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Mets expect the return of their dominant closer

shawnjindal
Jun 30, 2016; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Jeurys Familia (27) reacts after getting the final out against the Chicago Cubs during the ninth inning at Citi Field. The Mets defeated the Cubs 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 30, 2016; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Jeurys Familia (27) reacts after getting the final out against the Chicago Cubs during the ninth inning at Citi Field. The Mets defeated the Cubs 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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Jeurys Familia is expected be activated from his 15-game suspension for Thursday night’s game against the Phillies.

The Mets have obviously missed Familia. Mets relievers have been credited with five of the Mets’ seven losses to this point — for reference, the Mets bullpen only lost 20 games all of last season. They also have the fifth-worst walk rate in baseball at 4.76 BB/9. Perhaps most concerning, Mets relievers have combined for a startling 60 appearances through 15 games, which is considerably higher than any other team.

As the old saying goes, “Championships aren’t won in April.” But bullpens can certainly be burnt out in April.

Enter Familia. That triple-digit sinker. That filthy slider. That phenomenal entrance music. And, of course, that vivacious air-hump to end the game.

But, is Familia even that good? I mean, what about the Alex Gordon home run? Didn’t he blow Game 4 and Game 5 too? And who the heck is Conor Gillaspie?

It’s easy to buy into the “Familia crumbles under pressure!” narrative. Instead, I ask you to consider his sheer dominance down the stretch in 2015 — a 11.16 K/9 and 1.56 BB/9 in the season’s final two months. I ask you to consider his 0.61 ERA in 14 2/3 playoff innings that season. And I ask you to consider the 2.3 fWAR he posted last season, which ranked eight in baseball amongst relievers.

No, still not a fan? That’s fine. Perhaps you preferred watching guys like Armando Benitez, Brandon Looper, and Francisco Rodriguez over the years. To each his own.

Looking deeper into Familia’s 2016, he was even more dominant than he seemed on the surface. Amongst relievers with 70 innings pitched, he ranked second in baseball with a 63.3% ground ball rate.

More impressive, he was tied for the lowest HR/9 allowed, at only 0.12. A ground ball pitcher with gaudy strikeout rates is the model for any relief pitcher. Imagine if we could use Familia early on in a tight game when we really need a double play, rather than waiting for 3-run 9th inning leads? Ah, someday…

Next: David Wright determined to come back

Admittedly, Familia tired down the stretch. He ranked fifth in appearances amongst all pitchers, which likely contributed to his BB/9 of 4.70 from September onwards. Late-season fatigue is an inevitable consequence of pitching in a Terry Collins bullpen. In that way, perhaps the suspension will benefit Familia to an extent. It’s safe to say he would have pitched in 12 or 13 of the 15 games that he has missed. And we might’ve even won a couple more of them.

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