Will Smith was inarguably the best reliever in the Giants’ bullpen last year. When one deems a 2018 Giant as the best on the team, it’s damning with faint praise. Gorkys Hernández and Evan Longoria were their best home run hitters. Andrew McCutchen was their best hitter. In Smith’s case, though, being the best wasn’t awarded by default. The bullpen was actually pretty good. By FIP, they were the fifth-best in the majors, and Smith was a huge part of that.
In 53 innings, Smith put up a 2.55 ERA and that wasn’t luck. If anything, he was unlucky. The only advanced run estimator to not put him under 3.00 is DRA. Heck, FIP almost had him under 2.00.
Sure, he didn’t end the season as strongly. In the second half of the season, he gave up 13 runs in 23 2/3 innings, but four of those came when he got knocked around by the Dodgers in his final appearance. Smith was left in to try to finish a game when he clearly didn’t have his best stuff. Even in September the bullpen had already been heavily taxed because Dereck Rodríguez only lasted two innings. Another three came off the Marwin Gonzalez homer.
Aside from those two instances, he was mostly the same pitcher. He threw strikes with the fastball and got hitters to go out of the strike zone with the slider. He missed bats and he threw strikes, and really, that’s all a pitcher needs to do.
If there’s one reason to be concerned about Smith’s 2019 aside from the fact that relievers tend to break suddenly, it’s whether he can remain effective and healthy over a full season. The last time Smith threw over 60 innings was back in 2015. If you attribute Smith’s relative regression to being gassed, it doesn’t bode well considering there were 124 relievers who threw more innings than Smith in 2019.
But I’m not sure if Smith was gassed. Relievers are allowed to have a few bad outings, and since he came back from Tommy John, he hasn’t had any injury concerns. Smith is healthy until he’s not. He won’t lead relievers in innings pitched, but he should throw more frames than he did last season.
IP: 62 1/3
Is it overly optimistic to assume that Smith will throw over 60 innings and be about as successful as he was last year? Yeah, probably, but when I’ve already resigned myself to the Giants finishing last, I’ve got to be optimistic about the good things.
I anticipate Smith to “lose” the battle for closer at the beginning of the season, not because Mark Melancon is better, but because the Giants would rather reserve Smith for high leverage situations/innings when Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy are both due up. I’m totally fine Melancon closing out games as long as Smith is on the mound with the game on the mound. Or Watson. Or Moronta. Or even Ray Black.
The headline gives it away, but yes! I’m somewhat surprised he hasn’t been traded already. If he doesn’t get traded, someone will have screwed up. Smith has one more year before he reaches free agency, and there’s no real reason to hang onto him. He’s not the kind of player that the Giants are going to re-sign. The Giants aren’t going to be competitive this year, and they probably won’t be competitive next year either. By the time the Giants are ready to contend again, Smith might be about as good as Mark Melancon.
He’s wasting his best years on the Giants, and he should go to a team that figures to play into October. Every single contending team could use him. The Cubs are depending on Brandon Morrow, a pitcher so injury prone he missed time after taking off his pants. The third reliever on Cleveland’s depth chart is #ForeverGiant Neil Ramirez. Even the Yankees could find a spot for him in their Super Smash Bros. roster they call a bullpen.
The Giants need to get something for him. Literally anything.