Jeurys Familia took on the role of closer for the Mets early on in the season when Jenrry Mejia went down with an elbow injury and then was suspended for 80 games for PED use. Mejia being injured and subsequently suspended has turned out to be a real blessing in disguise for the Mets because Familia has stepped right in to exceed most likely anyone’s expectations. With another perfect inning with 2 strikeouts on Monday to close out the Phillies, Familia now owns a 1.60 ERA, 0.70 WHIP, and 26 K/4 BB in 21.1 IP while converting 14 of 15 save opportunities. But just who is Jeurys Familia? Let’s take this time to “Familia”-rize ourselves with the 25-year old hard-throwing righty.
Familia has been in the Mets organization since 2008 and through the 2012 season he was brought up as a starting pitcher, but he posted modest numbers in that role (3.85 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 8.62 K/9, 3.95 BB/9). Familia received his first taste of the Majors as a September call up in the 2012 season, but he was very ineffective in 8 relief appearances and one spot start.
Familia was able to break camp on the opening day roster as a reliever for the Mets in 2013, but once again he failed to impress because of extremely poor control, something that he also struggled with as a starting pitcher in the Minors. And also in 2013, he underwent elbow surgery to remove bone spurs and that sidelined him for 4 months before he worked his way back to make one final appearance before the season ended.
For the 2014 season, Familia once again found himself working in the Mets bullpen as that apparently was where they saw him best suited long term. Familia went on to post some quality numbers with a 2.21 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 8.50 K/9, and 3.75 BB/9 in 77.1 IP while also chipping in 5 saves filling in at closer when needed. His SIERA at 3.21 was a full run higher than his ERA, but the improvements that he showed all across the board were encouraging.
So that brings us to 2015, where despite a relatively spotty track record, Familia has by no means “lucked” his way into the brilliant performance he has given. His walk rate of 1.72 BB/9 is considerably lower than any rate he has posted in the past, but he is achieving that by getting ahead in the count a lot more often than he has in the past. From 2012-14, Familia’s first pitch strike percentages were 42.3%, 51.9%, and 52.8%, but this year he is all the way up to 58.2% and obviously it is a lot easier to prevent free passes if a pitcher is getting ahead in the count early and often.
And how about that strikeout rate of 10.97 K/9? That is also a much higher number than he’s accustomed to, but the improvement is for real. Familia uses a four-seam fastball, a sinking fastball, and a slider. It is his slider that has really taken his game to the next level this year as he is getting a little bit different movement and greater velocity on the pitch this year. In the past it has been a pitch that averaged 86.1 MPH and has fallen out of the strike zone a lot, often times not getting close to the zone which made it easier for hitters to lay off of it. But this year, he is averaging 88.6 MPH on the pitch and it’s staying higher with a little less horizontal movement, and he is able to effectively throw it in or much closer to the zone to get hitters to swing and miss on it. With a 31.0% swinging strike rate on his slider this year (compared to 26.4% last year), Familia’s slider has become one of the better ones in the game. Overall, Familia has an 18.2% swinging strike rate on all his pitches, which is 5th highest among qualified relievers.
His .191 BABIP is a low mark and he will likely see some regression there, but his overall performance is right in line with what the metric systems suggest it would be, as his 1.71 SIERA is not far off from his 1.60 ERA. So if you were worried about Familia not being able to keep up his amazing performance, this all should ease your worries a bit.
Now let’s take a look at the rest of Memorial Day’s action!