt Thornton
20. Oakland — Ryan Cook, Grant Balfour
19. Los Angeles Angels — Ernesto Frieri, Scott Downs
18. New York Yankees — Rafael Soriano, David Robertson
17. Houston — Brett Myers, Brandon Lyon
16. Kansas City — Jonathan Broxton, Greg Holland, Aaron Crow
15. Milwaukee — John Axford, Francisco Rodriguez
14. Washington — Tyler Clippard, Sean Burnett
13. San Francisco — Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo
12. Tampa Bay — Fernando Rodney, Jake McGee
11. San Diego — Huston Street, Luke Gregerson
10. Baltimore — Jim Johnson, Pedro Strop
9. Cleveland — Chris Perez, Vinnie Pestano
8. St. Louis — Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs
7. Colorado — Rafael Betancourt, Matt Belisle, Rex Brothers
6. Los Angeles Dodgers — Kenley Jansen, Ronald Belisario
5. Pittsburgh — Joel Hanrahan, Jason Grilli, Juan Cruz
4. Cincinnati — Aroldis Chapman, Sean Marshall
3. Texas — Joe Nathan, Mike Adams
2. Atlanta — Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters
1. Philadelphia — Jonathan Papelbon, Chad Qualls
• Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire has said he'll "mix and match" in the ninth inning while Matt Capps is on the DL (shoulder), and so far he's done just that. Jared Burton picked up saves in back-to-back games on Sunday and Monday, while Glen Perkins closed the door twice earlier in the week. On Monday night, Perkins drew the eighth inning, as a pair of left-handed hitters were due up for Chicago. Expect that sort of usage to continue; both Burton and Perkins are obviously ownable at the moment.
• Ronald Belisario has allowed just three hits in 12.1 innings so far this month, producing a crazy 0.67 WHIP and 0.75 ERA. His K-rate isn't particularly high and the walk-rate isn't stellar, but nearly every ball he allows in play is a grounder (58.3 percent) and only one hitter has taken him deep so far this season (Alex Rios).
• Jose Valverde has declared himself ready to return from his wrist issues, so … well, I'd be interested to hear whether his fantasy owners are excited about this information. He's a very difficult watch, if you happen to own him. Valverde has walked four batters and K'd only two in 7.2 innings this month, and he's given up six hits and two earned runs (plus five unearned) over his last three appearances.
• Tyler Clippard received a vote of confidence from Nationals manager Davey Johnson over the weekend, meaning that Drew Storen won't step right back into his old role. Here's the key quote: "Right now [Clippard] is my closer and the way he's going I can't see going to somebody else. They'd have to show me up here probably in a setup role before they have the opportunity to close." Clippard, of course, has been absolutely sensational over the past month; he's allowed just one hit in his last 15 appearances, converting 12 of 12 save chances.
• Seattle left-hander Charlie Furbush is on a crazy run right now, and he's not merely some one-out specialist. Furbush has struck out 31 batters and walked only three over his last 25.1 innings, dating back to May 1, giving up just nine hits and two runs. (Note: Scott, Brandon and I are in charge of providing updates on Furbush, because Brad is not allowed to write about him, for reasons that are probably clear).