The first domino in the free agent market fell yesterday, with the Braves’ inking Drew Smyly to a one-year contract worth $11 million. Obviously he wasn’t one of the premier names on the market, but the southpaw showed signs while pitching for San Francisco in ’20 posting a 3.42 ERA over 26.1 IP as he was buoyed by an impressive leap in his strikeout rate. That said that wasn’t the only strong skill, as he was solid across the board:
- Strikeouts – 14.35 K/9
- Control – 3.08 BB/9
- Groundballs – 41.7%
The velocity on his fourseam fastball jumped significantly, going from 91.41 mph in ’19 to 93.97 in ’20. Obviously the shortened season may have allowed him to air things out a little bit more, but a 2.5 mph improvement is going to catch your attention and helps to explain the impressive strikeout rate.
Smyly ditched his changeup, and while he didn’t throw it a lot to begin with it obviously still has an impact. Instead he was throwing his curveball a career high 36.25% of the time, and that’s important as he was utilizing just three pitches. Granted all three were successful, but you have to wonder if he can maintain that over the long haul with a limited repertoire.
Just consider these numbers as a starting pitcher:
- 1st Time Through Lineup (11.0 IP) – 2.45 ERA
- 2nd Time Through Lineup (9.1 IP) – 4.82 ERA
- 3rd Time Through Lineup (1.0 IP) – 9.00 ERA
In other words he was great the first time through, but then the wheels started to fall off a bit. Considering the mix of pitches, that’s something that could easily continue moving forward.
Even with an “improved” groundball rate, it’s easy to anticipate a significant regression his his home run rate (0.68 HR/9 in ’20, compared to a career mark of 1.41). Throw in a 40.0% Hard%, and it all comes together for an ugly pitcher.
Sure improved velocity is going to excite you, but there’s just too much working against him. Clearly Atlanta plans to utilize him as a starter, but he’s not a pitcher to trust for fantasy owners.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball