Phillies: Hector Neris becoming the closer they need
After an inconsistent 2018 season, Hector Neris is solidifying himself as the closing pitcher the Phillies so desperately need.
Even after bouncing back in the second half of the 2018 season, confidence in Phillies reliever Hector Neris was still shaky. He blew save after save early on, and even when he did convert a save, it wasn’t without some drama.
Just under a year after being sent to Triple-A for the first time in three seasons, Neris is back to the high-caliber reliever he was in 2016 and 2017. Not only that, he is putting up some of the best numbers of his career.
In 28 appearances so far this year, Neris has a 1.88 ERA, 0.907 WHIP, 2.87 fielding-independent pitching, and opposing batting average of .165, all of which are career-bests. He also has his best walk rate since 2015 at 2.83 per nine innings after walking more than three batters per nine innings in each of the last three years.
More from That Balls Outta Here
- How will Rob Thomson manage the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen in 2023?
- How Phillies’ Ranger Suárez is set to build on 2022 postseason dominance
- What can Philadelphia Phillies expect from Bryson Stott in 2023?
- 3 Reasons to get excited for Phillies’ Craig Kimbrel signing
- 11 Free-agent deals the Philadelphia Phillies wish fell through
Home runs were a massive issue for Neris last year, giving up 2.1 per nine innings as opposing hitters barrelled the ball 12.7% of the time, ranking in the bottom percentile per Baseball Savant. Neris has alleviated that issue, cutting his home run rate by more than half while ranking among the top two percent of relievers in expected batting average, slugging percentage, and weighted on-base average.
Neris now has 14 saves after his one-two-three ninth-inning save Tuesday night. He ranks sixth in the National League with 14 saves without blowing a single one. Of the ten relievers in MLB with more saves than Neris, only three are perfect.
Neris’s numbers are quite similar to Brad Lidge’s immaculate 2008 season at this point of the season. Lidge had more saves by this time, but Neris has more strikeouts and fewer walks in about the same amount of innings.
Neris is the only thing holding the Phillies bullpen together at this point. Most of the relievers who opened the year with this team have been or are currently on the injured list for a considerable amount of time. If Neris wasn’t holding things down as the closer, the bullpen would be in shambles.
To use a cliche, Neris may not be the closer fans want, but he’s the one they need, and he’s doing a darn good job at the back of the bullpen.