Pat Neshek, who made his first All Star Game last night, is a wonderful story. He’s survived a personal tragedy to persevere and resurrect his career. I thought I’d trace the journey of Neshek’s career.
He started out with the Twins, had 2 good years before blowing up for 2 years, a .473 ERA one year and a 5.00 ERA the next. Then he went to the Padres for one year and a forgettable season with a 4.01 ERA. He followed that with 2 years in Oakland, a nice 1.37 the first year, but in just 19 innings, followed by a 3.35 ERA the next year in 40.1 innings. Not bad, but not great either.
This year, Neshek has a 0.77 ERA in 35 innings. An awesome year that has resulted in his first All Star Game selection. So, is this year an outlier, or has something changed?
From 2008 to 2013 Neshek was primarily a Slider guy, with a Sinking Fastball as his secondary pitch. Over that span, Neshek used his Slider roughly 62 percent of the time while using his Fastball (which averaged 88,51 MPH) 28 percent of the time.
Fast forward to this year. He’s using his Fastball 53 percent of the time, with an average speed of 91.03 MPH, while using his Slider only 36 Percent of the time. (The remaining 10 percent of the time he tosses a Changeup.)
It seems obvious that his change of approach, combined with an increase in velocity, have contributed to his drastic improvement. Is he this good? probably not, but I think he is better than he was in the past, and I can easily see him ending up with a sub 2.50 ERA.
He’s also been good vs. both lefties and righties. Lefties are batting .100 against him while righties are batting .152 against him.
How long will this increase in velocity last? He is 33 years old, after all. Who knows, but as a reliever, he doesn’t have as much mileage on his arm as a starter does, and since he was primarily a slider guy in the past, he probably has a bit of heat left in his arm. Of course, since his body isn’t used to pumping out fastballs at this rate, he may wear down as the season goes on. Then there is the submarine factor. Submariners typically put less stress on their arms. All of this makes him someone to watch as the season goes on.
One thing I will say: If he keeps this up, and Trevor Rosenthal continues to struggle (he blew a save last the other night, and in his last successful save, he loaded the bases.) Neshek should be a strong candidate to replace Rosenthal as closer at least for a short period, giving Trevor a break. And if Neshek succeeds in the role, keep him there.
Thanks for reading.