Despite the frustration, there is space for Drew Smith next season

Drew Smith is driving Mets fans crazy, but many alternatives are a downgrade.

Washington Nationals v New York Mets
Washington Nationals v New York Mets / Adam Hunger/GettyImages

Drew Smith has become one of the newest targets of New York Mets fans. Blowing their game against the Chicago Cubs in what was a lackluster performance from the offense fell on him. Mike Tauchman tagged him for what would become the game-winning home run in the eighth inning of a 3-2 loss for the Mets.

This isn’t the first folly of Smith this season. He has had a mostly dull season. Despite owning a 3.96 ERA in 38.2 innings of work, the 4.33 FIP matching last year’s total comes in to suggest he has been more lucky than good all year.

In fact, a poor FIP fits with Smith’s career track record. Even in 2021 when he had a career-low 2.40 ERA the FIP was all the way up at 4.69. Smith has yielded different results in each of his last three seasons with a variety of strengths and weaknesses. This year he’s not giving up too many home runs but a 4.2 walks per 9 rate is the highest it has ever been. Fans are ready to drive him out of Queens. Not so far. There is space for him on next year’s roster.

Next year’s NY Mets roster has space for Drew Smith

Smith isn’t a DFA candidate. The most foolish move they could make is to get rid of a guy one year away from free agency without getting anything back at all. A trade makes more sense. If nobody nibbles, keeping Smith around for at least the first half of the 2024 season is the most reasonable decision to make.

Regardless of how the Mets attack the offseason, a pitcher like Smith has a spot on the club’s roster. He’s not a brutal relief pitcher. Knock him down into a lesser role he might do better.

Interestingly, Smith has performed at his worst in what is considered medium-leverage situations. Batters have slashed .300/.396/.575 with 3 of the 5 home runs they’ve hit against him in these spots. He has been at his best in high-leverage spots, holding batters to a .186/.222/.372 slash line and only one home run.

Smith has been spotty in every later inning except for the seventh. He has an 8.44 ERA in the sixth, 0.77 in the seventh, 4.61 in the eighth, and 4.15 in the ninth. This includes inning totals from 5.1, 11.2, 13.2, and 4.1 from six through nine.

There may be something to these splits. Smith’s career totals have similar results. He has a lifetime 1.44 ERA in 43.2 innings pitched in the seventh. His sixth and eighth inning ERAs are at 5.32 and 4.91.

There’s a lot to unpack from these results and keeping Smith for only the seventh inning just doesn’t work. No manager can plan out his bullpen usage that perfectly.

Mets fans are frustrated with Smith this year and rightfully so. His role was elevated from the start of the season. Now minus David Robertson, he may continue to see him in the eighth or ninth more regularly even if he seems to be at his best in the seventh.