Jeurys Familia in Context Is Unfair

The Mets closer has a new pitch, and it is fantastic. A 95 mph split-finger fastball is already superlative by name, but when you drill down into the arsenal of Jeurys Familia, it starts to look unique… and unfair.

But first we must appreciate the pitch in all its GIF glory.


Nasty. I wanted to put this pitch, and Familia’s arsenal, in context, but it’s difficult with relievers, especially one that has thrown maybe thirty split-fingers this year. You have to set the minimums very low to include all of his pitches.

So I set no minimums. This makes problems when you’re talking about results (one whiff on two pitches does not make an excellent pitch type), but it might give us a sense of where Familia’s stuff lies on a continuum that includes all pitches.

Hint: the velocity is good.

Jeurys Familia’s Arsenal, In Context
Pitch Velocity Rank Horizontal Move Percentile Vertical Move Percentile SwStr Percentile
Sinker 8 81 64 93
Slider 12 29 43 93
Splitter 1 30 79 74
Changeup 1 48 92 97
Velocity is straight rank, the rest are percentiles. N=500+ for Sinker, Slider, Change, and 60+ for Splitter.

That’s right. Familia has some of the hardest stuff in baseball, across the board. His sinker already has impressive horizontal movement, but since his changeup is actually a splitter, we’d have to say that, at first glance, his movement is not as superlative as his velocity.

But watch this sinker. Seems pretty bendy for a high-90s pitch.


Velocity and movement are inversely related. Your pitch can’t move as much if it’s going as fast, from a purely physical viewpoint — it doesn’t have as much time in the air. So to be more fair to Familia, we should compare his movement to the league’s hardest pitches.

In order to do this, let’s remove the bottom 75% of the league’s pitches when ranked by velocity. Then let’s take a look at his movement numbers in this new context. (Let’s also remove his changeup, because he throws a splitter, and though there’s some crossover, splitters have different movement in general.)

Familia’s Arsenal, Compared to the League’s Fastest Pitches
Pitch Horizontal Move Percentile Vertical Move Percentile
Sinker 76 67
Slider 32 72
Splitter 20 93
n>140 for Sinker and Slider, n=16 for Splitter.

There isn’t too much difference in his horizontal movement ranks, but check out his vertical movement. He improved on all three, and dramatically so in the splitter and slider categories. He throws the ball hard, and he gets great drop for how hard he throws.

Remember his slider? The Warthen Slider?


One of the things that Warthen said about the slider was that “we don’t want to make it break, we want to think about getting our fingers to the front of the ball and spinning the baseball.” Jaime Garcia said this week that “the goal is to make it look like a fastball until it gets to the plate with a late break.”

By throwing a fast, hard slider, Familia makes the batter think it’s a sinker until it goes the wrong way. By throwing a fast, hard splitter, Familia makes the batter think it’s a sinker until it goes the wrong way.

If you looked a the first rankings, you might say that Jeurys Familia just throws three fastballs and relies on velocity. But when you see the second rankings, and see that his pitches have a lot of movement when compared to pitches that go as fast as his, then you understand. Everything is hard, but everything actually moves a lot — one to the arm side, one to the glove side and down, and one straight down.

And everything from 90-99 on the radar gun. That’s almost unfair.

With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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6 years ago

Amazing pitch, those swingstk% are nasty.