65 1⁄3 IP, 34 for 38 Saves, 96 K, 21 BB, 10 HR, 2.76 ERA, 3.23 FIP, 2.84 DRA
2019 saw a new challenger for the title of Best Will Smith. The Dodgers brought up Will Smith (the catcher) to fill the Yasmani Grandal-sized hole in their roster, and he quickly became their starting catcher for a historic run. If you ask the Getty photo tool, that distinction still belongs to Will Smith (the actor). If you type in “will smith,” you’re met with pages and pages of the Fresh Prince in sports adjacent situations before you even get to the pitcher or the catcher. If we’re looking at lifetime achievement, the actor is clearly the best Will Smith. But in 2019, the Giants’ Will Smith reigned supreme.
Will Smith (the pitcher) edged out Will Smith and Will Smith in several important and not-at-all cherry picked categories. Behold.
The Pitcher: 2.2
The Catcher: 1.6
The Actor: 0.0
Smith’s utterly dominant season on the mound was more valuable than Smith’s very good season behind the plate. Once again, the actor turned in a replacement level season. Now, you may be thinking, “But Smith is a catcher, and Baseball Reference WAR doesn’t include framing. How does he compare in fWAR and WARP?” To which I say, “Shhhhh.”
The Pitcher: 1
The Catcher: 0
The Actor: 0
The pitcher was the only Smith (and Giant) to make it to the Midsummer Classic. He was his team’s sole representative, but this wasn’t a situation like the Marlins sending Sandy Alcantara who had a first half FIP of 4.63. Smith was one of the best relievers in baseball this year. At the All-Star Break, his strikeout minus walk percentage of 33.8 ranked fourth among bullpen arms. Even including his shakier second half, his strikeout rate put him in the top-10.
The Pitcher: 1.000
The Catcher: .253
The Actor: .000
It’s hard to be much better than perfect. Smith went 1-for-1 with a sacrifice bunt in two at-bats this year. The catcher may have done things like hit home runs and had more than two plate appearances, but you know what the pitcher never did? Make an unproductive out.
The actor remained hitless for the 51st year in a row.
Will Smith's first Major League:— #ThankYouBoch (@SFGiants) August 12, 2019
✅ At bat
Will Smith Walk-Off Homer— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) June 23, 2019
The #Dodgers' No. 5 prospect, who was just called up this morning, came up clutch with this walk-off homer. The @Dodgers are also the first team to have rookies hit walk-off homers in three straight games. pic.twitter.com/5dlw6qKlr4
The Actor: Aladdin
I may be a bit biased because relievers getting hits is the thing that made me fall in love with baseball, but objectively, Smith’s RBI single was the best. Walk off home runs are cool and all, but tell me you didn’t think that was a flare off the bat. That was a 2019 home run through and through, and 2019 home runs are boring. I didn’t see Aladdin, but I also didn’t hear good things.
Now, neither Smith nor Smith’s year is over. The Dodgers are set to play Game Five of the NLDS tomorrow, and Gemini Man comes out this Friday. The odds of either topping Smith are extremely low, however. For one, Stephen Strasburg is going to no-hit LA tomorrow. Second, Gemini Man is written by David Benioff who is best known for writing Troy and X-Men: Origins: Wolverine, a film with as many colons in its title as unwatchable hours of cinema. Is there any chance this movie is better than a reliever knocking in a run and busting a gut at first base?
Will Smith and Will Smith faced off exactly one time this season. On September 6, Smith came up to bat against Smith representing the winning run with two outs in the ninth. Smith, though, prevailed in the end, striking out Smith with a pitch in the dirt.
The actor has never gone head-to-head with Smith or Smith. Coward.
Role on the 2019 Team
Smith wasn’t just the best Will Smith in 2019, he was the best reliever in an exceptionally good bullpen. He was also the Giants’ best trade chip, but Farhan Zaidi elected not to move him. When the July magic faded and the Giants turned back into pumpkins, the non-trade was criticized, but I’m sure that if Zaidi were presented with an acceptable offer, he would have taken it. Also, he came away with Mauricio Dubón anyway, and he was supposed to be the player the Giants were going to have to trade Madison Bumgarner for.
Role on the 2020 Team
Smith is a free agent now, and he will be one of the most coveted relievers on the market. This postseason has shown that several contenders could use help in the bullpen (looking at you, Nationals). There’s still a chance Smith re-signs in San Francisco. Last week, Zaidi expressed that he has interest in retaining all of the teams pending free agents. He sort of has to say that, of course, but Smith’s time in San Francisco doesn’t have to come to an end this winter.
If the reliever market was what it was when Kenley Jansen, Mark Melancon, and Aroldis Chapman all hit free agency at the same time, it’d be a sure thing that the Giants would offer Smith a qualifying offer and Smith would turn it down. After we saw Craig Kimbrel reject a qualifying offer last fall and go unsigned until after the draft, it’s hard to say what will happen. If the Giants offer Smith a QO, there’s a decent chance he’d take it which isn’t what the Giants want. They would rather have the draft pick compensation than a closer who costs around $18 million. The conventional wisdom is to not pay for saves (see: Mark Melancon), and they need that money to ultimately get rejected by Gerrit Cole.
My guess is that Smith isn’t given a qualifying offer, and he signs for a two or three year contract worth $10 million annually. That’s roughly what top-end relievers got last offseason.
How ‘Farhan’ is Will Smith?
Smith is a dominant reliever that was originally obtained in a trade where his original team got hosed. Andrew Susac appeared in 17 games for Milwaukee and hit .172. Phil Bickford has yet to appear above High-A. Zaidi didn’t orchestrate that deal, but he can surely appreciate a good fleecing when he sees one. The only thing keeping Smith from a full four Farhan rating is that Smith didn’t make the league minimum this year.