Smyly Cuts Down Jays | The Process Report

Smyly Cuts Down Jays

When the Rays acquired Drew Smyly, pitching coach Jim Hickey said the team would give their new pitcher three starts to get acclimated before making suggestions and adjustments. Smyly made his fourth start in a Tampa Bay uniform Friday night. It was the best start of his major league career. Perhaps it was just a coincidence. On the other hand, Smyly’s gameplan included a new wrinkle; one straight out of the Rays’ playbook.

The results of the evening were fantastic. Smyly tossed a two-hit shutout against a potent Blue Jays’ lineup in their home park. He completed the game on 105 pitches, throwing 75 strikes. He faced one batter over the minimum and retired the final 19 in order.

Smyly came over from Detroit as a middle-of-the-rotation starter with decent stuff, solid command, a good feel for pitching and a pronounced platoon split. The latter was not a surprise to see from a left-hander without plus velocity or much of a changeup. Knowing this, teams typically load their lineups with right-handed batters when facing him. The Blue Jays were no exception.

Toronto started eight right-handers last night including: Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and southpaw specialist Danny Valencia. Colby Rasmus represented the only respite as the singular lefty in the lineup. Despite the stacked odds, Smyly stifled the Jays lineup with a slightly altered approach.

Previously, Smyly attacked right-handers primarily with fastballs and curveballs in lieu of a formidable changeup. He worked the fastball away with the curveball naturally breaking inside to righties. Meanwhile, on this night, Smyly relied in his cutter as his secondary option of choice; a script similar to the southpaw he was traded for.

Smyly threw 26 cutters against right-handed batters on Friday. Only once before had he thrown the pitch that many times against the split. Typically, the cutter has slider-like movement starting in the left-handed batter’s box before sweeping across the zone to his glove-side. But last night, Smyly did something he has rarely done before: located the pitch to his arm-side, knocking on the righties’ back door.


The cutter location was intentional as well. Take a look at where catcher Curt Casali sets up for the final pitch of the game.


His left knee is down with his glove perched on the outside corner. The call is for a cutter. Smyly delivers the pitch on target, resulting in a 4-3 putout to end the game.


In a perfect world, the Rays are able to pass along the family heirloom – a potent changeup – to Smyly at some point in the off-season. Nonetheless, until that happens, or in case it never comes to pass, it appears they have begun the process of working with what Smyly currently has and blending in some organizational philosophies.

Data & Visuals courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information.

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