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Salary projection: Bobby Parnell

11/14/2013

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Bobby Parnell's 2013 season is complicated. He had great success as closer, but missed the final two months with a herniated disk that required surgery.

Dan Masi and Jared Hand, representing Pace Law School in White Plains, won the sixth-annual Tulane National Baseball Arbitration Competition in January in New Orleans. This week, along with new additions to the Pace Law arbitration team Pete Naber and Jesse Kantor, they offer their salary predictions for the Mets’ high-profile arbitration-eligible players: Dillon Gee, Bobby Parnell, Ike Davis and Daniel Murphy.

The Pace Law arbitration team is using the same methods agents and team officials employ.

On Day 2, here is this detailed report from the Pace team on Parnell …

Closer Bobby Parnell earns his second year of arbitration eligibility after an impressive, yet injury-shortened inaugural season as a full-time closer in 2013.

Parnell recorded 22 saves in 26 opportunities, tossed 50 innings and dominated opposing hitters by holding them to a .211 batting average against. He flashed brilliance, pitching to a 2.16 ERA and 1.00 WHIP while striking out 44 batters against only 12 walks.

These are the key statistics for closers who, when dominant, become rare commodities because of their ability to be “stoppers” in pressured situations.

While Parnell suffered a serious season-ending neck injury in July that eventually required surgery, he still will earn a significant raise from his $1.7 million salary in 2013. Yet, this figure certainly will incorporate questions about his availability for the upcoming season and potential effectiveness.

THE CASE FOR BOBBY PARNELL

To argue for an elite level salary, Parnell’s representatives will focus on his consistent season-by-season statistical improvement that culminated in his highly successful 2013 platform season. They will not have a difficult time proving Parnell has developed into one of MLB’s most elite stoppers. At the time that Parnell’s season ended on July 31, he ranked 16th in saves among all MLB closers and sixth among NL closers. To combat Parnell’s lower saves total, Parnell’s representatives will note he just did not receive many opportunities. The Mets only gave Parnell 26 save chances through July. The team had the ninth-fewest save opportunities in the majors for the full 2013 season.

Parnell also will argue he was one of the most dominant closers, and therefore should be compensated handsomely. He delivered an 84.6 save conversion percentage. He was one of only 10 closers with 20-plus saves, an ERA below 2.50, WHIP below 1.20, and batting average against below .250. Additionally, among the 28 closers with 20-plus saves in 2013, Parnell ranked eighth best in ERA, 15th in BAA, and eighth in WHIP.

With those supporting statistics, Parnell’s agents will attempt to negotiate for an elite-level salary of $4 million that compares closely with other dominant second-time arbitration-eligible closers. Parnell compares favorably with two pitchers who similarly served as their teams’ full-time closers for the first time in their platform seasons (the year entering their second arbitration-eligibility-influenced salary): ex-Met Heath Bell and ex-Yankee Tyler Clippard.

After serving as Padres set-up man, Bell earned $1.28 million with his first salary influenced by arbitration eligibility. Bell then assumed the closer role in 2009 and subsequently earned $4.0 million after his second year of arbitration (a raise of $2.72 million).

Similarly, after serving as Nationals set-up man and fill-in closer, Clippard earned $1.65 million with his first salary influenced by arbitration. Clippard followed that season by serving as the full-time closer in 2012. He then was rewarded with a $4.0 million salary (a raise of $2.35 million).

With Parnell similarly having served as a set-up man and fill-in closer in 2012 and then earning $1.7 million as the result of his first year of arbitration eligibility, logic follows that he should be compensated with a similar total salary and raise after his second year of arbitration eligibility. That is, assuming his platform season stats as a full-time closer prove similar to Bell and Clippard’s.

PARNELL vs. BELL and CLIPPARD

A statistical comparison for the platform seasons (year heading into second arbitration) and careers to that point of Bobby Parnell, Heath Bell and Tyler Clippard.

All three pitchers were comparatively successful in their platform seasons as full-time closers. While Parnell totaled the fewest saves, his save conversion percentage of 84.6 falls closely in line with Bell’s 87.5 percent and Clippard’s 86.5 percent. Parnell also posted the best ERA and WHIP among the three. Although his platform season was cut short, Parnell never faltered in his role as a closer. On the other hand, just as the Nationals were trying to clinch a playoff berth, Clippard proved ineffective, pitching to an 8.03 ERA and losing three games when his team needed him most.

Both Bell and Clippard prove a pitcher who assumes the pivotal closer role in his platform season and then dominates will earn a significant raise in recognition of that success. As Parnell similarly assumed the closer role for the first time and performed comparatively to both Bell and Clippard, his agents will seek that he should be similarly compensated at $4 million.

THE CASE FOR THE METS

The Mets will argue that because Parnell did not complete the full season he should not be compensated at the same level as premier closers like Bell and Clippard, who recorded 42 and 32 saves respectively in their platform seasons and finished the season without injury. The Mets will focus on the serious season-ending neck injury that Parnell suffered at the end of July.

The injury required surgery to correct a herniated disk and resulted in Parnell losing 30 pounds. Manager Terry Collins’ words -- “As I'm sitting here I'm hoping and praying Bobby Parnell comes back 100 percent. … I'm worried.” -- do not suggest Parnell offers certainty, availability and effectiveness.

As Parnell does not epitomize a reliable closer from a health perspective, the Mets will argue he should not earn an elite salary. The club also will note that among the 28 closers with 20-plus saves in 2013, Parnell ranked only 23rd in WAR at 0.7, thereby suggesting his value to team success is less significant overall.

To limit Parnell’s salary and support their case, the Mets will first cite the total salary of $3.1 million received by reliever C.J. Wilson after the 2009 season.

PARNELL vs. WILSON

A statistical comparison for the platform seasons (year heading into second arbitration) and careers to that point of Bobby Parnell and C.J. Wilson.

Wilson tossed 23 2/3 more innings than Parnell and proved valuable to his team as both a fill-in closer and set-up man -- despite recording eight fewer saves than Parnell. Over Parnell and Wilson’s respective careers entering their second arbitration-eligible offseason, Wilson saved 16 more games, blew 10 fewer and posted comparable holds, ERA, WHIP, strikeouts and batting-average-against totals. Moreover, whereas Parnell was lost for the season due to serious injury, Wilson presented no such risk. The Mets therefore likely will seek to limit Parnell’s salary to $3.1 on the premise Parnell did not outperform Wilson.

Yet one comp alone does not prove the Mets’ position. The club also will rely on the $1.375 million raise Red Sox closer Alfredo Aceves received after 2012 and the $1.65 million raise Marlins closer Juan Carlos Oviedo (formerly known as Leo Nunez) received after 2010.

These raises are critical, because if given to Parnell, it would then limit his salary to a maximum of $3.375 million.

The raise theory in arbitration can be significant for any player going through arbitration for a second, third or fourth time. The approach focuses almost exclusively on platform season analysis and posits that if Player A’s platform stats earned him a $2.0 raise on his previous salary, then in order to receive a raise of more than $2.0 million, Player B must outperform Player A. This theory is most effective if Player A and Player B were “salary neighbors” prior to entering their second year of arbitration -- meaning they had earned similar salaries the preceding year.

Aceves earned $1.275 million preceding his second year of arbitration eligibility. Oviedo earned $2.0 million prior to his second year.

With Parnell having earned $1.7 million, both Aceves and Oviedo are therefore Parnell’s salary neighbors, and the raise theory could be effective in Parnell’s case.

PARNELL vs. OVIEDO and ACEVES

A statistical comparison for the platform seasons (year heading into second arbitration) of Bobby Parnell, Juan Carlos Oviedo and Alfredo Aceves.

Despite Parnell’s superior ERA and WHIP totals, both Aceves and Oviedo tossed more innings, saved more games and pitched to higher K/9 ratios. All three pitchers were successful in the closer role, but based on these comparisons, especially to Oviedo, the Mets will argue Parnell should not earn more than a $1.65 million raise. If he is to earn more than Oviedo, it should only be slightly more.

Once again stressing health, Oviedo closed a full season for the Marlins without injury (and did so for two straight seasons), whereas Parnell poses more questions than certainties entering 2014 due to his serious injury. Accordingly, based on these comps, the Mets will submit to Parnell an offer of no more than $3.2 million.

PREDICTED RESULT

Oviedo will prove even more important to the negotiation than simply because of his raise. Having earned a total salary of $3.65 million, Oviedo’s salary represents the approximate midpoint between Parnell’s predicted goal ($4.0 million) and the Mets’ likely limited offer ($3.2 million). To truly determine where Parnell’s salary may land requires a closer look at these two specific players.

PARNELL vs. OVIEDO

A statistical comparison for the platform seasons (year heading into second arbitration) and careers to that point of Bobby Parnell and Juan Carlos Oviedo.

While Parnell tossed fewer innings in his platform season and had eight fewer saves, his peripheral numbers (ERA, WHIP, BAA) suggest he was more dominant. When comparing their career statistics, Parnell bests Oviedo in some key categories (G, IP, holds, ERA, K, BAA). In a world where saves rule however, it follows that their total salaries should be somewhat equivalent.

To determine just how equivalent, Parnell’s comparison with Clippard likely tips the scale in his favor.

As previously proven by the comparison with Clippard ($4.0 million), even closers with only one full year of experience in the role can earn elite salaries. And Parnell’s story more closely resembles Clippard’s than those of Wilson and Aceves. Wilson was never a full-time closer and Aceves’ closer season was a whirlwind, as demonstrated by his 5.36 ERA.

The Mets’ emphasis on Parnell’s injury will impact negotiations significantly, suggesting Parnell should not earn “Clippard money.”

As such, we are predicting Parnell will earn a salary of $3.75 million in 2014, placing him above Oviedo and recognizing his dominant performance as a closer, but taking into account the seriousness of his physical condition.