After another Neris blown save, what now?

For the second time in a week, the Phillies were beating a National League East rival heading into the ninth inning. And for the second time in a week, Hector Neris let the lead turn into a deficit, and a win turn into a loss.

The anger about Neris is mounting. It’s funny that the 28-year-old hasn’t used his superior splitter more often, and one wonders if he lacks confidence in that pitch. It’s great that Jake Arrieta is standing behind the closer. It’s interesting that Gabe Kapler didn’t come right out and say “He’s our closer.”

It’s refreshing that despite these blown saves, the Phillies are still six games over .500 and could be 10 games over .500.

But back to the last part. I’m a little surprised that Kapler even started the year with Neris as closer, because I’m surprised Kapler even went with a “closer” at all. Kapler has shown to break convention all the time, especially with the bullpen, but not in the ninth inning. Neris has pitched in the ninth inning in all of his 17 appearances this season, and in all but three of those situations the Phils had at least a one-run lead. The Phillies have had a closer, and it has been Hector Neris.

Fangraphs measures leverage through its Leverage Index. Neris leads Phils relievers in the Leverage Index when entering a game with a 1.67 (anything over 1 is higher leverage than normal). Typically “closers” are in the top tier of this stat.

Fangraphs also measures Clutch, which attempts to show how a pitcher performs in high leverage situations. It’s not a good future predictor, but it – along with Leverage Index – can be used as a way to nudge players into higher leverage situations.

Neris, as you can imagine, has not been very clutch. He ranks 315th of all relievers (qualified or not) with a -0.35 clutch. That’s bad. Leading all Phillies in clutch (unqualified) is Zac Curtis, which isn’t reliable at all because of the small sample size. But Tommy Hunter has a larger sample size and is next up with a clutch of 0.21. His Leverage Index when entering a game is 1.19. That’s higher than average; Hunter is probably a good bet to get more high-leverage spots going forward.

But it doesn’t mean Hunter should just slide into the ninth inning. Adam Morgan (0.14 clutch, 1.18 inLI), Yacksel Rios (0.09 clutch, 0.86 inLI) and Seranthony Dominguez (0.08 clutch, 0.46 inLI) all have performed well in high-leverage situations. Yes, Morgan is hurt, but this just tells us that the Phils have a few options for high-leverage spots.

(If you’re wondering about Luis Garcia and Edubray Ramos, both are below average in clutch, which isn’t the end-all of anything, but it’s curious.)

Maybe Gabe Kapler should be thinking more about rotating his relievers in and out of leverage. Maybe Neris shouldn’t used so much when the game is so tight. Maybe better thinking about the late innings and leverage could net the Phillies those wins they should get back.



  1. Mike

    May 12, 2018 at 10:39 am

    They would be 10 games over .500 if he didn’t blow the 2 saves

    • Tim Malcolm

      May 12, 2018 at 11:26 am

      Good call; fixed!

  2. Mike Fassano

    May 12, 2018 at 11:35 am

    Even though we’re a contender, we still need to find out which pitchers (both starters and relievers)will be part of the future. Tim’s suggestion of rotating the pitchers in and out of high leverage situations, makes the most sense.

  3. Vernon Dozier

    May 12, 2018 at 12:04 pm

    I hate to be the basic math guy, but having “won six more games than you’ve lost” does not equate to being “six games over .500”. It just means you’ve won six more games than you’ve lost.

    The Phillies have played 38 games. They have won 22 of those games. Both of these numbers are fixed values.

    After 38 games, a .500 record would be 19-19. There’s no gray area there – that’s a .500 record after 38 games. You’ve won half of your games and you’ve lost half of your games.

    Since the Phillies have won 22 games after playing 38, they are “three games over that .500 mark”. They have “won six more games than they’ve lost”, but 22 wins is not six games more than 19 by anyone’s math.

    I think this closer dilemma will sort itself out…they always do. There are too many good arms in that bullpen for it not to work out.

    In his last 13 games. Hoskins has gone .133/.273/.244 with 20 Ks in 55 PAs.

    #BeBold #ElTorito

  4. art kyriazis

    May 12, 2018 at 2:05 pm

    wow. My son & I were at the game.

    Jake Arrieta had a shutout with five outs to go in the eighth. He was only at about 100 pitches.

    He should have been left in to get the complete game and shut out.

    Even more annoying than the blown save, there was an entire section of Mets fans right down in the expensive seats by 3d base with us who had been loud and obnoxious all game long. When Conforto his his HR, they just stood up, blocking our views, and shouted “LETS GO METS” until the end of the game. Total you know whats. Go back to New York, where Yankees fans can make fun of you.

    Neris’ metrics are way off this year. He is on pace to blow 21 saves; his home runs walks are way up; his strikeout to walk ratio is way down; and all of his peripherals are way down. In fact, he declined slightly in 2017 from 2016, which really was his best year. He’s heavy, and does not seem to condition himself. Sad to say, but he does not seem to appreciate what a high leverage situation is, eg closing out Arrieta’s games.

    He has cost the Phils 2 crucial games in the standings, cost Jake Arrieta 2 wins, and at this point, Neris should be DFA’ed. His ERA+ is in the low 80s. Conforto blasted that ball into the far reaches of RF. Even worse, he blasted a ball down the RF line foul that would have been a HR; then the catcher hit a HR to LF. In reality, Neris gave up 3 HR balls in a row.

    You have to keep the ball LOW in the BANK or you cannot succeed.

    Art K Philly

  5. bruce

    May 12, 2018 at 2:10 pm

    If the Phillies manager believes he has an authentic “power” closer in his bullpen, he would not use Neris. There are not many teams that do have one including the Phillies. So for better or worse, Neris will be the closer or Kapler may go to the bullpen by committee route.

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