Enough is enough: Knebel should be demoted as the Phillies’ closer

What a fun series the Phillies just played. After letting go of Joe Girardi before the series started, the team outscored the Angels 26-9.

Yesterday’s win was the most exciting, as the Phillies has to come back from deficits twice.

The Phillies scored seven runs in the last two innings, led by their “Las Vegas Connection.” In a 3-2 count with the bases loaded in the 8th, MV3 hit a 90-mph changeup into the second deck. Following a run by the Angels in the top of the ninth (more on that later), the Phils needed another comeback.

Bryson Stott stepped to the plate with two outs and two runners on. Stott got a 3-2 breaking ball, and he didn’t miss it. Depositing it into the rightfield seats, the Phillies broke the brooms out on a 9-7 win.

It has only been three games since Girardi was dismissed, but the team is clearly having more fun. They played this series with more energy than they have in a while, and it showed. However, not everything was perfect.

Even though he was able to pick up the win, Corey Knebel again showed that he isn’t a shutdown closer. After his performance in May, it has become evidently clear.

The Phillies need to demote Knebel from the closer role.

In May, Knebel went 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA. In 11.2 innings of work, he gave up nine runs (seven earned) and allowed 19 baserunners (12 Hs, 7 BBs). That is good for a WHIP of 1.63, which is way too high for a closer who wants to be successful. While he is easier to watch than Jeurys Familia, Knebel leaves a lot to be desired.

The Phillies have a lot of ground to make up if they want to make the postseason. Having a closer who has to walk a tightrope every time he pitches is not the way to do it.

Don’t fear, though, Phillies fans. They have the perfect replacement already on the roster.

Seranthony Dominguez has looked like his normal self to start this season. He’s been the Phillies’ best reliever this season, throwing 20.2 innings of 1.74 run ball. Dominguez is averaging 97.1 mph on his fastball, but it has definitely been getting stronger lately. As Matt Winkelman noted above, Saturday was arguably the best his heater has looked.

Not only does his fastball have the high-end velocity, but it has incredible movement. According to Baseball Savant, Dominguez averages 20.2 inches of drop and 15 inches of break on his sinker. The majority of sinkers in the majors that move like that are in the 93-95 mph range.

Dominguez can reach it back for triple digits.

The real weapon he has, though, is the slider. Throwing it 22% of the time, his slider breaks almost an inch and a half more horizontally than average. While his slider doesn’t move as much as Knebel’s curveball does, I think his slider is the more effective pitch.

The problem with relying on a fastball/curveball mix is that the pitches look different right away. A major leaguer can tell the difference out of the hand. While they still might not be able to hit it, the spin can be picked up. Take a close look next time, and you’ll see how the curve literally jumps out of Knebel’s hand. After he releases it, the ball will go upwards slightly before moving down. Also, it is natural for pitchers to adjust their mechanics, even slightly, when throwing the deuce.

Whereas Dominguez’ slider is coming out of his hand like a fastball. Like the changeup, the spin is somewhat difficult to pick up early, especially since it is a more horizontal movement. His slider to righthanders is incredibly hard to lay off of.

Unlike Knebel, Dominguez has out pitches for both sides of the plate. His slider works well against righties, but his changeup, which he only throws 4% of the time, might be better for lefties. His changeup fades away from the lefthanded hitters, as I said, it is too similar to the fastball to be picked up. He doesn’t throw it often, but it is the perfect pitch to mix in and keep batters off-balance.

Watching Knebel over the last month has made it clear that Dave Dombrowski screwed up not going after a dominant closer. However, it turns out that he may have already had that shutdown piece on the roster.

It is time to give Seranthony the reigns to the end of the game. He’s got a chance to be a real special backend piece for years to come.

And he’s only getting stronger.

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