STAT LINE: 54 G, 53 IP, 71 K, 15 BB, 14 Saves, 2.55 ERA, 2.07 FIP
Will Smith had the most successful season of anyone on the 2018 Giants, and even with the season the Giants had, that’s not damning him with faint praise. His year started with uncertainty and ended as an unambiguous triumph. He didn’t pitch in the majors for the first month of the year as he finished his rehab from his 2017 Tommy John surgery, and when he came back he was better than he’d ever been in his career.
Smith’s teammates and coaches voted him this year’s Willie Mac Award winner as the most inspirational player on the team, and considering all the work he put in to come back from being injured and the way he solidifed the closer’s role, it was well deserved. Both on and off the field, he was everything the Giants, and Giants fans, could want.
Were there hiccups along the way? Will Smith is a reliever, so yes. He blew three saves over the last three months, and his last outing of the year, a 1 inning, 4 ER disaster against the Dodgers that allowed them to blow open the second to last game of the year, raised his ERA from 1.90 to 2.55. But that all pales in comparison to his body of work this year.
You simply couldn’t have hoped for Will Smith to have a better, more promising, or more effective year. You can’t point to his FIP and say that it means he’s due for regression next year, or worry about a declining strikeout or walk rate rate, or stress about some velocity dip. He was exactly as good as he seemed to be. In 2018, Will Smith truly did get jiggy wit it.
ROLE ON THE 2018 TEAM: Before July, he was the lockdown reliever who Bruce Bochy could count on to get the biggest outs in the late innings. After a clubhouse door put Hunter Strickland in his place and Sam Dyson spent a week blowing saves in solidarity with his injured bullpen comrade, Smith became closer, and did better in that job than any Giant since Sergio Romo in 2012.
ROLE ON THE 2019 TEAM: He’ll probably be the closer again. There’s no reason he’d lose the job, and everything about his performance this year screamed that he was the best reliever on the team, and the one you most wanted to see in the highest pressure situations. You could make an argument to have Smith float around the 7th and 8th innings, nailing down the toughest outs like Andrew Miller in his prime, but it’s more likely that he’ll be the guy in the 9th.
Or he’ll be trade bait! No better time to trade him than right now if you want a good return.
The results were fantastic. The process was outstanding. Everything Will Smith did this year worked. He came roaring back from Tommy John surgery and did everything you could want. The only reason this isn’t an A+ is that I’ve been to college and I know that A+ isn’t a real grade for adults.