Daily Notes: A Brief Review of Burch Smith’s Second Start

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of the Daily Notes.

1. Brief Review: Burch Smith’s Second Start
2. Today’s MLB.TV Free Game
3. Today’s Complete Schedule

Brief Review: Burch Smith’s Second Start
San Diego right-hander Burch Smith, owner of both a mid-90s fastball and excellent line in the Double-A Texas League, made his major-league debut last Saturday against Tampa Bay and the results were poor (box). He made his second start last night (Friday) at home against Washington. What follows is a brief review of that second start.

Smith’s Results
Because he conceded three home runs, but because he also posted an 8:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio against just 23 batters, there’s a gap between how many runs Smith conceded and how many one might expect him to concede usually. For example, Smith’s single-game ERA and FIP were 8.44 and 7.90, respectively — which is to say, not ideal. His single-game xFIP, however (which metric normalizes home-run rate per fly ball), was just 2.49 — which is to say, much better. Overall, here’s his line from the Friday night (box): 5.1 IP, 23 TBF, 8 K, 1 BB, 1 GB on 13 batted-balls (7.7% GB), 6 H, 3 HR, 5 R.

Smith’s Pitches
As the PITCHf/x chart below (featuring pitch speed and horizontal movement) reveals, Smith threw somewhere between three and five pitches (depending on how one separates the fastballs): a fastball, a changeup, and a curve.


Smith’s Pitches Relative to Last Start
Here’s a comparison between the chart above relative to one from Smith’s first start — which comparison reveals that, among other things, Smith threw many more changeups and also a collection of fastballs with more significant arm-side run.

Smith GIF

Four Lessons Regarding Smith
Below are four lessons we might take from Smith’s Friday start.

Lesson One: Smith’s Fastball Is Pretty Excellent
According to Brooks Baseball, Smith threw 59 fastballs and induced swinging strikes on 12 of them — a rate considerably above league average for a fastball.

Here he is, for example, throwing a high fastball past Bryce Harper in the first inning:

Smith Harper FA SwStrk

Lesson Two: That Said, It Has a Tendency to Run Back Over the Plate
More than once, Smith threw to a target on the edge of the zone, only to have his fastball tail back towards the middle of it (i.e. the zone). Here’s an example of that from the fifth inning, on an 0-2 pitch to Ryan Zimmerman which would have ideally not been as hittable as it became:

Smith Zimmerman

Lesson Three: Smith’s Changeup Can Also Be Pretty Excellent
Smith induced an even higher percentage of swinging strikes on his changeup than on his fastball (35.3%) — this, after throwing the pitch just twice in his debut.

Here’s an example of Smith’s change from the fifth inning against the generally contact-oriented Denard Span:

Smith Span CH K

Lesson Four: Smith’s Curve Isn’t a Swing-and-Miss Pitch, At All
Of the 32 pitches Smith threw on a two-strike count, only three of them (so, less than 10%) were curves and none of them bothered hitters much.

Here, for example, is the only curve Smith threw to a right-hander (in this case, Ian Desmond) on a two-strike count:

Smith Desmond CU

Today’s MLB.TV Free Game
Los Angeles NL at Atlanta | 19:10 ET
Chris Capuano (15.0 IP, 101 xFIP-, -0.1 WAR) faces Kris Medlen (49.2 IP, 120 xFIP-, 0.0 WAR). After difficulties in each of his first two starts, Capuano was considerably better in this third one this past Sunday against Miami, also showing increased velocity on his sinker.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Atlanta Radio.

Today’s Complete Schedule
Here’s the complete schedule for all of today’s games, with our very proprietary watchability (NERD) scores for each one. Pitching probables and game times aggregated from MLB.com and RotoWire. The average NERD Game Score for today is 5.8.

Note: the following table is entirely sortable.

Away SP Tm. Gm. Tm. SP   Home Time
Jeremy Hefner NYN 3 7 3 4 2 CHN Scott Feldman 13:05
Joe Saunders SEA 1 5 4 9 5 CLE Zach McAllister 13:05
Brandon Morrow TOR 2 4 4 5 6 NYA David Phelps* 13:05
Hector Santiago CHA 8 0 6 5 5 LAA Joe Blanton 16:05
Bronson Arroyo CIN 4 4 4 1 5 PHI Kyle Kendrick 16:05
Rob. Hernandez TB 6 7 5 8 3 BAL Jair Jurrjens* 16:05
Erik Bedard HOU 2 4 6 7 9 PIT A.J. Burnett 19:05
Bran. McCarthy AZ 7 4 4 0 3 MIA Tom Koehler* 19:10
Ryan Dempster BOS 8 8 6 3 3 MIN Scott Diamond 19:10
Chris Capuano* LAN 6 2 5 8 3 ATL Kris Medlen 19:10
Marco Estrada MIL 6 6 6 2 6 STL Lance Lynn 19:15
Anibal Sanchez DET 10 8 8 4 6 TEX Justin Grimm 20:05
Tim Lincecum SF 7 6 7 7 6 COL Tyler Chatwood* 20:10
J. Zimmermann WAS 9 3 5 5 2 SD Eric Stults 20:40
Ervin Santana KC 8 6 7 6 6 OAK Tommy Milone 21:05

To learn how Pitcher and Team NERD Scores are calculated, click here.
To learn how Game NERD Scores are calculated, click here.
* = Fewer than 20 IP, NERD at discretion of very handsome author.

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Carson Cistulli occasionally publishes spirited ejaculations at The New Enthusiast.

12 Responses to “Daily Notes: A Brief Review of Burch Smith’s Second Start”

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  1. vikedawg says:

    What I noticed about Smith was he made more than a few “mistake” pitches. Overall his stuff was really good, but he seemed to lose his location and got punished for it. None of the HRs he gave up were cheapies.

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  2. MLB Rainmaker says:

    Good stuff – I like Smith a lot. The potential if he can improve his fastball command is great.

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    • Yeah. Having some kind of improved breaking pitch against right-handers would be ideal, too. At this point, with what he’s throwing, it wouldn’t be shocking to see a reverse platoon split, or at least something close it.

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  3. Paul says:

    Why are you so obsessed with this guy, as opposed to so many other up and coming pitchers with great fastballs? It’s not like he’s the next strasburg (and even strasburg isn’t the next strasburg anymore)

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    • Alexander Nevermind says:

      “For more or less the entirety of his tenure at FanGraphs, the present author has made a habit of entwining his own wellbeing with the fate of this or that fringe player.”
      -Carson Cistulli, in the introduction to his Fringe Five series

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    • cass says:

      An article on Strasburg’s vanishing K% would be interesting, though. His current K% this year is lower than in any previous individual month of his entire career. And yet his pitches don’t seem much different at all and he’s throwing them about the same amount as before. It’s kinda odd. he’s survived by dropping his LD% to its lowest level ever, but that doesn’t seem sustainable.

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  4. JuanPierreDoesSteroids says:

    You gave Smith a 14 Nerd score before his first start. Which I guess is accurate, if you really like offense.

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  5. BeansNRice says:

    Mechanics are not great. Flying forward and open. Dragging arm from behind and with it. This leads to his arm side run and his curve is awkward to say the least. He’s unable to get on top of it to create proper bite, location will always suffer but fb movement will be excellent, at least til his arm breaks.

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  6. Tom Gardner says:


    Why are the Yankees doing so well? It’s not what (or who) you think…..

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  7. randplaty says:

    No mention of Burch’s velocity drop off? He topped out at 98 in the first inning. He couldn’t throw over 90 in the 5th. He loses a LOT of velocity the more pitches he throws.

    Everything that got hit was 92 mph or below.

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    • RA Rowe says:

      I was at this game. The most significant problem is that out of the stretch his velocity immediately dips to 90-91. That’s when he gets really scary.

      So even as a reliever he would be a liability with men on, unless he figures that out.

      Velo consistently headed south as the game went on as well.

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  8. Natty Bunto says:

    Everything here screams high-leverage short relief in his future, no?

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