Smyly Shows Stuff Versus Rangers
The Rays pushed the newly acquired Drew Smyly to his limit and beyond on Monday evening. Making his second start in a Tampa Bay uniform, the left-hander tossed a career-high 7 2/3 scoreless innings on 116 pitches; another career-high. Facing a patchwork Rangers’ lineup, he allowed three hits and three walks while striking out nine batters.
If his first start was a peak at where Smyly’s current talent level is – flaws and all – this effort showed the high-side of his potential.
Smyly was on from the very first inning, but his best work came in the seventh. Ultimately it took 20 pitches, but the 25-year-old struck out the side, working around a one-out single off the bat of Adrian Beltre. He began the frame by exploiting the aggressive nature of J.P. Arencibia.
Smyly started Texas’ designated hitter with mid-70s curveball before tossing a cutter about 10 mph harder. Both pitched were located on the inner half and down. Both resulted in an empty swing. The Rays’ pitcher went for the knockout with an elevated 92-mph fastball but the former Blue Jay surprisingly passed. Arencibia then watched a 77-mph curveball sail out of the zone. On 2-2, he could no longer hold back. Smyly went back to the high heat; this one a bit more competitive, and good enough to miss the bat for strike three.
With Beltre on first and one out, Smyly began a seven-pitch battle with Adam Rosales. He jumped ahead 0-1 with yet another first-pitch curveball. Meanwhile, he temporarily lost control of his fastball, throwing three consecutive balls; all above the zone. He as regained feel for the pitch just in time as Rosales fouled off a 90-mph heater to push the count full. Smyly continues to show a lot of confidence in his breaking ball. On 3-2 he went to the curveball, freezing the Rangers’ first baseman with a 77-mph hook at the knees on the inside corner for strike three.
Facing a left-handed batter for the first time in the inning, Smyly dispatched Leonys Martin on three pitches. Martin took a fastball over the plate for a called strike one before fouling off an arm-side curveball low in the zone. Smyly’s final pitch of the seventh was perhaps the best: an 84-mph cutter low-and-away for a swinging strike three.
Three different pitches. Three different locations. And as it turns out three different release points.
In his initial write-up, R.J. Anderson noted that Smyly has a high release point. Former minor-league pitcher and friend of the site, Toby David, said the high release could add deception on what is largely average stuff. According to brooksbaseball.net, Smyly’s vertical release on the fastball tops seven feet.
In addition to varying locations and speeds, he also changes angles, letting go of his other pitches at slightly different points.
Using the top of the green wall as a guide, you can see how each pitch is released a little bit lower than the next. The first frame is the fastball that finished Arencibia. The middle represents the curveball that froze Rosales. The far-right shot shows the lowest release on the cutter that retired Martin.
Smyly is still foreign entity, but his knack for pitching feels just like home.