Pat Neshek, relief pitcher
How good is he, really? Has he been underutilized during his career? Could he have been successful in a more important role?
Pat Neshek was one of baseball’s first internet celebrities, an autograph collector who established a website to facilitate his trading of autographs and memorabilia. As far as his pitching career goes, Neshek moved through the Twins’ organization as a closer, was promoted to the majors in 2006, and pitched effectively as a middle reliever for a season and a half. He then had to undergo Tommy John surgery in 2008 and spent the next three seasons recovering his effectiveness. He spent the first half of 2012 as the Tides’ closer; was sold to Oakland in August, and pitched effectively out of the A’s bullpen.
Neshek is a sidearmer who doesn’t have a great fastball, yet he’s pitched very effectively when healthy. Thirty years ago, there were two outstanding closers who fit that profile — Dan Quisenberry and Kent Tekulve. It took both of them a long time to claim the closer role. Tekulve was an effective closer for a decade; Quisenberry was even more successful but for a shorter time. Despite their success, it was thought that right-handed sidearmers like Tekulve and Quisenberry were vulnerable to left-handed batters and few pitchers like Neshek are even considered for the closer role.
Neshek probably could have been a successful closer, but it’s not a sure thing. Because he suffered a serious arm injury, it’s probable that he would have suffered the same injury had he been pitching in a higher-leverage role. It’s not certain whether he would have had any more positive impact had he pitched in a more important bullpen role.