JEURYS FAMILIA, RHP
Player Data: Age: 27, Bats: Right, Throws: Right, Arbitration Eligible
2016 Primary Stats: 3-4. 51 Saves, 2.55 ERA, 1.210 WHIP, 9.7 K/9, 77.2 IP.
2016 Player Review:
Closers in baseball have a plight similar to that of kickers in football. You expect them to get the job done every time and are relieved when they do, but they really only become the story when they screw up. Jeurys Familia was terrific in 2016, leading the MLB in saves and games finished. When he blew his first save, it was shocking. When he blew a save in the next game as well, panic began to set in. People don’t realize that most teams would kill to have a closer who fails as infrequently as Familia.
Familia will, again, be unfairly judged by his postseason failures. In 2015, he was the scapegoat of the postseason despite an 0.63 ERA (the blown save in Game 1 was fully on him, but that’s it). After the Wild Card game, his postseason ERA skyrocketed to 2.30. Others have done worse. But Familia doesn’t have the pedigree to make these mistakes something people are willing to look past. Nobody cares that Mariano Rivera blew a series-clinching save in two series the Yankees would go on to lose (2001 World Series, 2004 ALCS).
But while I am a huge fan of Familia and will not make the mistake of throwing out two terrific seasons because of a disappointing but much smaller sample, I can’t say I was shocked by what happened in October. Not because I don’t think he has the “clutch gene,” but because I always felt hitters could fare better than they had been doing. It’s as simple as this: He needs to throw strikes. He’s amazing at getting hitters to chase, but it’s astounding how far hitters can get by just refusing to swing. He needs to be able to throw a good pitch for a strike when needed, and that perfect consistency isn’t there yet. After his control betrayed him in the Wild Card game, he finally took off the movement, aimed for the middle and grooved one to Conor Gillaspie. And that was it for our season.
So while I think he is a terrific closer, there is room for improvement. Which is scary, because an imperfect Familia has already done incredible things.
Familia is currently facing domestic violence charges, and it is impossible to predict how this will turn out without further detail. He could be facing a lengthy suspension, a middling suspension around 30-60 games, or none at all. When he is back on the mound, he will be a great pitcher, but will need to make some adjustments after the Giants finally became the team smart enough to try the not-that-complicated strategy of being patient against him. In the meantime, the Mets need to shore up their bullpen so that it can stay afloat if Familia is absent and then bridge the gap to him when he is available.