The Los Angeles Dodgers may be among the best teams in baseball, but they’re not without their problems. The bullpen is an issue. The starting rotation is thin. The defense could be better. The baserunning? Fix it! The offense is boom-or-bust, with far too many underperformers.
There are plenty of guys to actually be worried about, such as Craig Kimbrel, Max Muncy, Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner. But those fretting about catcher Will Smith not exactly living up to the “best catcher in MLB” status can take a breather. There’s a lot to unpack here.
Smith, just 27 years old, has ascended to the top of baseball at his position after a 2021 campaign that featured a .258/.365/.495 slash line with 71 runs scored, 25 homers, 76 RBI and a 128 OPS+ across 130 games. No All-Star appearance, but he was only outperformed by fellow catcher Salvador Perez last year.
In 2022, he’s been lagging behind those numbers. He’s been slowed by a pectoral issue that has forced him to miss some time. But that doesn’t tell the whole story behind his numbers through 38 games.
Smith is hitting just .231 with a .724 OPS, 103 OPS+, 5 home runs and 23 RBI. What’s going on?! Well, the surface-level numbers don’t tell the whole story.
If we dig deeper, it’s clear Smith is still atop his offensive game … he’s just not getting the results he deserves.
What’s going on with Dodgers catcher Will Smith?
Per Smith’s Baseball Savant page, he’s trending in all the right directions. He’s hitting the ball hard, ranking in the 69th percentile for average exit velocity, 63rd percentile for barrel percentage, and 70th percentile for hard hit percentage. His slugging percentage might be a concerning .385, but his expected slugging percentage ranks in the 85th percentile. His .231 batting average is 26 points below his career average, but his expected batting average ranks in the 71st percentile.
Smith just needs to find more holes … because he’s also hardly chasing bad pitches (99th percentile!) and striking out (74th percentile).
The league simply has more data on the young slugger, resulting in the opposition employing the appropriate defensive shifts.
Perhaps Smith is focusing a bit more on his defense as well since he’s struggling a bit with his framing (42nd in MLB for Catcher Framing Runs and 36th in Strike Rate). It’s worth wondering, since he just came off a career year on all fronts and we’re witnessing some slippage in the early going.
Whatever it is, it’ll come around. And it’ll be right when the Dodgers need it.