The Cleveland Indians have been something special this year as they have really come out of nowhere. They currently sit atop the AL central with a one game lead over the Detroit Tigers. The Indians have been quite a story themselves, but what reliever Joe Smith has done has been remarkable.
Joe Smith, a 6’2” 205lb right-handed reliever has been great for the Indians out of the bullpen this year. The 27 year old side-armer is in his 5th professional season and this has been by far his best performance. Smith has a 0.80 ERA which ranks second amongst relievers in the Major Leagues and is only 0.01 behind the leader, Antonio Bastardo. He has 33.2 innings pitched thus far, and has yet to give up a single homerun.
While his ERA and zero homeruns surrendered are very impressive, it’s his scoreless streak that really makes his season special. He has not allowed an earned run in his past 27 appearances which is good for a scoreless streak of 22 innings. The last time he gave up a run was May 8th against the Angels.
Well what is the secret to Smith’s success? I have no clue. Just as Jonathan discussed in a recent article on Jeff Karstens and his success, it’s hard to figure out how Smith does it. His K/9 (5.61) and BB/9 (3.48) aren’t anything impressive at all. His FIP is much higher than his ERA, at 3.05 which suggest that maybe there has been some luck. He has a very high GB% of 61.0% which is one of the highest amongst relievers. So a lot of his balls are staying in the infield but his .257 BABIP shows that he is getting help from his infielders.
The stat that really puzzles me though is his splits with runners in scoring position. One would assume that with a scoreless streak like that, he would have a very low average against with runners in scoring position. Well his average against is .316 and he has a BABIP of .375 with RISP. To have those stats as well as a 22 inning scoreless streak is something else.
Joe Smith is doing something special in Cleveland but I’m just not sure how. Either way he has been an important piece of the Indians bullpen and he looks to possibly continue his scoreless streak as the Indians are taking on the Orioles this afternoon.