This time around with the New York Mets, Jeurys Familia is expected to pitch in a setup role. Some believe he’ll do better in this “less pressurized situation.” I don’t think anything changes.
There’s a narrative out there about Jeurys Familia that I don’t quite understand. When the New York Mets decided to bring him back this winter, many who were happy with the deal suggested he could be even better in the setup role.
It’s not a false statement. Brandon Nimmo may be a better hitter when he plays left field this year and Amed Rosario may have a historic season defensively against teams with three vowels in the city’s name. We don’t know until we see it happen.
Familia had his chance to pitch in a setup role for the Mets prior to becoming the team’s closer. In 2014, Familia played his first full big league season. He delivered a 2.21 ERA as a setup man on his way to becoming the closer the very next year.
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Throughout the rest of his Mets tenure, Familia was the closer in Flushing. Now behind Edwin Diaz, he’ll go back to his roots and pitch in the eighth inning a little more often.
As is the case for many closers, splits favor Familia in save situations. He has a 2.39 ERA in those opportunities, compared to a still solid 3.16 ERA in non-save situations. There’s not a huge difference, but to say he’ll be better without the pressure of pitching in the ninth inning is completely false.
However, Familia’s best ERA for his career (aside from extra innings) occurs when he takes the mound in inning number eight. The 2.60 ERA tops the 2.91 ERA he has when pitching in the ninth. We can look at this a few ways. In a four-out save, the one out in the eighth inning may come a little easier. It also doesn’t count for those non-save situations when he, like many closers implode in the final frame.
I do think the best example of why Familia may not be any better in the 8th inning is how he performed with the Oakland Athletics last year. His mission was to get the ball to closer Blake Treinen. Unfortunately, he was far from perfect.
In what some would classify as a “less pressurized situation,” Familia had a 3.45 ERA with Oakland compared to the 2.88 ERA he had before leaving New York. The sample size, while not great, is still enough to tell me he’s no better when he’s not the closer. I won’t say he’s worse, though. We have three years of control in New York to find that out.
I feel Familia sometimes gets an unfair reputation as a bad closer. He is anything but. With any luck, the same will be true when he performs in a role he didn’t fair too well with during his time in Oakland.
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Familia does pitch well under pressure. It’s what made him one of baseball best closers not long ago.