After last season’s bullpen debacle, it was a priority for General Manager Matt Klentak to either sign or trade for some competent bullpen arms. Less than 48-hours after the 2016 World Series concluded, the Phillies’ first move to address the bullpen was trading for Pat Neshek from Houston, who had a career 2.93 ERA in 10 major league seasons. His career ERA has dipped to 2.86, thanks to 9.2 scoreless (11 appearances) innings in 2017.
Then Klentak added 39-year-old Joaquin Benoit for a hefty $7.5 million. But, over the last seven years, Benoit’s ERA is 2.40 with a WHIP south of 1.00. Those two, Benoit and Neshek, were supposed to be key cogs in the pen, with Hector Neris, Edubray Ramos, and Jeanmar Gomez.
Out of those five guys, it’s no surprise that Gomez has been the least used due to his horrendous start. But the second least pitcher used in the group is Pat Neshek.
Yes, that Pat Neshek, the guy with a 0.00 ERA.
Hector Neris is tied for the team lead in appearances with 15, which is no surprise. Although struggling right now, he has the best stuff in the bullpen. The pitcher Neris is tied with hasn’t been mentioned yet, and that’s left-hander Joely Rodriguez. With Rodriguez as the only lefty in the bullpen, it’s not a crazy surprise that he’s tied for the most appearances on the team.
But his usage in those games is in question. Rodriguez figured to be a situational lefty out of the pen, but that’s not how Mackanin has utilized him. For starters, Rodriguez has pitched four more games and 6.1 innings more than Neshek. For a situational lefty, Rodriguez has faced more right-handed batters (37) than left-handed batters (33). His splits are not what you would expect, as right-handed batters are hitting .242 compared to left-handed batters hitting .286 against the 25-year-old. Mackanin has also turned to Rodriguez eight times during a tie or one-run game.
Coincidentally, Neshek has faced more left-handed batters this season and they’re hitting just .150 compared to .267 against right-handers. Mackanin has opted to use the the 36-year-old just five times in tie or one-run games and three times when the Phils had a three or more run cushion (two came absolute blowouts against Washington and Chicago).
Who do you feel more confident in? Joely Rodriguez or Pat Neshek. The answer is Pat Neshek, everyday of the week and twice on Sunday. Why would Mackanin trust Rodriguez over Neshek when trying to clean up Neris’s mess against the Dodgers?
Why Mackanin refuses to use his best pitcher, statistically speaking, in high pressure situations is beyond me. Numbers and splits aside, the better pitcher often prevails.