Astros relief pitcher Joe Smith is flying under the radar having possibly the finest season of his 13-year career after battling back from injury.
Last December during an offseason workout, Joe Smith ruptured his Achilles tendon in his right leg. The Astros would be without one of their dependable setup men for six-eight months as they entered the 2019 season. Smith was in for a long and difficult rehab following the surgery to repair the torn Achilles.
At 34 years old, Smith could have just decided to pack it in and call it a career. After all, he did have a fine career up to that point and was eying a grueling and long road to recovery. But he wouldn’t have anything to do with giving up on baseball. He began his battle back eight months ago and it all has come to fruition in this second half of the season.
The sidewinder was back on the mound for the Astros for the first time this year back on July 14th and it’s like he never skipped a beat. He’s been as dependable as ever this season, actually more dependable.
Smith has appeared in 20 games for Houston since his return and is carrying a 1.53 ERA, the lowest on the entire Astros pitching staff and the lowest of his career. In his 17.2 innings of work, he has allowed just three earned runs.
He has racked up 14 strikeouts while walking just three batters for a career-best 4.67 SO/W ratio. Smith’s 301 ERA+ is also the best on the team. He has one of the lowest home runs per nine inning ratio with a 1.0, tied with Will Harris and only beat out by Rogelio Armenteros who has a 0.5 ratio.
Other than his Achilles injury, Smith has been one of the most durable relievers in the Major Leagues. He has appeared in 774 games over his 13 years which is good for the second-most appearances among relievers in that time period. With the number of injured pitchers the Astros have had to endure this second half, Smith’s durability and dependability have been key to the bullpen and the Astros down the stretch.