A Jeurys Familia turnaround would be sweet

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.

4 comments for “A Jeurys Familia turnaround would be sweet

  1. MattyMets
    December 19, 2017 at 2:30 pm

    More than any other pitcher on the Mets, I’m really excited to see how Familia can improve under the guidance of Eiland and Callaway. I think he’s gotten a little carried away with his out pitch – that nasty, but hard-to-control sinker/splitter/cutter and needs to use his high 90s four seamer a bit more to set it up. Older Met fans may recall Ron Darling going through a phase where he started throwing his splitter too much and his walks went up and he struggled before reintroducing his fastball again. I see Familia having a nice bounce back year.

    His injury really derailed the bullpen last year as it trickled down. Our setup man became our closer, our middle relievers became ineffective setup men and guys who didn’t belong on the roster became middle relievers (who of course were needed too much due to the number of injured starters). In some ways the Familia injury may have been the most damaging one to the team. Last year was evidence that just having an “8th inning guy who can close” is not full proof insurance for a serious closer injury. The pen has to be deep beyond that.

    • John Fox
      December 19, 2017 at 4:10 pm

      Good point Matty about using that high hard one more. It seems like with the new launch angle approach many hitters are taking its more difficult for them to catch up to the fastball at the top of the zone,

  2. December 19, 2017 at 2:33 pm

    I’m not sure what the hierarchy is but the Mets need healthy/full seasons from Cespedes, Conforto, deGrom, Familia, Rosario and Syndergaard for this “rebuilding for it” thing to work.

  3. Pete In Iowa
    December 19, 2017 at 3:13 pm

    I think Familia has a longer way to go than most realize. While he put up an impressive 51 saves in 2016, he struggled with his command most of the year. Many, many tightropes were walked that season as his walks ballooned and it all came crashing down in the WC game vs. the Giants with a double, walk and home run in a four batter span. He was much, much better in 2015.
    While I have never blamed him for the lack of defense which cost him “blown saves” in games four and five, the homer he gave up to Gordon in game one was what cost the World Series.

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