Will Newly Acquired Pat Neshek Plug the Leaks in the Colorado Rockies' Bullpen?
For the Colorado Rockies, it's all about the NL Wild Card.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, at 71-31, have lapped the field in the NL West, holding a 12.5 game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks and a 13.5 game lead over Colorado. But the Rockies are solidly in wild card position in the National League, one game behind the D-Backs for the top spot and four games clear of the Milwaukee Brewers, who were overtaken by the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central on Wednesday night.
In an effort to bolster a faltering bullpen for the stretch run, Colorado traded for the Philadelphia Phillies' Pat Neshek, a middle reliever who is having one of the best seasons of any bullpen arm in baseball.
Colorado sends Philadelphia three low-minors prospects in return, none of whom are among the top 20 of their stacked farm system, in exchange for the potential rental, who becomes a free agent after the season.
In 43 appearances (40.1 innings pitched), Neshek has an ERA of 1.12 with a fielding independent pitching (FIP) of 1.94. The side-winding right-hander has struck out 10.04 batters per nine inning (30.4% of all batters faced), a dramatic increase from last year (8.23 K/9), and it betters his career number of 8.99. He's also on track for a career-low walk rate of 3.4%, and opponents are hitting a mere .196 against him.
Neshek has only had two appearances this season in which he's allowed a run, and hasn't given up a single score at Citizens Bank Park at all in 2017.
The Phillies' lone representative to the 2017 All-Star Game has been good against both right-handers and left-handers this season.
Neshek's WAR of 1.5 is tied for 8th-most among qualified MLB relief pitchers this year, and fits in with Colorado's recent trend of acquiring pitchers who rely on a slider-heavy arsenal. Neshek has thrown his slider 47.7% of the time, the 12th-highest percentage among all relief pitchers. Only the Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox bullpens throw a greater percentage of sliders than do the Rockies.
All that said, moving to hitters haven Coors Field is always a worry. Neshek has made just four appearances at Coors in his career, where he's given up four earned runs in 3.2 innings for an ERA of 9.82. Four appearances is hardly a sample size, but it merits mention.
Neshek arrives just as the Rockies bullpen has been leaking oil.
The 36-year-old veteran also has one of the most entertaining deliveries in the game.
Neshek will likely be asked to slot in as a late-inning set-up man, with Greg Holland's 31 saves and 1.72 ERA staying in the closer's role and Jake McGee (3.27 ERA) taking the 8th inning. He gives the relief corps depth, as well as an additional arm that's tough against left-handed hitters.
Having an effective bullpen is a key to succeeding in October, and Neshek should provide the Rockies with some consistency and another option late in games as they battle the Diamondbacks and the Brewers over the final two months of the season.