It is May 4th in LoanDepot Park; top of the ninth inning. Marlins are leading 7-6, and their closer, Anthony Bender, is on the mound. Jordan Luplow steps to the box. Four pitches and Luplow strikes out. Dalton Varsho is up next; the first pitches he sees, a 98mph sinker, he hits a line drive to left. Man on first. The next man up is Pavin Smith, who has two strikeouts in the ball. His at-bat began with a 97.8mph sinker that missed the strike zone—ball one. The closer then tries to pick off Varsho at first base. The second pitch is an 84 MPH slider. Pavin fouls.
What happened next, we cannot explain. The Miami crowd then began shouting "overrated." at Smith. It was an unusual chant because Smith is not a flashy player who has never hit more than eleven home runs in a season.
Smith then squares up for the next pitch. The third pitch is a sinker called a ball. Bender then will deliver three sliders in a row. The fourth pitch was a strike; Pavin Smith just looked at the ball. The fifth pitch—was foul. Bender is ready to get Smith out and throws an 83mph slider in the middle of the zone. Smith swings; the ball is gone to the empty right-field seats.
The Arizona Diamondbacks now have an 8-7 lead and won the game.
This team may still be in last place in the National League West Division, but some players have great storylines. Smith is one of them. He is currently slashing .238/.337/.393 with a .730 OPS in 98 plate appearances. He also has 20 hits, three of them home runs. His strikeout percentage has increased to 26.5%, but his walk percentage is 12.2%, almost double since last season. Smith's plate discipline has played a significant role in his success thus far. Smith walks more often and swings at fewer pitches outside the strike zone. However, these changes are part of a more significant trend. Smith is swinging less. The outfielder swung at 42.1% of the pitches he saw in 2021. He has dropped to 35.2% this season.
Again, Pavin Smith may not be flashy, but he is up to something. Based on Nick Piecoro's (The Arizona Republic) reporting, Smith said he has been concentrating, especially in the last few weeks, on a fundamental approach — putting his foot down early, being ready for the fastball, and adapting if he sees anything offspeed. Pavin Smith has elaborated a new approach on the plate, focusing on swinging to get hits instead of taking it out of the ballpark. This plate discipline is excellent for a young team looking to compete in the future. Getting hits, constantly getting players on base, and scoring more make pitchers uneasy—a perfect way to win ballgames.
MLB has been exciting fans with home runs over the last couple of years. They are fun to watch. But winning teams get on base. A team player tries to get his teammates to score. Arizona may have something here with Smith and current hitting coach Joe Mather. So why did Miami fans call Smith overrated? We can't tell. We can only tell you that Smith, Varsho, Thomas, and Beer look like the future.