Drew Smyly made me smile yesterday. Like a surgeon, he cut up Texas Ranger hitters, to the tune of 6IP 5H 1ER 2BB, 7K, and 8 ground balls, throwing 65 strikes in 100 pitches. It’s not like Texas is some slap hitting team either, they’re averaging 5.8 runs per game, are hitting .303/.362/.498 as a team, including a ridiculous .339/.406/.550 vs. left handed starters. What stood out more to me about the young left hander Smyly, was his poise and moxy on the mound. For example, in the top of the 6th, score tied 1-1, tying run on 3B, one out, Drew strikes out Nelson Cruz with a well placed fastball on the inside corner, then gets the ever dangerous Mike Napoli to pop up to Avila to end the inning. Rookies don’t do that, especially against RH hitters of that caliber. Even more impressive, was Smyly’s ability to generate 12 swing and misses, including an astounding 7 on fastballs. According to pitch F/X, Smyly’s “slider” generated 5 swings and misses on 29 pitches, and although the data said his “cutter” generated none on 29 pitches, it seemed pretty difficult to discern between the two pitches. Until I see Smyly pitch more often, I’m going to defer to the pitch F/X readings. Watching Drew execute his well crafted plan, it’s diifficult to believe that he has only one season of minor league baseball under his belt. His demeanor and pitch mix make him seem like seasoned veteran, and that inexperience makes his early results that much more impressive. To think that he’s only the third ranked prospect in the Tigers’ system actually says more about Jacob Turner and Nick Castellanos than it does Smyly.
Watching the 22 year old lefthander yesterday, made me ask myself: who is he like? I’m not usually big on comparisons, known in the baseball community as comps, because everyone has their own distinct style, mannerisms, and personality. While there are some good comps, like Delmon Young to Yogi Bear, Brandon Inge to Rupaul, and Justin Verlander to Nolan Ryan, comparing one player to another is not an easy thing to do. However, Drew reminded me of someone yesterday, someone Tiger fans are very familiar: John Danks. While it’s extremely early in Smyly’s career, let’s take a look at the two a bit closer:
Drew Smyly: 8.44 K/9, 3.38 BB/9, 4.0 FIP 51% GB, 55.6% fastball (91.9 MPH), 20% slider, 20% cutter, 5% splitfinger, 10% swinging strike
John Danks (career): 7.01 K/9 2.97 BB/9, 4.16 FIP, 42.6% GB , 53.4% fastball (90.9 MPH, 91.6 and 91.7 in 2009 and 2010 respectively), 27.5% cutter, 7.5% curve, 19.1% change, 9.3% swinging strike
Like I said before, no comparison is perfect. Remember, Smyly is only 16 innings into his big league career, but I think that his numbers will look extremely similar to Danks’ going forward. While Danks features a curveball that Smyly doesn’t, their repertoires are very similar, and I’m not sure that Smyly’s “splitfinger” isn’t actually a change up. Danks is good for around 200 IP with a high 3’s ERA every year, which accounts for about 4 WAR. I’m sure that the Tigers would take that going forward. Smyly seems like he’s here to stay, and now gives the Tigers four solid starters, with the potential for six, once Doug Fister and Jacob Turner return from injury. If the Cats can get their bullpen to hold the leads the starters are giving them, they will win a lot of games this season, and Smyly will help them do so.
Follow me on twitter @jgoro8