With the Mets signing of Jeurys Familia becoming official yesterday, there have been plenty of takes to go around regarding his abilities. Some of the words you might’ve heard to describe him this past day or so include “choker,” “overrated,” “not clutch,” and “can’t pitch in the playoffs.” I am here to tell you that all of that is completely wrong and, when it comes to pitching, Jeurys Familia shouldn’t be known as anything less than good.
The obvious place to start is the 2015 playoffs, which is where this stigma surrounding him originated. Usually when Familia and the playoffs get brought up, people’s mind immediately go to him being a complete mess and blowing 75% of the Mets losses in the World Series. While technically this may be true, that doesn’t really tell the whole story. Before you go to the World Series, it makes sense to look at how the Mets got to that point and what Familia did along the way.
In the 2015 NLDS against the NL West Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, Familia made four appearances in the five games they played. Against the second best offense in the National League by OPS, Familia faced 16 batters and retired every single one of them. In the pivotal game five, without any wiggle room, Familia protected the Mets’ one-run lead for two full innings to close the game and secure the series. Pretty good for a guy who can’t pitch in the postseason.
Against the Chicago Cubs in the 2015 NLCS, it was more of the same for Familia. He wasn’t quite perfect this time, but he made an appearance in each of the four games of the series and didn’t allow a single runner to get past second base over his 4.1 innings of work.
So, on the Mets’ march to the World Series, Familia pitched 9.2 innings over eight games while allowing only two hits, two walks, and no runs. Without Familia coming out of the bullpen for the Mets, there isn’t even a World Series for him to blow saves in. Five perfect innings in the Division Series isn’t just something that any closer can stumble into. You’d think a guy who can’t handle pressure would do much worse than that, but what do I know?
Now, it’s time to get into the World Series that he horribly ravaged beyond repair. I’ll give you game one, where he allowed a crucial home run to Alex Gordon to tie the game in the ninth, but it’s worth noting that the game went another five innings where the Mets were only able to scrounge together one hit and one walk. Not that Familia didn’t blow the save, but the game one loss isn’t exactly all on him.
Familia’s next meaningful appearance came in game four with the Mets leading the Royals 3-2 with one out in the eighth inning. With a man on first and second, Familia did what a good reliever should do and got Eric Hosmer to tap a ball to Daniel Murphy at second who turned a double play and ended the inning. Except, that’s not what happened. Yes, Familia did get Hosmer to dribble a ball to Murphy at second to set up the inning-ending double play, but the ball didn’t end up in Murphy’s glove, it ended up rolling out onto the grass behind second base while Ben Zobrist trotted home to tie the game. Familia allowed two more singles and an unearned run came home before he got the double play that should’ve been his three batters ago.
Familia’s last outing of the series game in the fifth and final game. Relieving Matt Harvey in the ninth inning, Familia was tasked with getting three outs before the man on second could come home. After getting Mike Moustakas to ground out while Hosmer moved over to third, he got Salvador Perez to send on a ball on the ground over to David Wright who flung in over to Lucas Duda at first base. What came next is what defined that fifth game of the series and was completely out of the hands of Jeurys Familia. After Wright threw the ball to first, Hosmer began a mad dash to home plate and scored while Lucas Duda’s throw sailed past d’Arnaud at the dish. Not to say that Duda, Wright or d’Arnaud should be vilified for sabotaging the World Series, but it certainly wasn’t Familia’s fault that the ball ended up at the backstop as the tying run crossed the plate. Just like game four, Familia did what he needed to do to get out of the jam he found himself in, but the defense failed him.
Familia found himself to blame for another postseason loss in the 2016 Wild Card Game, but that loss was the first in his postseason career that could actually be attributed to him. Again, just like the 2015 incidents, the Mets aren’t in the Wild Card game if Familia isn’t their closer. It isn’t the be all end all statistic, but the guy did save 51 games in the regular season. Over 78 appearances and 77 innings, Familia had a higher K/9 than All Star Mark Melancon, who went over to the Nationals at the trading deadline. He had an almost-identical BB/9 to Indians’ closer Cody Allen who played a big part in their march to the 2016 American League Pennant. Familia’s HR/9 was lower than Zach Britton and that guy had an ERA of .54 while receiving first-place votes for the Cy Young Award. As far as being a habitual save blower is concerned, Familia didn’t blow a save for almost a full calendar year as he converted 52 straight save opportunities between July of 2015 and July of 2016.
Jeurys Familia isn’t close to the save blowing boogeyman that people online would have you believe he is. He may have had some high-profile blown saves in the past, but most of them weren’t even his fault. While Jeurys Familia has his flaws, he is still a good reliever and Mets fans should be happy to have him back and paired with Edwin Diaz in the bullpen.