Cactus League Game 5: Smyly Tyme

marc w · March 1, 2017 at 11:30 am · Filed Under Mariners 

M’s at Indians, 12:05pm
Drew Smyly vs. Trevor Bauer

The M’s newest starting pitcher, and the pitching acquisition with by far the most upside, takes the mound today. The former Tampa Bay Ray throws a four-seam fastball in the low 90s with a hard “curve” that’s been his best pitch. His third pitch is a cutter that he’ll throw to lefties and righties alike, but it’s never worked all that well. Batters have had more success on the cutter than any other pitch over the course of his career, and as his HR rate has soared in recent years, the cutter’s been a key source of the problem. Last year, batters slugged .636 on the offering, and in his abbreviated 2015, they slugged .714. It was actually a good pitch for him going back to his days with the Tigers, so something’s going on with it. Its movement was distinctly un-cutter-like last year, and it sort of blended in to his fastball. That said, its degree of actual cut and sink has ebbed and flowed throughout the years, so there’s nothing convincing in the pure movement data. Still, if I’m the M’s coaching staff, improving that pitch (or replacing it with a different one) would be my first priority. Perhaps as an alternative, Smyly’s made more use of his change-up in recent years, but that’s been no better: batters have slugged .836 off of it in his career (though he’s only thrown 340 of them).

I put curve in quotes up above, because Smyly’s curve really is an odd duck. It doesn’t… it doesn’t curve, see. For a guy throwing from a very over-the-top arm slot, we wouldn’t expect a ton of horizontal movement. But ALL of Smyly’s horizontal movement is arm side. You know, the OPPOSITE way a breaking ball is supposed to break. This means that Smyly throws the pitch like a curve, with curveball velocity, but that it works like a change-up or splitter. A slow-splitter. Eno Sarris worked with Driveline Baseball to essentially “invent” what he called a reverse curveball, or a slow breaking ball with armside break. Well, Drew Smyly already throws it.

I think I’ve written way too much about Trevor Bauer as it is and have no desire to add to it here.

The line up:
1: Martin, CF
2: Valencia, 1B
3: Cano, 2B
4: Seager, 3B
5: Zunino, C
6: Vogelbach, DH
7: Gamel, RF
8: Smith, SS
9: Powell, LF
SP: Drew Smyly

Also pitching today for the M’s are Edwin Diaz, newly acquired pitching prospect Max Povse, and fireballing relief prospect Thyago Vieira.

Hey, a Boog Powell sighting! The ex-Ray seemed like a big part of the Brad Miller/Nate Karns swap, but a 2nd PED violation means we haven’t seen a whole lot of him.


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