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Jeurys Familia looks to maintain elite status in 2017 after his supension

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Familia has been a great reliever for the Mets, but he’ll be unavailable for 15 games to start the season.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at New York Mets Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Early in the offseason, Jeurys Familia was alleged to have committed an act of domestic violence in late October of 2016, and while the legal case against him was dropped, he was suspended 15 games by Major League Baseball under its domestic violence policy.

When Familia makes his return to the field, the Mets will be expecting back one of the most dominant closers in the big leagues. His on-field struggles in the postseason aside, Familia has been spectacular on the mound for the Mets over the last several seasons, racking up 3.9 fWAR between 2015 and 2016—good for 6th in the league among qualified relievers during that stretch. Any way you slice it, Familia has blossomed into an unquestionably-elite closer, putting up 51 saves in 2016 to set a Mets single-season club record.

The Mets will be hoping to get more of the same from Familia in 2017, although it’s worth noting that there are certain things in his pitching profile that bear watching. First, while Familia delivered a very strong season last year, Mets fans had to sweat out a lot more late-inning situations with men on base while he was on the mound than in the past. His WHIP jumped from 1.00 in 2015 to 1.21 in 2016. The main drivers of that increase were a big spike in walk rate, from 6.2% to 9.7%, and a jump in Familia’s BABIP allowed, from .272 to .305.

That massive increase in walk rate is the biggest issue, though. While the BABIP was a key contributor to Familia’s elevated WHIP, it’s worth noting that league-wide BABIP usually hovers at .300, and teams with mediocre defense, like the Mets, can be expected to allow BABIP figures on the higher end of the spectrum. Don’t be shocked if we see a repeat of Familia’s 2016 BABIP figure.

While all the traffic on the basepaths last season caused was stressful for Mets fans, Familia limited the damage because he let up one measly home run during the entire regular season. Had there been a few more home runs with runners on base, we’d probably be having an entirely different conversation about Familia’s 2016 season, as reliever ERAs can balloon quickly.

Familia’s sinker, which last year helped him to generate an unreal 63.3% ground ball rate, means he’s always going to be adept at depressing home run totals. That said, his 2.6% HR/FB rate from 2016 was just absolutely ridiculous, and it is a near-certainty to regress towards his career rate, which currently stands at 7.5%. Familia can have a great season for the Mets even if everything stays the same except for an increase in home runs allowed, but he can’t be as dominant as he has been if he maintains last year’s elevated walk rate while experiencing a predictable increase in home runs allowed.

Either way, the Mets are going to have a very good reliever on their hands. If Familia can rediscover his command from 2015, though, then he will be able to contribute another elite season on the strength of his strong strikeout rates and propensity to generate ground balls and weak contact. The Mets will certainly be hopeful that a reduced workload for Familia will have a positive impact on his ability to throw strikes and have him primed and fresh to perform deep into October as part of a potential postseason run.