Each week through Spring Training the DTTWLN staff will profile and break down the players in camp for the Indians at Goodyear, Arizona and examine their potential roles for the season to come. This week, we continue our Goodyear coverage by breaking down the players who the glue to the team if the Tribe is to make the playoffs.
By Christian Petrila
Since being acquired from the New York Mets after the 2008 season, Joe Smith came to the Indians and was expected to be one of the most efficient setup men in the American League. 2011 saw Joe Smith take a huge leap in the right direction.
Smith has the unmistakable sidearm release and also bears one of the more unhittable sliders in the Majors. In 2011, he finally put all the pieces together. In his career-high 67 innings, he sported a tidy ERA of 2.01. Not only that, but he only allowed one home run all year.
Smith had only pitched two seasons for the Mets, but they were productive seasons. His ERA withNew Yorkwas 3.51 through 107.2 innings. He also averaged almost a strikeout per inning.
However, Smith’s career picked up after the three-team trade that sent him to the Tribe. In the three years since switching to theAL, he has set a career-low in ERA twice. He is sporting an ERA of 2.87 in three seasons with the Indians. Although he is striking out fewer batters since moving toCleveland, he is also walking fewer and allowing fewer hits. As an added bonus, his WAR jumped from 0.3 in 2010 to an astounding 2.1 in 2011. That type of a presence in the bullpen is something any team would love to add.
It definitely helps Smith’s case that he is rapidly becoming a fan-favorite in Cleveland. His Twitter account (@thethree8) is by far one of the most popular on the team. In fact, Jordan Bastian, Indians’ beat writer for MLB.com, consistently has him in the top five of his weekly “Indians Twitter Power Rankings.” As past players could surely say, it definitely helps to get on good terms with theClevelandfans.
Smith hasn’t missed a beat this spring. Through nine innings so far, he has an ERA of 2.00. He also has 10 strike outs and is holding opponents to a .242 BAA. If he can keep those numbers going into the regular season, the Bullpen Mafia could return stronger than ever in 2012.
Despite the unorthodox release, Joe Smith is one of the most valuable pieces on the Indians. The Indians are looking for an encore performance from him in 2012. If he can deliver, it could change the outlook of the AL Central, and that is not a hyperbole.
Photo: Associated Press
Be sure to vote for Did The Tribe Win Last Night in the finals of Cleveland Magazine’s Blog Bracket Challenge this week. Voting is open until 5 pm on Friday.