With Pat Neshek being the lone representative for the Phillies in Miami this All-Star Week, I began to get a little depressed. Usually when a position player is called upon to wear the red pinstripes for the National League, you have a better than 50-50 shot at seeing that player actually play in the game. With our only rooting interest boiled down to a matchup option at the end of the game, it made me sad. Then it got me to wondering:
Will he bring the bald eagle statue on the red carpet? How impressive has his season actually been?
I mean, look at his numbers:
1.27 ERA (2.27 FIP) in 35.1 innings, 36:5 K:BB, 336 ERA+, 0.5 HR/9
These are some seriously good numbers, ones he hasn’t put up since his other All-Star season in 2014. But how good are they historically? This led me to that wonderful invention, the Baseball Reference Play Index.
Quite possibly the greatest thing that has happened to bloggers/writers/analysts/fans ever, the Play Index led me on a journey of historical context that helped me file away Neshek’s first half as one of the greatest halves, first or second, in team history. “How so?” you ask. Join me on this memorable journey, as we gaze at Neshek’s place in Phillies history.
Let’s first look at that sparkling ERA. It just pops - 1.27. I get a tingle of excitement just typing that out. How does that stack up among halves in team history? This is a list of all pitchers with a 1.50 ERA or lower in any half in team history since 1913 with at least 35 innings pitched:
There’s our boy, 14th among all pitchers listed. That’s a pretty amazing list. You can see that most of the players listed are relievers, so there is some competition for Neshek to go up against. But that 1.27 is just wonderful.
How about his control? You saw before how great his control has been, so let’s run this by the ole’ Play Index: how has Neshek’s 7.20 K/BB rate stacked up among Phillies pitchers with at least 35 innings pitched in a half? For this, I’m going to set the bar a little lower. Pitchers had to have had at least a 6.50 K/BB ratio to qualify for this search. Your answer:
Ok, my first thought is not about Neshek, it’s about the guy who shows up 5 TIMES ON THE LIST - Cliff Lee! I mean, those are absurd control numbers, ones that I appreciate more now with the benefit of hindsight, but oh my gracious was that man able to control a baseball in the zone. Alright, alright, back to Neshek. That’s some good company he is keeping. It might be a little unsustainable, considering he hasn’t had this level control in his career, save that wonderful 2014 season, but we should at least be impressed with what he’s done so far.
How about the actual production against Neshek? Hitters have a .540 OPS against him. So, I made a query where I asked for all pitchers with a .540 OPS or lower in any half since 1913. The list was a little less exclusive, but still cool nonetheless:
Yeah, that one is a little harder to read (sorry; click to enlarge it), but there’s Pat, last with his .540 at the end. It’s cherry-picking at its finest, but hey, it’s my post.
What can we glean from these searches? Well, we can gain a better appreciation for Neshek and what a performance he has had thus far in 2017. He might have rubbed some people the wrong way when he had conflicting stories about his usage this year, but when it comes down to actually doing his job, there can be no question that he should be applauded and heralded, loudly.
These numbers also make it hard for some people (me included) to accept anything less than a team’s top 10-15 prospect for him as a return in a trade. He has been incredibly effective against the competition, has shown the past few seasons that it’s not a fluke, and should not be peddled for anything less. I think the team must move him, as his usefulness to the team is “what can I get for you in July 31?” at this point. But as we watch him ply his trade against the game’s best tomorrow night, use this as an appreciation for all he has accomplished in his short time here before he becomes nothing more than a memory in our hearts.