2016 Phillies Report Card: Jeanmar Gomez

That Jeanmar Gomez played the role of an effective closer for the 2016 Philadelphia Phillies for so long was a slight miracle in and of itself. It’s not to say that Gomez is an incompetent reliever, but simply one not built for high-leverage situations. You can’t find a semi-reliable closer in the league without a great out-pitch, an offering that jumps out on opposing scouting reports like a bolded stat on a Baseball-Reference page. That is where Gomez lacks. But as new age bullpens are leveraged more and more by managers navigating the back half of games, reliable groundball-inducing relievers are viable commodities. Gomez was just that. With a groundball-rate in the top 25% of qualified National League relievers, Gomez’s sinker-slider-changeup combination was worthy of the Phillies tendering him a contract (which they did last week).

His strikeout rate, however, is the ultimate indicator that he doesn’t belong as a long-term closer. Of 60 National League relievers with 50-plus innings of work, Gomez’s 15.8 K% was lower than all but two. No closer with at least 18 saves had a lower strikeout-rate (Gomez ended 2016 tied for eighth in the MLB with 37 saves).screen-shot-2016-12-06-at-4-11-33-pm

The lone blemish on Gomez’s season was undoubtedly his final month in which he emphatically plopped a 19.13 ERA and 6.40 FIP in eight innings on the table after 60.2 innings of 2.97 ERA ball in the five months prior. For perspective, in September he surrendered more than a third of the total hits he allowed between Opening Day and the end of August. It’s tough to pitch to a below-3 ERA without a go-to out pitch, plain and simple, and that finally caught up to Gomez in September.

Despite his lack of shutdown closer stuff, the 37 saves he logged in 2016 will drive up his arbitration salary if the Phillies can’t secure a deal with him beforehand. Michael Schickling noted in a recent roundtable that the last arbitration-eligible reliever in Gomez’s situation (over 30 saves, no prior closing experience and a 3.50+ ERA) was then-Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard who netted a $2.4 million raise via arbitration. That salary increase for Gomez would put him just shy of $4 million in 2017; MLB Trade Rumors’ in-house algorithm slots his arbitration salary, should that be the final determination on his pay, a bit higher at $4.6 million. It’s a slightly steeper price to fork over for a potential seventh or eighth inning guy, but that’s the price the Phils have to pay for an unexpected closer candidate who outperformed his expected value (and true worth, in my opinion) for all but the final month of 2016.

In that same roundtable, Dave Tomar likened Gomez to a station wagon driving down a racetrack. He doesn’t stack up to closers around the league – no finely tuned engine or glossy interior – and that’s precisely why he won’t be the 2017 closer. But that doesn’t mean it’s worthless to have that trusty wood-paneled station wagon in the garage to get you from point A to point B. It’s not the car you’ll rely on in crunch time for your cross country trip – crunch time here serves as a double analogy both for late-inning, high-leverage situations in 2017 and for the upcoming years when contending seems more likely. For those situations, you’re piling into your new roomy crossover SUV. But that doesn’t mean the station wagon isn’t worth keeping around in the meantime.

I’m still a college student (if only for one more week) so excuse my tendency to make overt academia-related analogies for these player report cards. But Gomez worked his butt off during the semester, over-achieved, and got burnt out and flunked his final. It wasn’t bad enough to derail the hard work that earned him a solid midterm grade and passing marks in the dreaded class participation category, and it certainly didn’t override his surprising success from April through August.

Grade: B

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  1. Carmen

    December 06, 2016 05:50 PM

    If we’re grading on actual performance v. expectations, Gomez deserves an A+. The last month of the season for a basement dwelling team is like a final exam only temporally and not in significance.

  2. Dave

    December 07, 2016 01:29 PM

    He was smoke and mirrors all year, and they finally caught up to him. He was worth less than nothing in WAR (-0.2) despite his “breakout” season. The rest of the league knows he’s worth nothing also, as the Phils couldn’t move him at the deadline, despite his then rosy stat line.

    He seems good for 60-80 replacement level relief innings, and I guess thats worth a little bit. But he’s produced 0.8 WAR lifetime in 7 seasons. His 1.3 in 2015 was his peak, and also the only time he exceeded 0.4 WAR in a season. NO WAY should the Phils spend 4+ million on him. If he gets that award in arbitration, I’d simply walk away from him. He is the poster child for replacement level pitcher.

    At this point, he’s borderline to be included on the 40-man. He’ll be entering his age 29 season, and he’s simply not the type of pitcher that will meaningfully move the Phils forward in the future. He’s just wasting opportunities for a younger guy now. If they feel they need to hang onto him as a stability/stuctural piece, I could understand that. Otherwise, he has no place on the roster.

    That said, yes, he far exceeded expectations for most of last season. Too bad he gave it all back (and a little more) at the end of the year.

  3. Major Malfunction

    December 07, 2016 02:36 PM

    $4.6 million? Novel, but the Phllies would essentially be rewarding him for performing WAY WAY WAY above his norm for 6/7 of a season. No out pitch, craters over a long season if you lean on him, and ends up with a -0.2 WAR even with 37 saves?

    It’s a travesty that the going rate for a less than replacement level season is $4-5m. But if I was him, I’d have my agent on that money like a hobo on a hot dog.

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