The Phillies did not enter 2016 with everything in place. They were a jumbled mass of flesh rolling up from Clearwater with more questions than answers, and those answers would only be provided by the 162 games ahead of them. So when people would ask Pete Mackanin who his closer was after a month and a half with his pitching staff, it makes sense that he just shrugged and let people imagine him answering.
CUT TO: April 9.
Well, that man ending a dominant Vincent Velasquez outing with six pitches and saving the Phillies’ first win of the season against the defending NL champions with only a 1-0 lead certainly looks like a closer. By mid-August, when Gomez had become the 11th Phillies closer in history to record 30 saves, Pete Mackanin couldn’t stop himself from bellowing with pride for the man who won the most high profile job in a fourth place non-contender’s bullpen:
"He was the last choice to be our closer."
Well, the reason for that became clearer when Gomez blew six saves and allowed 37 ER, 17 of which came in September. He actually book-ended the regular season’s final month with a pair of crash landings against the sport's worst team - he allowed four hits and four runs (and no outs) after entering a 4-4 game against the trash Braves on September 2,and then the Braves, still trash, tagged him for four more runs in a disastrous appearance to close out Gomez’s 2016 season on September 29. That time he managed to record an out, but also allowed two walks and three hits. Gross. Gross!
So, when did the 28-year-old with the 92 m.p.h. heater find success? Take a gander; On June 7, he led the National League with 19 saves and sported a 2.61 ERA. Word was he was on his way to an all-star berth (he wasn’t). The sinker was sinking, the slider was sliding, and lefty hitters weren't digging the change-up that he keeps just for them. In 19 games from June 25-August 13, he walked only five batters and allowed only three earned runs. You can find a couple stretches like that among his numbers, so what do you say to that, tentative Pete Mackanin?
"I know he's not a strikeout guy," Mackanin said. "But what do you do?"
Look, I don’t know, Pete. I don’t know what you do. What you continued to do was wave in Gomez whenever you were looking for three outs, despite solid success from relievers like Hector Neris and Edubray Ramos. And, like, Gomez's September was bad.
A four-game series with the Mets turned toxic early when Gomez allowed a two-run home run to Jose Reyes late in the month, allowing New York to come back from a 6-4 deficit in the ninth and repeatedly pulverize the Phillies bullpen for a 9-8 win in 11 innings (The Phillies would somehow out-brutal this game by closing out the series with a 17-0 loss).
Jeanmar Gomez has a 19.13 ERA (17 er in 8 ip) in 12 games this month, and a 13.20 ERA (22 er in 15 ip) in 19 games since Aug. 14.— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) September 30, 2016
The numbers told us the man might be gassed as velocity dropped off his most effective pitches. Five days before the above tweet, Mackanin did finally put his closer on "hiatus," a Latin term roughly translating to "ugh, terrible." By the end of the month, Gomez didn’t even make a Sports Illustrated list ranking closers’ entrance music (his is a Gospel song in Spanish). He ended the year with a 4.85 ERA in 70 games, with 37 saves and 2.14 SO/W. As with all of their believed trade chips in late July, the Phillies likely missed their chance (or didn't get a deal to their liking) to sell high.
So even a guy putting together musical power rankings could tell you that, despite hitting some milestones, Gomez did not etch his name into the closer role in the future. In all likelihood, Jeanmar Gomez will factor into neither the Phillies' long term plans or future unprecedented losses. His encouraging beginnings gave way and he assimilated with many of the other loose parts out there in the pen, leading to his becoming a trade chip for teams searching for a set-up man (like the Giants ) in a quietly pathetic relief market.
I’d go so far as to say that when you enter the season with the roles of the bullpen loosely define, the amount of loyalty you need to show to a guy having some moderate success should be minimal. Rebuilding requires a lot of trial and error and everybody could have stood to see a little more of the likes of guys like Neris and Ramos. "Everybody" meaning, of course, the sleeping cats in rooms in which the Phillies were on TV in September.
At the very least they should be more sparing in Gomez's closing appearances if only to give their manager a breather. That 9-8 loss almost killed Pete Mackanin. Or at least robbed him of sleep.
"I woke up at 7:30 and the first thing I thought about was the game," Mackanin said. "I don’t remember ever coming from behind and having two two-run leads and not winning the game. That was tough."