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.