Let's all just take a moment and think about what Jeanmar Gomez did in the 8th and 9th innings of last night's 3-2 win over the Chicago Cubs.
Maybe having a strikeout artist as your closer isn't the most important thing. Maybe it's not vital that a closer throw 97 mph every time out and have a wipeout pitch that batters can never touch.
Certainly, Gomez has neither of those weapons in his arsenal. He throws in the low-90s, reaching up to 93 mph when he amps it up. He relies on a sinker and encourages batters to put the ball in play and hit it on the ground.
Hopefully, the ball finds a fielder. And more often than not this season, it has. Gomez leads all of baseball with 19 saves and, after last night's two-inning, six out masterpiece against the unquestioned best team in baseball, one in which he wriggled out of a bases loaded, no-out jam with a slim lead intact, has a 2.61 ERA on the season.
Gomez needs to be in the All Star Game in San Diego next month.
Last night, Hector Neris didn't have it once again. Thanks to a throwing error by Cesar Hernandez and two hits, Neris entered and exited the 8th inning without recording an out, leaving a bases loaded mess for Gomez.
When the inning started, the Phillies had an 87.3% chance to win the game, per Fangraphs' Win Expectancy Play Log. But by the time Neris had left, with the Phils still holding a 3-1 lead, those odds were down to 55.5% thanks to the bases loaded-no out predicament.
Neris has struggled lately. He still holds a 2.27 ERA, but in his last five appearances (3 2/3 IP) he has given up five runs (four earned) on five hits and five walks with just three strikeouts and an ERA of 9.82. and over those last five outings, his K/9 is 7.36. Going into this latest five-game stretch, it was 11.93.
Part of the problem is how much he's been used. He's thrown 31 2/3 innings this season, tied for 7th-most in baseball this year, and his 31 appearances is tied for most.
Enter Gomez, who had to face the red-hot Dexter Fowler and his .422 on-base percentage with the bases juiced and nobody out. The game had basically become a 50-50 proposition, but Gomez induced a deep sacrifice fly out to left that scored a run from third, making the score 3-2, putting runners on 1st and 2nd with one out. The Phils' win expectancy improved from 55.5% to 66.3%.
Gomez then did what he does best, generating a ground ball from Jason Heyward that found second baseman Andres Blanco (in the game as part of a double switch), starting a magnificent double play to get the Phillies out of the inning.
With the 8th inning over and the Phillies still holding a 3-2 lead, the Phils' win expectancy jumped from 66.3% to 87.3%. But the night wasn't over for Gomez, who still needed three more outs. He got the first thanks to a strikeout of Kris Bryant...
...then allowed a single to Anthony Rizzo, who was wiped out at second base on a fielder's choice grounder to Ryan Howard. Tommy La Stella followed with a single that put runners on 1st and 3rd (win expectancy now down to 84.0%) with David Ross at the plate. Gomez got Ross on another ground ball, this time to shortstop Freddy Galvis, for the final out of the game.
From the time Gomez entered in the 8th, he helped improve the Phils' win expectancy from 55.5% all the way to 100%. Here is how the Fangraphs' win expectancy chart looked.
Gomez' two inning save was only the 9th save of the season of at least two innings, and by far the highest-leveraged of the nine. Here are the others.
Gomez is now 8th among MLB relievers this season in Wins Probability Added at 1.55. Only seven relief pitchers have done more to increase their teams' chances of winning games this year than Gomez.
The art of the two-out save is disappearing. From 2010-2016, there were 80 such saves of two innings or more, most of them resulting from relievers finishing blowout victories. In 1980 alone, there were 404 such saves.
Specialization of the bullpens has done away with the multi-inning save. But for one night at least, Gomez went old-school.
And it should be noted that it took just 25 pitches for Gomez to record those six outs. Neris has thrown 31 2/3 innings this year while Gomez has pitched 31.0. Neris has thrown a team-high 522 pitches while Gomez has tallied 463, 4th-most among Phils relievers.
In order to get his 95 outs, Neris has needed 522 pitches. To get his 93 outs, Gomez has needed 463. That's an average of 5.5 pitches per out for Neris and 5.0 pitches per out for Gomez.
Strikeouts are great and less prone to bad luck, but are not nearly as efficient as grounders.
There are different ways to get guys out and, for now at least, what Gomez is doing is working. And he just may nab an All Star Game appearance thanks to his performance this year as well.