If you somehow played in a league where FIP was more important than earned run average (ERA), you might not be too disappointed in Héctor Neris ’ 2020 campaign. His 4.57 ERA pales in comparison to his 2.50 FIP, and he went a pedestrian 5-for-8 in save opportunities. His FIP indicates that he was a bit on the unlucky side, and that is further corroborated by his .381 BABIP in 2020 (.293 BABIP for his entire career). On the other hand, his 59.5 percent strand rate didn’t do him any favors. Here are some interesting tidbits from his 2020 season, compared to other relievers.
- Of the same 28 relievers, no one had a larger ERA-FIP differential than Neris (where FIP was lower than ERA)
All that in mind, sure, Neris was unlucky, but he didn’t do a great job of avoiding getting into those situations either. There’s an element to being unlucky, but if your stats blow up because of that unluckiness that just so happens to come after something of your own doing. You see, it’s like the snowball effect. It only gets larger when rolling down a mountain. Now, if you’re on that mountain, chances are that the avalanche might not hit you. However, if you are seeing how close you can get, then there are increased odds for some bad luck.
Neris’ walk rate spiked to 12.6 percent, and he hadn’t been above 8.7 percent in any of the three seasons prior. His zone percentage of 37.8 percent was just half of a percentage point away from being a career-worst, and it marked the second straight year in which he was below 43 percent in this department.
Then, with runners on base, he allowed a career-worst .333 batting average (.486 BABIP) and stranded just 34.8 percent of runners. You see how it all compounded? It was a perfect storm that lined up to hurt Neris from a statistical perspective, but “bad luck” isn’t the culprit for all of it.
He made a slight shift in his repertoire, basically returning it to 2018 marks, and inverting it from his 2019 season. He dropped the usage of his splitter more to throw more four-seamers.
His splitter generates a ton of whiffs, but he wants to throw it less. Or, perhaps the catcher or team want him to throw it less. Conversely, he’s opting to throw the four-seamer more, despite the fact that it is losing velocity, and quite rapidly may I add.
In 2020, his whiff rate was in the 97th percentile, K rate dropped to 26.2 percent after two straight years of 32+%, whiff rate was in 97 percentile, but his strikeout rate was only in th3 64th percentile. Interesting. When you look at the other pitchers that generated a ton of whiffs, their strikeout rate (percentile) blows Neris out of the water, and it’s not even close.
Courtesy of Baseball Savant
- Every pitcher that had a whiff rate in at least the 97th percentile, except Neris, was in at least the 91st percentile in strikeout rate. Neris was in the 64th percentile.
- The average percentile of all the players was 94.2. Neris was in the 64th percentile.
- Excluding Neris, the average percentile was 96.75. Neris was in the 64th percentile.
The closing job in Philadelphia is valuable, as they should be in a spot to win a lot of ball games in 2021. However, Neris has some stiff competition. Archie Bradley seems to be the early favorite, with Neris as the second option, but José Alvarado has been electric this spring. At time of writing, I’m not confident that Neris has a super strong grasp on the “next man up” role, as Alvarado might be charging ahead of him.
If he’s not closing, Neris’ value takes a substantial hit; and unless his strikeout rate jumps back above 30 percent, it’s going to be hard to roster him outside of the deepest of leagues, or NL-only setups. His current ADP may be enticing, but it’s fool’s good. He’s a speculative draft pick for saves at best, and if the strikeouts aren’t there, he’s not helping your ratios either.