Opinion

Naming Jeanmar Gomez as closer makes no sense right now

As if the hints weren’t strong enough, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin has gone and done it. He’s named Jeanmar Gomez the team’s closer to start 2017.

But why?

Why the need to name a closer so early in the whole marathon? What, do the Phils have a 5-4 lead right now?

Gomez is a decent pitcher, maybe a seventh-inning type guy, at best. But he was the benefactor of an early season meltdown by closer David Hernandez (see what happens when you name closers early in the process?), and pitched well enough to keep the ninth-inning job throughout 2016. Even though we saw through the good numbers (a 2.59 ERA in the first half … despite just 26 strikeouts in 41.2 innings).

Of course, Gomez pitched worse in the second half. There was an 8.33 ERA. There were 21 strikeouts in 27 innings (actually better than the first half, but still …). Anyway, more of those ground balls got through for hits. More of those fly balls were hit into places without fielders.

You know, he regressed.

Gomez is close to the guy he was by the end of the season (4.85 ERA, 47 K in 68.2 IP). That’s not a “closer.” But Mackanin thinks differently.

“Premier [guys] have those kind of numbers,” he said to the media Tuesday.

In 2017, premier guys have an ERA closer to 1.00 than 5.00.

Which is why general manager Matt Klentak picked up Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek. Because they’re closer to “premier guys.”

So what now? Gomez gets to pitch the ninth inning in April? How many blown saves will remove him? Three? Four? Then what? Benoit steps in? Hector Neris? Does it matter?

For the 2017 Phillies, apparently closer matters. It matters so much that it was addressed on Feb. 14.

Maybe the Phillies should ensure their starters are healthy, that their relievers are decent enough to have jobs in the bullpen, and that – heck – it’s possible there are seven relievers *better* than Jeanmar Gomez. (It’s seriously possible.)

This is weird. It makes no sense. But the idea of a closer doesn’t make much sense anyway.

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