Indeed, Eleven, just whom the fuck is that guy? Once a week I’ll be breaking down a player who is surprising the league – for better or for worse. This will range from stars we’ve grown to expect greatness from all the way to obscure players who have appeared out of nowhere. In each case it will beg the question: Whom the fuck is that guy?!
5/11/19 – Caleb Smith, SP, Miami Marlins
Is it safe to assume that we’ve all made the same argument of assimilation? If you failed a math test and 90% of the class also failed said quiz I’m betting you argued “but everyone else failed so it’s not that big of a deal.” This is the analogy I use for the 2019 Miami Marlins. They are horrendous. You can make the argument they were supposed to be horrible. In this case, Caleb Smith is that anomaly who aced the trigonometry exam – or in other words the one bright spot on an otherwise putrid Marlins team.
So just how bad is this Miami team? At the time of writing this article, offense the Marlins come in at 28th in BA, dead last in slugging and OBP, and of course last in run differential with a -76 mark – edging out the Orioles who stand at -69 (nice). Pitching-wise, Miami has not been much better as they rank in the bottom ten of team ERA and WHIP.
For all the struggles this team has endured, Caleb Smith has been enjoying a breakout season. It’s far too early to crown Smith the Cy Young by any means, but it’s clear he’s been the MVP of his own team. He also has been one of the top pitchers in the league:
Smith is ranking in the top 10 in every valuable pitching category this year. One of the biggest indicators of why Smith has been so successful is due to his ability to miss bats. Out of all qualifying pitchers, Caleb Smith leads the league in swings on pitches outside the zone – O-Swing% – at 37.5%. Again, this isn’t all that surprising when you consider Smith flashed this type of upside last year as well – both his changeup and slider earned swinging-strike rates above 16% across his limited 77 frames.
If there’s any red flags – and there are – it’s Smith’s ability, or inability, to stay healthy. His 77 innings in 2018 represent his career high to this point. Of course, he’s only been in the majors since 2017 when he was then a member of the Yankees. Even in the minors, Smith never exceeded 130 innings, so durability will continue be his biggest detractor. There is reason for optimism, however. The Marlins are clearly going nowhere this year, but Smith is responsible for 30% of his teams wins. Couple this with the fact that Derek Jeter has shown little-to-no value on retaining proven talent and it’s easy to get excited about Smith’s prospects of getting traded to a contender, where, hopefully he can garner more attention. As it stands today, Smith’s ERA (2.11) is legit, especially when compared to his FIP (2.87).
Caleb Smith might not be a household name due in large part that he plays for the Miami Marlins as well as the fact that his name is mayonnaise personified, but I believe he’ll finish the year in a similar fashion to how he has begun. He might not have the same reach as a Jacob deGrom or a Max Scherzer, but Caleb “Mayonnaise” Smith could end up being the best pitcher you’ve never heard of.