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Will “Clutch” Smith’s batting success

Smith is helping the Dodgers in key at-bats

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Colorado Rockies v Los Angeles Dodgers
Will Smith of the LA Dodgers hits a walk-off two run homerun in a win over the Colorado Rockies on June 23, 2019.
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

There are few Dodgers right now that feel better-suited to take the plate in a high-leverage situation than Will Smith. He’s known for smacking home runs right when the team needs one (he’s got 22 so far this season) and leads MLB in the catcher spot for WAR at 4.4. He’s hit more home runs in clutch situations than anyone else on the team this year, so much so that his nickname has become Captain Clutch.

What’s with his success at the plate? Not what you’d expect, as Ben Clemens investigates over at FanGraphs. He’s not pounding a ton of balls and he’s just okay in the strike zone — maybe even a little worse than average. But his ability to take good swings outside the zone and not chase are working for him:

Want to know why Smith runs an admirable walk rate and miniscule swinging-strike rate despite middle-of-the-pack contact skills in the strike zone? He never meets pitchers on their own terms.

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