Avkash Patel at The Raindrops has an interesting theory as to why Travis Smith seems to have no problems with his strikeouts and walks in the Majors while his homers have ballooned. He e-mailed me the following:
Smith’s troubles with the long ball aren’t all that surprising. Major League hitters are simply better than minor leaguers, with the biggest gap distinguishing them plate discipline and power. The BBs, Ks, and HRs are not independent of each other. Smith needs to throw strikes, and a lot of them, to keep his BB:K numbers where they are; however, he simply doesn’t have the stuff or ability to do so without paying the price in homers.
It also isn’t surprising if you look at his minor league numbers, all the way from a ball in Stockton in 1996 through 2002 in Triple-A. Every time he’s moved up a level, he’s either kept his BB:K numbers the same while his homers have gone up, or he’s kept the home run rate stable while the Ks go down.
Here is how I view Avkash’s theory. I suspect many non-pitchers could go on the mound and throw nothing but strikes and never walk anyone. However, despite their low walk rates, they would give up a zillion hits and homers. To get Ks and avoid walks, you have to throw strikes. Travis Smith does this. Unfortunately, while his stuff is good enough to avoid walks and get some Ks it also increases the likelihood that he will give up the long-ball.
The only problem that I see with this theory is that Smith’s Ks ought to fall along with his HR rise if the better competition is the reason for his new-found love for the HR ball. That has not happened yet, though it has happened with past minor league jumps. However, the sample size here is very small. If Smith continues to pitch — and I suspect he will considering the Braves other options — his Ks ought to fall if the theory is correct. Better hitters ought hit both more HRs and strikeout less, not do one or the other. Hopefully for Braves fans, it is his HRs — not his Ks — that will fall. We will just have to wait and see.
Thanks again to Avkash for excellent idea. Too bad he’s a Mets fan (bleh).