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2016 Mets season preview: Jeurys Familia

The Mets breakout elite closer should continue his dominance at the back end of the Mets bullpen.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

If there's any silver lining to the unfortunate tale of Jenrry Mejia, it's Jeurys Familia. Once his best friend and bullpen mate was suspended in early April last year, Familia seized the closer's job and never looked back. Familia went on to throw 78 innings out of the Mets' bullpen, strike out nearly ten batters per nine innings, post a 1.85 ERA, and tie Armando Benitez's club record of 43 saves. He added another 14.2 innings and five saves in the postseason, allowing only one earned run: Alex Gordon's home run in Game 1 of the World Series.

Having already emerged as a strong setup man in 2014, Familia took another step forward in the first half of 2015. He increased his strikeouts slightly and cut his walks by more than a batter per nine innings while maintaining a strong ground ball rate. Then in August, Familia decided to start throwing a 95 MPH splitter that vaulted him into the ranks of elite closers, posting a ridiculous 11.16 K/9 and 1.56 BB/9 in the second half while increasing his ground ball rate over 60%. Familia's splitter is truly unique and borderline unfair—it's the fastest secondary pitch in baseball by nearly three full miles per hour—and gives him three pitches with mid to high 90's velocity that all break differently.

Jeurys Familia G IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 ERA WAR
PECOTA -- 60 9.45 3.00 0.90 2.98 0.8
Steamer 65 65 9.91 3.09 0.63 2.98 0.9
ZiPS 76 77 9.70 2.22 0.82 2.69 1.1

Familia's monsterous pitch mix unsurprisingly induces a ton of whiffs; his 15.9% swinging strike rate ranked tenth in baseball among relievers. While his hard and soft contact numbers aren't quite as elite, both are well above average, giving Familia the ability to get guys out even when they swing early and aggressively as we saw throughout much of the postseason, with only five strikeouts. Coupled with the improved control Familia demonstrated in 2015—small sample size caveats apply—Familia presents a nightmarish profile to batters late in games.

His trademark "Danza Kuduro" entry music will be replaced by a custom song in the upcoming season, which may disappoint some fans. Familia's performance almost certainly won't, however, as there are no major warning signs of regression that indicate he can't be just as lights out as he was throughout 2015. Though the bridge to Familia may be a bit rickety at times, the Mets can count on having one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball locking down games in 2016.