2015 Phillies Report Card: Hector Neris
After having already written about Dalier Hinojosa and Luis Garcia, I’m really out of interesting things to say about the Phillies’ army of interchangeable middle relievers, except to say that maybe it gives a pretty good picture of how this season went when so many of the team’s big contributors were middle relievers without much of a major league track record to speak of.
And that was pretty much where I say with Hector Neris, until I realized that he’s actually the best relief pitcher in baseball.
Seriously. Let’s look at how Neris compares to elite relievers when it comes to the important things for a relief pitcher to be good at.
- Strikeout rate: 24.1 percent. Better than Sam Dyson, Joakim Soria, Glen Perkins, Huston Street, Mark Melancon, Joe Smith and Brad Ziegler. Dyson was probably the best reliever for a playoff team. Melancon and Street are elite closers. And Ziegler is one of the best relief pitchers ever.
- Walk rate: 5.9 percent. Doesn’t matter if nobody can hit you if you walk everyone. Neris walked fewer batters, on a rate basis, than Craig Kimbrel, Trevor Rosenthal, Ken Giles, Andrew Miller, Drew Storen, and Brett Cecil. He walked less than half as many batters as Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman.
- Whiff rate: 14.1 percent. Higher than Kelvin Herrera, Storen, Jonathan Papelbon, Perkins, Melancon…I mean, higher than Wade freaking Davis. If you miss more bats than Wade Davis, you must be elite.
- Line drive rate: 14.9 percent. Ideally, you want a pitcher to keep the ball on the deck, which is the best way to get double plays and avoid extra-base hits. But Neris, I’ll concede, doesn’t do that very well. It’s more important to avoid line drives. League-average wOBA on line drives is twice what it is on fly balls, and more than three times what it is for ground balls. Neris avoided line drives better than Storen, K-Rod, David Robertson, Herrera, Giles, Chapman, Betances, Davis, Melancon, Kimbrel, Roberto Osuna, Rosenthal, Miller, Dyson, Koji Uehara, and Papelbon.
- Innings: 40 1/3 in half a season. Neris was a workhorse in the second half despite logging only two appearances before the second week of July. That’s a third more innings than Carter Capps logged.
The sum total of Neris’s 2015 is that he did most things better than a lot of elite closers. Certainly, he’s not perfect, but clearly, he’s better than most elite relievers at most of the things that are important for a relief pitcher to be good at. Given the paucity of major league talent on the roster, I’d go so far as to say that Neris is probably the best player on the Phillies heading into the 2016 season.