Atlanta Braves bullpen angst heading to the finish line
Mad Will yelling
Atlanta Braves nominal closer came into the game after Tomlin allowed a beaten Marlin’s team to get back within striking distance. I understand the Smith had limited time to warm up, but he’s the guy the Braves pay to stop mistakes like Tomlin’s from costing the team a win.
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He needed only one out, but instead of dispatching the first batter and celebrating, he walked him. He followed that by serving up a gopher-ball that landed high up in the right-field stands. The walk and single that followed didn’t cost the Braves the game because Alex Jackson was a couple of milliseconds early and pulled the pitch foul.
Smith’s childish screaming at Jesus Sanchez was Smith realizing that the game was getting away from him, and he had no idea how to stop it. Smith’s concerns come from a recognition that he no longer has an out-pitch he can rely on.
Smith has never possessed a high-velocity fastball; he lives and dies on the success of his breaking pitches, primarily his slider.
The 2018 Giants pieced together the back of their bullpen. Hunter Strickland began the season as their closer and tucked away 14 saves before going on the IL in June. After mixing and matching for a month, Smith slipped into the role and earned 14 saves scattered over his last 30 appearances.
The 2019 season was Smith’s coming-out party. He appeared in 63 games and earned 34 saves with future Atlanta Braves closer Mark Melancon setting up for him until the Braves acquired Melancon at the deadline. The pitch that made him so effective in San Francisco was the slider.
Thanks to Baseball Savant, we know that Smith’s velocity hasn’t changed significantly and his spin rate is stable as well. However, this season batters increased their launch angle against all of his pitches.
|Year||Pitch||RHB%||LHB%||Pit %||MPH||K%||EV||LA||Spin||Whiff %|
While Smith’s throwing the same pitches, at the same velocity, the same spin and a WHIFF rate that remains steady, his K-Rate dropped significantly for his two main weapons. Fangraphs gives us some answers about what’s happening instead.