Tuesday, November 13, 2012

#247 Dave Smith - Houston Astros

If you think Dave Smith's sunburned face is an accident think again.  He sports a similar raccoon appearance on virtually every picture you see of him.  Dude, use some sunblock!
The red and orange seats in the background go well with Smith's colorful Astros top here on his 3rd Topps card.  What disturbs me though is that the "action" picture shows him in a follow through, yet he is still holding the ball. 
Meanwhile the Marlboro man lurks on yet another card.  

Player:  Right-handed pitcher Dave Smith was the Astros 8th round pick in the 1976 draft and was primarily a starter in the minor leagues.  He made the majors in 1980 as a reliever and would pitch in 609 games in his 13 year career, all but one out of the pen.
 
Smith proved himself as a rookie with 102 innings pitched and a 1.95 ERA.  As the year wore on he was trusted in tight spots and earned 10 saves and finished 5th in NL ROY voting.  His ERA jumped to 2.76 in '81 but his WHIP, which is generally a better way to measure relief pitchers, was a nifty 1.027.  Back problems dogged Smith for most of '82 and his ERA and WHIP jumped to 3.84 and 1.579.
 
Smith was inconsistent in '83 (3.10 ERA, 1.486 WHIP) but really started to excel in '84.  It was the first in a string of seven straight season with an ERA under 2.75.  He also had four straight years with a WHIP under 1.1.  By '85 he was the Astros closer saving 23 - 33 games a year from '85 to '90.  His best year was '87 when he posted a 1.65 ERA and allowed just 39 hits and 21 walks in 60 innings.  In a year that saw a spike in home runs, Smith kept it in the yard all year.
 
Leaving the Astros as their all-time games pitched and saves leader, free-agent Smith signed with the Cubs after the 1990 season.  After saving games his first four games as a Cubbie, Smith's season imploded as he blew three saves in a row.  He was suddenly very hittable and allowed 6 HRs in just 33 innings as he spent 6 weeks on the disabled list.  He finished the year 0-6, with a 6.00 ERA. 
 
Smith was effective in '92 (2.51 ERA) but arm troubles limited him to 14.1 innings.  He came back with a surgically repaired elbow in '93 but was among the final roster cuts in spring training.  He retired with 216 career saves and a 2.67 ERA (130 ERA+) in 809.1 innings.
 
Stuff:  Fastball, sinker, curve, forkball

 
Flipside:  Smith's rate stats as a rookie compare favorably to Steve Howe who won the NL ROY award in 1980.
Smith 1.93 ERA, 171 ERA+, 102.2 IP, 1.188 WHIP
Howe 2.66 ERA, 134 ERA+, 84.2 IP, 1.240 WHIP
However Howe had 17 saves to Smith's 10 so maybe that's what voters were looking at in 1980.  It was a bumper crop for relief pitchers as Jeff Reardon and Al Holland finished 6th and 7th in the voting.

Oddball:  Smith was a laid back Californian who loved to surf while he was at San Diego State.  He used to upset his coach by showing up to practice late and still wearing his wet bathing suit.
 
History:  Dave Smith was a big part of the Astros three playoff teams in the '80s.  He won a game in the '80 NLCS but allowed Lenny Dykstra's winning HR in Game 3 of the '86 NLCS against the Mets.
The two-time all star was well liked by his teammates who remember him as a fierce competitor on the diamond and an easy going guy off the field.  Like his Astros teammates Joe Niekro and Vern Ruhle, Smith left this earth too soon when he died of a heart attack in 2008.

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