In 2017 the bullpen proved to be a source of woe to the Mets, and as a result, the team has been loading up on relievers since the 2017 mid season. But perhaps the key to bullpen resurgence in 2018 may well be a pitcher who has been on the roster for years, namely hard-throwing right-hander Jeurys Familia.
Familia was the team’s closer for the 2015 and 2016 seasons, and he contributed mightily to getting the team into the postseason both years. However, last year Familia was hit with a triple whammy, enduring a suspension for apparent domestic violence, then shoulder surgery, and when he was finally pitching, he wasn’t very good.
The domestic violence suspension cost him about a month of playing time, his first appearance was on April 30. Then on May 11 he suffered the shoulder injury and had surgery the next day to remove an arterial blood clot in his right shoulder. After months of recovery and minor league rehab pitching assignments, Familia returned to the big club on August 25, with less than stellar results.
Looking at Familia’s stats, (courtesy of FanGraphs), he pitched in 26 games with 24.2 IP and an ERA of 4.38 in 2017. He did strike out batters at a rate of 9.12 per nine innings which is very close to his lifetime average of 9.17. His walk rate, however, ballooned. He was giving out free passes at the rate of 5.47 per nine innings, well above his career stat of 3.69.
As to his pitching velocity, it decreased a bit in 2017. His fastball velocity was 96.8, still quite good but below his lifetime mark of 97.3 He also showed a decrease in velocity for his splitter, averaging 92.6 for 2017, as opposed to his lifetime stat of 93.5.
So, what can we expect from Familia going forward? If his high walk rate was due to rust/distractions from suspension etc., then he might be able to lower that walk rate significantly now that those problems are in the past. We all know that bases on balls are the batter’s friend, so Familia needs to do better than that. If the high BB rate was due to his shoulder issue, that could be a worry.
Hopefully he will benefit from having the off season to rest up. There should be plenty of incentive for him in 2018 with his free agency looming. Familia is only 28 years old, an age when pitchers are often in their prime.
There have been reports that the new Mets manager, Mickey Callaway, may choose to deploy his relief corps more like his old team, the Indians did. That could mean Familia might be used in high leverage situations before the ninth inning with another reliever closing out the game on occasion.
At any rate, if off season rest helps Familia’s shoulder, and the new pitching brain trust can successfully tweak Familia’s mechanics, he will be a dangerous weapon out of the bullpen, helping turn the relief corps into a team strong point rather than the weakness it was in 2017.