Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
The 2023 season has been a tale of two halves for Will Smith as he looks to get back on track before the postseason begins as a key part of the Los Angeles Dodgers lineup.
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 Smith his first All-Star Game selection while being someone the Dodgers relied on in the middle of their order.
In the second half, however, he’s been below league average, hitting .255/.320/.380/.701 with a .405 wOBA and 92 wRC+ while increasing his strikeout rate to 19.9% but walk rate falling to 7.3%.
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 Dodgers manager Dave Roberts doesn’t believe that’s 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.”
Smith has played in 113 games with 98 of them coming as the catcher and another 14 as the designated hitter, which ranks 10th in total games played among catchers.
The 28-year-old has also historically performed worse in the second half, but he doesn’t believe fatigue is the issue either.
“I think we do a good job with the performance staff, trainers, Doc, just having conversations here and there, where I might need a little blow or not,” Smith said. “We do a good job with that.”
With fatigue being ruled out, the Dodgers believe the All-Star is dealing with some mechanical issues that need to be addressed.
“I don’t always default to the mechanics, but I think in Will’s particular case, there’s some things with his setup that has caused him to be late on the fastball,” Roberts said. “They’re trying to clean it up. It’s been a little bit better of late, so hopefully we can keep building on it.”
Smith said his issue is getting too long in his backswing, which is making his swing leak. Instead of being in the best spot to generate energy with his swing, his body is creeping forward and causing a loss in that potential.
In simpler terms, that means his swing is not generating as much power as it should be and it’s more likely to cause him to get jammed or be late.
Will Smith making progress on swing adjustments
Smith has been putting in work to adjust his mechanics, which included taking batting practice against a pitching machine to see velocity during the Dodgers’ last homestand.
“Just putting a lot of work in the cage, fixing some mechanical stuff, some bad habits,” Smith said. “Just continue to grind, continue to put together good at-bats and try to help the team win.”
The Dodgers need him to get back on track as he’s one of the key hitters in their lineup, but he still has roughly three weeks to figure it out. While the progress isn’t totally there yet, Smith feels he is improving.
“But overall it’s trending,” Smith said. “Just continue to work.”
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