The Atlanta Braves entered the 2023 season with arguably the league’s best bullpen. Part of the reason they had such a strong bullpen going into the year was because of former all-star Will Smith, who was their closer in 2021. But Smith struggled to start the year for Atlanta.
Through Smith’s first 37 innings of 2022, Smith posted a poor 4.38 ERA, 5.22 FIP, and 1.51 WHIP. While the southpaw struck out 24% of the batters he faced, he allowed 12.3% to reach via free pass and surrendered home runs at a 1.7-per-9 rate. The Braves then traded him to the Houston Astros in a one-for-one swap for starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi where he re-found his form.
Through his final 22 innings of the season, Smith worked to the tune of a 3.27 ERA, 2.66 FIP, and 1.23 WHIP. Smith’s strikeout rate saw an uptick to 26.7% while his home run rate dropped to .82-per-9 innings. But the most significant improvement was his walk rate shrinking to just 4.4%. Smith had a 6.0 K:BB ratio with the Astros. The underlying numbers also supported Smith’s production with Houston. He posted a 3.09 xFIP and 2.83 SIERA throughout his final 22 innings of the campaign.
Smith does have a team option for 2022, but for $13 million, it’s unlikely the Astros will pick that up. The Pirates only have one lefty who is projected as part of their bullpen in, Manny Bañuelos. Smith’s second half shows he still has some left in the tank and could provide the Pittsburgh Pirates with a much-needed left-handed bullpen option, especially for late innings.