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2021 report card: Neftali Feliz

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Thanks a lot, Joe

Philadelphia Phillies v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Neftali Feliz was here for but a brief moment, or as Warden Norton would put it: “Man up and vanished like a fart in the wind.” He was bad, but he was brought into an impossible situation, a direct result of the manager’s poor decision making regarding the bullpen

2021 stats

1 IP, 5.00 WHIP, 22.2 K%, 11.1 BB%, 9.00 HR/9, 36.00 ERA (18.17 FIP), -0.2 fWAR

The good

Move along.

The bad

Neftali Feliz came into two games for the Phillies. In neither outing could he record a single inning of work, getting bounced from both earlier than the team would have liked. On June 28th, he came into a major league game for the first time since August 13, 2017 and gave up this to the Reds.

Now, let’s set the scene a little bit. The team was in the midst of its “let’s do a Spencer Howard-Bailey Falter piggyback start!” phase of the year and up to the point where Feliz had entered, it had gone well. It was the seventh inning, the Phillies were leading 4-2 and Falter had just come out, allowing a one out single and having some right handed power come up to face him. Joe Girardi thought that having Falter face those guys a third time would be a mistake, so he went to the bullpen.

Completely justifiable position to take for the manager. But who to use?

At that date, the team had just come off a start from Zack Wheeler where he went seven innings and only Jose Alvarado and Archie Bradley pitched in relief. The game before that, Zach Eflin had gotten the call, but only Ranger Suarez (1 23 IP), Connor Brogdon (1⁄3 IP), and Hector Neris (23 IP) had been used, none of whom had been stretched out very far. So, if we want to use hindsight, none of the best options available to Girardi that night should have been unavailable for usage. However, going back to that game, there was at least one option not available:

“Obviously, I could have went to Hector (Neris),” Girardi said. “I wasn’t using Archie (Bradley) tonight. He needed a day. I could have went to (Connor) Brogdon. We liked Neftali against that group of guys. It just didn’t work out. A walk, a hit batter and it led to the big inning.”

So if we take it from this, only Archie Bradley wasn’t available. Yet for some inexplicable reason, Girardi thought, “Hey! This is a great time to give a guy his first shot in four years in the major leagues!” The Phillies were below .500, but there was still a lot of season left to go. Every game was important, but this spot that Feliz came into was a very high leverage situation, getting a 2.13 LI number for when he entered to face Aristides Aquino.

In other words - THIS WAS NOT THE SPOT TO GIVE SOMEONE THEIR SEASON DEBUT!

You can see from the video above what happened, but it goes to show how poorly managed the bullpen was even then. This was a recurring theme with Girardi, where his explanations (or lack thereof) for bullpen usage make no sense. Feliz would have been much better off getting re-acclimated to the majors in a blowout or some other low stress situation. Asking him to come in and get big outs in such a spot is almost criminal to the pitcher, as well as to the team. If the reports on Feliz were so good and the team had so much trust in him, why did it take until the end of June to bring him up? Just another reason why people get frustrated with Girardi.

The future

He’s not here anymore.

Final grade: F

Again, it seems to be a common refrain around some of these low end bullpen players: they weren’t expected to be good, yet still failed to meet those expectations. However, half of that grade falls on Girardi.