By Mike Steffanos
Steve Schmoll was a fifth-year senior at the University of Maryland in 2003, coming off three unimpressive collegiate campaigns, when he began to drop down and throw sidearm. He found that he was still able to throw his fastball up to 91 mph with good control and sink on the ball. He led the ACC in strikeouts and signed as a free agent with the Dodgers after the season. Here is a portion of the Baseball America scouting report on Schmoll coming out of school in 2003:
Scouting Report: Schmoll became an overnight sensation this spring at Maryland as a fifth-year senior ... He was a high school catcher who tried to walk-on at Maryland as a freshman, but was cut. Undeterred, he built a mound in his back yard to learn how to pitch and later made the Terrapins as a pitcher. He ... became a different pitcher when he changed his arm angle after discovering he had better control and deception from a sidearm slot while messing around during a bullpen session with former Maryland closer Ken Beck. ... He threw his fastball, slider and changeup for strikes from arm angles that ranged from submarine to straight over the top. ... Schmoll also worked quickly and confidently while pitching exclusively from the stretch. All the changes pushed Schmoll up draft boards this spring...
After a solid first season at the rookie level, Schmoll started 2004 at High-A Vero Beach. He pitched so well there that he earned a promotion to Double-A near the end of the year. Schmoll continued his ride on the fast track by making the Dodgers out of spring training in 2005, but struggled and was demoted to AAA-Las Vegas in mid-May. He came back up with the Dodgers in mid-July and stayed the rest of the season.
In January of 2006, Schmoll was shipped to New York as a piece of the Jae Seo - Duaner Sanchez deal. Baseball America had this to say about Steve Schmoll in their recap of the deal:
... He quickly worked his way through the [Dodgers] system, using a sidearm delivery that was deadly to Class A and Double-A hitters (1.81 ERA in 85 relief innings in 2004). He was a surprise addition to the big league club coming out of spring training in 2005, although big league hitters exposed Schmoll's biggest weakness. Like many sidearmers, his 88-90 mph fastball and cutter make him tough on righthanders (.228 average against at Triple-A Las Vegas last season and .244 for Los Angeles), but he has much more trouble against lefties. Lefties hit .303/.376/.494 against him in the big leagues, and he has to continue to work on his changeup to give him a pitch to give lefties another look.
Schmoll was thought to have a chance to make the Mets bullpen in the spring of 2006, but he didn't pitch very well and was assigned to Norfolk. Aside from one unfortunate cab ride, the Mets bullpen was remarkably injury-free in 2006, and Schmoll's pedestrian numbers in Triple-A didn't force anyone's hand. After spending the majority of 2005 in the majors, he didn't make it within sniffing distance in 2006. Here are Steve Schmoll's numbers in all levels through last season:
|Steve Schmoll Minor & Major League Stats|
|2003 - Ogden (R)||23||24||36.2||6.6||13.0||3.7||0.5||3.68||1.15|
|2004 - Vero Beach (A+)||24||37||65.0||7.9||8.0||2.5||0.0||1.80||1.15|
|2004 - Jacksonville (AA)||11||19.2||6.4||8.2||3.2||0.0||1.83||1.07|
|2005 - Las Vegas (AAA)||25||22||26.1||8.2||10.6||4.4||0.3||4.78||1.41|
|2005 - LA Dodgers||48||46.2||9.0||5.6||4.2||0.8||5.01||1.48|
|2006 - Norfolk (AAA)||26||42||55.2||9.1||6.8||3.1||0.7||4.69||1.35|
Even more disappointing than his failure to force his way onto the major league roster, Schmoll's numbers at Norfolk didn't show any appreciable progress against left-handers. Below, find a chart with his lefty/righty splits from 2005 with the Dodgers and last year with Norfolk:
|Steve Schmoll L/R Splits|
|LA Dodgers||vs. LHB||22.2||4.76||10.7||3.6||4.0||0.8||.303||.373||.494|
|Norfolk (AAA)||vs. LHB||16.1||--||13.8||5.0||2.8||1.1||.347||.392||.514|
Although the primary duty of a sidearming right-hander like Schmoll is to retire right-handed batters, his terrible numbers against lefties kept him in Norfolk last season, and are likely to land him in the Big Easy this year. Few teams have the luxury of carrying a right-handed reliever to bring into a game to pitch to one or two batters on a consistent basis, they need to at least put up respectable numbers against lefties. Schmoll has shown no sign of being able to do that.
I would think this will be an important spring for Steve Schmoll. The Mets have carried him on the 40-man roster since the trade, and I wonder how much longer they will do so. Last year's third round draft pick Joe Smith is also a sidearmer, and if he continues to show promise and Schmoll continues to struggle, I could see Schmoll becoming expendable. The Mets 40-man roster is currently full, and should a need to add someone to it pop up, Schmoll seems the leading candidate to come off. He would have to pass through waivers at that point and it's quite possible someone would take him.
In any case, I really think that Steve Schmoll has to step up and win a bullpen job this spring to stick with this team, and I'm not all that convinced he can do that.
2007 Bullpen Previews:
Chan Ho Park
Steve Schmoll (This Article)
Four Other Names for You
2007 Pitching Previews: Summing It All Up