New York Mets fans are worried about losing closer Jeurys Familia due to a likely suspension. But things may not be as dire as they look.As the New York Mets prepare for the 2017 season, one of the issues they face is likely beginning the regular season without their closer Jeurys Familia.
Although charges have been dropped against Familia stemming from his domestic violence arrest last October, the Mets still have to expect they’ll be without him for the first month of the season, or more. Yet, an extra month of rest for Familia could turn out to be beneficial for the long haul in 2017.
Since unexpectedly being thrust into the closer’s role at the beginning of 2015 – after Jenrry Mejia’s suspension – Familia has proven himself as one of the game’s elite late-inning relievers.
He played a huge role in the Mets reaching the 2015 World Series, led the MLB with 51 saves and was named an All-Star for the first time last season. Familia even converted 52 straight regular season saves – a streak which started in 2015 and was snapped last July.
However, after surrendering a three-run homer to Conor Gillaspie of the San Francisco Giants last October that knocked the Mets out of the postseason, Familia became the target of criticism that he can’t perform in the clutch.
Yes, between giving up the decisive home run in last season’s National League Wild Card game and blowing three saves in the World Series the year before, it makes sense why people would feel that way. But anyone who says Familia can’t pitch under the bright lights clearly hasn’t watched him closely enough.
He finished off every game the Mets won in the 2015 postseason – even non-save situations – and closed out a do-or-die Game 5 in a one-run game at Dodger Stadium. Of the saves he blew in the World Series, many consider only the first game his fault. What did fans expect? For him to magically catch that errant throw in Game 5 from Lucas Duda and tag out Eric Hosmer before he could score the tying run?
The truth is Familia has been overworked and has often been used by manager Terry Collins to try and convert saves of more than one inning. This is what did him in at the end of last season. Not that he can’t close out games when it matters most, but having an extra month off could help Familia endure a stretch run in a season where expectations for the organization are high.
Look at New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman who missed the first month of last season, also due to a suspension based on domestic violence charges. When Chapman came back in May, he was pretty much unhittable.
After getting traded a week before the deadline, he became a very important part of the Chicago Cubs breaking their World Series title drought of 108 years. It is true that he struggled in Game 7 of the Fall Classic, blowing the save that game, but a big part of that was because manager Joe Maddon had overused him to the extreme, which included an appearance where he came in to get a nine-out save.
The point is that making his season debut last May with his arm well-rested was a huge reason why Chapman was almost untouchable for most of last season. And perhaps the same could be true for Familia this season if he has an extra month of rest. It’s also important to keep in mind the weather is colder during games in April, which add extra wear and tear on a pitcher’s throwing arm.
According to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, charges were dropped against Familia in a New Jersey court last month. This situation is very similar to that of Chapman, who didn’t have charges pursued against him.
However, that did not stop league commissioner Rob Manfred from giving him a 30-game suspension. Assuming the league handles Familia’s situation the same way, he will most likely get a suspension that is also in the 30-game range.
Is this to say that the Mets should be hoping he gets suspended so he has more time to rest his arm at the start of the season?
Being without their closer will mean less depth in the bullpen during a first month of the season where many of their games are against divisional opponents, including the rival Washington Nationals.
There could, however, be a silver lining to Familia missing some time to start the season. Addison Reed, who did a solid job as the setup man last year, would be capable of closing in his absence as well.