2017 Phillies Report Card: Hector Neris
In a 2016 bullpen marred by some blindingly bad performances, Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez helped the Phillies the Phillies have a great win percentage in 1 run games. Gomez fell apart down the stretch, leaving Neris as the only reliable bullpen arm in the Phillies opening day bullpen.
In 2017, Pete Mackanin made Jeanmar Gomez his closer with Neris instaled in the 8th inning. When Gomez inevitably blew up, Pete turned to Joaquin Benoit, who also blew up. Neris was then installed in the closer role on April 20 and he responded with a clean 1-2-3 inning. He then proceed to give up a run in 4 of his next 5 appearances, capped by 3 home run and 4 runs to the Dodgers on the road on April 29.
Unlike his predecessors, Neris did not collapse. From May onward he pitched 62 innings with a 2.61 ERA, 23 walks, and 72 strikeouts. Much of his early season struggles were chalked up to him leaning on his fastball over his splitter, and the numbers bear it out. In the first month of the 2017 season, Neris threw his splitter only 40.5% of the time. The lowest that rate would drop the rest of the year was 45% (August). This is important because while Neris’ fastball averages around 95 mph, his whole career has been built on the splitter. Historically Neris’ fastball generates a whiff on about 25% of all swings, for his splitter that number is about 45%. More importantly, Neris’ splitter experiences no drop off against left handed batters, and actually is better and getting swings and misses against lefties than righties.
In the end, Neris wasn’t amazing. Among relievers with at least 60 innings here is how he ranked:
- ERA – 43rd (3.01)
- K% – 30th (26.9%)
- BB% – 40th (8.1%)
- HR/9 – 54th (1.08)
- WHIP – 63rd (1.26)
- IP – 19th (74.2 IP)
Neris was probably something like the 15th best closer in baseball, and was a solid second best reliever in a bullpen. His durability and ability to handle large innings workloads are Neris’ biggest assets. At this point his arsenal is pretty well set, he is going to throw near 50-50 fastballs and splitters, he is going to be home run prone, he will walk a few guys, he will have a good strikeout rate, and he will be a solid reliever.
Neris isn’t Craig Kimbrel, but he isn’t being billed as that either. If Neris can post a sub 3.00 ERA going forward he is probably fine in the Phillies’ closer role. If they find themselves going in a different direction, Neris has the ability to give multiple innings in a set up role and is perfectly fine as the 2nd or 3rd best arm in a playoff bullpen.