Four overly optimistic Phillies predictions for 2021 season
By Mitch Larson
3. Archie Bradley will finish the season as Phillies closer
Manager Joe Girardi already announced that Hector Neris will open the 2021 season as the team’s closer, while one of their most important free agent signings, Archie Bradley, will serve as the setup man. Let’s see how long that actually lasts.
In seven seasons with the Phillies, Neris is a career 72-for-91 in save opportunities. Last season, he went five of eight. In 2019, he was 28-for-34. Bradley, on the other hand, is a career 28-for-46, but has been much better recently — going six for seven last season and 18-for-21 in 2019.
When you look at both players, neither is clearly much better than the other. According to FanGraphs, Bradley’s 0.83 HR/9 is far lower than Neris’ 1.27. While they both post similar velocities and Neris actually edges Bradley out in K/9 and BB/9, Bradley induces far more groundouts and has a higher career WAR than Neris.
At some point this season, Neris will inevitably struggle. Girardi may not give him the longest rope. If things go south, they could quickly turn to Bradley to help bring some life back to the bullpen. Bradley is the type of relief pitcher that Philadelphia has desperately needed, but hasn’t had in recent seasons. Look for him to snatch the role from Neris at some point this year and finish the season as the team’s closer.
4. The 2021 Phillies win a playoff series
Remember in the introduction where I talked about the clichés of blind optimism around Opening Day? Well, it is admittedly here on full display for you. I understand why some analysts and folks around MLB might be low on the Phillies. There are serious questions still about how much this team actually improved over the offseason — especially as the rest of the NL East dominated headlines with their moves.
I am not convinced this team edges out someone like the Atlanta Braves to win the division, however, I do believe they can make it to October as a Wild Card team. It’s not always going to be pretty. There are still plenty of areas the Phillies can stand to improve, but I think this is the year they get back to the postseason for the first time in a decade and win their first postseason series since 2010.