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.

Grade: B

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.

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  1. Wawa Mike

    February 07, 2018 08:50 PM

    For my money, Neris is better suited as a set up man. When I think of closers, I think of “lights out” closers. I’m aware that Kapler plans to use his bullpen in an unconventional way, and it sounds good on paper. What are your thoughts?

    • Matt Winkelman

      February 08, 2018 10:44 AM

      The Phillies don’t have a lights out closer like you describe and there probably is only 5-10 guys like that healthy and effective at any one time. I would argue that Neshek has shown to be a better reliever than Neris, but given he has a lighter workload, he is not someone you can just lean on in the 9th almost every day. As I wrote yesterday, Morgan, Ramos, and Garcia all have some platoon splits that make it tough to have them in completely set role. Hunter is fine, but he is worse than Neris. Given the current bullpen I would mostly just roll with Neris at the end of games most nights knowing that while the 9th might be below average I have like 6 7th/8th inning guys in front of him.

      • Wawa Mike

        February 09, 2018 11:25 PM

        Do the Phils have a near-ready lights out closer at Lehigh? Is it possible that Dominguez gets a Sept call up this year?

  2. Futility Infielder

    February 13, 2018 04:52 PM

    What do you think the probability is of seeing Velasquez in the 9th at some point this season?

    I don’t trust his ability to stay consistently effective and go deep enough into games as a starter. I hope I’m wrong, but he has the stuff to be a nasty reliever.

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