Reason to Feel Optimistic about Neftali Feliz


 There are a litany of issues hindering the Rangers these days, but one we will look at specifically today is the closer, Neftali Feliz

The Texas Rangers have plenty of things to worry about these days, as they stumble to one of their worst starts in recent seasons, and firm control of last place in the AL West. Record notwithstanding, the Rangers are honestly playing much worse than even their lowly record indicates.

Possible redemption story, Neftali Feliz, is back closing for the Rangers this season. The once-dominant pitcher has endured his fall-from-grace and pulled himself back up, to reclaim his spot in the ninth inning. Everyone is rooting for the once-electric dynamo to bounce back and secure his role for the forseeable future, but is it wise to trust him again?

"“I don’t know if he’s himself. When Feliz came up in 2009, we were relievers together, and he was throwing 100 mph every game,” said former Rangers’ pitcher CJ Wilson on FM 105.3. “He had the best fastball I’d ever seen in my life. I don’t know what he throws now… but things change.”"

CJ Wilson is hardly alone in his analysis. Many of us have questioned Neftali Feliz’s effectiveness in a closer role. Whether you’re questioning his velocity, his secondary pitches, or his mental fortitude, you probably have a solid argument for which to base your doubts.

Coming off a blown save, where Neftali Feliz was asked to pitch the final two stanzas, it’s easy to fall prey to the standard knee jerk reaction. Make no mistake, there were plenty of those yesterday, but that blame was spread all over the place for multiple players to own.

Feliz has been a question mark before spring training even began. Without options, Feliz was named the closer in the offseason, causing many to get that all-too-familiar uneasy feeling. Since spring training and the regular season began, Feliz has done a solid job as the closer. But nervousness in Rangers Nations still simmers.

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Neftali isn’t the man that CJ Wilson remembered once throwing 100 mph. He just doesn’t have that kind of velocity or Teflon anymore. This season he’s been typically peaking out at low-to-mid 90’s, and without a dominant off-speed pitch in his arsenal, he gives up much more contact than many of us would like to see.

Ideally, a closer pitches for strikeouts. The ideal man has a fast fastball with a strong delta in between it and his off-speed counterpart.  Can that ever be Neftali Feliz? In spring training I’d tell you no way. I’d say Neftali will never be the dominant pitcher we once hoped he’d be. He lost his speed and that was his best asset. His ability in the clutch is questionable, his arsenal was limited, and now his speed is gone.

But maybe I was a bit too hasty in my analysis.

Searching for bright spots, in what appears to be a dismal season, Neftali Feliz does give us some reason for optimism. His secondary pitches are improving, but most importantly his fastball is getting faster. On Sunday night Feliz was consistently delivering a 95 mph fastball, even maxing out at 97 mph once (the best we’ve seen from him this season). The result (and control) may not have been optimal, but steps were made.

This season we will see many situations like this: The results won’t tell the whole story. This will hold true for the team, as well as individual players. Young teams are like that.

Neftali Feliz may not have been great on Sunday, but a big part of reclaiming his former greatness was flashing before our very eyes. With the speed, will come success. If we add a little maturity and accuracy to that cocktail, we may have ourselves a closer again.

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