Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
Will Smith has established himself as one of the best catchers in baseball, but the Los Angeles Dodgers’ All-Star has been in the midst of a slump in the second half of the 2023 season.
In his last 30 games, Smith is hitting just .227/.301/.353 with only three home runs in 119 at-bats. For the Dodgers to advance far into the postseason, they’re likely going to need Smith to start producing at a high level at the plate.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts expects the backstop to get back on track and come through when they need him to. “I think he’s still grinding,” Roberts said.
“I just have a feeling he’s going to figure it out when we need it. It’s been a grind for him. I kind of thought he was coming out of it with some swings, and he snuck in a hit tonight. Should’ve got another hit but Flores made a nice play, so I’m not going to read too much into it.
“I still feel good that when he’s in the batter’s box, he’s going to take a good at-bat.”
During the first half of the season, Smith was performing at a superstar level, batting .279/.396/.494/.889 with a .382 wOBA and 144 wRC+ while walking 15.3% of his plate appearances and striking out in just 13.5%. That earned him his first All-Star Game selection while being someone the Dodgers relied on in the middle of their lineup.
In the second half, Smith is hitting .244/.318/.380 with a .303 wOBA and 90 wRC+ while walking in just 7.4% of his plate appearances and striking out 19%. Thirteen of Smith’s 18 home runs this season came in the first half, with 12 of those before July.
What makes Smith’s 2023 season all the more confounding is he remained productive while playing through a fractured rib in the first half but has tailed off despite getting healthy.
The Dodgers don’t necessarily need Smith to produce at first half levels once again with their talented lineup, but as a middle of the order bat, they do need him to produce at least above league average level offense.
Will Smith doesn’t believe fatigue is a factor
Producing elite offense from the catcher position is a challenge and it’s the reason many backstops aren’t known for their offensive ability as they take more wear and tear than any other position, but Roberts doesn’t believe fatigue is the reason for Smith’s struggles.
“I don’t think so,” Roberts said. “I think that’s something that’s an easy discussion point. There’s catchers across the league that catch as much as he does, he’s in his prime, he takes good care of himself. So I just don’t think that wear and tear, or fatigue, is the reason why he’s not on the fastball right now.”
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