During spring training and the early portion of the 2009 season, Chris Smith wasn't even mentioned as a possible contributor to this team. He went down to AAA and earned a shot, though, posting a 1.27 ERA in 28 appearances for Nashville, picking up 17 saves with a 0.867 WHIP in the process.
And, as a Brewer, he's been pretty good. He's also been used in a bunch of different roles. He's thrown two or more innings in nine of his 32 outings, and posted a 2.61 ERA in that role. He's also been called upon to pitch an inning or less in 20 outings, and posted a 2.89 ERA in that role. He's been called into games as early as the fourth inning, and has finished 12 games.
Opposing batters are hitting .196/.284/.405 off of him this season, and he's shown acceptable control (3.5 BB/9) while striking out enough batters (6.8 K/9, not as many as Todd Coffey's 7.1 but more than Seth McClung's 5.4), but the home run ball has been the one chink in his armor: He's allowed 9 long balls in 44 major league innings: That's 1.8 HR/9, higher than everyone on the team not named Braden Looper. Because of his tendency to allow home runs his FIP is 5.62, suggesting he's been exceptionally lucky.
Smith is 28 years old and will finish 2009 with less than a full season of service time, meaning he's under team control for at least five more seasons and can be paid the league minimum or close for both 2010 and 2011. He's also significantly outperforming his career numbers (he has a 4.33 career ERA in AAA, compared to 1.27 this season), making him a candidate to regress.
So, to sum up:
- Smith is very flexible, can pitch multiple innings and early or late in games.
- He's been very effective in AAA and the pros this season.
- He's under team control for five more seasons and available really cheap for two of them.
- His numbers this season are much better than his career numbers, suggesting he may regress to the mean.
- He's allowed an inordinately high number of home runs in the majors, and FIP suggests he's been very lucky.
- Even combining AAA and the majors, he's only thrown 86.2 innings this season, and it's tough to get a full evaluation with a sample size that small.
So, what should the Brewers do with him?