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The complete Will Smith: A 2021 #SaveEli postmortem

Or “The Birth of the Blue Bomber” or “The Great Defender”

Will Smith up to bat in Chicago on May 5, 2021.
Michael Elizondo

As #JuniorCircuit has a signature GIF, whenever I return to the past of #SaveEli, I shall draw upon the meme I’ve adopted for my own. I feel that it’s important to lean into your eccentricities. Plus, the GIF really does sum up that first trip.

The Birth of the Blue Bomber

(Yes, I am a child of the late 1980s and yes, Will Smith, would certainly be served well by getting a robot dog. Or a get a dog and paint it red - look at me just giving free money ideas away.)

Originally, the original Postmortem took forever, because finding an angle about players that performed poorly is relatively easy (poor Cody Bellinger) but writing something about someone who completely defied expectations in a positive way is hard.

I figured inspiration would come when I checked the stats on what Will Smith did when I was around. I was shocked because they did not look right. I ran the numbers; I checked them twice; I checked them thrice.

In my very humble opinion, when I was around William “Roger” Smith* in 2021, he was the best damn catcher in MLB. *His middle name is actually Dills (like the pickle?) but I’m running with a theme here. I suppose I should ask him about that name if I am ever given the opportunity:

MJE: Why are you named after a pickle?

Hypothetical-Will Smith: This interview is over!

MJE: That’s very fair. I would have asked Mickey Jannis that question if he were named after a pickle. #KnuckleDown

So naturally, he’s clearly a robot. A super fighting robot; the Dodgers’ own blue bomber.

The Fresh Prince worked as a rookie. But it’s time to upgrade the nickname.

In fact, here’s some art from Will Smith’s 4 for 4-game in St. Louis, on September 7, 2021, which will be forever overshadowed because of that friggin Albert Pujols home run (yeah, yeah, it was cool, but it’s worth remembering that I was there.)

Will Smith hitting a homer directly into the Dodgers bullpen on September 7, 2021 in front of me. (Directly above the “Y” in Mercy).
Michael Elizondo

Let’s jump right to the stats.

Will Smith in #2021 #SaveEli Games

Games (out of 30) 22
Games (out of 30) 22
AB 70
H 22
BA 0.314
R 14
HR 4
2B 3
3B 2
RBI 13
BB 14
K 11
SF 2
OBP 0.432
SLG 0.586

In NLDS Game 2, he went 1 for 4, with two runs, a homer, an RBI, and a walk. What strikes me is the sheer poise of Will Smith, who is arguably the best backstop in the league, which is absurd because he’s been a major leaguer for as long as it takes someone to transfer out of community college.

It’s just absurd. I need a cigarette after reviewing Smith’s offensive performance in 2021 – I don’t even smoke! If anything, the total statline is a little deceptive in hiding how good Master Smith was in 2021. For starters, from the Pittsburgh series on (which was the halfway point), he skipped six games, as opposed to two games in the first half.

Will Smith walking to the outfield in Atlanta on June 6, 2021.
Michael Elizondo

Smith hit two triples. He’s a catcher – he’s not supposed to run that fast – granted one of them was in that open field that is Oracle but not-Millers Park has normal dimensions. Heck, just look at Smith beating out a tailor-made double-play ball in San Francisco in September.

When Smith hit that triple on May 1, I lost my damn mind – and the Dodgers lost anyway, which was a theme of the original trip but still! Smith is likely to be very special for a long time to come if he keeps this level of offensive production up.

Will Smith up to bat in Chicago. May 5, 2021.
Michael Elizondo

When the Dodgers were bad, Will Smith hit. When the Dodgers were good, Will Smith hit.

Will Smith up to bat in Denver on July 17, 2021.
Michael Elizondo

He just kept getting on base. In fact, he failed to get on base in games only five times when I was around in 2021 and one of those was a pinch-hitting appearance against Will Smith in Atlanta. Both times in that series, Will Smith easily dispatched Will Smith (by strikeout the first night and by flyout the second)

If there is anything about Smith’s 2021 that’s slightly maddening; it how difficult it is to describe how good Will Smith was in 2021. Moreover, it is difficult to describe the scope of his offensive production. By definition, Smith wasn’t flashy like Puig. Smith wasn’t relentless like Mookie. Smith wasn’t streaky like Joc Pederson in 2020 and before. Will Smith’s at-bats in 2021, generally were not a must-see at-bat. However, they were worth watching in full.

Will Smith up to bat in Pittsburgh on June 9, 2021.
Michael Elizondo

Maybe the best way to describe Smith’s 2021 performance is in its constancy. as he came into his own at the plate. Heck, even in NLDS Game 2, I remember Will Smith working a walk in a four-minute at-bat seemed to age the Giant reliever by three (figurative) years. Don’t believe me? – watch for yourself.

The Great Defender

Arguably the weakest part of Master Smith’s game is his defense. I do not mean his pitch framing per se, but his actual tagging of people. We all remember Game 4 of the 2020 World Series. Specifically, that last play, the Benny Hill play where somehow Kenley Jansen, Chris Taylor, Will Smith, and Randy Arozarena all managed to screw up in an almost-biblical fashion on the same play.

(Oh hey, a terrible 1-2 pitch by Kenley Jansen. Someone should probably boo that.)

I don’t throw things, but I nearly threw something after that play. My ex was watching with me and she was trying her best not to laugh until she made eye contact with me when she looked pained at my …fury/confusion/shock. Then I laughed and told her it was okay. For my sanity, I said we can probably watch something else during Game 5. Needless to say, we had a much happier Game 6, after I ignored Game 5.

So when I saw Smith working on his defense in St. Louis in September, I took notice.

And then for the remainder of the season, I just kept taking notice of Smith’s preparations. Seemingly every time I turned around, there was Smith either getting loose or working on his defense.

Will Smith then went to warm up in the outfield in St. Louis on September 7, 2021.
Michael Elizondo

Then, my noticing was akin when noticing something, almost like a visual earworm, where you could not help but notice every time you saw it after that.

Will Smith warming up in the outfield on September 15, 2021 in Los Angeles.
Michael Elizondo

No one would have faulted Will Smith if he took a night off or eased on his preparations that night on September 15, 2021. It was Fernandomania night and the pregame festivities felt like they took way longer than usual. But there he was - working away.

Vista shot from the Home Run Seats at Dodger Stadium on September 15, 2021 against the Diamondbacks.
Michael Elizondo

What stands out about all of this prep is that apart from the swipe tag, Smith’s defense did improve from what I’ve been able to tell. If he truly improves that part of his game and maintains his offense and speed, Smith could truly be something special to watch over these next few years.

As it stands, going forward, I’ll be sure to pay closer attention to Master Smith’s exploits going forward. And if he keeps it up, Will Smith may be impossible to ignore.