What is Wrong With Travis Smith?

The other day I posted my support for the call-up of Travis Smith. The guy was smoking in Richmond and seemed to be primed for success. In fact, the funny thing is that he has almost continued his performance at Richmond with the big club. With Richmond is BB/9 and K/9 were 2.3 and 7.8 respectively. With Atlanta those numbers have been 2.1 and 7.9. Smith’s divergence in MLB from the minors is with the HR ball, and I find this very weird. In Richmond Smith gave up 0.35 HR/9; in Atlanta he had given up 3 HR/9. Is this normal for a pitcher to continue his success in walking and striking out batters while completely losing it with respect to HRs? I wonder if he is just nervous and having some bad luck.

Unfortunately, Smith seems to have done this before. Smith’s career minor league numbers for the main Fielding Independent Pitching statistics (FIP or DIPS) are 2.6 BB/9, 6 K/9, and 0.75 HR/9. In 2002 he pitched for the Cardinals in 12 games where he posted 3.3 BB/9, 5.3 K/9, and 1.66 HR/9. I have never heard of such a strange quality. I would not be surprised if his HR-rate is what it is if his walks and strikeouts also became worse, but they have not. Why wasn’t Smith prone to the long ball in the minors or why does he strikeout and walk Major League batters as if they were in the minors?

I am very puzzled by this. This might be a common phenomenon of which I am unaware. If so please let me know. I am open to explanations, because I can’t think of any. Though Smith is struggling, I am not ready to jump off his bandwagon just yet. He is doing something right and I don’t see any reason why he cannot get his HRs under control, especially with the help of coach Leo.

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