Angels’ Joe Smith threw baseball’s best pitch — in 2010
Angels reliever Joe Smith was stunned to learn that a 24-year-old from Biola University chose a 93-mph fastball Smith threw for Cleveland in 2010 as the single finest pitch of the last seven years.
“No kidding?” Smith said when informed of the distinction. “I hope that kid becomes a general manager and gives me a raise.”
Jarvis Greiner, a former Biola pitcher whose playing career ended because of a shoulder injury, introduced his Quality of Pitch metric Thursday at the Society of American Baseball Research Analytics conference in Phoenix.
Using data from baseball’s camera-tracking PITCHf/x system, Greiner, who was profiled by Yahoo Sports columnist Jeff Passan this week, devised a system to calculate the effectiveness of a pitch based on movement, velocity and location.
Pitches were rated from minus-10 to plus-10 with anything 5.00 or better deemed a quality pitch. Using data from the more than 5 million major league pitches thrown since 2008, Greiner determined that an 0-and-2 fastball from Smith to Boston’s Billy Hall on Aug. 4, 2010, scored a 10.031.
Hall grounded the up-and-away strike weakly to second base.
“I was throwing 93 mph? Oh, that had to have been a while ago,” said Smith, a sidearm-throwing right-hander whose fastball now sits in the 89-mph range. “I remember Hall grounding out to second, but I couldn’t tell you what pitch it was.”
Smith’s 3.83 earned-run average in 2010 was the highest of his eight big league seasons, but perhaps that pitch to Hall was a hint of his potential. Now 31, Smith has been one of baseball’s most reliable setup men since 2011, with a 2.25 ERA in 289 games, including a 1.81 ERA and 15 saves for the Angels in 2014.
Smith is no connoisseur of new-age statistics, but he was intrigued by Greiner’s system.
“I wouldn’t know the first thing about how you compute something like that,” Smith said, “but you kind of wonder when you see some guys who throw 100 mph and get hit hard, and then you see a guy throwing 88 and you can’t hit him. That’s kind of funny.”
Smith said the stiffness in his upper right leg and abdomen area that has slowed him in camp would not have sidelined him during the regular season. Smith threw in the bullpen Thursday, and he expects to begin pitching in games next week.
“If this had happened during the season, I would have taken two days off, wrapped it up and pitched,” Smith said. “Since it’s early, they wanted me to give it some time to heal.”
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