After losing both legs of the two game set with the Nationals, Joe Girardi was perplexed. Hector Neris had just blown his third save in the last five opportunities, coming on the heels of the Phillies losing separate five run and four run leads. Girardi said his off day was going to be spent thinking about the closer role.
It is clear that the manager has lost faith in Neris’ ability to close games. The fan base lost that faith a while back.
The questions about Neris have persisted for as long as he has been closing games for the Phillies. Neris has been pretty consistent at being inconsistent for the team since he made his closing debut. You would be hard pressed to find a fan to say otherwise. However, he is the best bullpen pitcher the team has had, making it easy to slot him into the closing role.
Ideally, Neris is an above average 7th/8th inning reliever on a playoff team. I have said countless times that it is hard to be a fastball/splitter pitcher due to the volatility of the split. However, because of necessity, he was forced into handling the ninth for the Phillies.
There are clamors every year about replacing him in the backend, and this year is no different. Through 28 innings this season, Neris has pitched to a respectable 3.54 ERA with 10 saves. Along the way, though, he has blown five saves this season, second-most in baseball behind only the Mariners’ Rafael Montero. It is very hard for a team to play winning baseball with a closer who converts only 66 percent of his save opportunities.
Neris will break the Phillies’ record for blown saves with two more, which is 26 held by Ryan Madson. That dubious record would be a good representation of Neris’ career in Philadelphia. A career that most Phillies’ fan would probably like to forget.
However, Girardi cannot just make a change here to make a change. If a change is the direction he goes in, then who is going to be the new closer?
The Phillies really don’t have a foolproof option to takeover the spot.
Jose Alvarado is the Phillies best reliever, however he is just as inconsistent, if not more so, than Neris. He has absolutely electric stuff, but doesn’t have any control over it. He is definitely more of a thrower than a pitcher, not knowing the result of nearly every pitch he throws. Plus, his walk numbers are much higher than you would want a closer to have.
Archie Bradley, who has previous experience closing, hasn’t pitched well this season. No one can make an argument for Bradley taking over for Neris at the current state. Another option could be Ranger Suarez, but I think that’s very unlikely. Suarez has pitched lights out this season, but his value is being able to pitch multiple innings. With today’s DFA of David Hale (THANK GOD), a multiple inning guy in the ‘pen is that much more important.
I am sure that the recent call-up Neftali Feliz will also be in consideration, but he hasn’t pitched in the MLB since 2017. I am not ready to give the closer role to him, even if he was pitching well in Triple-A.
At this point, it seems likely that the team makes a change with Neris’ struggles recently. However, the Phillies still have no clear cut closer on this roster to replace him with. Either way, Neris needs to figure out what is going on and fast. The Phillies still need him, even if he isn’t closing ball games.
Or this is just going to be another long, fruitless summer than fans have become accustomed to since 2011.