Hector Neris Sure Looks Like An Elite Reliever

Entering the season, Hector Neris was in possession of one of those beautiful back-of-the-bullpen starter kits. He had the requisite devastating, whiff-inducing secondary pitch as well as a solid fastball off of which to work. However, as we have seen time and again, possession of a promising pitch arsenal does not an elite reliever make. The proof is in the pudding or whatever your preferred cliché is.

At the start of the season, it looked as though Hector Neris was whipping up a fine batch of proof that he would be able to put it all together. Through the month of April, he posted a stellar 0.63 ERA to go along with an equally as impressive 43.4 K%. Much of this success was attributed to a splitter which was downright unhittable.

But then, as you might expect, his stat line appeared to regress towards the mean. He posted a 4.95 ERA and pedestrian strikeout and walk rates (21.8 K%, 12.6 BB%) over his next 20 innings. As a result, Neris found himself on June 15th with an uninspiring 3.15 ERA next to his name. He looked like a pitcher who had pitched over his head in April and it was natural to wonder if, perhaps, the magic of his splitter had worn off. But then something changed.

Since June 15th, Neris has pitched 30 innings and the results have been simply tremendous.

Last 30 IP: 21 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 40 K, 1.20 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 35.4 K%, 2.7 BB%

That’s a fantastic line, but the thing that stands out the most to me is the almost Kershavian 40:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Not only have his strikeout and walk rates moved towards his stellar April production, they’ve actually steadily improved since mid-June.

Neris Rolling K & BB

Since the All-Star Break, Neris has pitched 14.1 innings and yielded just one walk and one run. His 40.3 K% and 1.6 BB% in the second half give him a 38.7 K-BB% which is second among major league relievers since the All-Star Break trailing only old friend Ken Giles (40.8%).

There’s been one other crucial shift in Neris’ outcomes as the season has progressed. Take a look at a rolling-chart of his GB% and FB%:

Neris Rolling GB & FB

This ground ball increase has been critical because the biggest flaw in Neris’ game has been his susceptibility to the home run ball. In his first go around the league last summer, the only real knock on his game was a massive 1.79 HR/9. Last year league average HR/9 was 1.02 and this year that figure has jumped all the way to 1.17 thanks to the home run surge across major league baseball this season. However, Neris’ HR/9 has fallen all the way to 0.98. What’s notable is that the massive fall in HR/9 has occurred despite the fact that Neris’ HR/FB rate is virtually unchanged from a year ago — 15.1% in 2015, 14.9% this year. This means the key to Neris keeping the ball in the yard has been his ability to get the ball on the ground. So how is he doing that?

There have been two significant changes for Neris as the season has carried on. First, he began to reintegrate his sinker into his arsenal right around the same time as his mid-June turn around.

Neris pitch usage

Second and, perhaps even more importantly, Neris has seen a remarkable velocity increase as the season has progressed.

Neris velo

Per Brooks Baseball, he’s added about 2.5 mph in velocity to his fastball and his splitter. Velocity isn’t everything, but when a pitcher can command higher velocity, it’s a definite plus. And, as his absurd K:BB ratio has helped to demonstrate, command has not been a problem for Neris.

Already 27 years old, it’s hard to say with any confidence that Neris will be a key cog in the Phillies bullpen over the next few years. It will be easier to believe in the newfound velocity only after he shows an ability to maintain it for an extended period of time. However, right now he’s pitching like a relief ace and the Phillies have every incentive to let him continue to do so through the end of the season.

His 63 appearances is tied with Zach Duke for most in the majors this season, so it’s likely that he’ll see an increase in off-days when rosters expand in September. But he’ll still get his outings, hopefully in some high leverage situations if the Phillies offense cooperates. If he can sustain what he’s doing now, the Phillies will have to decide whether to hold tight or try to ride the ridiculous relief pitching market one more time and trade Neris for other future building blocks.

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  1. Romus

    August 22, 2016 05:52 PM

    Will be interesting to see how the Phillies set up their bullpen for 2017 and where Nector Neris is ‘assigned’.
    Will Jeanmar Gomez be brought back asa the closer?
    How will Edubray Ramos be used? And then someone like Jimmy Cordero is also out there and coming up soon.
    And all the fungible relievers currently at LHV and with the Phillies this year….Severino Gonz, Elvis, Mariot, Murray, Hermann et al.
    There are plenty of arms for sure.

    • JustBob

      August 22, 2016 10:35 PM

      Lots of filler. No excuse why the Phils don’t sign at least 2 veteran FA relievers this offseason including a LHP.

      That leaves them with Gomez, Neris, and Ramos, 2 veteran FA relievers, and the last 2 spots to be won in camp.

  2. Saucier

    August 23, 2016 01:14 AM

    Still can’t decide whether to get happy or sad when I see him take the mound…good results, but every pitch/at-bat is shaky. He never seems 100% in charge; maybe he matures out of that?

    • Michael C Lorah

      August 23, 2016 07:22 AM

      Really? I feel so good when Neris enters a game. I have complete faith in him, with the way he’s pitching now.

      The statement reminds me of all the people who used to doubt Ryan Madson despite him always putting up superlative numbers.

      • Romus

        August 23, 2016 08:36 AM

        I feel the same…Neris seems to me to be in control with a determined confidence. Even Jeanmar in his laid-back mild manner way has a sense of confidence and control.
        Any reliever who throws the first pitch to a batter as a strike relaxes me a bit. Its the BBs that unnerve me.

  3. RU

    August 23, 2016 01:35 PM

    With all the talk of Gomez being traded at the August deadline I would have to think Neris would inherit the closer role and Ramos would pitch in the 8th ? It almost leads one to think that MK may be setting things up for another Giles trade ?

  4. Major Malfunction

    August 23, 2016 02:38 PM

    Nice write up. Speaking up write ups…where have they been lately? There are a dozen or so writers listed here at Crashburnalley, but it almost seems that if Corrine doesn’t write on on Monday, there won’t be much to read.

    Love this place, but there’s a definite change over the last year in a slow down of articles and no more Crashbag type fun. Clicking on the links to various contributors, some haven’t posted in years, some in months, and the rest haven’t posted in since early July. There’s an obvious steep drop off happening.

    I say this with sadness, not as a complaint. Any hints as to the future of Crashburnalley?

    • Romus

      August 23, 2016 03:01 PM

      MajMal…maybe just summer slowness…vacation times? Oh wait…..we are talking baseball here…that’s a summer sport. CA just in a mid-season slump.

    • Michael C Lorah

      August 25, 2016 06:48 AM

      As far as I know, Crashburn doesn’t pay (it was mentioned in Corinne’s open call for writers earlier this summer – I noted it because I write for a (paying) comic book site and had some interest if there was cash. But with a day job, two kids, a wife and some paying work, fitting in pro bono work is essentially impossible for me to justify), so all the writers here are able to contribute only on the margins after doing whatever they do to keep a roof over their head.

      • Major Malfunction

        August 25, 2016 07:28 AM

        I would imagine its difficult. But figured with so many contributors, we’d see more frequency. Again, not complaining, just noticing that things are way different than what hooked me on CBA from the past.

  5. Andrew R.

    August 23, 2016 07:34 PM

    Let’s help control the market. Over pay Chapman to come here. Trade Neris. And at some point in July, look to trade Chapman with us eating salary. Paying for prospects is fine by me.

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