Jeurys Familia’s new splitter has only led to more dominance
Jeurys Familia was thrusted into the closer’s role unexpectedly right out of the gate in 2015 thanks to Jenrry Mejia injuring his elbow and subsequently finding himself suspended for a PED violation.
And that shoe has fit Familia as comfortably as Cinderella’s slipper fit her.
He rattled off 13 consecutive saves before finally blowing his first chance on May 18. It would be another month before Familia blew another one, and more than a month before he blew his third save chance of the year in his 30th opportunity.
It was hard for Familia to become more dominant than he was, but after struggling out of the gate in the second half, Familia made an adjustment and started fiddling with a new split-fingered fastball.
And in just a short span of time, the team’s MVP has developed that pitch into perhaps the most formidable pitch in the game today, as he has an ability to throw it 94-95 mph for a strike.
“It helps me a lot. I just had two pitches, a sinker and a slider,” the Mets star closer explained. “They know I’m going to throw a sinker or a slider. Right now I have a third pitch, my splitter, and it’s more difficult for hitters.”
It’s not difficult to hit. It’s nearly impossible to hit. He’s thrown it 28 times, inducing 19 swings and misses, according to MLB Network research.
Just ask David Ortiz.
“That Familia, man, throwing that splitter 95 miles an hour, you crazy? No one can hit that,” Ortiz explained on Sunday.
Red Sox infielder Brock Holt shared a similar sentiment to Ortiz on Familia’s splitter.
“Nastiest pitcher in the world,” Holt said.
On Sunday, Familia’s new toy became even more vital both for him and the Mets, as he recorded two outs with his split-fingered fastball. One came via a badly needed strikeout of Alejandro De Aza with Blake Swihart on first and Rusney Castillo on second with nobody out. Then he threw a splitter to induce a groundout to shortstop from Travis Shaw. He then blew a heater by Mookie Betts to end the inning and the game for the Mets.
His 35th save was a was a true save for Familia, as he helped salvage the series finale against the pesky Red Sox, and bailed out his own shortstop after he played Castillo’s ball too slowly, allowing him to reach with a leadoff infield single.
“It’s going to elevate him,’’ Collins said about Familia’s splitter. “He’s one of the best in the game. This guy’s got 100 mph, he’s got a great sinker, the split is starting to be more consistent for him, you see him starting to get hitters out with sliders. He’s starting to get a feel when not to throw a strike, when he can go off the plate. He’s learning on the job. He listens. He’s really, really good.’’
It’s hard to elevate much higher for Familia. He is already among the elite closers in the game, perhaps unfairly being snubbed for the All-Star Game six weeks ago. He has been asked to deliver numerous multiple-inning saves in a role he didn’t even figure to be in when the Mets broke camp at the end of March.
But he has not only embraced his role, he has enhanced his own game and grown both better and more valuable as a true lockdown closer in the game today.
And in a bullpen which has grown shaky in recent weeks, Collins main concern at this point in the season is finding a way to get the ball to Familia, not what happens when he’s in the game.
“When he came back from the period where he didn’t throw very good, and bounced right back and pitched as well as he has right now, [you knew] he can handle it. He’s a tough kid mentally. He’s going to be fine,’’ Terry Collins said about his closer after Sunday’s win.
He already is fine, and getting finer with each passing day.