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Is Jeurys Familia’s performance a cause for concern? September 24, 2015

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
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Following a blown save by Addison Reed and a perfect inning by Tyler Clippard, Jeurys Familia entered last night’s 3-3 game in the 9th. Familia struck out Jace Peterson, allowed a single to Cameron Maybin, and then walked Michael Bourn. Freddie Freeman hit a home run; Familia followed up by striking out Nick Markakis and Met-killer Adonis Garcia, but the damage was done. Pinch hitter Juan Uribe singled, but Wilmer Flores banged into a double play and Curtis Granderson grounded out to second to end the game.

Photo: slgckgc on Flickr

Photo: slgckgc on Flickr

Familia came to prominence during the first half of the season, in which he pitched in 41 games, notching 27 saves, a 3.31 KBB ratio, and a 1.25 ERA in front of a .217 BAbip. He allowed 26 hits including 3 doubles, a triple, and 3 home runs. Since the All Star break, Familia has pitched in 31 games with 14 saves, a 6.50 KBB, a 2.87 ERA, and a .342 BAbip. He’s allowed 30 hits, including 5 doubles and 3 home runs.

Those numbers say a lot about Familia’s consistency. First, his control ratio has increased considerably – by dropping from 13 walks (one intentional) to only 6 in the second half, and striking out 39 compared to 43 in the first half, Familia has shown remarkable command in the second half of the season. Further, that change in batting average on balls in play demonstrates that Familia has gotten a bit unlucky or that the defense behind him has flagged a bit with all of the offensive moves that were made. (Although Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto have been solid defensively, Daniel Murphy and Juan Uribe haven’t been fantastic solutions defensively at second base. Uribe is a fantastic third baseman playing out of position; Murphy might be more useful in the American League as a designated hitter.)

But what about those home runs? Those aren’t picked up in BAbip calculations because they’re not defense-dependent, and they might be tied to some factor that’s increasing his strikeouts.

During the first season, Familia pitched in 166 plate appearances, so those 3 home runs gave him a rate of about .018 home runs per plate appearance. Based on that, we’d expect in his 129 plate appearances since the All Star Game he’d have allowed about 2.33 home runs; 3 home runs is about .44 standard deviations away from his first-half numbers (and since fractional home runs aren’t a thing…..).

The biggest concern is that Familia has allowed more runners to reach base. All three homers in the first half were solos, two of them leading off (one with one out). Since then, Familia has allowed one solo and two 3-run home runs. The bigger issue is that these runners are reaching base – again, possibly due to that BAbip number cited above.

Familia is one of the best closers in the league. Put a solid defense behind him and he’ll continue to perform.

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