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September 21, 2016

Phillies Notes: Mackanin considering closer change, Hernandez's base running woes

Maybe this is only relevant to you if you’re running a fantasy baseball team and approaching the pivotal final week of the season, trying to secure your place in the standings. Or maybe it’s relevant because it would allow for a seamless changing of the guard before the 2017 season.

Either way, manager Pete Mackanin is mulling the idea of moving Jeanmar Gomez out of the closer’s job he’s held since the first weekend of the regular season.

Gomez allowed three runs in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s win, when a comfortable lead turned into a dicey one-run affair following his brief appearances. Gomez has allowed 15 earned runs in his last 16 appearances dating back to Aug. 14.

Exactly a week after saying it “wasn’t the right things to do” to take Gomez out of the role this late in the season Mackanin said he’d have to consider it. When asked Wednesday afternoon if Gomez was his guy should a save situation arise later in the night, the first-year manager was undecided.

“I’m thinking about it,” Mackanin said. “I'm going to talk with him today, see where he's at, see how he feels. We'll see. He hasn't been pitching well. So it's got to be addressed somehow.”

Mackanin pointed out the fact that Gomez has still converted 37-of-42 save opportunities overall. From the manager’s standpoint, that was still a good enough success rate to be given a long leash.

But, then again, Gomez wasn’t the coaching staff or front office’s first, second, or third choice for the closer role this spring. The 28-year-old Gomez had ample major league experience in a bullpen, but never had the kind of strikeout stuff teams generally look for in their closers.

Entering Wednesday night’s game, Gomez’s 6.04 strikeout rate (K per nine innings) ranked 156 out of 166 big league relievers with at least 40 innings this season. Meanwhile, set-up man Hector Neris (11.39 strikeout rate) ranked 23rd among the same group of 166 pitchers.

“I don't want (Gomez) to finish the season on a sour note,” Mackanin said. “I'd like him to finish on a positive note. That's going to enter my decision on that. I don't want a guy to hit .300 and go 0-for-50 the last month of the season, the last two (or) three weeks of the season and end up hitting .270. For his own benefit.”

But the fact of the matter is that damage has already been done to Gomez’s numbers: his ERA has jumped a run and a half, from 2.52 to 4.03, following his last 16 appearances.

During that span, 29 of the 67 batters he’s faced have reached base. Opponents are hitting .377/.433/.525 against Gomez during that 5 1/2 week period.

Born to Stay? 

White Sox catcher Omar Narvaez has had a tough go trying to nab runners on stolen base attempts this season. He has caught just 2-of-23 runners.

But one of those two was Cesar Hernandez in the ninth inning of Tuesday night’s game at Citizens Bank Park. Hernandez is 17-for-30 in stolen base attempts this season.

Only one player in baseball has been caught stealing more often: former Phillies prospect and Milwaukee Brewers infielder Jonathan Villar. Villar has been caught 16 times to Hernandez’s 13.

Oh, but there’s one other thing: Villar (57 stolen bases) has also racked up 40 more steals than Hernandez in 2016.

“It's just a matter of not getting good jumps,” Mackanin said of Hernandez, who has had a permanent green light this season. “I am going to have to reconsider giving him the green light obviously in the future. That's a shame as fast as he is. Some guys are good at it and others aren't. Peter Bourjos has got plus speed and he has never been a real elite base-stealer. You'd think he would with his speed. But there's a knack to it. I'm going to have to pick pitches for him.

“I could have given Cesar more hold signs, but when I look at numbers and a pitcher is 1.4 (seconds) to the plate he should be able to steal that base. But if he gets a bad jump ... basically, what it boils down to is what we learned about Cesar is we can't give him the green light only in certain situations.”

As it stands now, with 11 games still remaining on the schedule, Hernandez is just one of eight Phillies players since 1901 to have fewer than 20 stolen bases while having been caught more than a dozen times.

Phillies (since 1901) with fewer than 20 SB and more 12 times caught stealing:

Otto Knabe (1913)  14 18 
 Dode Paskert (1913)  1217 
Dave Bancroft (1915) 15  27
 Beals Becker (1915)12 15 
Casey Stengel (1920) 713 
 Cy Williams (1921) 515 
Cy Williams (1922)  1114
Mickey Morandini (1997)   1613 
    Cesar Hernandez (2016)     17 13

*from's Play Index

Yes, the last Phillies player to do it: current first base coach and baserunning instructor Mickey Morandini. But Mackanin wasn’t lowering the blame on his coaching staff.

“No, unless I put a hold on, I leave it up to (third base coach Juan Samuel),” Mackanin said.

Hernandez was 19-for-24 in stolen base attempts in 2015, his first full season in the major leagues.

“It's disappointing because he's got speed,” Mackanin said. “You'd like to steal more bases, put pressure on the defense, get runners into scoring position, and that's one aspect of his game he's got to improve on. Mickey’s going to work with him again. And it's a little odd in previous years he was much better.”

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