Phillies Pheatured Player: Jeanmar Gomez
By John Town
The Philadelphia Phillies have received production from a few surprise sources this season, perhaps none bigger than their surprise closer.
The Marlins have been one of the better teams in Major League Baseball in high-leverage situations, ranking eighth in all of baseball in OPS (.762) in such situations.
However, the Phillies have also been one of the best teams pitching under pressure, carrying a 3.24 FIP – second in MLB – in high-leverage scenarios.
Phillies closer Jeanmar Gomez has played no small part in this success. Twenty of his 42.2 innings this year have come in high-leverage situations, by far the most among Phillies pitchers.
The 2.25 ERA fashioned by the Phillies closer under pressure ranks fourth among active Phillies pitchers, and those above him have two innings or less under pressure.
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Gomez has converted 25 of his 27 save opportunities, ranking seventh in MLB in saves. Considering the Phillies have 43 wins, Gomez has been essential in more than half of the Phillies wins this season.
One of Gomez’s keys to success this year has been the resurgence of his slider. Throughout most of his career, Gomez’s slider has only detracted from his performances. However, the pitch has actually been his best in 2016, holding a pitchF/X corrected pitch value of 3.04.
In addition, Gomez has induced more ground balls than he has in previous years. Gomez has turned 52.3% of his batted balls into grounders, his highest percentage since 2013 when he was with the Pirates.
Particularly with his home games coming in what is generally seen as a hitter’s park, as a sinker-ball pitcher, ground balls are a huge part of Gomez’s game, so he will struggle if he doesn’t induce any.
Gomez’s sinker has also picked up a tick in velocity since joining the Phillies, jumping from 90.2 in 2014 with the Pirates to 91.2 this year with the Phillies. His sinker has gotten up to 95 several times in 2016.
Last night against the Fish, Gomez failed the team. It is one of the few times this year, but it came at a pivotal moment in an important game.
The Phillies had a chance to move within five games of the NL Wildcard, and blew that opportunity. The blown Save for Gomez was also a blown Win on Aaron Nola’s ledger, one that the young righty had earned with a tremendous outing.
The Phillies have shown that they can play with most of the teams in that NL Wildcard race, but they need to nail down games such as last night’s in order to actually begin making a move in the standings on those clubs.
Also, Gomez could make himself a valuable trade chip by shutting down key games like this one. Blown Saves always matter, but with the MLB non-waiver trade deadline less than two weeks away, this was again bad timing.
If the Phillies plan to gain a couple of games on the Marlins in those Wildcard standings, and if he is to remain a valuable part of the roster, even as a trade chip, Gomez will need to succeed when called upon to shut the door.
If he stays confident, and with his improved slider, Gomez is likely to find success more often than not, even if he is under pressure. It has surprisingly become something that the 2016 Phillies have come to depend upon.