Smith grew up in Cincinnati, but he was a Cubs fan. How come? "Well, when you come home from school, who's on? The Cubs," Joe said, listing Ryne Sandberg and Mark Grace and Sammy Sosa among his favorites. "All those day games on WGN, the superstation. It got to be one of those things. Before practice or whatever, the Cubs were always on." But he attended a lot of Reds' games.
"They were about 25 minutes from where I lived. And I went to college (Wright State) about an hour north of there," Smith said.
- It was a Wright State that Smith began an unusual uniform ritual. The bottom of the legs of his uniform pants would ride up and show more of his socks than Smith preferred. He found it necessary to make an adjustment.
That one adjustment, almost unnoticed when it began, has begat a series of uniform pulls and tugs that, over time, have become a ritual, one that is neither inconspicuous or rare.
Watch him. After each out, except the final out of an inning, Smith walks to the first base side of the mound, faces the rubber, bends at the waist and "fixes" himself.
It is a four-stage process that executes with almost drill-team precision. First, he tugs at the bottom on his pant legs—one hand on each leg. Then he adjusts the bottom of his "sliders," the long shorts worn under his uniform for protection again sliding burns (were he ever to reach base and need to slide). Again, one hand on each leg and a tug, another move of symmetry.
As he stands straight, Smith then appears to adjust the front of his belt when it fact he is trying to conceal an annoying tag inside the waist of his uniform pants. Stage 3 of the ritual also is a two-hand operation.
And, finally, standing straight, he adjusts his cap with two hands. One, two, three, four. And only then will he return to the rubber and go about his business.
"When I got to Brooklyn [his first minor league assignment after he was drafted], I figured I'd stop so I wouldn't be made fun of," he says. "But the first time I didn't do it, I pitched horrible. So I said 'Let them get on me. I'd rather pitch well.'" (Marty Noble-MLB.com-5/06/07)
In 2006, pitching for Wright State, Smith posted a regular-season 0.98 ERA—which would lead NCAA Division I if he weren't five innings short of qualifying.
Before 2007 spring training, Baseball America rated Smith as 9th-best prospect in the Mets organization. And in the spring of 2008, they rated him as #11 in the Mets farm system.
Joe fits in well in the clubhouse. During his rookie season (2007), Smith was under the wing of Aaron Sele.
In April 2007, Joe got his first ticket—$115 for illegal parking in Long Island City. He wasn't real pleased.
"The sign said 'No standing.' Well, I wasn't standing. I was parking," Smith said. "If they mean 'No parking,' shouldn't it say 'No parking?' I mean, I just figured they didn't want anyone standing there. I don't know why. I mean, obviously, there are a few things I don't know about New York. But there was a lot of room to park."
Smith loves to fish.
As a kid, Joe says his favorite TV shows were Fresh Prince and Friends. Now, he watches very little TV, but likes movies, especially comedies. His favorite comedians are Will Smith and Will Ferrell.
Joe likes country music, especially Tim McGraw, Rodney Atkins, and Kenny Chesney.
May 21, 2012: According to a police report filed by the Put-in-Bay (Ohio) Police Department, Smith was involved in an altercation at the Roundhouse Bar while accompanied by Jack Laforce and Allie Laforce, who is a sports reporter for FOX 8 in Cleveland. Smith was reportedly denied entrance to the bar due to a lack of proper identification and then needed to be physically removed from the property by bar security.
There was an alleged scuffle outside the bar, and officers later located Smith and Jack Laforce on a boat at a nearby dock. Smith and Laforce were then placed in "investigative detention" and handcuffed before being released with no charges filed, according to the police report. The police report also identified Allie Laforce as "Mr. Smith's girlfriend."
"That's my personal life," Smith said. "I don't think you all need to know any of that."
Indians manager Manny Acta said Smith informed him of what actually took place, adding that the pitcher had the manager's support.
Smith was an energetic kid who was forced to weather a traumatic operation as a boy. True to his nature, however, after the operation young Smith doubled his determination and effort. He was cut from his college team as a freshman but came back the next year as a sidearm pitcher and won a spot.
Huntington's disease has progressively robbed Joe's mother of her true identity. Huntington's disease is a deadly, neurodegenerative disorder that's inherited within families, causing involuntary movements, physical disability, emotional disturbance and cognitive impairment.
Smith's grandmother suffered from Huntington's until her death, his mother has been dealing with it for the better part of a decade, and there's a 50 percent chance that he or his sister, 28-year-old Megan Nein, will someday get it, too. (2014)
October 2015: In recognition of his efforts to raise awareness and funds for Huntington’s Disease, Angels reliever Joe Smith was honored with the Guthrie Award at the 15th annual HDSA San Diego “Celebration of Hope” Gala. That night, in front of over 400 people at a house in Point Loma, Smith gave a heartfelt speech about the disease that is prevalent in his family.
“I hate to use the word money, but that’s what it takes for research, and that’s what it’s going to take to save my mom,” Smith said towards the end. “I’d give every dime I have if they had a cure today.”
More information, and a way to donate, can be found at HelpCureHD.com, a site started by Smith and his wife, CBS sideline reporter Allie LaForce.
Huntington’s disease is a deadly, neurodegenerative disorder that’s inherited within families, causing involuntary movements, physical disability, emotional disturbance and cognitive impairment. Smith’s grandmother suffered from Huntington’s until her death, his mother has been dealing with it for the better part of a decade, and there’s a 50-percent chance he or his sister, Megan Nein, will someday get it, too.
Smith recalled the day his mom, Lee, was told she had HD. It was February 2012. Smith was driving to the Indians’ Spring Training facility in Goodyear, Ariz., when he got a call from his father, Mike, with the news. Then his mom came on the phone.
“I’ll never forget the sound of her voice—it was just empty,” Smith said, breaking down in tears. “I’ve never heard anything like it. That stayed with me for a long time, that sound, when she said. ‘Hi, Joseph.’ Just the way she said it.”
Smith and LaForce launched the website two Octobers ago and have since raised $400,000 through it. Their goal is $2 million for research. Over the years, Smith has learned a lot about HD, which affects more than 30,000 Americans, with another 200,000 or so at risk. In the meantime, he’s gained a whole new level of admiration for his mother.
“Sorry, Dad, I get my toughness from my mom,” Smith said at one point, drawing a laugh from the audience. “If you talk to her, she’s full of energy, she’s witty, she’s very funny. She stares it right in the face every day.”
April 11, 2016: Oakland, Calif. • Joe Smith made a blind, backward, over-the-head free throw that Stephen Curry couldn't match. Then, the Angels relief pitcher stymied the reigning NBA MVP on a left-handed 3-pointer and had suddenly beaten arguably the world's best basketball player at a good-natured game of PIG.
"That was fun. I loved it," a giddy Smith said afterward. "I'm not that bad. I ain't that good either. Sometimes a little bit of luck, a lot bit of luck."
Whether Curry brought his absolute best stuff to the post-practice contest, we'll never know. It sure made Smith's day to walk away a winner from the defending champion Golden State Warriors' practice. Smith, infielder Cliff Pennington and sluggers Albert Pujols and Mike Trout attended practice before their night game against the Oakland Athletics some 10 minutes down the freeway at the Coliseum. (AP/April 2016)
Joe is married to Alexandra Leigh "Allie" LaForce. She is a journalist, model and beauty queen. She is a reporter and anchor for CBS Sports, where she serves as the lead reporter for SEC college football. Allie also played college basketball at Ohio University.
There's Justin Verlander and his wife, Kate Upton. Carlos Correa and his fiancee, Daniella Rodriguez. There's Lance McCullers Jr. and his wife, Kara. And in 2018 the Astros had to make room for another power couple.
Joe is married (in January 2015) to Allie LaForce, a courtside reporter for college basketball games and the NBA on TNT, and at the time of this article was working the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
Smith and LaForce spend about as much time together as they do apart. Their crazy travel schedules -- Smith as an MLB pitcher in the summer and LaForce reporting in the fall, spring, and winter during football and basketball seasons -- have become a way of life that neither would trade.
"The only difficult thing is when I'm off in the summer for about a month and a half or two and he's at the field every day, and then when he's off in the winter I have a game every couple of days," LaForce said. "We just aren't in sync with one other [work-wise]."
LaForce, who was Miss Teen USA in 2005, was working as a reporter at a local TV station in Cleveland when Smith became smitten and messaged her on Twitter, challenging her to a basketball game in 2011. LaForce was a walk-on basketball player at Ohio University. "Once I got her number, I just kind of bugged the heck out of her for a few months until she agreed to come out with me," Smith said.
Said LaForce: "The more we talked, the more we connected."
When the pair met at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland to challenge each other in shooting hoops, LaForce brought a camera crew. LaForce won the first round and Smith, the second. They decided a half-court shot would break the tie, which Smith made. When the package aired on TV, Smith said LaForce's win was all that was shown.
"When you edit your own film, you make it out like however you want it," he joked.
"In his defense, he won two out of three," she said.
Smith, who has appeared in 698 Major League games with the Mets, Indians, Angels, Cubs and Blue Jays, watches LaForce on TV as much as he can, but isn't a fan of attending the games in which she's working.
Perhaps the best thing about their jobs, Smith said, is sharing them with family, whether that's having family attend a road trip for a baseball game or seeing LaForce work the court in person. "When you hear them talk about the experiences they've had with us and the different places they've gotten to go to, it's just a lot of fun when they get to come out," he said.
And that, LaForce says, makes it all worth it. "We have friends and family members who are like, 'It was the greatest day of our year when we were there at the field with you and guys won at the last minute,' or 'We got to see her work the Final Four,'" she said. "It's like, 'Really? 'Cause we do that all the time. That's the best moment you had?' That shows us how lucky we are to be able to do what we do." (McTaggart - mlb.com - 3/16/18)
Feb 18, 2019: They wrestled with the decision to start a family for five years. It's something most young couples discuss at some point. Timing is important, and considering their busy lives, even more so for Astros pitcher Joe Smith and his wife, TV sports reporter Allie LaForce. The issue facing the couple is far more momentous than most others have to deal with -- one that's a matter of life and death. Smith's mother, Lee, has Huntington's disease, a fatal neurological disorder with no cure. She inherited it from her mother, who died from it in 2012. There's a 50-50 chance Smith has the disease, as well, which means there's the same chance any children they bear will carry the disease.
That's why the power couple has been trying to spread the word about their foundation and HelpCureHD.org, which aims to help improve the quality of life for those affected by Huntington's disease by contributing financial, emotional and mental support while trying to find a cure. "She knew about it, obviously, before we got married and knew where my mom was and where my mom was going, and knew I had a 50-50 chance," Smith said. "One of the biggest things about the disease is the way it affects families. It's not just the person that's going through it. It's the whole family."
Huntington's disease causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. It deteriorates a person's physical and mental abilities during their prime working years, between 30-50 years old. Smith's mother, Lee, was diagnosed in 2012, and three years ago went into a nursing home at 59 years old. Smith called it "a disgusting disease."
"It's a battle every day, and I can't even put into words, until you're around it every day, not only do you see what it does to the person infected, but the whole family," Smith said. "Everybody worries about my mom, but you look at my dad and the pain and agony he's suffering. They're supposed to be in their golden years and traveling around and watching baseball, or going to see my sister and the grandkids. He's trying to help her as much as he can."
There are tests that could predict whether a person will have the disease, but Smith and his sister would rather not know. He's not sure how a positive result would affect him mentally. Smith and LaForce aren't letting the disease stop their dream of starting a family, though. They're using in vitro fertilization along with genetic testing that will allow only healthy embryos to be implanted. This would guarantee their child would be HD-free, stopping the disease from spreading down generations.
LaForce admittedly publicly the first try at pre-implantation genetic diagnosis in vitro fertilization didn't work out. The process can cost as much as $30,000-$40,000 per attempt, which Smith and LaForce can afford. They know most couples seeking to have HD-free children can't.
"The point of going public is making people feel like they're not alone, that this isn't easy, it's a not a perfect science and that it's expensive," LaForce said. "It's really important we're going through it, so we can relate to the people through our foundation and HelpCureHD.com that are going through this, that we can relate to them and know the expenses of it."
The pair have raised more than a million dollars through their foundation and HelpCureHD.org to help families with the cost of the PGD-IVF tests. They've partnered with the Houston Fertility Institute and Cleveland Clinic in Ohio in pledging discounts for those couples who are referred by the charity.
"Watching my mom every day and going into a nursing home and getting worse, for me I understand the moral debate [of having a child]," Smith said. "We thought about it for a long time. We've prayed about it. … If I can take this out of our family line, it's a no-brainer." (B McCatggart - MLB.com - Feb 18, 2019)
Q&A at Spring Training 2020: As long as Fernando Rodney doesn’t sign a contract by March 26, Astros reliever Joe Smith will enter the 2020 season as baseball’s active leader in games pitched with 782 career appearances (Rodney has 951).
Smith, 35, has played for six teams in his 13-year career, including the past two with the Astros. He signed a two-year, $8 million contract extension prior to this season, which could set him up to make a push at 1,000 career appearances shortly after that. Only 16 pitchers in history have thrown in at least 1,000 games.
So we put the side-arming Smith on the spot to find out how much he knows about his own career achievements. In other words, how well does Joe Smith know Joe Smith?
Q: Who are the first three batters you faced in your Major League debut (April 1, 2007, for the Mets at the Cardinals)? Smith: "David Eckstein, Preston Wilson and Albert Pujols."
Fact checker: Smith nailed it.
Q: How did you do in your debut? Smith: “I gave up an 0-2 hit on a slider right down the middle to David Eckstein. I struck out Preston Wilson on an inside sinker. I threw Albert Pujols four balls, two of which I still believe were strikes, and he walked to first base. I got taken out and they brought in Aaron Heilman to face Scott Rolen, which I thought was odd. But he smokes one up the middle, and José Valentín dives to his left and glove-flipped it to José Reyes coming across the bag and turned a double play, and I was like, ‘Oh! How do you even score a run in this game with this kind of defense?’ It was pretty nice. Tom Glavine started that game, and I thought I was just sitting there watching, and next thing you know I warmed up three times and I was in it.”
Fact checker: Based on the amount of details, we’ll take Smith’s word on it.
Q: What team have you faced the most in your career? Smith: "I’m going to go with … Texas Rangers?"
Fact checker: Yes, Smith has faced the Rangers 56 times (one ahead of Oakland).
Smith shuts the door on May 23, 2016 Q: Other than Progressive Field -- where Smith made 171 appearances as a member of the Cleveland Indians -- at what ballpark have you appeared in the most games? Smith: "You wouldn’t ask me this if it was Anaheim. Angel Stadium."
Fact checker: Smith has 119 games at Angel Stadium, second only to Cleveland. Shea Stadium (69) is actually third. The only ballpark he’s yet to pitch in is Citi Field.
Q: What catcher has caught you the most? Smith: "Probably Carlos Santana."
Fact checker: That’s right by a long shot. Santana has caught Smith 139 times. Chris Iannetta has caught him 81 times.
Q: Who has the most plate appearances against you? Smith: "I think it’s Adrián Beltré. I might be wrong." (He was wrong.) "Is it Elvis Andrus?" (No.) "Miguel? Not really a guy I don’t think you want at the top of your list."
Fact checker: On the third try, Smith identified Miguel Cabrera, whose 30 career plate appearances against Smith are the most by any player. Cabrera is 9-for-27 against Smith with two homers and eight RBIs.
Q: Who has the most at-bats against you without a hit? Smith: "Is he an active player?" (He is not.) "Carlos Ruiz?"
Fact checker: Incorrect. Mike Napoli is 0-for-9 against Smith.
Q: Whom have you struck out the most? Smith: "I’m going to -- I don’t really strike that many people out. I’m going to guess Nelson Cruz."
Fact checker: Correct, sort of. Smith has struck out eight different batters five times in his career, including Cruz. The others are Paul Konerko, Hanley Ramírez, Ryan Zimmerman, Peter Bourjos, Derek Norris and Kendrys Morales.
Q: Do you know right now how many games you’ve pitched?Smith: "782?"
Fact checker: Smith was hesitant, but he nailed the total.
Q: Do you know your career ERA? Smith: "It’s under 3.00. … I’ll go with 2.98?"
Fact checker: He nailed it again.
Q: Do you look at your numbers at all or look at Baseball Reference? Smith: “Yeah, I think everybody does. I check it out. I don’t like looking at it during the season. I just try to make it more of a game-by-game thing. We’re a reliever. You can pitch every day. It’s about when you get put in those situations, winning the game. At the end of the year I always like going back through, whether it be Baseball Reference or the stuff we have here, and really assess the year. You can see where you’re at. What are the goals for next year? What can I get better at? Sometimes I do it for confidence. It’s amazing if you go to Baseball Reference and you can break it down by count, right? If you’re ahead in the count or behind in the count and you can just see. If you’re behind in the count, everybody turns into Mike Trout. If you’re ahead in the count, everybody else turns into an out.”
Q: Is it hard to believe you’ve pitched this long and this many years? Smith: “It is. I think I’m going to start throwing overhand now and being a little trickier.” (Brian McTaggart - Mar. 8, 2020)
April 2020: Astros pitcher Joe Smith and his wife, TNT sideline reporter Allie LaForce, will have hundreds of meals delivered to hospitals from local restaurants in Houston and the Cleveland area next week in support of medical workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
With help of online donations, Project FRONTLINE will deliver between 300-500 meals to doctors and nurses at Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital in Houston and 250 meals to medical workers at Mercy Hospital in Lorain, Ohio. Smith and LaForce are from Ohio.
“COVID-19 has impacted all of us,” LaForce said in a Twitter video promoting the project. “But while most of us wait it out at home, our frontline healthcare workers are putting their lives on the line every single day.” (Brian McTaggart - Apr. 4, 2020)
May 9, 2020: Smith is separated from mom, but not in spirit on Mothers Day. Astros pitcher is unable to visit hismother at nursing facility. He will have to settle for a brief phone call or a visit via FaceTime arranged by his father, Mike. The coronavirus pandemic has cut off in-person contact between Lee Smith and her family for nearly two months. She was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease in 2012 and has spent the last 2 1/2 years living in a nursing facility.
Joe Smith last saw his mother in person before he left for Spring Training in West Palm Beach, Fla., where he remains today with his wife, TV sideline reporter Allie LaForce, waiting for life to return to normal. Visitors aren’t allowed inside the Cincinnati-area facility where Lee Smith is residing, but her only son has her on his mind constantly.
“We’ve seen what happens if this disease gets into a place like that,” Joe Smith said. “These people are in bad health. It could wipe out that entire building. My dad goes to the nursing home and sits outside her window and the nurse hands her a phone and they talk. Nobody is allowed in or anything like that. She’s doing all right.”
Lee Smith loves visitors, even if it requires social distancing. Her husband goes to the facility daily to visit his wife, talking to her through a window, but it’s not the same as being able to hold her hand and sit next to her and comfort her.
“It would be nice if we can get this thing behind us and we and go and actually visit,” Joe said.
Huntington's disease is a deadly neurological disorder with no cure. Lee inherited it from her mother, who died from it in 2012. The disease causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. It deteriorates a person's physical and mental abilities during their prime working years, between 30 and 50 years old. Smith's mother was diagnosed eight years ago, and in ’17 went into a nursing home at 59 years old.
Lee Smith’s symptoms started about 15 years ago. She started having involuntary muscle movements that had her unintentionally slamming doors, pots, dishes and cupboards. She started getting anxious easily and coughing frequently, her mind was racing and her words were slurring. Then came the mood swings.
“It’s tough watching the decline right in front of your face,” Joe Smith said.
There was a time Lee Smith was full of life and vigor. An elementary school teacher, she made sure Joe’s grades were on point. Mike Smith traveled a lot while working sales, so often it was Lee who was taking Joe and his sister to their games and events as kids in Ohio.
“I would be playing baseball or something in the front yard with some friends and she’d be yelling at me because I was late to my tutor and all this stuff, and I wanted nothing to do with it,” Joe said with a laugh. “I just wanted to play sports. She was good, man.”
Joe’s sister, Megan, along with her husband and three kids, moved back to Ohio to help Mike Smith care for his wife. One of the things Lee loves more than anything is watching baseball, specifically watching Joe pitch on TV. She probably wants games to return as much as her son does.
“It would kill her if I came home and said I’m not doing this, I want to be with you,” Joe Smith said. “She enjoys so much of watching all our games, which they’ll record for her at night and play back for the next day. If I don’t pitch, they’ll put on a game from another day when I did. But it’s difficult.”
Balancing the pain of watching his mother slowly decline and the thrills of his rewarding life as a professional athlete have been tough, but Joe focuses on the positive. Smith has made 782 appearances in 13 years in the big leagues. In December, he signed a two-year, $8 million contract to return to the Astros. LaForce travels the country as a TV sideline reporter for the NBA on TNT.
In an effort to help stop Huntington’s disease, Smith and LaForce founded HelpCureHD.org, which aims to help improve the quality of life for those affected by the disease by contributing financial, emotional and mental support while trying to find a cure. The foundation is paying for families in need to use in vitro fertilization with genetic testing that would allow only healthy embryos to be implanted. This would guarantee a child would be HD-free, stopping the disease from spreading down generations. The process can cost as much as $30,000 to $40,000 per attempt.
Joe Smith said 24 families have started seeing fertility doctors with the help of the foundation, though some of the tests were put on hold when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Even so, Joe was thrilled to recently find out that two couples -- one in Houston and one in his native Ohio -- were pregnant. He’s hoping he and LaForce can start a family soon, as well.
“Hopefully, in another month or two, we start getting some more phone calls and letting us know more families are pregnant,” he said.
There’s a 50-50 chance Joe could develop Huntington’s disease in the future. That’s not stopping him from enjoying his life. His mother wouldn’t want him to dwell on it even though she’s proof of how devasting the disease can be.
“We try to do what we can, but at the same time, you have to enjoy your life,” he said. “I’m playing baseball, and my wife is traveling around and doing her thing. Knowing that my mom would not want us to stop that helps a lot.”(B McTaggart - MLB.com - May 9, 2020)
July 14, 2020: Joe was on the restricted list. The Astros are proceeding as if they won’t have Joe in their bullpen for the 2020 season, manager Dusty Baker said. The Astros placed Smith on the restricted list for roster management purposes while they await a decision on whether he will play in 2020.
Smith hasn’t reported to camp because of a family matter, Baker has said. The pitcher has been public about his mother’s battle with Huntington's disease, a fatal neurological disorder with no cure, but Smith has not yet elected not to play, the team said.
“He’s welcome to come back, but right now we plan to go without Joe,” Baker said. “He’s a big part of the club. The guys miss Joe, but we know that every man has to do what he has to do.” Joe re-signed with the Astros in December for two years and $8 million. (McTaggart - mlb.com - 7/15/2020)
June 2006: Joe signed for a bonus of $410,000 after the Mets drafted him in the third round, out of Wright State University in Ohio. Erwin Bryant is the scout who signed him.
December 11, 2008: In a complicated swap, the Mets sent six players to the Mariners, including Aaron Heilman, Endy Chavez, Double-A first baseman Mike Carp, lefthander Jason Vargas, and prospects Maikel Cleto and Ezequiel Carrera. They also shipped reliever Joe Smith to the Indians, with the Indians receiving infielder Luis Valbuena from the Mariners. The Mets picked up J.J. Putz from Seattle along with righthander Sean Green and outfielder Jeremy Reed.
December 2, 2010: Smith signed a one-year pact with the Indians worth $870,000 plus incentives.
January 17, 2012: Joe and the Indians avoided arbitration, agreeing on a one-year, $1.75 million contract.
January 18, 2013: Smith and the Tribe again avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year, $3.15 million contract.
November 25, 2013: Smith and the Angels agree on a three-year contract worth $15.75 million. He can also receive $500,000 in annual bonuses.
August 1, 2016: The Cubs sent RHP Jesus Castillo to the Angels, acquiring Smith.
Feb 4, 2017: The Blue Jays signed free agent Smith to a one year deal.
July 31, 2017: The Blue Jays traded RHP Joe Smith to Cleveland Indians for LHP Thomas Pannone and 2B Samad Taylor.
Nov 2, 2017: Joe chose free agency.
Dec. 13, 2017: Smith signed a 2-year $15 million contract with the Astros.
Oct 31, 2019: Smith chose free agency.
- Dec 16, 2019: The Astros signed free agent Smith to a 2-year $8 million deal.
- July 27, 2021: The Mariners traded RHP Kendall Graveman and RHP Rafael Montero to the Astros for RHP Joe Smith and 3B Abraham Toro
|Birth City:||Cincinnati, OH|
|Draft:||Mets #3 - 2006 - Out of Wright State Univ. (OH)|
A true sidearmer, Smith has an 88-92 mph 2-seam SINKER with excellent sinking and fading action, along with an 89-94 mph 4-seam FASTBALL. Joe also has a nasty, late-breaking, 80-83 mph two-plane SLIDER that has real bite, causing righthanded batters to bail out on it. And he has a 78-81 mph CHANGEUP, but rarely uses it.
Against righthanded hitters, Joe throws predominantly 4-seamers, with a few sliders. Against lefties, Joe mixes the 2-seamer with his slider almost 50:50, with a rare change thrown in.
2016 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 14.4% of the time; Sinker 48% of the time; Change 5.7%; and Slider 32% of the time.
2017 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 29% of the time; Sinker 37.6% of the time; Change .7%; and Slider 32.8% of the time.
2018 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 31.7% of the time; Sinker 33.3%; Change less than 1%; and Slider 34.7% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 88.6 mph, Sinker 88, Change 79.6, and Slider 79.1 mph.
2019 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 43.1% of the time; Sinker less than 1%; Change 19.2%; Slider 23.5%; and his Curve 13.3% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 92.2 mph, Sinker 91.3, Change 86.4, Slider 87.6, and Curve 81.8 mph.
2020 Season Pitch Usage: Did not pitch.
Sidearmer Joe Smith can best be described as "Deceptive." He doesn't show the ball, maintaining an even arm slot for all of his pitches.
One scout described Smith: "He has a stuttered, side-armed, odd throwing mechanics, just all around weird delivery.
Righthanded hitters have trouble picking the ball up out of Joe's low sidearm/submarine delivery. He gets a lot of groundouts with his fine sinker. Lefthanded batters have good success off Joe. He throws a lot harder than most sidearm pitchers.
- Joe is working to establish both sides of the plate—especially the inner half.
- Smith is confident when he gets on the mound, glaring in with a cold stare.
During 2008 spring training, the Mets had Joe change his mechanics somewhat, so now he stands straighter before he begins his delivery to make his release point and his velocity more consistent and restore life to his pitches.
People around the team have suggested his on-mound body language—hitters can read it—needs improvement and that he concern himself less with lefthanded hitters. He's not likely to face that many, anyway.
"A shot of confidence wouldn't hurt him," a teammate said. "His stuff can be deadly. But he needs to trust it. No righthanded hitter looks forward to seeing that."
Tribe manager Terry Francona uses Joe often and appreciates his consistency.
"Because of his arm angle, I think people sometimes take for granted that he's a situational guy, and he's not," Francona said. "He's learned to take the sting out of a lot of lefthanders' bats. He's always going to be tougher vs. righties because of his style. But he's learned how to elevate a fastball, throw a breaking ball to a lefty, to kind of neutralize them enough [to] where he can pitch full innings when the game is on the line."
"He's just really dependable," Francona said. "You can't run on him. He doesn't really walk very many guys. That's a nice combination." (4/04/13)
SWITCH TO SIDEARM DELIVERY
It was fall workouts at Wright State University in 2004, and new pitching coach Greg Lovelady badly wanted a sidearm reliever. So he went around the room asking for volunteers, probing mostly the pitchers who otherwise had little chance of cracking his depth chart.
Joe Smith, then a redshirt-sophomore coming off a solid first season, raised his hand.
"He had the best numbers of the returners," said Lovelady, now Wright State's head baseball coach. "I didn't really think of him doing that. But we were like, 'OK, let's try it with this guy, that guy,' and next thing you know, everybody wants to try it. Joe steps up and throws, and it's like, 'Wow, that's actually pretty good.'"
That's the day that changed Smith's baseball career forever. It took him from a mediocre amateur pitcher to a third-round draft pick by the Mets in 2006, one of baseball's most effective relievers with the Indians from 2011-13, and as a $15.75 million setup man for the Angels.
First, Smith needed to accept the change.
He volunteered as a joke. But when Lovelady told him he'd be his closer the following season if he accepted, things suddenly got serious.
The proof came via the radar gun, which ultimately clocked Smith's fastball a couple of ticks higher in each of his two seasons as a collegiate sidearmer.
"I don't know. Somehow my velocity just ended up getting stronger, even though I dropped down," Smith said.
It's that sidearm motion, coupled with Smith's propensity for inducing groundouts, that gives the Angels some important diversity in the back end of a bullpen that's filled mostly by power, over-the-top right-handed throwers. (12/02/13)
Joe couldn't crack the Wright State roster in his first year at college. Then he made the team as a walk-on in 2004, posting a 2.75 ERA while throwing overhand. A new coaching staff arrived the next year and wanted a sidearm reliever to give the pitching staff a different look. They chose Smith, against his family’s will.
“His Dad threw a fit, ‘What are you, crazy?’” Wright State pitching coach Greg Lovelady said. "He probably thought I was the worst coach in America.”
Lovelady, trying to sell him on the switch, asked Smith if he had ever seen Chad Bradford pitch. Smith had not, but he went home and used Chad Bradford while playing a video game, which helped sell the idea.
With the new arm slot, Smith gained about 5 mph on his fastball. His stats the next two college seasons: 1.03 ERA, .171 opponents' average, and 21 saves.
"That slider he's able to command is a huge equalizer for him," friend and Indians reliever Vinnie Pestano said. "He can start it two feet outside and bring it back to the outside corner, he can [backdoor] guys with it, and just that sink he gets on his fastball. He can work both sides of the plate with that. When he's able to locate both of those, it's going to be a tough day for a lefty or a righty." (3/10/14)
May 15, 2021: Joe Smith is on the precipice of history.
With Smith’s next appearance, he will become the 51st pitcher in MLB history to appear in at least 800 games, a testament to the veteran’s success and longevity.
“It’s pretty cool, man, just to be around this long and still pitching and still getting outs and knowing you can still do this thing,” Smith said. “But 1,000 was, or is, the goal. It just makes you realize how hard that number is to get to.”
Smith fondly recalled the first outing of his career. Back on Opening Day 2007, Smith was a mere rookie for the Mets, who were at Busch Stadium to take on the defending champion Cardinals in a rematch of the epic '06 National League Championship Series. Aerosmith performed the national anthem. Tom Glavine was on the hill for the Mets, Chris Carpenter for the Cardinals. New York’s All-Star studded lineup featured José Reyes, Paul Lo Duca, Carlos Beltrán, Carlos Delgado and David Wright. Smith thought he was only going to spectate, but found himself 60 feet and 6 inches away from one of the best hitters of his generation.
“I got warmed up twice, sat down and warmed up the third time and went in right behind Tommy Glavine and faced David Eckstein, Preston Wilson and Albert [Pujols],” Smith said. “I thought I had a free ticket to the game to watch. I’m like, ‘There’s no way they’re throwing me in this thing.' And then the next thing you know, I was pitching.” Given how well Smith has performed in recent weeks, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the 37-year-old veteran throw another bagel on the board when his number is called to celebrate the milestone in style.
In Smith’s last nine outings, he’s allowed just one run across eight innings with seven strikeouts to one walk. Smith's recent performance has been quite the bounce back; at one point in mid-April, the ever-reliable Smith’s ERA was as high as 14.54.
Much of Smith’s early troubles can be attributed to his slider. The pitch has long been Smith’s best weapon, but this season, Smith’s slider has a Run Value of 8, making it one of the worst pitches in baseball. For context, the slider had a Run Value of minus 5 in 2019, and minus 8 in '17.
“The biggest problem has been my slider all year,” Smith said. “I asked Michael Brantley where it was. He told me I left it on the field in West Palm [Beach].”
There’s also been the matter of once again getting familiar with the ebb and flow of the daily grind after opting out of last season. While Smith has felt good physically, getting reacquainted with the mental aspect of the game has taken time.
“The biggest thing has been the mental component of it,” Smith said. “Just the day-to-day routines, which took me until about halfway into April to start feeling really comfortable again with my day-to-day routine and the pitch routine, the warm-up routine, just everything that you just didn’t even have to think about.” (JD Santos - MLB.com - May 15, 2021)
May 21, 2021: When Joe recorded two quick outs to end the sixth inning against the Rangers, it was a landmark moment of his career. Smith registered his 800th career appearance, which tied him with Francisco Cordero for 50th place all time. [Two Hall of Fame starting pitchers are immediately ahead of him: Walter Johnson (802) and Nolan Ryan (807).]
- May 22, 2021: When veteran reliever Joe Smith recorded two quick outs to end the sixth inning against the Rangers, it was a landmark moment of his career. Smith registered his 800th career appearance, which tied him with Francisco Cordero for 50th place all time.
“It’s neat,” Smith said. “I’m very proud of it. I’ve always wanted to play. I love playing the game, and the only way to do that as a reliever is to be ready to go every day. That’s the only thing I was told when I was a rookie -- come in here and post and get ready and make it through today, and we’ll worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. I've enjoyed it over my career being one of the guys coming out of the bullpen and being consistent at it and being able to do it for a long time.”
Smith, 37, has played with six teams in his 14-year Major League career, signing with the Astros prior to the 2018 season. He opted out of last season to help take care of his mother, who passed away after a long bout with Huntington’s disease. He missed half of the ’19 season following Achilles surgery.
“As a kid and having shoulder surgery when I was 16 years old and walking onto Wright State and getting cut my freshman year and coming back out and [reaching] 800 appearances in the big leagues, it’s something I’m very proud of,” he said.
And Smith isn’t done. He doesn’t know the names immediately ahead of him on the all-time games pitched list, but they’re big ones. Hall of Fame starters Walter Johnson (802) and Nolan Ryan (807).
“I think I got some time left and hopefully, we can keep climbing that list and wherever it lands, it lands,” he said. “I just enjoy playing the game. I’m thankful I’m still doing it.”
After a slow start, Smith entered Saturday having posted a 1.04 ERA in his previous 10 appearances. (B McTaggart - MLB.com - May 22, 2021)
- As of the start of the 2021 season, Smith has a career record of 50-29 with 2.98 ERA, having allowed 54 home runs and 573 hits in 695 innings.
- Joe holds runners on base well. He is difficult for the opposition to run on.
2002: Smith had shoulder surgery as a high school senior.
August 15, 2007: Joe was on the D.L. at New Orleans with bicep tendinitis.
February 21, 2009: Smith had to sit out five days with a very bad headache. As for the illness, Joe didn't think it was a migraine. "It was like a flu bug. It has pretty much worked its way out now . . . I just sat around and waited for it to leave."
May 1-June 9, 2009: Joe was on the D.L. with a strained right rotator cuff. And he also suffered with a viral infection.
September 5-23, 2009: Smith was on the D.L. with a sprained left knee. He came back for a game or so, but went out for the last week of the season, because he couldn't move laterally, later undergoing arthroscopic surgery. The surgery cleaned out loose bodies in Joe's left knee.
March 8-April 15, 2011: Joe was sidelined for over a month with an abdominal strain and had to begin the season on the D.L.
September 19, 2015: Angels setup man Joe Smith was unavailable to pitch, because he sprained his left ankle leaving the team hotel and was in a walking boot and on crutches. Smith said he was saying goodbye to the hotel bellman when he turned around. He thought he was at the bottom of the stairs. It turns out he wasn't. He had one more left and his heel caught, causing him to go backward and then forward, landing in a push-up position. Initial tests were negative, but he needed to wait until the swelling went down for further information.
June 5-July 1, 2016: Joe was on the DL with a left hamstring strain.
Aug 17-Sept 1, 2016: Joe was on the DL with a left hamstring strain.
June 19-July 22, 2017: Joe was on the DL with right shoulder inflammation.
June 7-July 3, 2018: Joe was on the DL with right elbow soreness.
Dec. 20, 2018: The Astros' announced that right-hander Joe Smith had surgery after rupturing his left Achilles tendon. The 34-year-old Smith sustained the injury in a recent workout, according to the Astros.
March 25-July 12, 2019: Joe was on the IL with left achilles tendon surgery.
- June 9-July 7, 2021: Joe was on the IL.