Phillies Reliever Jeanmar Gomez on Borrowed Time as Closer

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Phillies closer Jeanmar Gomez is sputtering to the end of the 2016 season. Few expect him to be the closer next year, but getting this far is an achievement in its own right.

Jeanmar Gomez anchored the Phillies bullpen through the first several months of the season, doing everything the team asked of him. Through the end of July, Gomez carried a 2.77 ERA as he recorded 27 saves in 30 opportunities. Gomez played to his strengths, inducing ground balls 52.3% of the time.

With the new workload of a closer, Gomez was bound to give at some point. August saw Gomez’s WHIP balloon to 1.58 and his ERA jump to 3.75. In addition, he allowed opposing a hitters a wOBA (Weighted On-Base Average) of .331.

This month, Gomez has completely gone off the rails. Opposing hitters have a 1.203 OPS against Gomez in 10 appearances so far in September. Gomez blew two saves in that span, including a game-tying home run in Thursday’s loss to the Mets.

As Gomez started to implode, manager Pete Mackanin remained adamant that Gomez was his closer. September 14, Mackanin said he “thought about” changing up the bullpen, but instead opted to keep Gomez as the closer.

However, Gomez’s blown save against the Mets Thursday forced Mackanin’s hand. When the Phillies next have a save opportunity, they will turn to another reliever. Mackanin told reporters:

“I had a chat with Jeanmar and I told him that he’s our closer. But the way I look at it, he’s in a slump — like a hitter.

So I told him for the next couple of chances to close, I’m going to try somebody else just to give him a break. I told him, ‘You’re still the closer, stay positive, there’s a good chance you’ll have another opportunity to close a game. But the next couple I’m going to give you a little breather.’ So he’s aware of it.”

Next season, the Phillies are likely to use Hector Neris as the closer. Neris has been dominant this season, showcasing the velocity and strikeout ability needed. In addition, rookie Edubray Ramos could also get a couple chances in the ninth-inning.

Even as he stumbles down the stretch, this season should be viewed as a successful one for Gomez. He set a career high in appearances this year. Gomez also contributed 0.6 fWAR, his second-highest season mark in a season.

The fact that Gomez ended up as the Phillies closer was something no one expected. After David Hernandez struggled to start the season, Gomez wound up closing games for the team.

Considering he was just a middle reliever prior to 2016, closing was quite the jump for Gomez.

Gomez doesn’t have the typical build of a closer. In most cases, a closer has an upper-90s fastball and wipeout breaking pitch. Instead, he predicates his game on inducing ground balls with his sinker and splitter. Without the usual arsenal of a closer, Gomez could only do so much.

Even if the Phillies opt for someone else as the closer next season, Jeanmar Gomez performed well above expectations considering his career coming into 2016. It would be even better if he finished this year on a high note, but he had to come back down to earth at some point.

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