Smith Getting Ahead

Brett Smith allowed no earned runs in just three of his 28 starts for the Tampa Yankees last season. But after tossing six more shutout innings against New Britain on Sunday, he already has four scoreless starts in 2007 and a 27 1/3 inning scoreless streak intact. He credits pitching ahead in the count for his strong start to the season.

"I feel good," Brett Smith said of his start to the 2007 season. "It's always nice to have a change of scenery. I think our team has been playing great baseball. It's fun to get out and pitch right now, that's for sure."

Considering he hasn't allowed a run since the second inning of his first start of the season - an April 9th contest against the Harrisburg Senators - there's no secret why he is having so much fun on the mound.

Smith had a solid season for the Tampa Yankees last year, going 8-9 with a 3.81 ERA in the Florida State League, but he has never enjoyed this type of success since being selected in the second round of the 2004 MLB Draft.

"I think my fastball command has made some improvements," he listed as a big difference between this season and last. "I put a lot of hard work into the offseason with Scotty [Aldred] and things seem to be going alright right now. I've had a lot of success getting ahead in the count and competing, just making strides in the right direction. I'm happy with it."

After striking out just 119 batters in 158 1/3 innings a year ago and averaging a little more than six strikeouts per nine innings in his career, Smith has begun his 2007 campaign averaging nearly one strikeout per inning pitched with the Trenton Thunder thus far and once again, he credits pitching ahead in the count.

"I think I'm ahead a lot more," he offered as a reason for the higher strikeout ratios this season. "The slider has gotten to be a lot better pitch for me. I don't know why I'm striking out a lot of guys, it's just kind of happening that way."

"When you're ahead in the count, it's certainly easier to strike guys out. One-two as opposed to 2-1, that's something I'm happy to be doing this year. I'm feeling a lot better about throwing the ball in, elevating on some guys, and doing some things I'm capable of doing. I'm excited about that, it's fun."

"Just dropping in curveballs early, it's nice. We've been able to stay ahead of a lot of these guys, the results have been great, and just keep doing it I guess."

Easily pitching the best baseball of his career and putting up the type of scoreless streak normally reserved for the game's top prospects, Smith believes a big reason for his hot streak has been pitching better in a particular point in the counts.

"One thing I look at is being able to throw strikes at 1-1," he revealed. "That's been real good for me. It's the same old story. We're working on some things that are going to help me along the way."

"One [other] thing for me has been my ability to throw my breaking balls for strikes. I've gone out there a couple of times where I wasn't as sharp with my fastball and I've been able to change speeds and do some things in order to stay effective and help my team win. That's what I'm happiest about. The strikeouts and stuff are just a byproduct of good defense and a lot of hard work."

At 21-4, Trenton has gotten off to a tremendous start this year. And while Smith's performance is a big reason why, good pitching seems to be contagious these days as the staff ERA stands at a mind-boggling 1.74 after nine more shutout innings on Sunday.

"I think you've got a mix of a lot of things," Smith said as to why the entire staff is pitching well this year. "I don't think you can attribute it to one thing, there's a lot of things that are going into it. For one, I think Scotty [Aldred] has done a great job with getting to know us really early with what we like to do."

"I think the catchers have done a phenomenal job calling games. I don't think you can say enough about 'Browny' and P.J, with the way they've been calling games."

"I think as a staff we've been able to continually get ahead and throw strikes with our offspeed consistently. And I think we have a great group of pitchers here. We've got like five or six closers in the pen. Everybody is vying for spots and I think it makes for a pretty good atmosphere."

While Smith continues to pitch ahead in the count and pile up the strikeout totals at a higher pace than normal, he insists his plan on the mound is still the same - pitching to contact and keeping his pitch counts low.

"When you're ahead, it's a lot easier," he said of getting out the innings with as few pitches as possible. "I've been lucky enough in the past to sink the ball and do some things to get out of innings quick. I think this year I find myself ahead a lot more."

"I've been able to get into the zone and out of the zone, as my old coach would say, 'you get in the zone and get out'. That's how you strike guys out, because very few guys are blessed with crazy stuff."

While Smith himself would be the first to admit he doesn't have 'crazy stuff', he is proving to everybody that making pitches at the right time and getting ahead is all you need.

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Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\n\"I feel good,\" Brett Smith said of his start to the 2007 season. \"It's always nice to have a change of scenery. I think our team has been playing great baseball. It's fun to get out and pitch right now, that's for sure.\"
\r\n
\r\nConsidering he hasn't allowed a run since the second inning of his first start of the season - an April 9th contest against the Harrisburg Senators - there's no secret why he is having so much fun on the mound.
\r\n
\r\nSmith had a solid season for the Tampa Yankees last year, going 8-9 with a 3.81 ERA in the Florida State League, but he has never enjoyed this type of success since being selected in the second round of the 2004 MLB Draft.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think my fastball command has made some improvements,\" he listed as a big difference between this season and last. \"I put a lot of hard work into the offseason with Scotty [Aldred] and things seem to be going alright right now. I've had a lot of success getting ahead in the count and competing, just making strides in the right direction. I'm happy with it.\"
\r\n
\r\nAfter striking out just 119 batters in 158 1/3 innings a year ago and averaging a little more than six strikeouts per nine innings in his career, Smith has begun his 2007 campaign averaging nearly one strikeout per inning pitched with the Trenton Thunder thus far and once again, he credits pitching ahead in the count.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think I'm ahead a lot more,\" he offered as a reason for the higher strikeout ratios this season. \"The slider has gotten to be a lot better pitch for me. I don't know why I'm striking out a lot of guys, it's just kind of happening that way.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"When you're ahead in the count, it's certainly easier to strike guys out. One-two as opposed to 2-1, that's something I'm happy to be doing this year. I'm feeling a lot better about throwing the ball in, elevating on some guys, and doing some things I'm capable of doing. I'm excited about that, it's fun.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"Just dropping in curveballs early, it's nice. We've been able to stay ahead of a lot of these guys, the results have been great, and just keep doing it I guess.\"
\r\n
\r\nEasily pitching the best baseball of his career and putting up the type of scoreless streak normally reserved for the game's top prospects, Smith believes a big reason for his hot streak has been pitching better in a particular point in the counts.
\r\n
\r\n\"One thing I look at is being able to throw strikes at 1-1,\" he revealed. \"That's been real good for me. It's the same old story. We're working on some things that are going to help me along the way.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"One [other] thing for me has been my ability to throw my breaking balls for strikes. I've gone out there a couple of times where I wasn't as sharp with my fastball and I've been able to change speeds and do some things in order to stay effective and help my team win. That's what I'm happiest about. The strikeouts and stuff are just a byproduct of good defense and a lot of hard work.\"
\r\n
\r\nAt 21-4, Trenton has gotten off to a tremendous start this year. And while Smith's performance is a big reason why, good pitching seems to be contagious these days as the staff ERA stands at a mind-boggling 1.74 after nine more shutout innings on Sunday.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think you've got a mix of a lot of things,\" Smith said as to why the entire staff is pitching well this year. \"I don't think you can attribute it to one thing, there's a lot of things that are going into it. For one, I think Scotty [Aldred] has done a great job with getting to know us really early with what we like to do.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"I think the catchers have done a phenomenal job calling games. I don't think you can say enough about 'Browny' and P.J, with the way they've been calling games.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"I think as a staff we've been able to continually get ahead and throw strikes with our offspeed consistently. And I think we have a great group of pitchers here. We've got like five or six closers in the pen. Everybody is vying for spots and I think it makes for a pretty good atmosphere.\"
\r\n
\r\nWhile Smith continues to pitch ahead in the count and pile up the strikeout totals at a higher pace than normal, he insists his plan on the mound is still the same - pitching to contact and keeping his pitch counts low.
\r\n
\r\n\"When you're ahead, it's a lot easier,\" he said of getting out the innings with as few pitches as possible. \"I've been lucky enough in the past to sink the ball and do some things to get out of innings quick. I think this year I find myself ahead a lot more.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"I've been able to get into the zone and out of the zone, as my old coach would say, 'you get in the zone and get out'. That's how you strike guys out, because very few guys are blessed with crazy stuff.\"
\r\n
\r\nWhile Smith himself would be the first to admit he doesn't have 'crazy stuff', he is proving to everybody that making pitches at the right time and getting ahead is all you need.
\r\n
\r\n

\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n
\r\n

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\r\n

\r\n

Become an annual subscriber today!

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