Is It All Smiles for Drew Smyly?

Don’t you love it when a player’s name makes it super simple to create an absolutely brilliant title? I do! So yesterday, the Mariners continued their fantasy league moves by acquiring 27-year-old southpaw Drew Smyly. Up until 2016, Smyly enjoyed a fantastic beginning to his career, as he owned a 3.24 ERA/3.43 SIERA between the starting rotation and bullpen. But shoulder injuries hit in 2015 and he becaome afflicted with a severe bout of gopheritis during this past season. His ERA ballooned to 4.88 as his strikeout rate fell and he allowed the second highest fly ball rate in baseball among qualified pitchers. Now he moves to Seattle, where perhaps a change of scenery could do him some good. Will he benefit from the park switch? Let’s find out if such a possibility exists.

Because Smyly is a lefty and not surprisingly he performs significantly better against batters of the same handedness, I decided to only compared park factors for right-handed hitters.

Tampa vs Seattle Park Factors
Team Basic 1B as R 2B as R 3B as R HR as R SO BB GB FB LD IFFB FIP
Rays -6% -6% -14% 0% -16% 4% 0% -4% 2% -4% 16% -6%
Mariners -8% -6% -8% -20% -8% 4% -6% -6% 4% -4% 12% -4%
-I doubled the park factor to only reflect the home factor
-I highlighted the park that is more pitcher friendly in each category
-Yes, I realize these are 2015 factors, as we haven’t yet updated the Guts page for 2016 numbers

Both Tropicana Field and Safeco Field sport a singles park factor that equates to suppressing those hit types by six percent. That’s a good thing for BABIP, though obviously Smyly won’t see any change as a result of the park switch.

However, he will definitely experience a change when it comes to doubles and triples. Tropicana was the second toughest park to hit a double in, though Safeco wasn’t that much easier. Both park rank in the top six in most challenging doubles parks.

Triples rate yields a significant difference, as Tropicana is perfectly neutral, while Safeco suppresses them by 20%, as the tenth most difficult park to hit one in.

Overall from a hit type perspective, Smyly lose marginally, as the greater number of doubles means the difference in park factors there are more meaningful.

Next, we move along to the home run park factor, where Tropicana was the fourth toughest park to hit one out for a right-handed hitter. Safeco was also more difficult than the average park, but not nearly to the same degree that Tropicana was. Didn’t really matter though, as Smyly still posted an inflated HR/FB rate at home while donning a Rays uniform. His home HR/FB rate was actually higher than his away mark, at 13.2% versus 11.4%. Strange.

Still, although he didn’t perform as expected at home, obviously moving to a slightly more hitter friendly venue isn’t a positive. This is especially true considering how many fly balls he allows.

The strikeout park factors are identical, while Safeco slightly reduces walks. Smyly has never had control issues, so that probably won’t matter much.

The batted ball type factors are all very similar, though interestingly, both parks land in the top five in generating pop-ups. Of course, he still loses, going from the second best park to the fifth. Smyly induces a ton of pop-ups, so perhaps he may take a slight hit…based on whatever it is in these parks that help to boost that batted ball type.

Let’s conclude with the Basic park factor and FIP. Overall, both are pitcher friendly, but oddly, Safeco suppresses runs more, while Tropicana reduces FIP more. I’m not sure how to explain that. Tropicana hampers home runs more effectively, but it also suppresses doubles better and there aren’t enough triples to assume that’s the explanation for the difference.

So from a strictly park factor perspective, Smyly probably takes a slight hit simply due to the HR factor differences, since he’s such an extreme fly ball pitcher. But in terms of overall run environment, the change isn’t going to be all the meaningful.

Both defenses are supposed to be excellent, with the Mariners forecasted to be slightly better. However, Kevin Kiermaier’s presence in center field with the Rays makes that outfield a bit better, and Smyly needs a top notch outfield behind him. Still, the Mariners should be excellent, just not as excellent as the Rays.

Last, the Mariners are projected to score more runs than the Rays by a meaningful margin, and they are forecasted to trot out a better bullpen. All in all, this might be a slight net positive for Smyly. Even without the park switch, I’m a real fan heading into the season. I think he’s going to be undervalued due to the inflated 2016 ERA, but there’s a good chance he gets that back below 4.00 with a nice strikeout rate to boot. So is it all smiles for Smyly? Probably not all, but certainly more smiles than frowns.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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5 years ago

I haven’t looked at his away splits as a devil ray, but wouldn’t the change of AL East to AL West parks help him a lot? Better for an extreme FB pitcher to have away starts in Oakland and Anaheim instead of Toronto and Yankee Stadium.