I was lucky enough to be in attendance at Buffalo’s game last night, during which Jeurys Familia had easily his best outing of the season. So I thought I’d offer up some first hand thoughts and observations. First of all, knowing how Familia’s season has went, especially lately, I had low expectations and kept waiting for things to implode and everything to unravel, but that never happened. I thought it might happen early when he walked the first batter of the game, but at that point and several others he did not let things snowball on him at all. I dare say he was borderline impressive all night long. He had good control and walked just the one batter all night. His stuff was real good, including his secondary stuff, which he had no trouble throwing for strikes. He whipped out several really tight sliders over the course of the night and garnered a lot of swing and misses with both his fastball and slider. At one point, Syracuse’s clean up hitter struck out with all three strikes coming on swing and misses. He was also very economical with his pitches and kept his pitch count down, allowing him to pitch into the 7th. As for his speed, there was no working radar gun, but with my amateur eye he seemed to be between 91 and 94 most of the night, but at times he was able to reach down for a little more for what to me seemed like 96. He did this a couple times when he was behind in the count 3-1, with success as aggressive hitters couldn’t quite catch up to it and fouled the ball off.
Of course, it wasn’t all peaches and cream, there were a couple small issues I witnessed in what was a great night for Familia. For instance, at times he was timid to go inside against lefties. He tried to pitch them outside, but (especially early) he would miss with his fastball well outside, at least a couple inches off the plate, so there was no way a batter would mistake it for a strike. He also didn’t seem to pay a lot of attention to base runners, especially base runners that weren’t known as threats to steal. He didn’t get burned, as there weren’t a lot of base runners, but a smart veteran major leaguer would recognize his lack of attention and swipe a base.
Whether or not this is a turning point for Familia remains to be seen, but this outing reminds us of the great stuff and potential that Familia has. As for his trade value, I did see a pair of scouts at the game that started talking about Familia after four or five innings and they seemed impressed, unfortunately, they were there only to watch Nats pitcher John Lannon, who started for Syracuse, and they left as soon as Lannon was out of the game.
I also got to see Familia at the plate as a batter and he actually has a decent swing for a pitcher. He takes a good cut and isn’t afraid to swing hard. He did have an infield single that he chopped right back up the middle.
That’s all for Familia, but for good measure, here’s a few thoughts on some other guys I saw last night.
Like Familia, Mejia also had arguably his best outing of the season. Last night was vintage Mejia. He faced 7 batters, with one walk, one strikeout, and 5 ground balls. Of the 5 ground balls, 4 were harmless and 1 Josh Rodriguez made a nice play on. Of course, if Rodriguez can make the play, I’m assuming Ruben Tejada can make the same play. He didn’t blow me away with his velocity, but he doesn’t need to if he’s getting ground balls. His secondary pitches weren’t great, but he threw them for strikes close to half the time and they were somewhat effective.
I mentioned the play Rodriguez made in the field for Mejia, and he looked fairly smooth at SS the rest of the game. He also launched a 3-run bomb off Lannon that went a good 390 feet. If the Mets have to dig into the minors for yet another SS, Rodriguez isn’t a bad guy.
Matt den Dekker
First the good. We’ve all heard that den Dekker is great defensively but it’s nice to see it in person. He really helped out Familia on a number of occasions with his defense. His speed in the outfield is impressive, allowing him to catch balls in the gap and cut balls off before they can bounce to the warning track. At one point he had an outfield assist throwing a guy trying to stretch a single into a double. The assist was less a result of a strong arm and more because of the batter’s failure to realize how quickly den Dekker could cut off a ball that looked like a sure double off the bat. As for his performance at the plate, he did not look good. He faced a lefty in all 5 of his at bats and saw a lot of breaking balls, which he looked overmatched against. In his final at bat the lefty pitcher threw him all hard stuff, which den Dekker could not catch up to. His only hit came against Lannon in his second at bat on a ground through the right side, which may not have been a hit if the 1B did not have to hold on Familia and the 2B was not playing at double play depth.
Also, Chris Schwinden got the last two outs in his return to Buffalo after being DFA 4 times in the last month. Being the “new” guy, Schwinden did not yet have his name on the back of his jersey.