The start of 2022 may not have been too memorable for lefty Will Smith, but he ended the season on a very high note. Smith opened the season as a set-up man to Kenley Jansen. But after posting an abysmal 4.38 ERA, 5.06 FIP, and 1.51 WHIP through 37 innings, the Atlanta Braves dealt Smith to the Houston Astros in a one-for-one swap for starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi.
But the move to Houston did Smith a lot of good. Through his final 22 innings of 2022, Smith worked to a 3.27 ERA, 2.66 FIP, and 1.23 WHIP. Smith’s strikeout rate went from 24% to 26.7%, while his walk rate dipped from over 12% to just 4.4%. Arguably the biggest improvement was cutting his HR/9 from 1.7 to just .82. ERA estimators like xFIP and SIERA supported his second-half hot streak at 3.09 and 2.83, respectively.
Carlos Estevez is coming off a fairly solid season with the Colorado Rockies. In 57 innings, Estevez worked to a 3.47 ERA, 4.08 FIP, and 1.18 WHIP. Estevez’s peripherals aren’t going to wow anyone. He had a 23% strikeout rate, a 9.8% walk rate, and 1.11 HR/9. Plus, he had just a 4.27 xFIP and 3.88 SIERA. But you also have to remember he pitched in the offensively charged Coors Field and was much better on the road.
When Estevez pitched as the away pitcher, he had a 3.49 ERA but a much better 29.3% K% and 5.2% walk rate. His 1.6 HR/9 isn’t too promising, but you also have to remember he had a 15.6% HR/FB ratio. After adjusting for his HR/FB percentage, he has a 3.02 xFIP.
While Scott Alexander might not be the first name that comes to mind when you think of the best relief free agents, you can’t deny his ability. He has a career 141 ERA+, and while he’s pitched sparingly across the last two seasons, he’s been highly effective. Alexander has just 32.2 innings under his belt in ‘21-’22 but owns a 1.93 ERA, 3.78 FIP, and 0.98 WHIP.
Alexander clocks in with a 13.8% strikeout rate but an above-average .83 HR/9 rate. However, the most impressive peripheral is his 3.8% walk rate. Last year with the San Francisco Giants, he had a 1.6% walk rate in a smallish sample size of 17.1 innings of work. The ERA estimators don’t hate him either, with a 3.16 SIERA and 3.51 xFIP.