(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty)
Big games are what everyone remembers. They are what every team in sports strive to get to so if you don’t perform in those games, that’s all people remember. That is unfortunately the case with now former Mets closer Jeurys Familia. The Mets traded the 2016 all-star this past weekend to the Oakland A’s for 2 prospects and 1 million in international slot money. The return left a lot to be desired with one of the prospects being a 2017 4th round pick 3rd baseman William Toffey out of Vanderbilt who was ranked 17th in the A’s system by MLB.com and the other being relief pitcher Bobby Wahl. Toffey is struggling in Double-A this season hitting .244 with a .741 OPS in 48 games. Wahl had a cup of coffee in the MLB in 2017 and is dominating Triple-A this year with 65 strikeouts in 39.2 inning with a 2.27 ERA. He throws in the upper 90’s with a good slider so he will be able to help the bullpen. The 3rd part of the trade also has significance as the international slot money gives Omar Minaya and the Mets the freedom to “find another Familia” as assistant GM John Ricco put it. While the underwhelming return is an issue, I think the way Familia is viewed by fans is more of an issue.
After 2 short stints with the team in 2012 and 2013, Familia made the team out of camp in 2014 and after a rocky start and a mid may bullpen shake up that shifted Jenrry Mejia from the rotation to the closer role, Familia became his setup man. The combination of those two with Vic Black was one of the best back ends of a bullpen in the league that year and was a big reason the team won the 79 games that they did (it could’ve been worse is what I’m saying). After an opening day injury and the first of the three suspensions that would get Mejia banned for life until his recent reinstatement, Familia moved to the closer role and flourished. Since 2015 213 relievers have pitched 100 innings in relief, of those Familia ranks 4th in saves with 117 (that’s with a full season essentially missed in 2017), 12th in Save percentage at 88.6 and 10th in ERA with a 2.54. Those are elite closer numbers. The only people with better numbers in all three categories over that span are Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Craig Kimbrel. They are the best of the best and while he isn’t on their level, it shows his sustained excellence over the past 3 and a half years. When you add in Familia’s ability to keep the ball in the ballpark, he’s only given up 9 regular season home runs in this span, Chapman is his only superior. Now for the bad, and the reason a good portion of fans don’t think he is reliable, his playoff performances and how its “never easy”.
Familia’s biggest flaw is his propensity to allow baserunners there is no doubt about that, he ranks 49th in WHIP of that earlier group, but I would argue he hasn’t gotten much help. He has a lower walk percentage than Chapman and Kimbrel but has allowed the most baserunners of the guys I mentioned earlier. The reason for this is sinker ball pitchers allow more hits than strike out pitchers, naturally because the ball is in play, and the Mets defense has been terrible over the last three years. To combat the hits Familia induced 21 double plays, more than Jansen, Chapman and Kimbrel combined. As for the defense the Mets have a -159 DRS (defensive run saved) according to fangraphs over the past 3 years. That’s second to last in baseball, only saved from last by the brilliance of Juan Lagares, so he hasn’t gotten much help (no Met pitcher has). Games 4 and 5 of the world series are perfect examples of this. I mentioned earlier regular season home runs and I phrased it like that for an obvious reason. In 223 innings 9 home runs comes out about to a home run every 25 innings, in the playoffs those numbers are 2 home runs in 15.2 innings which is about one every 7. It may sound like I’m proving most fans right but the “fades in a big spot” stigma just isn’t true. He gave up a homer to a nobody in the wild card game in which Madison Bumgarner would’ve thrown 15 shutout innings if the game kept going, and he gave up a homer in game one of the World Series because a coach alerted Alex Gordon to a possible quick pitch and he was ready. Both were big moments in which he didn’t come through, but the 9.1 shutout innings he threw in the NLDS, where he didn’t allow a hit and closed out the clincher with a 6 out save, and NLCS got them to the World Series. He also posted stellar numbers down the stretch (July 31st on) in 2015 going 16 for 16 in saves opportunities with a 1.23 era and 37 strikeouts in 29.1 innings and 2016 going 15 for 18 in save opportunities, 2 of them ended in wins, a 1.55 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 29 innings.
His numbers compare favorably to any right handed closer in team history, only bested overall by Mets hall of famer John Franco. I feel like the hate has faded as it usually does when a player gets traded and the fans find something else to complain about *cough* ownership *cough* but I still felt the need to defend the man who gave so much to the organization. I didn’t even mention he has the 3rd longest save streak in the history of baseball with 52 in a row, well I didn’t mention it till now. I hope he’s an option to bring back this offseason and I really hope the A’s continue their hot play and he get a chance to prove himself in a playoff run.