Joe Smith (smithjo05)
Joseph Michael Smith
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2", Weight 205 lb.
- School Wright State University
- High School Amelia High School (Batavia)
- Debut April 1, 2007
Smith was the first player to make his Major League debut during the 2007 season when he was used as a reliever on Opening Day by the Mets on April 1, 2007. Through his first 16 2/3 innings of his major league career, Joe had a 0.00 ERA. He went 3-2, 3.45 in 54 games, pitching only 44 1/3 innings. His usage pattern was very similar to that of the typical LOOGY, but from the right side. His sidearm delivery makes him extremely tough on right-handed batters, but much more vulnerable to left-handers, and his extreme platoon splits justify using him only in carefully chosen situations. In 2008, he pitched 82 games for the Mets, placing him in a tie for 3rd most in the National League, 4 behind teammate Pedro Feliciano. He went 6-3, 3.55, with 53 strikeouts in 63 1/3 innings that season.
Smith was traded to the Cleveland Indians before the 2009 season, as part of a three-team deal also involving the Seattle Mariners in which 12 players, all of whom were or became major leaguers, changed uniforms. He pitched only 37 times for the Indians in his first season with the team, with no decisions and a 3.44 ERA, then was 2-2, 3.83 in 53 games in 2010 and 3-3 with an excellent 2.01 ERA in 71 appearances in 2011. In 2010, he also pitched 20 times for the AAA Columbus Clippers, with a 1.96 ERA. His total of games pitched in 2011 tied him for second in the American League, 4 behind leader Jose Valverde of the Detroit Tigers. He struck out 45 in 67 innings, continuing his particular usage pattern of pitching only in middle innings and for one inning or less, sprinkled with a few up mop-up appearances when the Indians are trailing. In fact, through his first 5 major league seasons, he had not picked up a single save in spite of making 297 appearances out of the bullpen, although he had 51 games finished.
In 2012, he realized that being a specialist middle reliever with the sort of generic name that customers use to evade scrutiny when registering in a seedy motel does not cut much weight outside the world of baseball geeks. Trying to enter an exclusive bar in the upscale community of Put-in-Bay, OH without identification on May 21st, he tried vainly to convince gatekeepers that he was a local celebrity, leading to a minor scuffle that required police intervention. Ironically, his girlfriend at the time, Cleveland television personality Allie LaForce, a former Miss Teen USA, would probably have been more recognizable to bouncers than the anonymous Smith. In spite of that humbling experience, he had two solid seasons back-to-back in 2012 and 2013. That first year, he went 7-4 with a 2.96 ERA in 72 games, then followed that with a 6-2 record and 2.29 ERA in 2013. That year he finally recorded his first three career saves, being used as closer in place of the struggling Chris Perez in the last week of the season as the Indians were pushing for a playoff spot. They did secure one of the two wild card slots in the 2013 American League, giving Smith the opportunity to make his first postseason appearance, as he pitched two-thirds of an inning in Cleveland's 4-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in the Wild Card Game. It turned out to be his last appearance in an Indians uniform for a while, as on November 23rd, he signed a three-year free agent contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, worth $15.75 million.
In 2014, Joe pitched 76 times for Los Angeles and put up the best stats of his career: in 74 2/3 innings, he gave up only 45 hits and 15 walks while striking out 68, and he recorded 15 saves while putting up an ERA of 1.81. The Angels won their division handily and in his return to the postseason in the ALDS against the Kansas City Royals he retired all six batters he faced over two outings, but it turned out to be in vain as the Angels were swept in three games. In 2015, he wasn't quite so good, as his record was 5-5 with 5 saves and a 3.58 ERA in 70 games.
Early in the 2016 season, Smith got some publicity when he defeated National Basketball Association superstar Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors in a friendly PIG competition, a contest of basketball trick shots. "That was fun. I loved it," a giddy Smith said. "I'm not that bad. I ain't that good either. Sometimes a little bit of luck, a lot bit of luck." He pitched 38 times for the Angels that season, with a record of 1-4. 3.82 and 6 saves, then on August 1st, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs in return for prospect Jesus Castillo. The Cubs were hoping that he would give them a hand in their run for a World Series title and he did well, posting a 2.61 ERA in 16 games. However, he did not pitch at all in the postseason as he was bothered by a hamstring strain that had forced him to miss the second half of August. He became a free agent after the season and on February 9, 2017, he signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. However, he went on the disabled list in June and missed over a month of action, returning just before the trading deadline, by which time the Jays were out of contention. He was 3-0, 3.28 in 38 games before being traded to Cleveland on July 31st in return for a pair of minor leaguers (Thomas Pannone and Samad Taylor). He was with the Indians for their historic 21-game winning streak in August and September, contributing 12 appearances with an ERA of 3.44. This time, he got to play in the postseason, making 4 scoreless appearances totaling 2 1/3 innings in the Division Series as the Indians were upset by the New York Yankees. On December 13th, he was on the move again, this time signing a two-year contract with the Houston Astros.
He pitched 56 times for Houston in 2018, going 5-1, 3.74 in 45 2/3 innings. He made one appearance in the postseason, in Game 3 of the ALCS against the Boston Red Sox, but it did not go well. He replaced Dallas Keuchel to start the top of the 6th with the score tied at 2-all, but he gave up a homer to Steve Pearce after retiring Xander Bogaerts on a pop fly and was replaced by Tony Sipp. The score remained 3-2 until the 8th, when the Sox broke the game open with 5 runs, and he was charged with the loss. Following the season, he suffered a freak injury while working out in December, rupturing his Achilles tendon and putting him out of action for six to eight months. He made his first appearance of the 2019 season on July 19th and went on to pitch 28 times, going 1-0, 1.80 in 25 innings. He pitched a total of 6 games in the first two rounds of the postseason, giving up 1 run in 5 1/3 innings before making his World Series debut in Game 1 against the Washington Nationals on October 22nd. He pitched a perfect inning in relief in the 5-4 loss, and had made 782 regular season appearances before that, making him the active career leader in the category not to have played in the Fall Classic. It was still far from the all-time record, as there were three retired pitchers with over 1000 career games pitched who had never appeared in a World Series game.
Smith was one of the players who elected to sit out the 2020 season over concerns regarding health and safety as the Coronavirus pandemic was raging. He returned in 2021 but had trouble finding his groove as his ERA over the first four months was 7.48 in 21 2/3 innings, over 27 games. While he was still not walking anyone, he had given up the very high total of 35 hits over that span. On July 27th, he was traded to the Seattle Mariners along with young IF Abraham Toro in return for relievers Kendall Graveman and Rafael Montero. In effect, the deal was the veteran Graveman for prospect Toro, and a swap of two pitchers who had had success in the past but who had been struggling badly of late, as Montero had just been designated for assignment by Seattle. Smith was no stranger to being dealt at the deadline, as it was already the third time for him.
In recent years, Joe and Allie LaForce, now his wife, have been active in raising funds in the fight against Huntington's disease.