Bullpen Banter: Is Jeanmar Gomez Really Going To Close For Philadelphia?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

According to Matt Gelb of The Philadelphia Inquirer & Daily News (click here for the article):

But after Tuesday’s first workout for pitchers and catchers, Pete Mackanin anointed Gomez as his ninth-inning man.

“I believe he deserves to be called our closer at this point,” the Phillies manager said.

It’s a bit of a surprise, considering the addition of Joaquin Benoit, the presence of Hector Neris and the struggles of Gomez down the stretch (19.13 ERA over 8.0 September innings).  We all know that the closer role is always fluid so this statement shouldn’t be held as gospel, though that doesn’t change the reaction.

Could this be a situation where the Phillies are trying to inflate Gomez’ value via trade?  It’s possible, as you can argue that his makeup is the least impressive of the three candidates:

 

Jeanmar Gomez
Key ’16 Stats – 6.16 K/9, 2.88 BB/9, 52.0% GB%

The control is solid, though hardly an elite number.  You can say the same about the groundballs, which were also slightly ahead of his career mark (50.2%).  At the end of the day, though, it all comes down to the strikeouts and that’s somewhere he’s never thrived (5.48 K/9 for his career).  While he has spent a lot of time starting, even last season he managed a 7.3% SwStr% and hardly fooled hitters with a 28.6% O-Swing%.

 

Joaquin Benoit
Key ’16 Stats – 9.75 K/9, 4.50 BB/9, 39.2% GB%

The control was poor, though that’s never been a significant issue (3.67 K/9 for his career).  He also improved in the second half (5.40 / 3.76), so it’s of little concern.  The groundball rate is an issue, though he’s never been a pitcher to give up many home runs (0.94 HR/9 in ’16).  He’s also proven that he can handle closing, including 24 saves for Detroit in 2013.  Long considered one of the better setup men in the league, Benoit was viewed as a stop gap signing when he joined Philadelphia.

 

Hector Neris
Key ’16 Stats – 11.43 K/9, 3.36 BB/9, 41.9% GB%

We all know he’s the best reliever the team has, after posting a 2.58 ERA in 80.1 innings in ’16.  Yet the Phillies seem against shifting him to the ninth inning.  Why?  Is it financial (they don’t want him to establish himself yet, thus driving up his arbitration cost)?  It’s possible, though they also could simply be looking to build the value of the veterans and not be handcuffed on when they can utilize Neris.  Regardless of the reason, his solid control and 15.4% SwStr% have closer of the future written all over them.  Sooner or later he will force their hand, and it should happen rather quickly.

Sources – Fangraphs, The Philadelphia Inquirer & Daily News

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