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Greg Smith Fifth In AL ERA Race

I could've never predicted the current AL ERA leaderboard:

  1. Cliff Lee - 0.96
  2. Zack Greinke - 1.47
  3. Ervin Santana - 2.02
  4. Daisuke Matsuzaka - 2.43
  5. Greg Smith - 2.54

Today, let's take a look at 24 year-old Oakland southpaw Greg Smith.

Heading into the season, Baseball America projected Smith as a back-of-the-rotation starter.  He's more about polish and smarts, using command of his four pitches to retire hitters.

Here are his numbers so far:

6 starts
39 IP
6.5 IP/start
2.54 ERA
1.03 WHIP

7.15 K/9
3.00 BB/9
2.38 K/BB
0.92 HR/9
11.5% HR/flyball
6.23 H/9
.228 BABIP
37.5% groundball rate

As a team, the A's have a low .279 BABIP.  Adjusting Smith's BABIP more toward his team's, I get something near a 3.80 ERA and 1.30 WHIP.  So, what we're seeing is not a complete fluke if the strikeout and walk rates are legit.  I expect the K rate to come down a bit, closer to 6.0.  Only thing that scares me about Smith is his 10.5 hits per nine in 52 Triple A innings last year.  If a hit explosion of that nature occurs, his ERA might just be a hair under 5.00 moving forward.

Even adjusting for BABIP Smith has been tough to hit this year.  He will need to continue allowing fewer than a hit per inning if he is to keep his ERA under 4.00.  36 starters did that last year, including lefties with less than amazing repertoires like Wandy Rodriguez, Barry Zito, Ted Lilly, and Rich Hill.  I can't definitively say Smith will fall into this group but he's a fine pickup in the short term.  Note that Zito, Lilly, and Hill have all struggled in '08 with prolonged league exposure.  The same fate is likely for Smith since he is not a dominating type of pitcher.

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