Following a 2018 season that saw him record a career-high ERA, reliever Hector Neris was not expected to be a top reliever for the Philadelphia Phillies last season. His struggles, which landed him in Triple-A for nearly two months, coupled with the emergence of Seranthony Dominguez and the signing of veteran David Robertson last offseason left him low in the depth chart among Phillies relievers.
However, things quickly changed as the season got underway. Robertson and Dominguez both struggled out the gate before ultimately being sidelined for a bulk of the season with injuries, and Neris became the most important piece of the Phillies bullpen. Despite some mid-season struggles, Neris put together an impressive season and is now the favorite to be the team’s closer in 2020.
Here are three numbers to remember from Neris’ 2019 campaign:
42.4% – Whiff Percentage Against Neris’ Splitter
While Neris’ career has been, for the most part, up-and-down, one thing has remained constant: he has an absolutely filthy splitter. This continued in 2019, and a new approach for Neris helped him and the Phillies take advantage of what could be the nastiest pitch of anyone on the team.
In prior seasons, the most that Neris had ever thrown his splitter in a season was 51% of the time. This left Neris to throw his four-seam fastball — which opposing hitters always kill — at a relatively high rate, leading to the struggles that Neris would sometimes face.
This past season, Neris threw the splitter a whopping 65.4% of the time. Even though it may have made facing Neris somewhat predictable, they still had no success against his best pitch. Neris allowed a .169 batting average and .281 slugging percentage against his splitter throughout the season, and that played a significant role in his bounce-back season.
6.0 – Hits Allowed Per Nine Innings
According to Statcast, Neris had a .199 xBA against, which measured in the top eight percent in baseball. The contact profile against him was clearly in his favor, and this led to his impressive 6.0 H/9, by far the best mark of his career.
While Neris still walked 3.2 batters per nine innings pitched, just above his career average of 3.1, he still had by far the lowest WHIP of his career, 1.020. His ability to keep opposing hitters from getting on base played a big role in his solid 2019 campaign.
1.00 – ERA Over Final 27 Appearances
For the first four months of the season, Neris was solid in the closer’s role. He had a few bad outings but was the most consistent arm out of the Phillies bullpen.
Then, starting in mid-July, Neris had the most dominant stretch of his career:
Not a lot went right for the Phillies during this stretch, but Neris’ dominance was a bright spot.
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