The Astros are no strangers to tinkering with their pitchers. From changing grips, adjusting usage, and even adding or removing pitches. Recently an interview with Justin Verlander during Wednesday’s Rangers vs Astros game revealed just how simple that process could be.
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It seems the same people have talked to Will Smith. While in Atlanta, Smith threw a four-seamer, slider, and curveball. The four-seamer and slider made up nearly 90 percent of his usage, and the curveball got thrown the remaining 10 percent almost exclusively to righties. Shall we look at the batted ball statistics?
Batting Average Slugging wOBA
Slider .175 .300 .235
4-Seam Fastball .276 .461 .370
Curveball .500 1.667 .898
See anything that looks a little different? It shouldn’t come as a surprise that since his arrival in Houston, Smith has thrown just three curveballs. And the one curveball to be put in play took a diving effort from Mauricio Dubon not to go for extra bases.
Two of his four appearances have been without the curve and in the small sample size, the move to space city seems to be a good fit for the left-handed reliever. As he has just given up one run on a solo home run and has yet to walk a batter. The latter is particularly noteworthy as prior to the trade Smith had the highest BB% of his career.
Sweeping Across the Nation
In addition to removing the curveball, the Astros have added Smith to the long list of pitchers in the organization to own a sweeper slider. Emphasizing more horizontal movement rather than vertical to get more swings and misses. The sweeper slider has gained massive popularity throughout the league this season as more and more pitchers have added it to their repertoire.
The upper right-hand clump of yellow lines is Smith’s time in Houston, and you can see it has come with more horizontal movement. The strikeouts have followed as well raising the sliders Whiff % from 43.4% to 55% in his brief time in Houston.
Smith will hold an important role for the Astros in the postseason as their lone left-handed reliever. However, with these small changes, the Astros are well equipping the one-time all-star for another World Series run.
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