With a losing record, the chances of closing out a game for a pitcher become less then more, because you obviously need to be ahead in ballgames when it comes to the ninth inning in order to earn saves.
So far this season, closer Bobby Parnell has had five opportunities to covert saves. He’s been successful in converting three of them.
It’s a small sample size, but converting 60 per cent of your save opportunities isn’t exactly a good number.
However, when you look at Parnell’s ERA of 1.46 and his six hits allowed in over 12 innings of work and 11 strikeouts, you’d have to agree that he has pitched pretty well this season, just not in a closing role thus far.
This leads me to Frank Francisco, the team’s closer from last season. How is Franky doing?
Francisco – who has been on the shelf with right elbow inflammation and who is recovering from off-season surgery to remove a bone chip is this same elbow – was sent on a Class-A rehab assignment on April 17.
Francisco is currently on the 15-day DL and is tentatively scheduled to return by early May (which is around now) according to the injury report page of MLB.com, but his progress is going slower then expected.
He threw 25 pitches last Saturday and said he was feeling okay – which is a good sign – but an answer of okay isn’t a huge vote of confidence for Terry Collins when he needs a strong bullpen to make up for his lacklustre starting pitching (Matt Harvey and Jonathon Niese aside).
Francisco has 72 career saves with the Rangers, Blue Jays and Mets and is owed $6.5 million this season, so the Mets are going to want to get as much out of him as possible – especially at that price – so what options do they have with the big guy?
If he comes back in May and can stay healthy, do the Mets give him the opportunity to close if Parnell can’t finish out games? Would Francisco have more value to a contender at the trade deadline if he was closing out games?
Parnell has been impressive so far and unless he completely falls apart in the closer’s role, Collins should let him keep it and slowly move Francisco back into a late inning role in the bullpen.
Collins could start by putting Francisco into situations where he can succeed to build up his confidence; some righty on righty situations to start then slowly incorporate him into tougher spots. If he proves he can be successful and stay healthy then he can be moved into tougher situations later in the game with the hope that he can become a valuable set-up man, but Francisco’s days as a Mets closer should be done.
Parnell looks good and Scott Rice has been a nice surprise, so there may be a couple of people ahead of Francisco for the closer’s role before he gets another shot.
Where do you see Francisco fitting with the bullpen upon his return? Do you think he’ll ever close again for the Mets? Do you see him in a Mets uniform for the rest of the season?