Our condolences to the authors of Mets depth charts around the web. Figuring out who the backups and starters are in the outfield has to be hard enough (who IS the starting left fielder? or where is he?). The toughest spot to handicap right now is the fifth starter position.
In Saturday’s game, the Mets announced that bullpen stalwart Bobby Parnell was the starter. But since he isn’t really stretched out, it was more of a kitchen sink game, Parnell pitched two and a third (and pitched poorly) before Nelson Figueroa came in for an inning and a third, and Tim Redding put in three innings of his own.
By the numbers, in that one game, Redding put forward the best case. Should this pitcher that was, by the reports, almost released a couple weeks ago be the fifth starter now? He certainly has the longest track record, but is it the best track record? Let’s break down the options.
Parnell was the starter in name, but three walks against one strikeout in two and a third innings is not good. While his strikeout rate ranged from under seven to over ten strikeouts per nine in the minor leagues, a high walk rate was the constant. He started in the minors, and he always had walk rates around four per nine. His current 7.31 K/9 and 4.69 BB/9 in the majors are about what could be expected from his minor league rates.
The year in which he put up the most innings in the minors (2007, 127 innings in 24 starts), Parnell racked up a 4.30 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 6.4 K/9, 4 BB/9. Moving him to the bullpen allowed him to harness his 95 MPH fastball, which is his best and pretty much only pitch. Making him a starter will exacerbate his lack of a secondary pitch, the walks will rise, the strikeouts will drop, and his 2007 minor league numbers would probably define his upside.
So what about Tim Redding, Parnell’s opposite in terms of track record and experience? While his primary numbers have gone up and down, his secondary stats have been remarkably consistent. Consider his strikeout rate, which has gone from a low of 5.04 to a high of 5.93 in his last six years. His walk rate has hovered from the low threes to the low fours, and his fielding-independent pitching number has been around five for the past three years.
Consistent mediocrity has been his calling card. With an 89 MPH fastball, an 83 MPH slider, and an 82 MPH curve, perhaps that is to be expected. His only pitch that has been a positive for him his whole career is that slider, and even that pitch has been a negative for him the last two years. The most likely outcome if Redding is awarded the spot is an ERA around five and a losing record.
Perhaps Nelson Figueroa can help? If Parnell should be in the pen in order to take full advantage of his one pitch, and Redding is best stashed in the minor leagues or on another team’s roster perhaps, then maybe the cheap, controllable, but not young Figueroa can be a middle ground.
He does own the highest strikeout rate of the three over the past two years (7+ K/9). He also owns the best walk rate this year (3.29 BB/9). He’s got a bit of the slow/slower/slowest going on with his pitches – he sports an 88 MPH fastball, 83 MPH slider, 81 MPH changeup, and a 74 MPH curve. None of his pitches has consistently rated as a postive pitch for him, but they’re all around average, and what he lacks in quality he makes up for in quantity. He does throw all four pitches more than 5% of the time.
His career home run rate is 1.38 and his current home run rate is over two. The BABIP against him is close to .400. His groundball rate, usually near 40%, is under 30% this year. It seems that he’s got a little problem with the fly balls right now and some balls are not bouncing his way. If he can start getting more groundballs, his strikeout rate and walk rate make him the best candidate for the job.