Mejia and Familia and the Rest Have Been Even Better Than You May Realize

By: Brian Mangan

Everyone in baseball knows that Mets relievers Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia have been dominant for over a month now, and that the two of them are a very big reason why the Mets have refused to go away quietly thus far in this second half.  What you might not know, is exactly how good they’ve been.

They’re not just lights-out (and fun to watch) but if they continue on this run of domination, Mejia and Familia may end up being the Mets’ most dominant end game in over a decade.

So, how good have the boys been?

mejia stat

Mejia has been good since he moved to the bullpen, but since June 10th, after about a month of transition to the closer role, he’s taken things to another level.  Over the last month, Mejia has been right there with Jordan Walden, Trevor Rosenthal, and other highly-regarded arms as one of the NL’s premier relievers.  In fact, Mejia’s FIP over the last 30 days is 9th among NL relievers. (The June 10th segment begins after back-to-back outings where Mejia allowed two runs each … but even if you were to include those outings, his ERA would still only be 2.75).  His K/9 of 11.08 over that period is matched by only a handful of non-specialists.  Maybe you prefer ERA rather than FIP?  If so, Mejia is even better, ranking #2 overall in this period.

familia stat

Familia may have been even better than Mejia since May.  Familia has allowed only one earned run since June 12th.  Even if you were to include two unearned runs against him, his ERA would still be a miniscule 1.39.  Want to know who is tied with Mejia for #2 overall in ERA the last month?  It’s Jeurys Familia.  And did I mention that Familia’s average fastball is 96.3 mph?

Both the traditional and the advanced stats love ’em both.  Familia has posted a 2.50 FIP and 3.31 xFIP since May 7th, along with inducing 60.2% GB and a 13.0% swinging strike rate. Mejia has a 2.38 FIP and 3.35 xFIP since June 10th, and his swinging strike rate of 14.4% in the last month also ranks ninth in the NL.

Historically Good?

All of this got me thinking about the last time the Mets had such an awesome shutdown pair of relievers at the end of the game.  Any Mets fan can recall having a good closer (seriously though, guys, we have had good closers) but I could not recall the last time that the 8th inning guy was just as filthy as a closer.

There’s good reason for that inability to recall.  Since 1990, the Mets have only had 35 individual seasons where a reliever who pitched at least 40 innings for the team had an ERA of 3.00 or lower… approximately 1.5 per season.

Several of these can be immediately crossed off as flukey or unimpressive (e.g. Roberto Hernandez in 2005 or Elmer Dessens in 2010) or as accomplished by a specialist (e.g. Mark Guthrie in 2002).

Last season, Bobby Parnell was joined by LaTroy Hawkins (2.93 ERA), but that doesn’t feel the same as Mejia-Familia.  In 2012, Parnell alone finished with an ERA below 3, and in 2011, nobody did.

2010 featured four Mets relievers with ERAs below 3.00, in Francisco Rodriguez, Manny Acosta, Bobby Parnell, and Elmer Dessens.  Did Parnell and K-Rod feel as good as this?  Potentially, but I wanted to dig back further for the legitimate “game over” feeling we’ve been getting from Mejia and Familia.

For my money, I think we need to go back to one of either two seasons, 2006 or 1999 (no relievers accomplished the feat in 2009, 2003 or 2001, while only a single reliever did so in 2007, 2005 and 2004).

In 2006, the Mets end game consisted of Billy Wagner (2.24 ERA) and Duaner Sanchez (2.60), along with specialists Chad Bradford (2.90) and Pedro Feliciano (2.09).  In 1999, the back end was Armando Benitez (1.85 ERA), John Franco (2.88) and Turk Wendell (3.05).  I broke my rule on Wendell, but remember, in 1999 a 3.05 ERA translated to an ERA+ of 145.  For sake of comparison, Carlos Torres’ 3.05 ERA this year is only good for an ERA+ of 115.

No matter which way you slice it, the current Mets’ bullpen is in the upper echelon of what we’ve seen for the last two and a half decades.

Beyond Mejia and Familia, the Mets are presently throwing two more every-day relievers out there with ERA’s south of two in Vic Black (1.99) and Josh Edgin (1.62).  Rounded out with Carlos Torres and the shockingly resurgent Dana Eveland (2.04 ERA which is actually supported well by a 3.03 FIP) and you’ve got yourselves the making of a bullpen which is five players deep.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what the 1999 and 2006 teams had in common — they were the first seasons in periods of sustained Mets success.  Hopefully (imagine if Bobby Parnell comes back healthy?) this strong bullpen portends the same kind of success for the current squad.

*         *         *

Brian Mangan is an attorney who lives in New York City and is still mad that J.J. Putz wasn’t any good in New York.

*         *         *