The Pittsburgh Pirates received a lot of productive innings from Neftali Feliz early this season. However over last month or he was really struggling. A few weeks ago it was announced that he would be missing time with an injury.
The Pittsburgh Pirates had a lock down back-end of the bullpen much of the first half of the season. Mark Melancon was closing, Tony Watson was setting up, and Neftali Feliz was filling in nicely as the seventh inning guy. However, in the month of September Feliz saw just a third of an inning as he gave up two earned runs in the outing. Even before that Feliz started to show some signs of struggle. If you look at his numbers: pre-Allstar game he had an earned run average of 2.88; Post Allstar Game he had an earned run average of 4.66. After the one outing he had in September it was announced that he was having some arm issues. However, it was quickly reported that it was not a major issue of the elbow or shoulder.
With that being said, many have been wondering if he would pitch in anymore games. Well we got the answer. Clint Hurdle told Bill Bring of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette the following:
"“I don’t anticipate him getting back on the mound,” Hurdle said."
With that this could be the end of Feliz’s career as a Pittsburgh Pirate. Feliz signed a one year deal worth 3.9 million dollars on January 6th. Many viewed it as the classic Neal Huntington move, by low on a former all-star and turn them around. It appeared to have worked. Even with Feliz’s injury issue and a tough second half, Feliz pitched much more respectable this season than last. In fact, many thought the Pittsburgh Pirates overpaid Feliz this off-season. Last year Feliz was designated for assignment by the Texas Rangers, and later posted an earned run average over seven with the Tigers in 30 games.
However, Neftali Feliz was much more respectable this year. He will finish the season with an earned run average of 3.52 in 53.2 innings pitched. The former closer also posted a strong strikeout to walk ratio of 10.2 strikeouts to 3.5 walks per nine innings pitched. He did have some alarming numbers however. The Pittsburgh Pirates like pitchers who get ground ball outs, early on Feliz was doing this, but in the second half of the season not so much. His ground-ball rate for the season will finish at 37.9%. Now that does go along with his career standard as in eight years of pitching he has a 36% ground ball rate.
However, what really started to show in the second half was the amount of hard contact he was giving up. This season 37 percent of the ball have been considered hard contact. Once again this has lead him to have struggles in the second half, hard contact equals more hits, which equals more runs.
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Even if Neftali Feliz had a tough second half, it would be worth bringing him back. The Pittsburgh Pirates currently have a very lefty heavy bullpen. There is also some speculation that the Bucs could look to move Tony Watson this off-season as he enters his last arbitration season. With his second half struggles, some true red flags in terms of health and stats, the market for him may still be relatively cheap. The Pirates also could look to use him as a closer, as there is no clear cut option right now, Feliz is a former all-star closer so he would have experience in doing so. For the right price and if other moves happen, the Pittsburgh Pirates should look to bring back Feliz this off-season.
Finally, all numbers are courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Reference
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