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Not really protecting much anymore, Hector Neris is due for a role change

2020 wasn’t kind to the Protector

Philadelphia Phillies v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The numbers

24 G, 21 23 IP, 24 H, 15 R (11 ER), 26.2 K%, 12.6 BB%, 4.57 ERA (2.50 FIP)

The good

Well, how’s this for faint praise? For the first time in his career, Neris’ FIP was lower than his ERA. That 2.50 FIP was the best of his career and it really wasn’t even close. He didn’t allow a home run in his short season, which is also a win for Hector.

The bad

Unfortunately, the high wire act that he has danced on looks like it finally gave out. When the team traded for Brandon Workman, it was for the explicit reason that they wanted someone better to lock down the end of games. Neris was just too unreliable last year, meaning the team had to do something if they wanted to save their season.

It’s not exactly as though Neris was Mr. Reliable in seasons past. He’s always posted good strikeout numbers, just as he did in 2020, but he also walked a lot of men (regularly up near 8-9%), but last year, that number went to 12.6%. Couple that with his BABIP spiking to .381 and you have a recipe for disaster.

The future

Well, he’s cheaper at least.

The team declined their team option on him, which would have netted him $7.5 million, but they retained his rights through arbitration at $5 million.

The issue is that if Neris is coming back as the closer, something has gone wrong. He has performed admirably in the role in the past, but at this point, there is no reason for him to pitch in that role anymore. The team should be seeking out a more experienced closer at this point, even if that means dipping into their meager spending money. Were Neris to be used in a seventh- or eighth-inning role, that might suit him a little better. He has shown enough that he shouldn’t be designated as the low leverage mop-up guy, but he shouldn’t be trusted all too often with save situations. It would be better for him and everyone else involved.