Insane but true: Mets interested in Manny Parra

Lost amid the news of David Wright re-signing with the Mets and the team publicly shopping R.A. Dickey harder than any player in recent memory was this nugget tweeted by Joel Sherman of the New York Post: The Mets are kicking the tires on Manny Parra.

If you don’t recognize the name, there are two things you need to know about Parra. One he is a lefty reliever. And two, he’s terrible. So it makes perfect sense in a Terry Collins kind of way that the Mets are interested in him.

There were 103 LHP in the majors last year who made 90 percent or more of their appearances out of the bullpen. Care to guess where Parra ranked in that group in bWAR? Parra brought up the rear with a (-0.9) bWAR. That’s right – he was the worst lefty reliever in baseball last year and the Mets think he’s worth something.

Now, it’s never easy to be the worst at something. But when your peer group is lefty relievers – one of the areas in baseball which invites mediocrity – to be the worst is truly special.

Former Met Jesse Orosco pitched until he was 46 years old and if he announced today that he was coming out of retirement at age 55 after being out of baseball for nine years, he could probably get an NRI from some team. Of course I mean some team besides the Mets, who probably would give him a guaranteed contract.

Getting back to Parra, in parts of five years in the majors, he’s 26-33 with a 5.12 ERA and a 1.645 WHIP. Last year he appeared in 62 games, all in relief, and posted a 5.06 ERA and a 1.653 WHIP. Of course the Mets are intrigued because he limited LHB to a .229/.323/.312 line last year. The trouble is that RHB, who Parra faced 55 percent of the time, posted an .827 OPS against him.

Most teams would look at this and go – yuck. That’s exactly what his former team, the Brewers, did when they non-tendered him following the 2012 season. But because he is a lefty, and Collins is attracted to lefty relievers like a moth to a flame, don’t be surprised to see him in Port St. Lucie when Spring Training rolls around.

Dear God, when will the madness around lefty relievers end?

Going back to our group of 2012 lefty relievers mentioned earlier, the Mets had five of them – Justin Hampson, Tim Byrdak, Robert Carson, Josh Edgin and Garrett Olson. This group combined for 80 IP and a (-0.1) bWAR. This is production to be replaced, not added to with a guy who was nine times worse in 2012.

I understand that Tony La Russa was a managerial genius and he had success with Rick Honeycutt and Joe Klink performing in this role 20 years ago when Sandy Alderson was in Oakland. But that 1990 A’s team also had three starters clear 200 IP (Dave Stewart had 267) and another throw 199.1 innings. Additionally, it had three relievers clear 70 IP.

By contrast the 2012 Mets had one pitcher clear 200 IP and not one reliever throw 70 innings.

Let’s see if we can compare this baseball dilemma with a hot topic issue in the news – the debt crisis. As a country we have to solve our debt crisis. The Mets have to solve their innings pitched crisis. There are two way to tackle the debt: raise taxes and cut spending. There’s two ways to get innings: Have pitchers throw more innings or add more pitchers.

MLB teams in general have tried to solve the crisis by adding more pitchers. When I first started following baseball, teams used 10 pitchers and 15 hitters. Now teams use 12 pitchers and 13 hitters. If the Mets insist on carrying two LOOGYs then they may be the team that pioneers carrying 13 pitchers and 12 hitters.

A LOOGY will throw somewhere around 40 IP and last year the Mets bullpen threw 458.2 innings. So if two spots combine for 80 IP then the other five bullpen slots have to account for roughly 375 innings. That averages out to 75 innings per slot for the remaining five spots.

In reality, it will be fewer than this, as the crazy September rules allow teams to carry extra players in the final month. But how many fewer innings will be needed? Last year in September the Mets promoted Elvin Ramirez, Jenrry Mejia, Jeurys Familia and Hampson. Those four combined to throw 32 IP of relief in September/October.

So, if we subtract out those 32 innings that leaves 343 innings for the five non LOOGY relievers to cover, or an average of 68.2 IP per slot.

Recall that the 2012 Mets had Jon Rauch fill one of their bullpen spots for the entire year – he did not make a start nor spend any time on the DL – and he threw 57.2 IP. Carrying a second LOOGY likely prohibits the Mets from having a reliever carry Rauch’s work load with the current 12 pitcher set up.

So, do the Mets make Rauch or his 2013 equivalent throw more innings or do they add a 13th pitcher?

The innings have to come from somewhere. Sure, it’s possible the SP throw more innings but I wouldn’t want to wager on that outcome. The Mets could have someone throw a bunch of innings in the bullpen but only one reliever in the last five years has topped 75 IP for the team and that was Aaron Heilman in 2008, when he tossed 76 innings.

Having a second lefty may be the Holy Grail for Alderson and Collins but it creates problems for the entire pen. The Mets should take their seven best relievers, regardless of which hand they throw with and they certainly should not bend over backwards to get a second lefty, unless they have a plan in place to soak up the extra innings.

And even if they do have that plan in place – in no way, shape or form should Manny Parra be the second lefty. Parra may have had promise at one point because he was a young, hard-throwing lefty. Now he’s a 30-year-old lefty who throws hard and has a history of other teams knocking him around with ease.

It’s hard to think of a pitching option more undesirable than Parra.

18 comments for “Insane but true: Mets interested in Manny Parra

  1. Metsense
    December 7, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    “Keep the Wave at the Beach” 1986 Mezzanine Sect 20 chant.
    “Let’s Lose the LOOGY” 2012 Metsense chant

  2. Name
    December 7, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    We wouldn’t have so much LOOGY love if Collins weren’t around. I still vote to fire his ass.

  3. December 7, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    Hey Brian I put nothing pass these Mets. They are so so sharp.But I was wondering if there is any information for Parra on inherited runners and how many were allowed to score. I think that should be included with their projections of him.

    • December 7, 2012 at 10:27 pm

      Parra inherited 28 runners and 13 of those scored for an IS% of 46%. This is a case where the lower the number, the better.

      Manny Acosta inherited 18 runners and 4 of them scored for an IS% of 22%.

  4. December 7, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    Thanks for the update. I think the Mets can do better utilize their limited payroll elsewhere.

  5. NormE
    December 8, 2012 at 7:45 am

    Brian, you put the onus on Collins but then brought Alderson into the discussion. That may be where the real problem is. I am assuming that a GM hires a manager whose baseball philosophy is in agreement with that GM. If you fire Collins then Alderson hires another front man who buys into that philosophy.
    The Mets conundrum is that they really can’t fire Alderson without insulting Bud Selig. That’s just not going to happen short of Alderson committing a serious morals crime.
    So we are stuck with the thinking of Collins/Alderson, thus we get to look at any lefty who can walk and chew at the same time. Being a Mets fan is not easy.

    • December 8, 2012 at 9:12 am

      Exactly Norm – I’m not sure who deserves the lion share of the blame. Ultimately I give more to Collins because he’s the one who puts the players in the game.

      I have no doubt that Collins is a “company man.” But I wouldn’t go so far as to say he’s nothing more than a “yes man.” I think Collins has enough backbone that if he was asked to do something that was harmful to the team or individual – that he would say no, regardless of the ramifications.

      I think he realized that bringing Byrdak into every game was harming him and he stopped doing it. Now we just need him to realize that utilizing every lefty reliever as a LOOGY instead of a pitcher is harmful, too. Hopefully he realizes it before he ruins Josh Edgin’s career.

  6. December 8, 2012 at 8:03 am

    SSandy should not have the option of hiring another manager.he’s just a care taker for now and Collins was his choice to manage the Mets.

  7. Metsense
    December 8, 2012 at 8:20 am

    Brian, I have always questioned the use and makeup of a bullpen in post 1990’s baseball. The avg NL starter goes 6 innings so that leaves 33% of your innings to the bullpen. It also means that the pitchers of the 7th, 8th and 9th innings need to be shut down type pitchers when the starters turn over a lead. These 3 pitchers should be one inning pitchers. Ideally that means a closer and 2 set up guys. Many teams, like the Mets, have a closer in name but not ability.On those teams the responsibility should be shared between 2 or all 3. That leaves 4 other middle relievers. These pitchers should come in when the team is behind and pitch until their turn to bat comes up (and the manager could double switch to prolong the outing). This philosophy would stop the excessive warming up/non use that burns out a bullpen and also keep 4 pitchers more stretched out. It would also force a manager to manage instead of the auto pilot of closer for the 9th inning, righty/lefty switches in the 6th-8th innings just because that’s the way the “laRusso” book tells you to manage. Also notice I never used the word LOOGY. Is my Metsense thinking that far off base?? I respect the opinions of everyone on this site and would not mind others critiquing this old fashioned philosophy, because frankly I just don’t get it.

    • December 8, 2012 at 9:05 am

      You always hear that the NFL is a copycat league. But it applies to MLB, too. No one can deny the success that LaRussa had utilizing LOOGYs like Joe Klink back in the Bash Brothers days. But it succeeded because his SP were work horses and he had a shutdown closer in Eckersley.

      But just because it worked for one team doesn’t mean that it’s going to work for all teams. And I just don’t think the current bullpen deployment is working for our Mets. And when something doesn’t work — try something else!

      I look at some of those Joe Torre-led Mets teams that were absolutely dreadful and I see that the bullpens were usually okay. Every pitcher in those pens had more IP than games. Ray Searage, Jesse Orosco, Ed Glynn, Kevin Kobel, Paul Siebert and Bob Myrick all were lefty relievers with more IP than games. Today every single one of those guys would be lucky to top 50 IP in a season, including Orosco, who wouldn’t have been given the chance to find himself like he got pre 1983. He would have been typecast as a LOOGY and that would be that.

      And that’s what I’m afraid is going to happen to Carson and Edgin in 2013.

      There are things that worked in the past that simply could not happen today. Tom Seaver threw 290 innings back in 1973 and won the Cy Young Award. We just can’t tell all starters – hey Seaver did it, you can too! But there’s absolutely no reason why we can’t tell Edgin that he’s going to be utilized as a relief pitcher and come into the games expecting to face more RHB than LHB and that we expect him to get out whoever comes to the plate.

      Bob Myrick appeared in 40 games as a reliever in 1977, pitched 72 innings and put up a 2.75 ERA. That’s the output we should be shooting for from Edgin, not the 72 games, 37.2 IP and 3.82 ERA that the Mets got from Byrdak in 2011 when the brass thought he had such a great year.

      What Myrick did is not some superhuman feat that’s out of reach in today’s game. He didn’t go Mike Marshall and appear in 100 games. He didn’t go Goose Gossage and pitch 130 innings. There’s no reason a RP in today’s game can’t pitch 72 innings in 40 games — none at all.

      Metsense, the only thing I would object to in your post is saying that late-inning guys should be one inning pitchers. Now, it may be that some guys that’s all you should try to get. I know Manny Acosta did much better in shorter outings. But the Mets should be training and developing their relievers to go two innings per outing. Doesn’t mean they have to each time out — just means they should be capable of it.

      If the future home for Jeurys Familia is the bullpen – there’s no reason to typecast him as a 1 IP guy.

  8. December 8, 2012 at 10:45 am

    What I don’t understand is why do pitchers today as opposed to 30 years ago last only 5-6 innings? We have all the new technology and nutrition to improve health and yet pitchers are not allowed to throw more than 100 pitches per outing. Today we have 5 man rotations(as opposed to 4) which provides an extra day of rest and still the majority of pitchers in the major leagues don’t throw 200 innings in a single season. If teams are so concerned about over extending their youngsters then why are so many of them developing arm injuries so early in their careers? How will they ever learn to get out of difficult situations if they know they are on a pitch count?

    • December 8, 2012 at 11:35 am

      There’s a couple of reasons why they only last 6 innings. Off the top of my head I have this list:

      Pitch counts
      Batters working the count
      Better hitters
      Fewer dead spots in the lineup

      As for the last point, the 1972 Mets won 83 games and had six players (counting the pitcher) in their normal everyday lineup with an OPS+ under 100, including Bud Harrelson with a 68 OPS+ and Ken Boswell with a 70 OPS+. Last year the Brewers won 83 games and only had three players in the everyday lineup under 100 OPS+ and if Alex Gonzalez hadn’t gotten hurt, they might have only had two. That’s a huge difference for opposing pitchers.

      I’m not sure how far you have to go back to find a time period where the majority of pitchers threw 200 innings but I’m pretty sure that hasn’t happened in my lifetime.

      Arm injuries early in a career are certainly not new. What we do have is fewer instances of pitchers burning out after just a few seasons. Sure, these still exist — Mark Prior jumps immediately to mind — but if you go back to the 1960s and 1970s you’ll find a whole lot more than you do now.

      Steve Barber, Dave Boswell, Jim Bouton, Ron Bryant, Wally Bunker, Steve Busby, Dean Chance, Sammy Ellis, Chuck Estrada, Wayne Garland, Gary Gentry, Don Gullett, Denny McLain, Jim Merritt, Andy Messersmith, Gary Nolan, J.R. Richard, Wayne Simpson and many, many others had promising careers end way too early.

      Jim Bouton won 39 games as a 24-25 year old. He won 16 the rest of his career. Don Gullett pitched 218 innings as a 20-year old. He didn’t make it past age 27. Denny McLain hurled 661 innings over two seasons as a 24-25 year old. He was washed up at 28. Ron Bryant pitched 270 innings as a 25-year old. He was out of baseball two years later. All of these pitchers had great success early and then flamed out.

      Of course modern surgery would have helped quite a few of these guys. But not letting guys throw 300 innings helps, too.

      I’m really less concerned with pitchers learning to get out of difficult situations and more concerned with sensible usage patterns. And that goes for both starters and relievers. To me, it doesn’t make sense to continually ask a guy to throw 120 pitches per start. You’re just asking for trouble. Just because Tom Seaver could handle that workload, doesn’t mean everyone can.

  9. December 8, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    All things being equal I find it interesting that you say that hitting has improved over the past 30 years. Then why not pitching? A pitcher is only one position player as opposed to the other eight. Shouldn’t they all have improved over time? Perhaps it could be the choices the youngsters have today. Among Latin countries baseball is still an opportunity for those who are not as fortunate as us to improve their lot in life. But I wonder if you were to take a survey among athletes in high school and college in the United States given the choice which sport would they choose. I can see why baseball is going global to fill the pool of players they cannot find here. One last note only 18 pitchers in the National League threw more than 200 innings. That averages out to a little over 1 starter per team out of 80 starters. Amazing

    • December 8, 2012 at 10:30 pm

      Two main reasons why I think hitting has improved more than pitching in the last 30 years:

      1. Video
      2. Weight training

      I think both of these things lend themselves more to hitters than pitchers. With video, hitters can see better what pitchers are trying to do to them. And weight training allows for greater strength, which combined with smaller ballparks, adds up to a plus for hitters.

      Thirty years ago, there were only 22 pitchers who threw 200 innings in the NL. Of course there were four more teams in the NL last year but is that really a huge difference? Plus, 200 is a nice round number but there’s not any great significance to it when you come right down to it.

      If we made the threshold 180 IP, there were 29 pitchers in the NL to reach that in 1982 and 34 pitchers last year. On a per team basis, that’s 2.4 in 1982 and 2.1 in 2012. And if we go to 2011, we find 38 pitchers hurled 180 IP or the exact same 2.4 per team as 30 years ago.

  10. December 8, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    So hitters have actually improved over the course of say 30 years while pitching has remained stagnant. I guess hitters are utilizing whatever options that are available to them(legally) and putting them to better use.Thanks for the information. It helps to get a better understanding of what is happening today when you can compare events and statistics of the past. Please note I did not use Roger Clemens to support your second reason.

  11. AJ
    December 8, 2012 at 11:59 pm

    Hey, I know this is a baseball site, not a political one, but just a word about your reference to the “debt crisis” – we don’t have one. We have an employment crisis. The country’s debt is not as important as the percentage of people who are out of work or not working full time.

    I guess you could say the Mets think they have a lefty specialist crisis, so they make moves to address that percieved need, when there may other moves they should be making to meet other needs that are actually more critical (like innings pitched). So in this respect it is like the “debt crisis” – they are focusing on the wrong problem and in so doing making the real problem worse.

  12. AJ
    December 9, 2012 at 12:02 am

    I wonder if Paul Krugman is a Met fan?

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