The Philadelphia Phillies got a surprising season from an unlikely closer, but the pitcher seems to be losing it as September begins.
I’m not going to say that I told you so because, frankly, I didn’t ever say it. But I can tell you that there were many times during this season that I thought it.
I never really bought in to Jeanmar Gomez as the Phillies closer. Was he enjoying success in the role? Yes. Did I like him overall as a reliever, a member of the bullpen in some role? Yes.
But it was never a secret among any serious talent evaluator that Gomez didn’t have classic closer stuff. He was given an opportunity early in the season because everyone else who was given that shot had failed.
When Gomez had some initial success, he was kept in the role by manager Pete Mackanin. To his credit, the right-hander then did what he usually has done for the Phillies since signing as a free agent for the 2015 season, he provided professional innings.
As late as mid-August, Gomez was still humming along in the closer role. From July 19th through August 13th he allowed just one run and fashioned a 0.90 ERA over 10 innings.
Even during that stretch, however, he was still not dominating hitters. Gomez allowed as many hits and had fewer strikeouts as innings pitched.
But something has clearly changed over the last three weeks. Wether opposing scouts, coaches, and hitters have figured something out, or the results are finally catching up with his stuff, or he is getting tired is still to be determined. It may just be a combination of all three.
Last night, Gomez was pounded by the worst team in the National League, the Atlanta Braves, after being brought in by Mackanin to preserve a 4-4 tie in the 9th inning.
“I feel really good,” Gomez said per MLB.com contributors after the game. “My velocity is the same and my pitches are moving. I threw a lot of good pitches.”
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Gomez may feel like everything is the same, and radar guns may say that he has lost nothing, but as I stated, something important has clearly changed.
Over his last eight outings, Gomez has an 11.57 ERA with a .387 batting average against. He has yielded a dozen hits over seven innings in that time with just a 1/3 K:BB ratio.
Gomez has frequently looked shaky on the mound in the closer role, even when his results were positive. Now those positive results are coming more and more infrequently.
In my opinion, it’s time to remove Gomez from the closer role and turn it over to Hector Neris, who has much more of a classic closer repertoire and who has been far more effective.
The 27-year old Neris has allowed just 46 hits over 68.1 innings this season with an 86/19 K:BB ratio.
Even more impressively, since the MLB All-Star break Neris has recorded a 0.42 ERA. In that span he has allowed just 10 hits over 21.1 innings in 21 games with a 29/2 K:BB ratio.
The numbers don’t lie. Hector Neris should be the Philadelphia Phillies closer. The team should put him into that role for the final 3-4 weeks.
Putting Neris into the closer role now would allow him the opportunity to experience success, as well as possibly having to mentally bounce back from a blown Save, should that happen.
As for Gomez, slide him back to the 7th inning role in which he had experienced so much success in prior seasons. Use young Edubray Ramos, who has also been largely successful since his June promotion, as the primary setup man.
It may seem like a small thing, and the closer role on a team that may not win many games down the stretch anyway may not seem too important. But at this point, it’s all about the future, and Neris should be considered the Phillies closer of the future.