Even by standards of putting on blinders and only rooting for laundry, Jeurys Familia had a disappointing 2017 season. When you factor in an offseason domestic violence incident, it made it hard to want to do anything but boo upon hearing the otherwise awesome strains of Danza Kuduro.
Familia and his entrance music had a late 2017 debut thanks to a surprisingly brief 15 game suspension for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy. He made that debut on April 20, and was worked in slowly with four appearances in low-leverage situations. He formally resumed his closer role on April 28, nearly blowing his first opportunity before being bailed out by Josh Edgin.
Terry Collins wasted no time thereafter in looking to Familia as a workhorse, pitching him four times in five days in late April, then calling on him three straight days at home against the Giants in early May. That third game—in which the Giants rallied for four runs in the ninth—would mark Familia’s final appearance until late August. Apparently experiencing some pain and numbness in his right arm even before the game, Familia was diagnosed in short order with an arterial clot in his right shoulder. This required immediate surgery to be removed, seemingly putting the rest of his season in jeopardy.
While Addison Reed filled in admirably as closer for much of the season, the lack of depth in the 2017 bullpen was badly exposed in Familia’s absence. While it was initially feared that Familia might miss the rest of the season after the surgery, he was able to return on August 26. He made 15 appearances through the end of the season—again mostly being eased back in again in low-leverage situations before resuming his closer role over the final week-and-a-half of the season, recording three saves.
It’s hard to draw too many conclusions about Familia’s season over 24.2 innings pitched in 2017—again, most of them in situations which were treated largely as extended spring training/injury rehab. Still, there were some troubling statistical signs in Familia’s small sample season—the primary one among them the 5.47 BB/9 rate he recorded. Also of note is that he allowed a 20.6% line drive rate, and surrendered a 30.0% hard contact rate—both career highs. The extreme sinkerballer did maintain a customarily impressive GB/FB rate (3.15) and a solid HR/FB% (7.7 %).
Familia will be penciled in as the Mets’ closer in 2018, with AJ Ramos serving as a wilder, more slider-centric Addison Reed. The Mets will be hoping that with a quiet and healthy offseason, Familia will be able to regain his 2015-16 form during which he recorded 94 saves and put up 1.6 and 2.2 fWAR, respectively. Given the fits and starts of his season, it is tempting to give Familia a mulligan for his in-season performance—but not for his offseason issues. In 2016, after their acquisition of Aroldis Chapman, several Cubs fans notably donated to domestic violence charities for every Chapman save. Familia’s fitful, injury-plagued season would have made such a corresponding gesture rather ineffectual. But a healthy Familia could once again regain his form and approach 40+ saves in 2018. And it’s never too late to donate to a good cause.