2015 Phillies Report Card: Jeanmar Gomez
Count Jeanmar Gomez among the Pittsburgh Pirates’ many pitcher reinventions. Pitching coach Ray Searage has aided in the career turnarounds of Francisco Liriano, Edinson Volquez, and J.A. Happ. Even veteran A.J. Burnett enjoyed success in his 30’s only in Pittsburgh, not in New York or Philadelphia.
Gomez wasn’t exactly a highly-touted pitching prospect, but he was someone the Cleveland Indians — who signed him as an amateur free agent in 2005 — felt could contribute at the back end of a starting rotation. He made his major league debut in 2010 at the age of 22, but he was unable to find consistent success. Across 38 starts and four relief appearances spanning three seasons with the Indians, Gomez posted a 5.18 ERA, striking out only 112 batters while walking 71 and serving up 28 home runs in 206 2/3 innings.
The Indians traded Gomez to the Pirates in January 2013 for a minor league outfielder who has since repeated Double-A. The Pirates sent Gomez to the bullpen for the first month of the 2013 season, moved him back into the rotation, then sent him back to the bullpen for good. As a starter with the Indians, Gomez struck out 12-13 percent of batters and walked roughly eight percent. With the Pirates, Gomez’s walk rate stayed the same, but his K-rate moved up to 14-16 percent.
What was the secret? Searage simply told Gomez to stop moving his head so much, as Dejan Kovacevic noted for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review two years ago.
Gomez kept Searage’s lesson with him when he signed with the Phillies on a minor league contract that guaranteed a salary of $800,000 if he made the major league roster. The 27-year-old impressed in a small sample of spring training innings, allowing only one run on nine hits and a walk with nine strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings. That was enough for the Phillies to give Gomez a spot in the bullpen to open up the 2015 season.
Gomez, used often to get more than just the standard three outs required of most relievers, wound up posting the best numbers of his six-year career, finishing with a 3.01 ERA and a 50/17 K/BB ratio in 74 2/3 innings. His 5.3 percent walk rate marked a career-low. Gomez recorded four-plus outs in 20 of the 65 games in which he appeared, and ranked among the leaders in total pitches thrown (1,173) along with teammate Justin De Fratus (1,444). Just as impressive, Gomez reached new heights with his fastball velocity, moving up from his usual seat in the low 90’s to the mid-90’s. His overall average velocity went from 90.8 and 90.7 in 2013-14 to 91.5 MPH this past season.
The Phillies announced a few roster decisions last week, outrighting a handful of players from the 40-man roster. Gomez, entering his second year of arbitration eligibility, was not among them, which makes it all but certain that the Phillies plan to tender him a contract for the 2016 season. He’ll likely be able to negotiate a salary near $1.5 million plus or minus a couple hundred thousand dollars. Gomez is no superstar, but the Phillies can certainly pencil him in as a reliable member of their middle relief corps. They will, of course, have to send their regards to Searage.