There’s not a lot to cheer about these days if you’re the Miami Marlins or if you’re a fan of the Miami Marlins, but one thing that has been a major bright spot so far in the season has been starting pitcher Caleb Smith.
Smith came into this season as a bit of an afterthought for the Marlins after posting 5-6 record and a 4.19 ERA in 16 starts last season and with him being an somewhat of an afterthought coming into the season for the Marlins, he was obviously a complete afterthought in all of baseball.
Smith was originally a 14th-round pick in the 2013 MLB Draft out of Sam Houston State by the Yankees and then he was a rule 5 draft pick in 2016 by the Brewers, he was then purchased by the Cubs on the same day and then in March of 2017 he was returned by the Cubs to the Yankees and then in November he was traded by the Yankees to the Marlins along with Garrett Cooper for Mike King and international bonus slot money after finally making it to the major leagues for the Yankees and appearing in nine games.
So needless to say, it’s been quite the crazy path for Smith trying to make it to the major leagues and establish himself.
But now at 27-years old, Smith is enjoying a breakout season and despite most people probably not knowing who he is, he has been one of the best pitchers in the National League this season and really in all of baseball.
Despite being on a team that comes into today’s action with a 10-26 record, Smith is 3-0 and he has done that by posting a 2.11 ERA, a 2.88 FIP and a 0.89 WHIP. Those are such impressive numbers and the way that he’s gotten to those numbers so far are by throwing a lot of strikes and more importantly, quality strikes (duh).
In 42.2 innings Smith has struck out 56 batters this season and has only walked 12 batters, while doing a great job of keeping the ball in the ballpark by only giving up five home runs all season so far.
Perhaps the most-impressive numbers on Smith’s ledger so far this season however is his 11.8 K/9 rate, which has led to a jump with him going from 2.67 K/BB last season to 4.67 this season despite not having anything close to elite velocity. In fact, his velocity this season has been lower this season than either of the past two seasons that he has seen time in the major leagues. It’s down about a half mile per hour from last season and down a full mile per hour from the 2017 season.
With that said, Smith made a big adjustment by not rely on his fastball too much. Last season he threw his fastball 59.1% of the time and this season he is down to 47.4% and he has greatly improved the use of his changeup while also increasing the use of his slider a good amount.
His mixture of his pitches has been the main reason that he has excelled so far this season, because each of his pitches rate out very well in value and that mixture of pitches has also led to batters swinging at pitches out of the zone and when he’s not striking people out, it’s led to a lot of weak or medium contact, so he’s been great at avoiding the barrel this season.
Smith is a bit of a throwback pitcher. He is a lefty that doesn’t throw all that hard, but he mixes up his pitches really well to be able to still strike people out at a rate per nine innings that has him ranked 7th in all of baseball despite being a much different pitcher than a lot of the guys ranked toward the top. And by different it’s mostly having less velocity.
As I mentioned there hasn’t been a lot to cheer about for the Marlins, but Smith has definitely been something to cheer about. There also are very few reasons to watch the Marlins if you aren’t a Marlins fan or a fan of the team that is playing them, but if you’re a baseball fan you should take some time out to watch him next time he pitches because the numbers show that he’s been one of the best pitchers in the league this season.
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