Brewers 2016: Will Smith
Will Smith is the type of reliever that is really only well known in Milwaukee. Outside of that, there aren’t many people that truly know just how awesome Will Smith is (I would assume diehard stats gurus know but I’m assuming people who just watch 90 games of their home team), anyway before I digress too much. Over the last three years, Will Smith has put himself in elite company. He’s posted a K/9 of 12.22, a BB/9 of 3.47, a K% of 32.6%, a BB% of 9.2%, a K-BB% of 23.3%, an xFIP of 2.82, an xFIP- of 74, and an ERA if 3.07. Those numbers have put him in the company of Wade Davis, Ken Giles, Trevor Rosenthal, and Cody Allen. Even while being in that company Smith isn’t talked about on the national level, at least not in a day-to-day conversation. His K/9 rate is actually higher than ALL of those players and rarely is his name thrown into the mix.
2015 saw Will Smith posting a career high 12.93 K/9 rate along with a 2.47 FIP/2.75 xFIP/2.39 SIERA in 63.1 IP. He was downright brutal against righties that it almost isn’t fair holding them to a .193/.264/.281 line. In 2015, his slider was in the top 10 amongst relievers (according to FanGraphs), now that’s getting jiggy with it (sorry, I couldn’t resist). He also posted a career-best 2.70 ERA collecting 7 wins along the way in 2015.
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FanGraphs Steamer projection has Will Smith posting an 11.57 K/9 rate with a 2.95 FIP in 65 IP along with a 2.95 ERA. Smith is currently 25 and the projections don’t show him slowing down anytime soon. Which brings us to the proverbial “Should Will Smith be the closer in Milwaukee?” question. If only the answer were that easy (maybe I’m wrong and it is), but it seems that some people are better suited for certain roles, and Smith seems best suited for the setup role. However, the more he uses his slider the harder it becomes to argue against him being the closer. Really, it’s the number of closing the situations the Brewers come into that answers that question. If they don’t have many it doesn’t make sense to use Smith as the closer, keeping him in as many relief appearances is best for the Brewers. Especially at the level Smith is producing, as the more he produces the higher his trade value becomes for a rebuilding Brewers franchise.