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2015 MVBrewers #9: Will Smith

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Will Smith had one of the best seasons a reliever has had in Milwaukee. It's too bad it had to come in such a down season.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

No matter how you look at if a reliever makes your ten most valuable players your team had a bad season. But do not let this take away from the season Will Smith had. Depending on how you look at it he was actually the best reliever the Brewers had, and not just for this season. He had one of the best seasons a reliever has ever had for Milwaukee. On top of all that he was arguably a top 25 reliever in all of baseball in 2015.

Will Smith made 76 appearances tossing a total of 63.1 innings. He had a 34.5 K%, 9.1 BB%, .218 BAA, 1.20 WHIP, 2.70 ERA, 2.47 FIP, and 1.4 fWAR. I warn against relying too heavily on WAR for relievers. There's too much variance in performance between all the relievers that earn the same WAR. That being said, when the value is large enough there is a clear difference. So while two relievers with 0.5 WAR might look wildly different, it's safe to say a reliever with 1.5 WAR was much better.

Will Smith's 1.4 fWAR places him 22nd overall this year. It ties him for 20th with Tony Watson, Kevin Siegrist, Brett Cecil, and Craig Kimbrel. But like I said their performances vary wildly. For reliever WAR it's hard to make an argument that players within a range of WAR are all that different. The 10th best reliever by fWAR was David Robertson with a 1.9. He had a 3.41 ERA and 2.52 FIP. That's not far removed from Smith or the others in the top 20. Suffice it to say these are all very talented pitchers.

One could make an argument that Will Smith was Milwaukee's best reliever this year. Francisco Rodriguez and Jeremy Jeffress would be the other two that have a claim.

Player IP K% BB% BAA WHIP ERA FIP fWAR
Will Smith 63.1 34.5 9.1 .218 1.20 2.70 2.47 1.4
Francisco Rodriguez 57.0 28.7 5.1 .185 0.86 2.21 2.91 1.0
Jeremy Jeffress 68.0 23.5 7.7 .246 1.26 2.65 3.22 0.8

This was definitely a talented trio the Brewers had at the back-end of their bullpen but right away we can eliminate Jeffress from this conversation. He just lacks the peripheral support. He did have an outrageous 58.2 GB% that I think deserves mentioning though.

For me it's up to your preference who you take between Smith and Rodriguez. Smith had a much better strike out rate but Rodrigue kept the batters at bay better. They were both good and I think you can make a solid argument either way. I do think the advanced metrics support Smith's care more though.

It wasn't just among the 2015 Brewers that Smith was elite. In all the years this franchise has existed they've used 721 players in relief. Among those players Smith's 1.4 fWAR ties for 16th best. When you eliminate guys that just got one or two innings--the Martin Maldonado and Lyle Overbays--Will Smith's 34.5% strike out rate was the best ever by a Milwaukee Brewer.

I feel like Smith gets overlooked because some people over value roles. Some people think saves separate good pitchers from the best, others actually understand baseball. Some people even think a guy pitching the 8th inning means he's better than the guy pitching the 7th. I kind of feel like that's why some people have missed how outstanding Will Smith was this year. And that's a shame because it was truly a great season.

Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs