Is Philadelphia Phillies RHP Hector Neris actually due for a decent season in 2021?
No matter how you cut it, Hector Neris had a brutal 2020 season. He posted a 4.57 ERA, a career-high 1.708 WHIP, blew multiple saves, and ultimately lost his closer job to the likes of Brandon Workman. The Philadelphia Phillies declined Neris’ $7 million option for the 2021 season, and are likely looking to bring him back on a far discounted price. It was a frustrating year for the veteran reliever, as many within the Phillies organization viewed him as the team’s *best* overall bullpen arm.
With that said, there’s reason for optimism when it comes to Neris’ forward projection.
Personally speaking, I’ve long been harsh on Neris when it comes to his on-field production. I wasn’t a fan of his inconsistency as the Phillies primary closer in 2019, and his collapse this past summer felt somewhat inevitable. With that said, after taking a long look at some of the analytics surrounding Neris’ 2020 campaign, I’m starting to see the light in regards to a potential return to form for the veteran righty.
More from Section 215
- 4 Eagles on the Bubble Who Have Clinched Their 53-Man Roster Spots
- Best Pennsylvania Sportsbook Promos: Win $650 GUARANTEED Bonus PLUS $100 off NFL Sunday Ticket
- 3 Punters the Eagles Must Target to Replace Arryn Siposs
- Cowboys Trey Lance Trade Proves How Screwed They Are With Dak Prescott
- Devon Allen Took Britain Covey’s Job on Eagles
Neris posted a 2.50 FIP last season. For those of you who aren’t familiar with FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), it’s a from of statistic that estimates a pitcher’s run prevention independent of his surrounding defense. It’s one of the more commonly referenced sabermetrics, and plenty of analysts prefer it over ERA.
Neris’ 2.50 FIP was actually the best he’s posted in his entire career, signaling that he was far better than his higher-than-average ERA would suggest. The Phillies defense (both in the outfield and the infield) was extremely poor in 2020, so the logic that Neris was hurt by weak fielding does in fact check out.
Outside of FIP, a lot of Neris’ other sabermetrics reflect a player who did genuinely just “get unlucky” in 2020. His average exit velocity was standard, his ground ball rate was comparable to his other seasons, and both his barrel percentage and hard hit percentage weren’t exceptionally bad.
Neris’ max exit velocity allowed in 2020 (107.7 MPH) was even a career low!
Neris did struggle with his pitch control quite a bit last year, as his walk rate skyrocketed up to an extreme level (5.4 BB9). However, considering the fact that he only pitched 21.2 innings in 2020 due to the shortened season, there’s reason to believe his control could’ve stabilized over the course of a full 162-game campaign.
“ZIPS” current projection for Neris’ 2021 season is a 3.49 ERA and 1.15 WHIP over the course of 59.2 innings, which seems pretty in line with what to expect out of him at this point in his career. Neris shouldn’t be expected to randomly blossom into an elite closer, but stabilizing into a mid-3.00 ERA guy would be a huge boost to the Philadelphia Phillies league-worst bullpen.
Sabermetrics don’t always accurately predict player success, as there’s a ton of external factors that can ultimately nestle their way into a season. Injuries, confidence issues, role, etc. In regards to Neris, I think he would benefit a ton from sliding out of the team’s primary closer job, but that’s somewhat dependent on the front office signing an established relief arm in free agency (which feels unlikely).
Whatever Neris’ role ends up being in 2021, the numbers definitely point to a guy who should return to decent enough form on the mound.