A New Mets Closer?

Yesterday afternoon, Frank Francisco blew his third save of the season for the Mets. After allowing a lead-off triple, a walk and then a single, he was pulled from the game without recording an out. Then Manny Acosta was called in and not surprisingly blew the game in spectacular fashion. Manager Terry Collins announced “We’ll address it”, referring to the closing situation in Queens. So which reliever will be enjoying a trip on the 7 train into the closer station?

Collins also mentioned that they have “eight options” to close, which technically they do counting all their relievers as possibilities. But unless he truly plans to go with a closer-by-committee for the time being, let’s assume he will settle on one guy and try to figure out who that may be. Below compares what appears to be the most obvious options, along with Francisco. All stats exclude yesterday’s game.

Bobby Parnell 9.0 1.7 20.4% 53.1% 26.5% 0.353 77.7% 7.7% 0.96 2.25 2.48
Frank Francisco 9.9 4.0 25.0% 27.3% 47.7% 0.372 61.3% 9.5% 1.72 6.59 3.52
Jon Rauch 3.8 1.9 25.0% 35.4% 39.6% 0.245 66.7% 0.0% 1.21 3.14 4.52
Ramon Ramirez 7.4 4.9 11.3% 49.1% 39.6% 0.327 67.9% 0.0% 1.33 3.93 4.20

Speculation right now is that Jon Rauch will be promoted into the closer role. He is a Proven Closer™, having saved 59 games in his career and he currently sports a decent 3.14 ERA. Terry Collins is an old school manager and so I would be somewhat surprised if Rauch wasn’t his first choice solely because of the experience and the good looking ERA. If given the opportunity though, can he succeed and run away with the job? Doubtful. Rauch has just 6 strikeouts in 14.1 innings this season, supported by a pathetic 5.1% SwStk% and an average fastball velocity that sits barely above 89.0 miles per hour. He has also posted the worst SIERA since his first year in the Majors, when he was primarily a starter. Last, he has been an extreme fly ball pitcher throughout his career, leaving strong control his only real asset.

So we have a fly ball pitcher with mediocre strikeout ability at best. Is this a guy you want pitching in high leverage situations? I certainly wouldn’t. He hasn’t allowed a home run yet this year and his BABIP sits at just .245, which has helped his ERA to significantly outperform his SIERA. If he is named Francisco’s replacement, there is going to be a rush to add him to fantasy teams. Don’t waste your FAAB, though by all means pick him up if your free agent system is first come first served. Just don’t expect his grasp on the role to last.

Bobby Parnell is another option in the Mets bullpen. His control has been all over the place over the years, but this year his F-Strike% has jumped above 60% for the first time. He is a ground ball pitcher, has always displayed strong strikeout ability and his highest SIERA since 2010 has been just 3.18. From a skills perspective, he is clearly superior to Rauch, though gmLI tells us that for whatever reason, Collins doesn’t trust him as much as Rauch. Since Parnell should come much cheaper in FAAB, he makes for a much better target.

Last of the replacement candidates is Ramon Ramirez. He is likely third in the pecking order, as his skills are inferior to Parnell’s and he has less closer experience than Rauch. However, he inexplicably ranks second on the team in gmLI, so for whatever reason Collins has used him in situations with higher leverage than everyone not named Francisco. His SwStk% this year and in prior seasons do suggest much higher strikeout rates. However, since the K/9 has never matched those impressive SwStk% marks, I am guessing that there is something I’m missing that would explain the discrepancy and so I would not necessarily chalk it up to bad luck.

Then we have Francisco himself. It’s hard to look at his stat line and not think he has suffered from terrible fortune. This happens all the time to closers without strong job security. They get BABIP unlucky over a small sample, lose their jobs temporarily, then the hits stop falling over a couple of innings in middle relief and they get their jobs back and are fine the rest of the way. Francisco has never had the best control and has always been a fly ball pitcher. Yet, his SIERA has been around the 3.00 mark since 2008, though this year it is a bit higher than that of course. He has had major trouble throwing first pitch strikes this season, but his other numbers look normal. Yes, I do own Francisco in two of my four leagues, so I am a little biased. But, ignoring the ERA for a moment and the drama of his blown saves, the skills point to a pitcher who should get his job back (assuming he loses it in the first place) and keep it if he simply enjoys some better fortune.

On a last note, you might point to Francisco’s high line drive rate as a reason for concern. This would be partially true and provides some justification for the high BABIP. But LD% itself is very flukey in a small sample and for his career, his BABIP has been right around league average. So I wouldn’t expect that line drive rate to continue at such a high level.

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Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

14 Responses to “A New Mets Closer?”

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  1. Mack Ade says:

    The “Elvin Ramirez for Mets Closer” campaign offices are now open…

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  2. shmmrname says:

    Obviously, he was horrible. And, you’re insight is very helpful.

    However, he did not get credited with a Blown Save. It’s nit-picky, but this year has been very frustrating to see so many fantasy sources cite stats that actually never happened.

    Believe me, you guys are not the stat-abusers other sites are, so otherwise – good work.

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    • BStu185 says:

      In my league that counts Net Saves (Converted Saves – Blown Saves), the fact that he did not technically get a BS is actually very fantasy-relevant.

      It’s interesting how he could get credited with the loss but not the BS. Seems to be yet another flaw of the “Save” statistic.

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  3. jcxy says:

    “Yet, his SIERA has been around the 3.00 mark since 2008, though this year it is a bit higher than that of course.”

    Then I’ll be the donk for asking this…why use SIERA to evaluate closers? Francisco’s SIERA has been trotted out a number of times, including when he was first signed.


    Why not look at his SD/MD rates for his career? They tell a different story, useful for fantasy purposes: that he isn’t an elite closer and is prone–through injuries or ineffectiveness–to losing his job.

    SD/MD rates also suggest that it’s unlikely any of the other guys in the Mets bullpen are going to run away with the job. So stashing Francisco instead of dropping him is probably the play.

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  4. shmmrname says:

    100% genuine question:

    Can someone quickly explain why B. Parnell is so hittable? He’s always seemed to have a good K-rate. And every time there’s any turmoil in the NYM bullpen, Parnell’s name comes up as someone who could potentially fill AND hold the closer job. But, I just don’t see it happening, as even as his walks are slowed down, the hits remain steady.

    I can’t see many games, but I’ve always wondered why he can’t make the step from fantasy name-to-watch, to having an actual impact.

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    • jt says:

      i have been a mets fan all my life, and while i have no stats to back anything up, i felt more confident with armando benitez on the mound than i do with parnell.

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      • shmmrname says:

        I feel sick to my stomach about rostering Rauch, but I’m in a league where every save is important. I am a F. Francisco owner, and I didn’t expect much. But, I was hoping he’d at least keep the job.

        If it goes to a full-blown committee, I might just cut-and-run. Any news locally on potential bullpen shakeups?

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      • Mark Himmelstein says:

        Really? I have too, and the only right handed reliever I felt consistently better about over the last half decade or so was K-Rod.

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    • Mark Himmelstein says:

      I think it’s similar to the story with Niese–a healthy dose of ground balls, a fastball that doesn’t generate tons of whiffs on its own, and lousy defense. Parnell gets most of his whiffs on breaking stuff, which is why the command improvement is so key–he could never throw that stuff consistently where he wanted to before.

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    • Madoff Withurmoni says:

      In the past, Parnell seemed to think that throwing the ball as hard as humanly possible = pitching. His fastball would miss a lot of bats, but it was also straight and got hit hard often.

      This year, he may have finally gotten it through his head that there’s more to pitching. He’s not trying to throw the ball through a brick wall anymore and seems to be a better pitcher.

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  5. chri521 says:

    Do these stats take into account the volatility of a pitcher’s emotions and control as things spiral out of control? Tongue in cheek aside, I am surprised Franky Frank didn’t throw a chair at anyone in his latest meltdown.

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  6. Mark Himmelstein says:

    While I’m all for using LI in analysis, I’m not convinced its all that relavent when trying to predict who the next closer is going to be. This situation is a good example. I don’t have numbers to back this but, but I believe the reason Ramirez’s LI is higher isn’t because Collins has more implicit faith in him, but because he’s been brought into more situations with runners already on base. Rauch and Parnell have been used in the more traditional begin an inning and finish an inning sense. But generally Ramirez has been used earlier in games to get guys out of jams or before Collins is ready to spend Rauch and Parnell, who seem to be the two guys Collins has the most faith in (besides Byrdak) at this point.

    It’ll be interesting how this situation is handled. Collins is more of an old school guy, but the team is over-achieving and the front office is more saber-friendly, and even old-school guys realize how few guys Rauch is striking out. I’d give it like 60/40 to Rauch then Parnell, with Byrdak and option if its a lefty heavy inning.

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  7. Melkman says:

    I watch the mets regularly, also own frankie frankie, I’d assume Rauch gets first crack, with Parnell 2nd if Rauch falls on his face. Ramirez is used in spots for his perceived ability to generate ground balls with his split/slider combo. Kind of the way Chad Bradford was used during his Mets tenure. Byrdak has been reliable as a LOOGY this season so he may vulture the occasional save.

    Honestly I’d avoid this closer situation if at all possible, Frankie Frankie has always had good closer stuff, and if he starts stringing together scoreless innings in middle relief i wouldn’t be at all shocked if he got his job back (assuming he has lost it). The only way i don’t see this happening is if Parnell can somehow take the job and run with it, although he’s always been just a bit too hittable in pressure situations.

    Of course the plan “C” would be either Jenry Mejia or Jeurys Familia coming up and closing so…

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  8. Phildo3000 says:

    “Proven Closer™” :o)

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