I love me some Drew Smyly and that is probably why I’m profiling him even though he might not be undervalued in the traditional sense. How could a guy with a 3.11 ERA and a 28 K% in 66.66 IP be underrated anyway? Because Smyly might have significant upside if he can pitch a full season.
Smyly’s 3.11 ERA wasn’t backed up by peripherals with a 3.91 FIP, 3.47 xFIP and 3.25 SIERA. His DRA was 3.83 as well. However let’s take a look deeper and see how legitimate those numbers are given the small sample of 66.66 IP.
Smyly dropped a ridiculous K rate of 28% and a BB rate of 7.3%. The K rate was a big jump from his previous high as an SP of 22.6%. Smyly accomplished this by increasing the whiff per swing rate on the pitch he throws the most. He threw his fastball 36.8% of the time last year and his whiff rate jumped from the 16s to 22.4. The chart below shows that he maintained his whiff rate with his other pitches while raising the rate on his four seamer.
(Stats from Brooksbasball. Note: 2013 removed as he was full time RP)
The whiff rate boost on the FB might be legit as well. Smyly generated an extra half inch of movement on his fastball last year. For a guy who already has ridiculous stuff, this may have just put him over the top. Over a full season, I don’t think he can maintain 28% Ks but 24-25% is within reason. His BB rate last year was right in between his previous two seasons starting so that number seems legitimate.
Smyly’s big problem last year was HRs which isn’t a problem he’s had in the past. His HR/FB was 14.3% compared to 9.8% for his career. For a guy who gives up a lot of fly balls, this isn’t altogether unsurprising. However given his career number and the fact that he plays in one of the worst 10 parks in the majors for HRs, 14.3% seems terribly high. As we know HR/FB is one of the components of FIP and that explains why his FIP was 3.91 compared to his xFIP of 3.47.
Some will look at Smyly’s .283 BABIP and see regression coming, but remember that his career BABIP is .285 The Rays aren’t as good on defense as they have been in the past, but they do have Kevin Kiermaier who is a black hole in CF with a mind boggling 42 DRS last year. For a fly ball pitcher like Smyly, that’s exactly the kind of guy you want manning CF. I think his BABIP will continue to be low. However, his LOB% is likely to see some regression. He posted an 86.5% last year compared to 78.4% for his career. This number is very high and it’s likely that over a full season, this would have dropped significantly.
Steamer projects Smyly for a 3.32 ERA, a 1.19 WHIP, a 23.2 K% and a 7.4 BB% in 151 IPs. Very good numbers for an SP. The injury concerns me slightly, but I’m still buying Smyly big time. I’ll give him a 3.25 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, a 24.5 K% and a 7.3 BB%. This will be a good year to get on board the Smyly train.