By Jason Shetler
It was several years ago that the Texas Rangers were a World Series contender. One of their main pieces was closer Neftali Feliz. The former AL Rookie of the Year winner made history in 2010 by becoming the first ever rookie closer to record 40 saves in a season. When the Rangers brought in Joe Nathan prior to 2012, Feliz was moved to the rotation. That decision ended up being costly, as Feliz underwent Tommy John surgery that year, and also missed most of 2013. The Rangers sent Feliz back to the bullpen in 2014. After seven seasons in Arlington, he was dealt to the Detroit Tigers in mid-July of last year. Here are the stats for Feliz the last two seasons, as well as his projection for 2016.
2014 (Rangers): 1.99 ERA, 202 ERA+, 4.90 FIP, 0.98 WHIP, 3.1 BB/9, 6.0 K/9 in 30 appearances
2015 (Rangers/Tigers): 6.38 ERA, 64 ERA+, 4.05 FIP, 1.56 WHIP, 3.4 BB/9, 7.3 K/9 in 48 appearances
2016 (FanGraphs): 3.75 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 2.8 BB/9, 7.6 K/9 in 44 appearances
The past couple years for Feliz have been very interesting. While the ERA from 2014 looks stellar, his Fielding Independent Pitching should have been much worse due to having a BABIP of .176. Last season was the opposite, as his FIP should have been significantly lower than the ERA since he posted a .349 BABIP, indicating some poor luck with balls in play. FanGraphs see Feliz’s numbers balancing out this year for a decent season.
My analysis: It wasn’t long ago that Neftali Feliz was one of the better relievers in the American League. While the ERA was high for him in 2015, he was more decent going by FIP. There were a few positive signs for Feliz last season. His fastball velocity of 94.6 mph showed an increase over the 93.6 mark he had in 2014. He also posted a higher strikeout rate, and his O-Contact rate was about 10% better compared to the year before. Barring injury, Feliz should have a better season in 2016.