The 2017 Phillies All-star representative is Pat Neshek.
Try to contain your excitement.
As depressing as it is that the best option to represent the red pinstripes is a self-proclaimed “one inning” guy, we have to accept the fact that Neshek has been really good this season. Aside from his one hiccup this weekend against the Mets, it’s hard to argue that Neshek shouldn’t be the team’s representative during the festivities in Miami.
The numbers are quite good. Through Sunday, Neshek has amassed a 1.39 ERA (2.40 FIP), 26.1 K%, 3.4 BB%, and 0.56 HR/9. He’s shown control, an enhanced ability to keep the ball in the park, and a rather strong, if unconventional, platoon spilt (.568 OPS vs. RHB, .498 vs. LHB). When the team has needed a shutdown innings, Neshek has provided it. How has he done it?
Well, the pitches that he is throwing have been incredibly effective. He features a three pitch repertoire, which when you look closely, only boils down to two real pitches he uses with any regularity.
He’s relied on the slider more and more as the season has progressed, and with good reason. If you look at Fangraphs’ usage of pitch linear weights, Neshek’s slider ranks third among all relievers with at least 20 innings pitched. When it’s normalized to compare across among all hitters on a “per 100 pitch basis”, the pitch ranks 22nd among all relievers, still top notch (for a more in-depth explanation on how they rank these, click here.) The fastball hasn’t been any slouch this year, either. It ranks a straight 41st among relievers when taken at its face value (same as Andrew Miller), but when adjusted as they did for the slider, it jumps up to 25th. For context, the fastball was rated out of 202 pitchers; the slider out of 156 pitchers. In basic terms, Neshek’s slider has been a dominant pitch this year, the fastball just as effective.
You can get upset at how he is used as a pitcher, hoping to see him in more high leverage situations. You can be upset that he’s unwilling to pitch more often than he does. However, it’s really not arguable that because of these two incredibly effective pitches, Neshek has become one of the best relievers in the game this year. How this plays out in Miami next Tuesday night will be very interesting to watch.