Jeurys Familia had a brutal game Wednesday night in the 2016 Wild Card round. It was capped off when he left a sinker up against Conor Gillaspie, which Gillaspie deposited over the right field fence. He gave up an unusually large amount of hard contact, allowing three batted balls with 100+ mph exit velocities at angles that can do damage. It was unquestionably an ineffective performance by objective and subjective measures. But Familia was largely incredible in the 2015 postseason, and that should not be forgotten. Familia was one of the biggest reasons the Mets won the National League pennant last season, and without his 2015 postseason excellence, there is no 2015 National League championship flag hanging in right field at Citi Field.
First, his 2015 postseason numbers in total: Familia put together a ridiculous 0.63 ERA, 0.49 WHIP, and .301 OPS against in just under 15 postseason innings last year. Among all pitchers who threw more than six innings in the 2015 playoffs, Familia’s ERA, WHIP and OPS against were all the best.
Familia faced 51 batters, walked only two of them, and held opponents to a .102/.137/.163 line. He limited hard contact especially well, allowing only 3 of those 51 batters to register an exit velocity of 100+ mph with a positive launch angle, and only five to hit a line drive launch angle.
His 0.49 WHIP in the 2015 postseason is historically great. Baseball Reference’s single season postseason leaderboard uses 15 IP as the cutoff for qualifiers, and Familia just barely missed it with 14.2 IP. But for some perspective, Mariano Rivera’s 2003 WHIP of 0.44 in 16 IP is the best single postseason WHIP ever, and it is the only WHIP on the leaderboard that is lower than Familia’s 0.49 2015 postseason WHIP.
In the NLDS against the Dodgers, Familia faced 16 batters and retired all 16 of them. In Game 1, he locked down a four-out save to close out a 3-1 win over Clayton Kershaw and preserve the most dominant start of Jacob deGrom’s career.
And in the highest-leverage moment to that point the Mets had in nearly a decade, Familia entered to start the 8th inning with a 3-2 lead in Game 5 of a winner take all scenario. He shut down the Dodgers in both innings, facing six batters, striking out two and allowing nobody to reach base. It was one of the most pressure packed and important moments a reliever could possibly face all season.
In the NLCS, Familia allowed no runs, held Cubs hitters to a .133/.235/.133 line, and retired 13 of the 17 batters he faced. He recorded a save in each of the first three games of the series, including a four out save in Game 1, and finished the Cubs off in Game 4 in a non save situation to clinch the fifth NL title in Mets history.
In the World Series, Familia pitched to a 1.80 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, and .500 OPS against. He held Royals batters to a .167/.167/.333 line and did not walk anyone. He is unfairly remembered for “blowing three saves” in the World Series, but in reality, Familia blew one save. Familia didn’t finish a quick pitch to Alex Gordon in Game 1 and left the pitch flat and up in the zone, which Gordon crushed over the fence. That was the only outing Familia allowed an earned run in during the entire 2015 postseason, spanning 12 appearances. The other two “blown saves” occurred largely because Familia was put into incredibly difficult situations with runners already in scoring position and was then let down by defenders making errors on weak ground balls.
2016 is a different story. Familia was unquestionably awful in the Wild Card game. But even with the Wild Card blow up, Familia still has a career postseason ERA of 2.30 and WHIP of 0.66, which is a testament to how great he was in 2015.
Both his career postseason ERA (2.30) and WHIP (0.66) are lower than his career regular season ERA (2.46) and WHIP (1.18). Familia has been better in the playoffs than he has been in the regular season. If anything, Familia has risen to the occasion in the playoffs, not shrunk in the moment.
As for why he was so poor Wednesday night, Familia has been among the most used relievers in baseball over the last three seasons, which could be taking its toll. Only Dellin Betances (247.0 IP) has thrown more innings than Familia (233.0 IP) in the last three seasons. Ken Rosenthal reported in August that Terry Collins’s heavy usage of Familia would almost certainly be cited as a factor if Collins ended up losing his job at the end of the year, indicating some unhappiness in the front office with how Familia is being overly taxed.
Selectively remembering only the three World Series “blown saves”—in a series that he was mostly excellent in—and discarding the fact that he was flawless in both the NLDS and NLCS paints an unfair picture of Familia’s 2015 postseason performance. There is no 2015 National League Pennant hanging in right field at Citi Field without Jeurys Familia’s 2015 postseason excellence, and he should not be labeled as someone who has struggled in the playoffs.