Pittsburgh Pirates Acquire Josh Smoker from New York Mets

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 13: Josh Smoker
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 13: Josh Smoker /

The Pittsburgh Pirates made a trade with the New York Mets for left-handed reliever Josh Smoker.

The Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Mets supposedly have talked about Josh Harrison, however today the two clubs made a deal revolving around a relief pitcher.  The Pirates traded Daniel Zamora, a 24-year-old relief pitcher the Pirates drafted in the 40th round in 2015, for Josh Smoker, who was designated for assignment by the Mets to make room for Jose Reyes.

Smoker provides the Pirates another option for the bullpen with his power arm, and it continues to appear the Pirates are building up power arms in the bullpenning revolution way.  Smoker might not break camp with the Pirates, but he’s an intriguing arm for a couple of reasons.

The first reason that Smoker is intriguing is because of the fastball.  Last season Smoker averaged 94.6 miles per hour on his fourseam (league average for left handers is 92.5 miles per hour).  The second reason is the strikeout total, as Smoker struck out 25.5 percent of hitters he faced last season (league average for a relief pitcher was 23.3 percent).

There is a couple of downsides to Smoker, and a couple big reasons why he likely won’t make the team out of camp.  His biggest issue is control, as he walked 12.0 percent of hitters, and pulling out intentional walks and adding in hit by pitches, Smoker was allowing a player to reach without a ball in play 10.49 percent of the time.  League average walk rate for relievers last season was 9.20 percent, and league average unintentional walk plus hit by pitch rate was 9.40 percent.  Smoker also ranked 302 of 355 pitchers in Baseball Prospectus’ new measure command score among pitchers with at least 50 innings.  His command and control is just not there.

The other issue with Smoker is the quality of contact, as he allowed a home run 3.75 percent of the time and an extra base hit 9.74 percent of the time.  His wOBA on balls in play was .370 (league average was .327).  There could be a reason of optimism surrounding that, as his xwOBA (expected wOBA) on balls in play was .316 (league average was .309), and so Smoker was giving up results he shouldn’t have, but based on launch angle and exit velocity he was still giving up worse contact than the average.

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Overall, Smoker provides the Pirates with a hard throwing left-handed relief option, and one who tossed multiple innings 33.3 percent of the time and got more than three outs 20.37 percent of the time.  His control and quality of contact problems might outweigh the positives, and therefore cause him to not make the team out of camp, but for now Josh Smoker is another power arm on a team that is collecting as many as they can.

*Numbers from Fangraphs