Just five changeups from Joe Smith this year. Not too terribly surprising considering he’s often tasked with getting righties out. The changeup isn’t a significant part of his arsenal he’s thrown it just 11 times combined in the last three seasons. There’s not too much to see here.
Smith’s sinker did what you’d expect a sinker to do. Groundballs. It held opposing batters to a -9 average launch angle. The sinker, not surprisingly, showed a modest 15.9% whiff rate but it was outstanding at getting swings out of the zone with a 52.7% chase rate.
Smith’s primary put away pitch and most thrown offering at just over 40% of the time, the slider returned a modest 10.8% swinging K rate. Smith showed great control with the slider as it had a zone rate over 60%. The batted ball results were unbelievably exceptional as it held opposing batters to a nearly invisible .080 batting average and .084 xwOBA.
Smith’s fastball has always had great arm-side run, holding hitters to a career .232 average. Losing an inch of horizontal movement caused his strikeout numbers to revert to his career averages after an insane 2017. He threw it in the zone more often than ever before, and despite making more contact, hitters didn’t do much hitting only .255 with a .282 BABIP. He is slowly losing velocity on the pitch at a career-low 88.2 mph last season.
The slider once again fooled hitters with a .127 BAA and a nice 42.4 GB%. It generated a ton of whiffs with a low walk rate as his strikeout pitch. Hitters made poor contact out of the zone but posted a career-high rate of contact in the zone, leading to a career-high three home runs allowed. Despite losing 2 mph on average, the pitch maintained its usual movement and still generated a good infield fly-ball rate.
Smith’s sinker maintained its excellent ground-ball rate and made some improvements in 2018. After hitting .316 with a .349 BABIP in 2017, the pitch positively regressed to a .241 BAA with a .273 BABIP, closer to his career norm. It gained an inch and a half of drop, which helped him post his lowest HR/FB% since 2014 with only one home run allowed but also led to an increased walk rate as hitters laid off the pitch.