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Phillies: 2021’s Candidates to Close

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

If you’re a Philadelphia Phillies fan reading this, you are probably unhappy with Hector Neris and prefer another in-house arm for those final three outs. Meanwhile, some don’t want Neris on the team because they believe he mostly fails and barely succeeds like his recent five-out effort. And he’s saved how many?

 

Take Your Pick:

In many minds, relying on Neris for the ninth inning puzzles them because it’s obviously a no-brainer with better pen options available. Yes, some faithful supporters believe manager Joe Girardi will agree with them. And if he doesn’t, they may question his strategic ability and think he’s costing the Phillies victories.  

IN OTHER WORDS:

“As a rule we disbelieve all the facts and theories for which we have no use.” - William James

What does Dave Dombrowski, president of baseball operations, observe from his perch when he’s viewing the relief corps now for July’s decisions? And even though fans are watching the same contests, he has a different take because he’s balancing a reliever’s overall performance, not a highlighted negative part.      

Some tend to weigh a ninth inning and a sixth frame equally but remember poor outings. while they assume good results are the norm. So, four acceptable performances out of five are only management’s expectations, while some locals view even nine good out of 10 opportunities disdainfully.                     

A top-tier closer saves 90 percent of his chances, and those hurlers aren’t plentiful. Ergo, most franchises have a ninth-inning option producing at an 80 percent rate, so you can expect two blown saves out of every 10 attempts. But most organizations won’t trade a top closer now or re-sign them in their twilight years.  

Current Phillies Closer Comparison (through May 10):

Hector Neris, almost 32:

  • 2019: 28 Saves, 6 BS for 82.4%
  • 2021: 6 Saves, 2 BS for 75%

Aroldis Chapman, 33:

  • 2019: 37 Saves, 5 BS for 88.1%
  • 2021: 7 Saves, 0 BS for 100%    

Beginning with the exclusions, Vince Velasquez is currently the fourth starter, and Ranger Suarez has pitched once. Moreover, Matt Moore and Enyel De Los Santos haven't made enough appearances. Plus J0Jo Romero is on the IL (injured list), while David Hale must contribute more than mop-up frames to keep his job.  

The Final Six:

According to some Phillies faithful, their first choice was Archie Bradley before preferring Jose Alvarado. But Bradley made four appearances before going on the IL with an oblique injury, and Alvarado’s control is erratic. So, why is Neris closing?                      

In reverse order, the six candidates begin with Brandon Kintzler. He is below even the 75 percent overall level, and Girardi only calls for him if the other five are unavailable. However, he did have 12 saves --which projects to 36 for a full 162-- in 2020’s 60-game campaign for the Miami Marlins.     

Next is Connor Brogdon but Kintzler may pass him on the pecking order for the eighth frame. Basically, Brogdon can handle the seventh and extra innings, but he’s had mixed results overall after the sixth. Expect him to grow into high-leverage situations when he has repeated seventh-frame success.  

Bradley has missed a month but expects to return near May 18. Therefore, he’ll need a few outings before working the seventh and eighth innings. But a couple solid performances will be enough for fans to anticipate Girardi tabbing him as Neris’ replacement.               

Forcing his way to the pen’s back end, Sam Coonrod has made many appearances in lower-intensity frames. Realistically, he’s only had four or five opportunities to work after the sixth inning. And although he’s been successful so far, he’s more or less the flavor of the month. 

Phillies Relievers (through May 10):

PITCHER

GOOD

ACCEPT.

BAD

BLOWUP

TOTAL 

PER.

Neris 

8

3

5

0

11 - 5

68.8%

Alvarado

8

2

2

0

10 - 2

83.3%

Bradley

2

0

2

0

2 - 2

50%

Coonrod

11

1

2

0

12 - 2

85.7%

Brogdon

8

3

2

1

11 - 3

78.6%

Kintzler

7

0

3

1

7 - 4

63.6%

Romero (IL)

4

2

4

1

6- 5

54.6%

Velasquez

0

2

1

0

2 - 1

66.7%

Hale

4

0

6

0

4 - 6

40%

Sanchez

1

0

0

0

1 - 0

100%

Moore

2

0

1

0

2 - 1

66.7%

De Los Santos

0

1

0

1

1 - 1

50%

Girardi only called for Coonrod to close with Neris being unavailable, Alvarado serving a two-game suspension and Bradley on the IL. Basically, expecting Coonrod --who has five career saves-- to displace Neris isn’t feasible, but the eighth frame and extra innings will be his top shot besides others being unavailable.    

As I wrote in a previous article, Alvarado is the most likely candidate to close if he can improve his control from a fifty-fifty possibility of recording a strikeout or a free pass. But he’ll close when Neris is unavailable. Otherwise, he may threaten Neris’ role in June.               

Alvarado can throw many pitches at 101 mph with sink and movement, but patient hitters know he has difficulty with command. In fact, he has already had three punch outs and three walks in the same frame, but he tantalizes Fightins supporters with his stuff. And he has a 94-mph slider to make things interesting.          

For now, the Phils’ best option is Neris. But he’s a reliever because he doesn’t have the command to work more than an inning or two. Except for a few, though, bullpen pieces aren’t in the rotation because of their control.   

Mariano Rivera’s Stats Compared to the Phillies Closer:

YEAR

SAVES

BLOWN SAVES

PERCENTAGE

2002

28

4

87.5%

2003

40

6

87%

2004

53

4

93%

2005

43

4

91.5%

2006

34

3

91.9%

2007

30

4

88.2%

2008

39

1

97.5%

2009

44

2

95.7%

2010

33

5

86.8%

2011

44

5

89.8%

2012

5

1

83.3%

2013

44

7

86.3%

TOTAL

437

46

90.5%

The reason clubs expect 75-80 percent from all hurlers is because there are days when they don’t have their best stuff. Exceptions: Aces and lights-out closers can be successful enough even on those days.

Presently, the New York Yankees are paying Aroldis Chapman --who prefers closing to starting-- $17.5 million AAV (average annual value), and Zack Britton receives $13.25 million AAV for the eighth frame. Plus Britton could close for most other teams.          

As the numbers indicate, Neris is an average closer and is making $6 million. And some consider him drastically overpaid because they even frown on 90 percent effectiveness. So, what would Mariano Rivera do if he heard those sentiments? Laugh!   

 

NEXT:

Phillies, NL East: 2021’s Current Predictions

 

IMG_7211

 

 

Comments

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Jim Finnegan

LOL. I've been jousting with you for four years and you convinced me that Neris was worth it. I think now he's not getting the job done. Everyone is holding their breath when he's in there
. I'm going with Coonrod. (I know that need him for earlier innings, but....) or Alverado. ( He needs some anger management work) Alverado is a flame thrower. I think he's the closer.
Do you think Brogdon can be built into a closer? I though he was targeted as a starter.

Tal Venada

Hey, Jim.

Firstly, I don't write to convince anyone of anything. On the east coast, that's basically Mission Impossible.


Comparing Coonrod's numbers to Hector's isn't workable. Neris pitches high-leverage innings (a lot of one-run games), and Coonrod did it twice. If Coonrod is closer material, why did SF trade him? Their closer is Jake McGee, 35.5, who closed at 82 percent in 2014 and 79 percent in 2016: his best years. And 2016 was his last season as a closer.

Besides Chapman, Britton, and Hader, other closers are around 80 percent and can hang a breaking ball or toss a center-cut fastball at any time.

Actually, Alvarado would make you more nervous because he could have a four-walk BS.

Brogdon has to handle the seventh inning before even thinking about the eighth.

Me, I expect Hector to blow 2 saves every 10 games because he's not going to have his best stuff every game.

Jim Finnegan

Hey, I was just putting the jab on you. You were convincing me about Phils stuff since we were arguing politics in another lifetime. I always enjoy your insights.
To the specifics. I just look at the quality of some short work....an inning or two. I don't know if Brogdon could even be groomed into that closer slot. Coonrod seems to be on with a nice mix but I realize that he is more valuable earlier in the game. I'm in awe of Alverado because he pitches with a rocket arm and what I've seem of him, he has better control.
As always , thanks for some great insights.

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