The Mets have been scuffling for quite a while now. After posting an impressive 15-7 record in April, they have gone 38-41 since May 1st and currently sit in third place behind the Nationals and Marlins. They’re still very much alive in the playoff race — our playoff odds give them a 32.8% chance of making it at least as far as the wild-card game — but, to state the obvious, they’re beginning to run out of time to get themselves back into playoff position. Suddenly, every loss is placed under a microscope and, over the past two days, that’s been an unfortunate development for closer Jeurys Familia.
On Wednesday night, Familia blew his first (regular season) save in almost exactly a year and then, roughly 18 hours later, he blew another. The outings themselves aren’t particularly important. There was a mix of command problems, hard-hit balls, and horrendous batted-ball luck over a span of 13 batters faced. What is important, though, is taking stock of Familia’s season as a whole and what has or hasn’t changed for the pitcher who suddenly emerged as an elite back-of-the-bullpen arm during the Mets’ stretch run a year ago.
If you remember one thing about the profile of 2015 Jeurys Familia, it’s probably that he developed and began utilizing a pitch unlike anything anyone else threw in baseball. As outlined by Jeff Sullivan last October, Familia added a splitter averaging 94 mph to his arsenal in mid-August. No one throws a splitter in the mid-90s — that’s not a thing people do. And yet there was Familia suddenly incorporating this devastating pitch just in time for the most significant stretch of Mets baseball in a decade and a half.
What made Familia particularly dominant was that he paired this new absurd splitter with an already unfair sinker. His upper-90s fastball with stellar movement was (and is) a devastating pitch in its own right. In fact, during yesterday afternoon’s rough outing, the pitch was on display in all its glory:
Ninety-eight mph with extreme run? Yeah, that’ll play. He generates 28.7% whiffs per swing on the pitch, which is second only to Zach Britton’s otherworldly 40.8% rate. When batters do make contact on Familia’s sinker, it’s typically in the form of a grounder. In fact, his sinker is generating grounders this season at the highest rate of his career per BrooksBaseball.