In my #8 slot of favorite Mets players, I slot a guy who made a huge difference in 2015 - Jeurys Familia. 

When a certain disgraced fellow went down with a self-inflicted PED wound, that supposed 2014 closer suddenly was unavailable.  With Edgin already out with Tommy John surgery, and Vic Black and Bobby Parnell far from ready for prime time, the pen was thin and fragile.  Fragile pens make for fragile seasons.  Would someone step up?  Jeurys Familia would.  

Jeurys was handed the closer role; having saved just 5 games in his career prior to 2015, he stepped up huge and added 43 more in 2015, along with a sparkling 1.80 ERA and giving the Mets something they hadn't had in years - a guy who was almost Mariano-like in terms of being money in the bank in saves situation.
When Mejia or John Franco used to save games, I'll be honest - I'd often shut the game off – I just could not stand the Perils-of-Pauline cliffhangers.  I wondered if we'd ever get a lethal closer, like Mariano Rivera was for so many years with the Yankees.  We did get exactly that in 2015 in Familia.  He drastically improved his strikeout to walk ratio in 2015, and blossomed into one of the very best closers in the game, throwing filthy stuff and getting it done, over and over. 

In his early minor league years, he had control challenges and was frankly mediocre as a starter, so the natural conclusion was to try him and his nasty stuff in the pen.  In 2012 and 2013, he was wild and ineffective in his limited big league innings.  He then needed the elbow cleaned out part way through the 2013 season.  Scary. 

After healing up, in the 2013 Arizona Fall League he pitched - well, erratically. He continued in winter ball the same erratic way.
UNTIL his last few winter games, that is, where he flat-out dominated - in his final 4 2/3 innings, no runs, a walk, and an astonishing 11 Ks.  As soon as I saw that, I speculated that a chip-free elbow would lead to a big Familia season in 2014.  I also speculated that the elbow chips likely added to his control issues. 

I was right that in those few off-the-radar winter ball games, we had just seen the breakthrough moment for Familia.  His 2014 was spectacular, with almost 80 innings and a 2.21 ERA as a great set up man.  And, once his control improved even further in 2015, he fashioned an even better season. 

He had a blip or two in 2015, one in the heart-wrenching late July rain-induced loss to the Padres that was likely the low point of the Mets' season (the night is darkest just before the morn, they say), and his big faux pas in game one of the World Series, surrendering the 9th inning blast to Gordon that turned game 1, and ultimately the series, in Kansas City's favor.   

Was I disappointed? Yeah…what Met fan wasn't?  But even Michael Jordan failed now and then, and I know that the bull-sized closer with the big heart learned from those games.  Dividends from that are to be paid in 2016.

I am expecting really big things in 2016 from Jeurys Familia.  Maybe better than his tremendous 2015.  A lot to like.  We Are Familia.

Next article, a Grand selection for my # 9 favorite on this team.


Reese Kaplan said...

There were times he gave me Armando Benitez flashbacks but, like big Armando, when he was on he was virtually unhittable.

Tom Brennan said...

Considering it was his first year as closer, I leaned more towards growing pains (and few of those) vs. Benitez...but we'll see if he is more Mariano or Benitez in the coming years. Hopefully, Mariano.