The Budding Closing Battle
Like their outfield, the Phillies bullpen was putrid in 2016. They finished third-worst in ERA (5.05), fourth-worst in fWAR (0.4), and allowed the second-most home runs (82). September was especially bad for them, as they walked 5.72 batters per nine innings and posted a league-high 7.88 ERA in that month.
The front office added two veteran relievers in Pat Neshek and Joaquin Benoit to bolster a paltry ‘pen. Combined with Hector Neris, who easily was the team’s best reliever in 2016, the trio could form a solid late-inning combination.
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But who will actually be the one to close out the games? Benoit is the only one with any major-league experience as a closer. He recorded 24 saves for the Tigers back in 2013 as he carried a 2.01 ERA and 1.03 WHIP that season.
However, if the team is looking for a long-term solution, Neris would be the better option. Neris is coming off his first full season in the majors in which he made 79 appearances and struck out 102 batters in 80.1 innings. He was Mackanin’s go-to reliever last year, and he very well could grow into the role we saw Andrew Miller fill for the Indians in the 2016 playoffs.
Of course, the team will give Jeanmar Gomez the chance to retain his role as the closer. Gomez emerged as the closer a week into the season as no one truly stood out during spring training. Unfortunately, he bottomed out in September, posting a 19.13 ERA in the last month of the season and showing why he was never a closer in previous years.
Gomez, Neris, and Benoit are all the early favorites in the closer race. Each provides their own value as a closer, but they could also contribute in earlier innings.