Joe Smith: Angels 2014 Year in Review

By Ryan Ritchey
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Anaheim Angels reliever Joe Smith spent the first two years of his career in New York with the Mets, before going over to Cleveland and spending five seasons. Then last offseason he was granted free-agency on Halloween and signed with the Angels on November 27. His 2013 season was the third straight season in which he had thrown at least 60 innings and pitched in at least 70 games. He was very impressive in doing so only allowing 16 runs in the 63 innings he threw in 2013. He didn’t strike out many batters, but to compensate for that, he didn’t allow many free base runners either; just 23 all season long.

Coming over to a team that needed help in the bullpen, could he get better in 2014? It is hard to believe after his final season in Cleveland, but it is true. He did get better in 2014 and here is how.

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The Good: There is just something about a reliever that can throw a lot of innings that gets me excited. You can’t expect the starter to pitch the entire game, every time out, so guys like Joe Smith are much needed if you want to win division titles and eventually World Series titles. Smith saw action in 76 games, but this season was different. He pitched 74 and two-thirds innings, getting over the 70 inning hump for the first time in his career.

In those 74 and two-thirds innings he allowed just 45 hits. That is the third lowest amount of his career and the least amount since he threw just 40 innings in 2010. I said it in my Huston Street review and I will say it again here. In order to be successful out of the bullpen you have to be able to throw strikes immediately. Smith did that with zero problems in 2014. He walked just 15 batters all season long compared to a career high 68 punch outs. He has now set a career high in strikeouts the last three seasons, the question now comes about, can he do it again in 2015? I doubt it.

When you have an ERA of 1.81 you have to throw plenty of scoreless appearances. He did just that, 67 to be exact, which led the American League and set a new Angels franchise record. Smith hasn’t been the one to pitch in the 9th inning, but he did that some, recording 15 saves after recording just three the first seven years of his career.

Smith alone was worth one win above replacement this season according to FanGraphs, doubling his WAR from last season. Smith had a great season no matter how you cut it, but there is one thing that he didn’t do well in 2014.

The Bad: Smith had one problem when it came to the 2014 season. He couldn’t get the Oakland Athletics out. Eight of the 16 runs he allowed this season came by the A’s and seven of them were driven in or scored by Yoenis Cespedes. I guess you could say he had trouble with Cespedes if you really wanted to. Nonetheless, Cespedes is out of the American League West for now, but he could end up returning, as the Red Sox are reportedly shopping him around to teams.

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The Future: Smith is signed thru the 2016 season, but topping his first season in a halo uniform is going to be tough. He set a lot of career highs and to break them, the Angels rotation will have to be atrocious and I don’t see that happening. Nonetheless, Smith can still have an amazing season, just not as great as 2014. He will come down to earth some in 2015, because of this thing called regression, but he has beaten that the last three seasons, so who knows he may just continue to dominate opposing hitters.

The FanGraphs steamer has him back to normal, with an ERA around three and being worth a half of win above replacement. They also have him back in the 65 inning range, which is fair, because the Angels will have Huston Street for a full season along side Smith.

*Record Breaking stats via the daily game notes of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim franchise.*

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