Who Will Be the Eventual Phillies Closer?

Can Gomez Recapture the Magic He Demonstrated Until September? Photo by: Eric Hartline – USA TODAY Sports.

Responding to a question in a recent interview, the skipper named four ninth-inning candidates for the Philadelphia Phillies including two firemen with 95-mph smoke, a ground-ball inducer and hurlers with multiple saves in previous campaigns.

A Brief Detour:  

At times, decisions can be difficult to the point of a coin flip, while other issues appear to resolve themselves.

When players begin their spring routine for the new 162, clubhouse comments find their way to fans via many media outlets. Usually, managers like Pete Mackanin reply to a dozen familiar questions, and one remark can create a buzz among the locals. Recently, the mention of Jeanmar Gomez as the probable closer created a stir on many Phillies-related sites, and what was the most frequently posted response? No!

Even though Mackanin named three other relievers besides Gomez, Pat Neshek wasn’t one of them, which means he will work as a setup man. In fact, this is a bigger role than Gomez had expected last March. But keep in mind, Neshek had six saves for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2014, so he could occasionally record the final three outs.

Barring a major surprise or an unpredictable chain of events, Edubray Ramos will not be the ninth-inning hammer, but – remember – Hector Neris showed less in 2015 than Ramos last summer. By current standards, however, a blazing fastball gets front-of-the-line consideration by execs, and Ramos is a perfect example of a fireballer receiving a generous opportunity. But most of his outings will be in the seventh frame if he’s effective.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:  

“You have to be mentally ‘there.’ Your talent is there, but you have to be mentally there, too.” – Billy Wagner

On many sites, some posters believed Joaquin Benoit would be the ninth-inning fireman, and they pointed to his acquisition as proof. But others didn’t agree. Of course, doubters noted that Benoit had notched 24 saves for the Detroit Tigers three summers ago. Eventually, one correctly replied he’s here to bolster the pen.

Ending a Phillies’ Losing Streak, Neris Saved Game 162. Photo by Bill Streicher – USA TODAY Sports.

Entering camp, Mackanin announced the closer’s job was Gomez’s to lose, which led to many posted comments from die-hard fans. Opinions clashed! One claimed it was another weird move by the skipper, while a third party complained it was crazy. Realistically, this approach is old-school baseball, which means the reliever will be more effective in a lesser role if he feels appreciated. Keep in mind, Gomez saved last season for the team when he calmed down a chaotic relief corps. Ergo, a thank-you.

IN OTHER WORDS:    

“That’s all baseball is, is numbers; it’s run by numbers, averages, percentage and odds. Managers make their decisions based on the numbers.” – Rollie Fingers

Because Neris only had one save in September, he didn’t finish earning the role: The Philadelphia Phillies had a six-game losing streak at month’s end preventing him from starting 2017 with the top bullpen job. However, Gomez held the spot for five months and Benoit wasn’t here. But it’s not just Gomez’s inning to lose. Management isn’t denying Neris the opportunity to win the job in March; he’ll have every chance to impress the decision-makers. And before April ends, what pitch will Neris use for a game-ending strikeout? A nasty splitter!

Ramos Is the Wild Card in the Relief Corps. Photo by Neville E. Guard – USA TODAY Sports.

The Numerical Bible:

This review is not a sabermetrics article, which means no heavy statistical analysis. But because some readers rely on stats, this is only a reference: no reason to articulate the importance of these numbers.

  • Neris, 27.5: 79 Gms., 80 1/3 Inn., a 2.58 ERA, 2 Saves, 28 Holds (4 Blown Holds), a 3.30 FIP, a 3.17 xFIP, a 2.95 SIERA, a 1.2 fWAR and a 1.11 WHIP.
  • Gomez, 28.5: 70 Gms., 68 2/3 Inn., a 4.85 ERA, 37 Saves, 6 BS,1 Hold, a 3.96 FIP, a 4.26 xFIP, a 4.12 SIERA, a 0.4 WAR and a 1.46 WHIP.
  • Benoit, 39.5: 51 Gms., 48 Inn., a 2.81 ERA, 1 Save, 18 Holds (3 Blown Holds), a 3.90 FIP, a 4.24 xFIP, a 3.91 SIERA, a 0.5 fWAR and a 1.27 WHIP.
  • Ramos, 24: 42 Gms., 40 Inn., a 3.83 ERA, 15 Holds, 1 BS (and 1 Blown Hold), a 3.60 FIP, a 3.68 xFIP, a 3.37 SIERA, a 0.5 WAR and a 1.18 WHIP.
  • Neshek, 36.5: 60 Gms., 47 Inn., a 3.06 ERA, 18 Holds, a 3.68 FIP, a 4.07 xFIP, a 3.57 SIERA, a 0.5 fWAR and a 0.94 WHIP.

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