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I Love Matt Smoral – C’s Clinch!

There are plenty of narratives to discuss regarding Sunday’s afternoon game pitting the arch rival Vancouver Canadians and Spokane Indians.  And I will get to them.  I promise.  Just a bit later.  For those new to my blog.  Read back a few posts.  You’ll soon realize I’m quite high on Sundays starter Matt Smoral.  So I’m going to sit behind home plate and focus on him to start.  When the Ohio left-hander was promoted from Bluefield on the 7th of August I wrote a post which included a table with my (somewhat) educated predictions on what he may do in the Northwest League.

As a reminder:

Smoral Predictions IP HR ER HBP BB SO WHIP FIP SO/9 SO:BB
Predicted 25 1 8 3 14 28 1.56 4.07 10.08 2.00
Actual 20 0 6 2 15 19 1.45 4.40  8.55 1.27

 

I’m going to update the table as we go, while adding a few tweets, making for a pseudo live-blog, only to myself.  If you read the original post I had predicted five outings at five inning per trip.  Matt let us down a bit as he suffered a few nerves his first time out going a mere two thirds of an inning, walking two and accounting for both his HBPs.

The next two outings were excellent as he gave up zero earned on two hits with four walks and nine punch outs in nine innings pitched.  The wildness creeped back in a bit during his fourth outing as Smoral gave up four walks in five and a third.  That starts also included seven hits for a rather unhealthy WHIP.

So, all in all, if he had pitched a full turn in his first outing most of the actual numbers could have been very similar to my predictions.  Bar, of course, the walks.  He probably would have outpaced my worst case scenario.  That is something he’ll need to rectify before starting 2015 in Lansing.  Being able to spot his fastball will enable him to entice that many more swings and misses at his plus slider.

Anyway, on to Sunday:

Like Jairo Labourt Saturday, Matt didn’t have his best stuff on the day.  Especially early.  He seemed to getting out in front of his fastball, pulling it glove side.  In his 30 pitch 1st inning he virtually abandoned the fastball, throwing seven sliders to Seth Spivey before finally getting the first out of the inning via the strike-out.

He did settle down a bit as the game wore on.  There were still walks issued in both the third and fourth but those were erased with a pick off and double play respectively.

Sitting behind home plate, it’s easy to see how hitters struggle to pick him up.  Smoral’s delivery is deceptive.  He hides the ball well with a high front elbow before pausing and coming through.  With his 6’8″ frame it looks like he’s on top of home when the ball is delivered.  And try as I could, I saw no noticeable change of arm speed between his three different pitches.

His slider is nasty.  It looks like a fastball before breaking late and sharp.  As per the fastball though, his command wasn’t quite where he’d expect it, but the quality of the pitch meant he could use it in any spot.

Running Pitch Count FBs Slider Change
Totals 82 44 33 5
Strikes 46 Min 89 79 85
Ballls 36 Max 94 85 87
Avg Velo 90 82 86

Again, as per Labourt the previous day, Smoral didn’t use his change all that often.  The ones he did throw were flat and far to firm with little to no downward movement.  A 5 to 7 mph separation between his change and fastball won’t cut it as he moves up through the levels and am sure that’s something that will be worked on in instructs.

I’m sounding quite redundant here but, again, like Saturday, if this is one of Smoral’s poorer starts then things aren’t so bad.  He gutted through some early command issues, a defensive play or two that maybe should have been made, before facing the minimum over the final two innings on 23 pitches.  He was only getting strong which is a great sign.

MVP Watch:

Both Vancouver’s Franklin Barreto and Spokane’s Luke Tendler have had ho hum series thus far.  Neither have really grabbed the award by the horns.  Still, as I tweeted out during the game, Tendler’s 2 hits did cash in two of Spokane’s three runs which voters may find appealing.  I gave him a one up lead going into the final round of play.

Both also chipped in with a stolen base while both also had some adventures in the field.  Barreto booted a fairly tough chance, charging hard on a soft roller while Tendler circled the wagons (a few times) on a Roemon Fields fly ball in the third.  It fell for a triple, scoring Alexis Maldonado.  Tim Locastro then brought Fields home with a single to tie the game.

So you could say Tendler’s misplay, although not an official error, was far more costly.

Notes From the Pressbox:

Shortstop prospect (playing second for Vancouver) Richard Urena had another good day.  He only had a single in three at bats but hit the ball hard all three times.  His hands seem a bit noisy in his load but he gets the barrel through the zone quickly and seems to be able to make consistently firm contact to all parts of the field.  The reports I had read of him being a mere slap hitter (admittedly they were probably from his GCL days) were obviously incorrect.  His bat is going to play.

Defensively, he made one particularly nice turn at second.  He has smooth actions and nice footwork.  I haven’t really had a chance to see him open up the arm yet.  He did make a nice backhand play up the middle but short-hopped McBroom on the throw.

Oh ya, the C’s won! Clinching that playoff spot.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Ryan Borucki will be pushed back to start game one of the playoffs Tuesday night so reckon it’ll be a ‘by committee’ effort today.  And if you’re heading to the Nat expecting good baseball, I’d think again.  Just enjoy the spectacle.  Last season the C’s also clinched on the penultimate game before chucking a stinker in the season finale, losing to Tri-City 11-1. That performance was probably down to some excessive celebrations.

Today may be no different.

For your viewing pleasure, some video of Sir Smoral:

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