New York Mets fans may feel differently about Jeurys Familia if they weren’t so familiar with his shortcomings.
Because Jeurys Familia is who he is, I think a majority of New York Mets fans have little faith in the veteran reliever putting together a better year in 2020. The longtime Mets relief pitcher and former closer put together a dreadfully painful 2019 campaign, removing a lot of belief that he’ll have any chance of living up to his contract.
All but 30 of Familia’s regular season games at the MLB level have taken place as a member of Mets. Aside from the end of the 2018 season when he was dealt to the Oakland Athletics, he has been a Mets lifer.
Despite coming up through the system and giving the team three great seasons including two as the closer, there’s plenty of doubt about his abilities going forward. If he was anyone else, I think more people would have faith in a bounce back year.
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Think of it this way—if Mets fans didn’t see him implode in the postseason up close, there wouldn’t be that painful memory so close to home.
Familia is still only 30 and has just one bad year on his resume. Unfortunately, the year came in his most recent season. We have yet to clean the bad taste out of our mouth.
From 2014-2016, Familia was one of the best relievers in baseball. He first caught our eye in 2014 with a 2.21 ERA season before further cementing his spot in franchise history as the closer with a better 1.85 ERA in 2015. That same year, now the full-time closer, he saved 43 games.
Just one season later, Familia led the league with 51 saves. He also set a franchise record even with his ERA creeping up to a still respectable 2.55 ERA.
This three-year period for Familia was phenomenal. And yet, only a few seasons later with a solid 2018 season also in the past, we’re left wondering what he has left.
There are some major differences between Familia in his peak seasons and what made him a punching bag last year. Most notably, it’s the home runs he allowed.
Familia surrendered only a single home run in 2016 in 77.2 innings of work. You wouldn’t believe it if you only saw him pitch in 2019, but keeping the ball in the yard was a strength of his early on. Even now he has averaged only 0.5 per nine innings. In 2019, it was at an atypical 1.1 per nine.
The issue many have with Familia isn’t the number of home runs he has allowed. Even at his best, it was the high walk totals that made him what many thought of as the new Armando Benitez. Familia never shied away from issuing free passes, currently sitting at a career total of four per nine innings of work.
Something happens when a player enters free agency and you haven’t suffered with them on your team. You start to believe things like “a change of scenery could help him turn things around” or you blindly believe he’s better than he actually is.
With Familia, Mets fans know exactly what he is. He was a good pitcher who unfortunately landed on the wrong end of two terrible postseason moments and a few shaky regular season outings.
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A guy with his same history but with a different team might be more likely to rebound in 2020—at least in the minds of fans who root for the blue and orange.