After tumbling out the gates to start the 2021 season, Dominic Smith’s recent hot streak has been a key reason the New York Mets have charged to the top of the National League East.
Smith is 7-for-17 in his last six games played (.411 BA) and slugging around 600. to raise his season average near .260. He’s beginning to look like the player who many believed had finally arrived during the 2020 Covid-shortened season.
Dominic Smith went nearly two full months between this homer and his last one on 4/13. Had to feel good in general, but it had to feel a little extra good because that baby wasn’t a cheap one. #Mets#LGM (via @Mets) pic.twitter.com/5Y2tox4mBd
And while hitting is what gets him paid, Smith’s improvements on defense should have Mets fans extremely excited about the future.
A first baseman by trade, Smith has been forced to learn a new position with the emergence of slugging first basemen Pete Alonso (The 2019 NL Rookie of the Year). And for a while, things looked bleak for Smith in the outfield.
Coming into this season, Smith had played 470 1/3 innings in left field, and the results during that time left much to be desired.
There’s a plethora of metrics — that would take most folks hours to understand — that’s used to determine how good a particular player is defensively.
The two important metrics to look at here are Outs Above Average and Defensive Run Saved.
Outs Above Average is a ranged base metric of skill that shows how many outs a player has saved, while Defensive runs saved quantifies a player’s entire defensive performance by attempting to measure how many runs a defender saved. It takes into account errors, range, outfield arm and double-play ability.
Last season, the universal DH allowed the Mets to hide Smith’s inadequacies in the outfield by splitting his time with Alonso between DH & First Base. With the universal DH no longer an option, Smith has put in the work to be an everyday outfielder.
Although this is a small sample size, in 319 2/3 in left this season Smith has done a complete 180. He’s produced a 2 DRS, 0.8 RngR while being top 10 in each of the previously mentioned statistical categories.
But what can cause such a drastic shift in a player’s defensive rating?
According to Thomas Hall of metsmerizedonline.com, it’s as simple as adjusting his pre-pitch positioning.
“Well, a major component of his progression has been where the team has positioned him before the start of each play,” Hall writes. “Since the Junipero Serra HS standout has historically struggled with his range in the outfield, the coaching staff has decided to move him closer to the foul line, which has made it much easier for him to track down balls when ranging to his right.”
Smith has also stepped up as a mentor for younger players like MLBbro rookie Khalil Lee.
Last season, the Mets were one of the worst defensive teams in Major League Baseball. But now, as the game evolves and defensive versatility is considered a huge plus, the emergence of Smith as not only a dangerous hitter, but a reliable defender and leader will help the Mets remain in the pennant race.
Now that he’s warmed up, the former home run champ is scheduled to get the start at DH on Sunday.
And the Texas Rangers hope he has his home run bat with him.
After a rough start to the season, Rangers fans also hope the addition of a new face will help this team right the ship.
“He feels healthy, his body feels good, swing [looks good], Rangers manager Chris Woodward told MLB.com. “I expect, or assume that it won’t be perfect at first, obviously, with him not having played every single day up to this point.
“But I do expect him to be [OK]. He said he’s fine. He said timing-wise, he’s in a good place, so it feels good and his body feels good. That’s the most important.”
The debut of Davis should insert much-needed punch from the right side of the plate into a lineup dominated by left handed hitters.
Davis was acquired this offseason in a deal with the Oakland Athletics that saw Elvis Andrus and $13.5 million head to the Bay in exchange for Davis and two prospects.
The trade gives Davis, once considered one of the most dangerous power hitters in baseball, an opportunity to remind everyone how much he can contribute to a ballclub.
After posting three consecutive seasons hitting .247 with 40 plus homers and 100 plus RBI, Davis’ production dropped the past two seasons. He hit just 23 homers in 2019 and then hit just two homers in 85 at bats during the COVID season.
He and the Rangers are hoping a change of scenery is all that was needed.
But more than just his bat, the Rangers look forward to adding another veteran presence to the clubhouse that can mentor younger players, especially budding star Willie Calhoun.
The MLBbro Calhoun has been the Rangers’ most consistent outfielder and is currently slashing an impressive .348/.411/.911.
“(Khris Davis) definitely brings a presence of, you know, he’s been there, he’s done that, he’s been on winning teams,” Woodward told SI.com. “Just his attitude in general. He brings a calmness to the group. He brings a little bit of an edge at times. Just, ‘Hey, let’s go out and beat these guys.’ A lot of people feed off of that. The Oakland clubhouse said the same thing. Everybody kinda rallied around this guy all the time.”
Davis’ return comes at a time when the Rangers’ outfield is stocked with young talent that the rebuilding franchise needs to evaluate. So while he will certainly see playing time, it remains to be seen just how many at-bats he will be given.
With Calhoun, Adolis Garcia and Joey Gallo all playing outfield, Davis could see the bulk of his time at DH against right handed pitching.
Heading into Saturday night, the Rangers ranked 4th in hits, 8th in batting and 10th in home runs.
Despite the production on offense, the Rangers sit a game below .500 entering Sunday’s game.
If Davis is able to regain some of the magic he produced in the Bay, Woodward will have a problem on his hands that every manager would love.
MLBbro.com video reporter Jones Whitner is giving the FACTZ about 13-year MLB veteran Michael Brantley. He’s also giving Brantley his flowers. So far this season, Brantley leads MLB with 10 doubles and continues to be the model of consistency as a hitter (.297 Lifetime BA).
In this age of boom or bust baseball, a four-time All-Star like Brantley, who is a technician at the plate with an old-school approach of making contact and working the gaps, doesn’t always get his propers.
Mark Gray is the king of the court again, looking for the great baseball Debatable.
This week, legendary sports and culture voice, NBA aficionado and avid MLB fan Scoop Jackson gets the ball. MLBbro.com video reporter Jones Whitner also takes the field to bark about all things Black baseball.