The Mike Carp Family Of Hitters

Dave · November 29, 2011 at 6:26 am · Filed Under Mariners 

I liked the way the previous post showed what you should expect from Jaso, so while I had the data sitting in a spreadsheet, I decided to apply the same analysis to another guy on the M’s roster – Mike Carp. Given his power spike at the end of last year, I know a lot of people want to see the M’s give Carp a full season to show what he can do, while I’m a bit more skeptical about whether he can sustain success using the approach he showed last year. This is where the “family of hitters” analysis is helpful, as we can see what history shows to expect from this skillset.

Same deal as with Jaso, though with Carp, the filters are obviously different. This time, I set contact rate to be between 70% and 75%, swing rate to be between 46.5% and 51.5%, and Isolated Slugging to be between .165 and .215 – essentially, taking 25 points on both sides of Carp’s average in those categories in 2011. The overall group produced a total line in these categories that is nearly an identical match (72.5% contact rate, 48.4% swing rate, and .192 ISO) to what Carp put up last year. This skillset is a little more common, so going back to 2002 like before, we’ve got 51 players accumulating 21,223 plate appearances in the seasons in which they showed similar skills to Carp. Here is the list.

Season Name PA Contact% Swing% ISO BABIP wRC+
2007 Matt Kemp 311 0.734 0.5 0.178 0.411 131
2004 Jason Varitek 536 0.72 0.476 0.186 0.372 126
2003 Mike Piazza 273 0.733 0.465 0.197 0.301 126
2003 Eduardo Perez 289 0.73 0.489 0.194 0.319 122
2010 Jay Bruce 573 0.74 0.47 0.212 0.334 122
2008 Brad Hawpe 569 0.722 0.482 0.215 0.341 121
2005 Ryan Church 301 0.737 0.484 0.179 0.354 118
2003 Matthew LeCroy 374 0.708 0.491 0.203 0.333 117
2011 Mike Carp 313 0.725 0.493 0.19 0.343 117
2003 Austin Kearns 338 0.72 0.473 0.192 0.297 115
2008 Cliff Floyd 284 0.743 0.487 0.187 0.302 114
2009 Will Venable 324 0.733 0.492 0.184 0.328 110
2002 Reggie Sanders 571 0.715 0.512 0.206 0.28 108
2010 Bill Hall 382 0.743 0.467 0.209 0.3 107
2003 Miguel Cabrera 346 0.714 0.506 0.201 0.329 105
2003 Carlos Pena 516 0.744 0.466 0.192 0.298 104
2002 Carlos Pena 443 0.714 0.468 0.207 0.286 104
2002 Preston Wilson 582 0.711 0.468 0.186 0.289 103
2005 Preston Wilson 576 0.722 0.476 0.208 0.314 101
2006 Bobby Kielty 297 0.749 0.48 0.17 0.304 101
2010 Matt Kemp 668 0.718 0.467 0.201 0.295 101
2008 Ian Stewart 304 0.713 0.478 0.195 0.362 100
2003 Wes Helms 536 0.73 0.491 0.189 0.307 100
2010 Shelley Duncan 259 0.734 0.481 0.188 0.294 100
2002 Marty Cordova 513 0.729 0.466 0.181 0.295 99
2002 Damian Miller 340 0.715 0.472 0.185 0.318 98
2005 Eric Hinske 537 0.738 0.489 0.168 0.317 98
2010 Ian Stewart 441 0.739 0.472 0.187 0.308 97
2005 Jacque Jones 585 0.727 0.514 0.189 0.279 97
2008 Jeff Baker 333 0.739 0.504 0.201 0.327 96
2010 Brad Hawpe 346 0.729 0.466 0.174 0.308 95
2009 Marcus Thames 294 0.719 0.508 0.202 0.291 95
2009 Travis Snider 276 0.708 0.479 0.178 0.316 95
2006 Craig Wilson 395 0.703 0.477 0.195 0.329 94
2011 Jarrod Saltalamacchia 386 0.706 0.51 0.215 0.304 94
2011 Ryan Raburn 418 0.747 0.498 0.176 0.324 94
2008 Jay Bruce 452 0.716 0.512 0.199 0.296 93
2011 Jason Varitek 250 0.729 0.467 0.203 0.264 93
2011 Kelly Johnson 613 0.718 0.472 0.191 0.277 93
2002 Alex Gonzalez 568 0.713 0.489 0.177 0.302 92
2004 Josh Phelps 401 0.724 0.479 0.199 0.29 90
2007 John Buck 399 0.726 0.493 0.207 0.243 89
2011 Grady Sizemore 295 0.721 0.475 0.198 0.284 88
2007 Bill Hall 503 0.745 0.499 0.17 0.319 87
2008 Brandon Moss 263 0.723 0.486 0.191 0.307 87
2007 Andruw Jones 659 0.725 0.481 0.191 0.242 85
2007 Richie Sexson 491 0.73 0.477 0.194 0.217 84
2002 Fernando Tatis 430 0.707 0.51 0.171 0.256 80
2006 Reggie Sanders 358 0.72 0.513 0.178 0.297 80
2004 Scott Hairston 364 0.71 0.466 0.195 0.297 79
2007 David Ross 348 0.711 0.475 0.196 0.225 62
  Total 21223 0.725 0.484 0.192 0.303 100

The list of performances is pretty darn similar to Jaso’s comparables, and you’ll probably notice immediately that the wRC+ for this group is actually slightly worse than it was for Jaso’s group, though both collections could both be described as essentially average hitters. There’s a bit larger of a spread in results here, though once again, results are basically driven by a player’s BABIP – Matt Kemp’s crazy good 2007 was driven by a .411, while David Ross’ disastrous 2007 was thanks to a .225 BABIP, and obviously, neither of those marks were anything close to sustainable.

In terms of Carp, his 117 wRC+ from last year was the ninth highest posted by anyone in this “family”, and his .343 BABIP was the fifth highest anyone posted. Like with Jaso, this group suggests there’s significant regression coming if the same package of skills is maintained, but unfortunately with Carp, it’s regression in the other direction.

The conclusion here is hard to avoid. If Mike Carp takes the same approach at the plate in 2012 that he did in 2011, the results are going to be worse, and probably by a good amount. It’s one thing to have a league average hitting catcher (that’s a very good thing), but it’s entirely another to have a league average hitting 1B/DH with no defensive value. If Carp regresses back to the normal production level for a hitter with his 2011 contact rate, swing rate, and power levels, he’ll essentially be a replacement level player.

Of course, Carp has shown better contact rates in prior years, and there are some guys on the list – Matt Kemp, Jay Bruce, Miguel Cabrera, and Carlos Pena aren’t bad names to be associated with, after all – who offer some hope that this kind of skillset can be improved upon. The problem is that most of those guys were a lot younger than Carp was when they showed these skills in the big leagues, and so improvement with experience and natural growth was to be expected. At 25-years-old, Carp is getting close to the point where he should be in his physical prime, so there probably isn’t a ton of room for development left.

If there’s one guy who you could point to as perhaps the blueprint for what you’d hope for from Carp, it’s probably Pena, who didn’t really break out as a big leaguer until he was 29. Of course, a significant part of his improvement can be directly tied to his decision to drastically cut down on how often he swung the bat, as he set a career low 43.1% mark in his swing rate during his monster 2007 season. If Carp is going to follow the Pena path to being a productive slugger while striking out a lot, he’s simply going to have to stop chasing so many pitches out of the strike zone, get himself in better hitter’s counts, and be willing to take more walks.

More likely, though, he pretty much is what he is, and his future looks a lot like Eric Hinske’s career. It’s possible that Carp adds a bit more patience to his game and is able to maintain the power he showed last year, which would make him a useful player. He’ll never be any kind of star with his contact problems, and we probably shouldn’t expect Carp to be more than an average-ish hitter going forward, but there are some reasons to give him additional playing time in 2012. I just don’t agree that he’s shown enough to be handed the full-time starting DH job, however, and I wouldn’t suggest that the organization go into next season with Carp in a starting role and no legitimate alternative in the organization.

As a part-time player or a guy who doesn’t have to be counted on, he’s a decent piece to have around. Given how these types of hitters have generally performed, however, the Mariners better not count on getting a repeat performance from Carp, because odds are pretty good that the 2012 version won’t be as good as the 2011 version.


47 Responses to “The Mike Carp Family Of Hitters”

  1. bat guano on November 29th, 2011 7:00 am

    Another really interesting post. Thanks for doing it. (There is a typo in line 2 of the second paragraph that you might want to fix–you have “contact rate” twice where one of them should be “swing rate” I think)

  2. Mariners35 on November 29th, 2011 7:42 am

    Very thorough analysis, but you can draw most of the same conclusions about him by simply looking at OSwing%. Most everyone last season with any significant playing time for the Mariners were about league average for OSwing%, except 2 players.

    Carp was one of them, with an above average OSwing%, and as you’ve shown with his contact #s, he didn’t have the contact rate to get away with that. The other of them was Peguero, who… well, yeah.

  3. Westside guy on November 29th, 2011 8:26 am

    Hey, looking at all the comps, now we know what we’ve got in Carp – Bill Hall, but without the versatility!

    In all seriousness… thank you for doing these posts, Dave – they’re illuminating.

  4. make_dave_proud on November 29th, 2011 9:08 am

    These last two posts are very enlightening, thanks Dave.

    Not to push more work onto you, but does your data process scale well enough that you could provide charts for the rest of the position players? Would be really interesting to align that data against the recent ZIPS projections.

  5. Dave on November 29th, 2011 9:21 am

    It’s not too terribly difficult to adjust the filters and produce these comp lists, so perhaps I’ll knock out a few more this week. I will say, however, that there aren’t that many hitter-types in the sport, and once you realize that hitting is basically just trying to maximize contact without sacrificing power (with a side dish of not swinging at crap), it becomes pretty easy to identify what types of skillsets work and which ones don’t.

    High power/high contact guys are really good, especially if they’re patient.

    High power/low contact guys can be good if they’re selective, but if they’re hacks, they’re probably not going to be effective.

    Low power/high contact guys can be good if they’re patient, and it helps if they’re fast. They also generally need to have some defensive value because they’re not going to be great hitters in most cases.

    Low power/low contact guys suck with very few exceptions.

    There are certainly shades of gray in between these groupings, and some guys maximize what you can get out of a given skillset better than others, but most hitters can be lumped into one of those four groups, and you can get a decent idea of what to expect from them based on those skills.

  6. ManifestDestiny on November 29th, 2011 9:25 am

    Oh god, Richie Sexson’s name is on that list….having….flashbacks….

    Cool posts Dave, really enjoying this series. Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak would be interesting to see, and I would be kinda curious to see what people with Trayvon’s “skillset” have had success-wise (though granted, the sample size might be a bit hard to make this work).

  7. Ed on November 29th, 2011 9:43 am

    These two posts have been great. I feel like I have a much better context for why you’re (relatively) down on Carp despite his pretty good season.

    I guess the hope, then, is he manages to synthesize his previous skillset (more patience, less power) with the opposite approach he took most of this year. Given the difficulty of pulling that off, I have a much clearer understanding of your skepticism.

  8. goat on November 29th, 2011 9:43 am

    More likely, though, he pretty much is what he is, and his future looks a lot like Eric Hinske’s career.

    So you’re saying he should be moved to third base?

    As Manifest Destiny just said, I think 2007 Richie Sexson could be a cautionary tale for anyone who gets too excited about Carp. It seems like Brad Hawpe might be another (though not as familiar to Mariner fans).

  9. Klatz on November 29th, 2011 10:20 am

    Justin Smoak’s MLB peripherals aren’t that far off the Carp family. Contact% is 76.3%, ISO is .157, and swing% is 44%. Only the swing% is below your threshold of 46.5% and his ISO is borderline.

    He’s obviously a more patient hitter but does that contact percentage hold him. Which of these three factors is the most important?

  10. The_Waco_Kid on November 29th, 2011 10:30 am

    Great series. Smoak would be good to see. Seager if there’s enough data.

  11. Typical Idiot Fan on November 29th, 2011 10:51 am

    A bit of hope for Carp is that he was once a patient hitter, posting walk rates north of 9% and strikeout rates around or south of 20% in the minors. It was rumored or reported that he changed his approach in Tacoma. So we know that Carp has it in him to be more selective. What I’m hoping, going forward, is that he’ll create some amalgamation of his current aggressive tactic and his previous discipline and patience as he gets more experience at the ML level seeing what pitchers throw to him.

    If he’d never demonstrated any kind of patience before, I’d write him off.

  12. greymstreet on November 29th, 2011 11:24 am

    These posts are awesome. Would it be possible to include an ‘age’ column in future iterations of this series so we have a better of what we’re looking at (i.e. it was useful note that Bruce et al., were younger than Carp when they put up these seasons). Thanks!

  13. Dave on November 29th, 2011 11:56 am

    Smoak’s family of hitters based on 2011 data is slightly worse than both Jaso and Carp, actually – wRC+ of 96 and only a couple of examples of guys who actually had good years with that skillset.

    However, I don’t think anyone’s really counting on the idea of Smoak just getting a natural boost while maintaining the skillset he’s shown in the big leagues. The question with him is more whether or not he can add more power to make the overall skillset work.

    We know that a member of the family of players that Smoak has associated with the last two years isn’t good enough to be an impact first baseman. The question with him is whether or not he can put himself into another family of players – the Mariners have to hope the answer is yes. His skillset works if he hits for more power. It doesn’t work if he’s running ISOs in the .160 range.

  14. robbbbbb on November 29th, 2011 12:04 pm

    I think folks are counting on Smoak still developing a bit. He’s six months younger than Carp, and he’s had injuries holding him back over the last year. If he can get over those things, and develop a little more, then he’s got a good chance to be a quality player.

    That’s what we’re all hoping for, anyway.

  15. BackRub on November 29th, 2011 12:26 pm

    So you’re saying there is a chance?

    All kidding aside, the risk associated with Carp and to a lesser extent Smoak is exactly why the M’s could use a DH who can play 1B and/or OF. This provides flexibility and leaves us in a good position if either Smoak or Carp work out. Additionally, if this DH is LH he would form a nice platoon with Wells.

  16. BackRub on November 29th, 2011 1:21 pm

    There aren’t a lot of LH DH types available for a non-expensive price(through free agency or trade). Angel Pagan is nearly as good a hitter as anyone available,(and offers good defense and ability to play CF) so M’s should go after him as OF. Still leaves question of DH open- maybe hope Catricala is ready sooner rather than later?

  17. mebpenguin on November 29th, 2011 1:22 pm

    Although Smoak’s comps might shed some light on why Zips is so down on him. If he doesn’t take a significant step forward he’s definitely a well below average 1B.

  18. CapSea on November 29th, 2011 2:15 pm

    Smoak’s line drive percentage is also absymal, and was worse during April when he was supposedly good. I think the question is whether we should be more concerned about Smoak or Carp and make the other one more expendable.

  19. eponymous coward on November 29th, 2011 3:09 pm

    I think folks are counting on Smoak still developing a bit. He’s six months younger than Carp

    That’s not a huge age difference in the scheme of things. Smoak is basically the same age as Michael Saunders, and nobody is predicting great things for Saunders at this point in his career- Saunders is now firmly into the “busted prospect” zone.

    Smoak’s historical comps do include Tino Martinez and Mo Vaughn. The problem is if we toss out the “you’re from the dead ball era or earlier, the game you played is barely recognizable as baseball” guys who are comps, you also get guys like Lee Stevens- who looks OK with his counting stats and SLG until you realize that the 1990s-early 2000s era is stuffed full of guys who could slug .500 (this also affects Tino and Mo, to some extent, though not as badly), and Stevens played his best years in Arlington (stats are extra bloated). So basically, he was close to replacement-level. So it ends up going like this:

    Mo Vaughn (very good until he broke down)
    Tino Martinez (had a few good years as a run=, some mediocre-bad ones)
    Bob Skinner (much like Tino: some OK years, some “eh” ones, had a 3-4 year run)
    Steve Bilko (he got sent to the PCL and was really good there, probably would have been a decent MLB player had he stuck in MLB)
    Lee Stevens (not very good)
    Mike Jorgenson (not very good)
    Andres Mora (career blew up)
    People from the 19th century or deadball era like Highpockets Kelly, who we should just ignore since they played such a different game the stats don’t mean anything

    This isn’t a great comp list. Oh, and Smoak doesn’t stay healthy.

    Sure, he could pan out… but I think you have to be concerned (if not ready to ZOMG PANIC) when some projection systems think he won’t. If Smoak’s 2011 is a mid-700s OPS, 1-1.5 WAR year, where he’s not really all that, that may well be where his skillset is: in the Lee Stevens-Mike Jorgenson realm of guys who are marginal MLB players.

  20. Valenica on November 29th, 2011 3:23 pm

    There’s so many questions about Smoak it’s hard to panic too much about it.

    – LD% was low which might be influencing the BABIP/ISO
    – HR/FB is still slightly low which is a bad sign for power
    – his contact% puts him in a bad family of hitters but contact% can improve (Mark Teixeria’s did, maybe it’s a switch hit thing?)
    -his contact% development could have been influenced by his potential injury
    -if you take out the July where he was supposedly injured he hit .850 OPS overall
    -his power could still improve (I remember watching a bunch of fly balls die at the warning track from him)
    -we have a weird training program that focuses more on flexibility and rotational strength than actual strength which may be detrimental, or may be beneficial

    But we know he has the tools – .900 OPS in AA, 1.000 OPS in AAA. We know he has the work ethic, the blisters on his thumbs he got from practicing so much during his slump to get better. I kind of have zero belief in our hitting coaches, but Z and Wedge haven’t fired anyone so they must be satisfied with what they have for once.

    I’m a bit more worried about Carp, but I think he’s actually improved some tools he didn’t have before with his work in the off-season, and if he keeps making those improvements this off-season, I’m optimistic.

  21. stevemotivateir on November 29th, 2011 5:11 pm

    Carp is basically a bonus. He was never really part of the plan here, he’s simply forced the management to look harder and give him a chance. If he doesn’t pan-out, it’s not a big deal. He’s not costing much. I’m not too worried about him though. I think he’ll be ok -or better. Adam Moore is the one I’m more concerned about, though a little less now since the Jaso trade. Moore was a part of the plan. Can’t help but wonder how much more time they’ll give him.

  22. Mariners35 on November 29th, 2011 5:16 pm

    Hard to believe Smoak was the centerpiece of the Cliff Lee deal, with all the gloom and doom in here about him now.

    I know, I know, trades need to be judged by what was known at the time and not in hindsight… but still, it seems like 1b is one bad season away from getting added to the laundry list of positions like lf, 3b, dh, c that need big upgrades.

    Here’s hoping he has a healthy and productive season…

  23. MrZDevotee on November 29th, 2011 5:28 pm

    I confess, I keep checking back in on the site to see the next “family of hitters” table to come… Thinking one of Dustin Ackley could be pretty interesting…


    Actually, you should help create an interactive table for Fangraphs, where you can enter in a players name… Hell, GM’s might even use it when replacing a player (injured, or lost to free agency)– “hey, who else gives me the same results as _______”?

  24. Omerta on November 29th, 2011 5:35 pm

    Carp is basically a bonus. He was never really part of the plan here, he’s simply forced the management to look harder and give him a chance. If he doesn’t pan-out, it’s not a big deal.

    If he wasn’t part of the plan before he certainly is now.

    If you’re in the don’t or can’t sign Prince Fielder club, you’d better hope he pans out.

  25. MrZDevotee on November 29th, 2011 5:38 pm

    And guys-
    Of all the things we have to worry about, I’m not sure Smoak is high enough on the list yet to be the focus of our attention…

    Mainly, I’m willing to give a guy a pass based on injuries (broken face, bad thumb) and the death of his father… Pretty much a landslide of misfortune last season, for a kid really trying hard to get into the flow of the game.

    Lest we forget, this IS the guy that the World Series (back to back) Texas Rangers DIDN’T want to trade us for Cliff Lee, and in fact, balked at trading us initially… And they seem to be pretty good at evaluating talent lately?

    If there’s any reason to be down on Smoak, it would be the trade itself- IF it ends up meaning the Rangers sign Pujols or Fielder to fill the void he left in their system.

    (I’m still dreading that outcome– what 1B/slugger in his prime doesn’t DROOL at the prospect of playing 81 games a year in Arlington, for a World Series contender?… Which leads to- what A-level pitcher doesn’t want to pitch for THAT lineup, down the line…? The snowball effect of winning I’d love to experience again…)

  26. stevemotivateir on November 29th, 2011 8:38 pm

    If you’re in the don’t or can’t sign Prince Fielder club, you’d better hope he pans out.

    I’m hopeful he makes it, regardless of who is brought in or who isn’t. He’ll be given time, assuming he isn’t traded.

  27. philosofool on November 30th, 2011 10:56 am

    While I like this approach, I think it places too much emphasis on plate discipline stats and not enough on outcomes.

    Josh Weinstock has been doing a great series at THT on plate discipline stats, and his conclusion is pretty much that they’re not well understood–they seem to give us limited additional predictive information, at least for hitters.

    Furthermore, his results are more encompassing than just looking at swing and contact rates. There are some obvious limitations to the use of swing and contact rates as metrics. A hitter who swings at 60% of pitches in the zone and 30% out of zone and 45% of all pitches seen is not nearly as effective as one who swings at 25% of o-zone pitches, 67% of pitches in the zone and 45% of all pitches seen. Contact rates present similar issues.

    For these reasons, I would rather see these analyses in terms of BB% and K%.

  28. JoshJones on November 30th, 2011 7:59 pm

    I’m just amazed at how fast everyone has jumped off the Smoak wagon. The guy dealt with a lot last season. It’s to early to say he’s injury prone. He still managed 55BB in 427 AB’s and had stretches where he carried the offense and showed 3/4 hitter power and patience.

    He’s a switch hitter, who when we aquired had well-above average defense and great upside. The dudes 24. If he’s healthy he’s a 20+HR, 80+BB guy. In a healthy season his slash line should look something like this

    IF we do sign Fielder I would be looking to build AROUND Ackley, Fielder, and Smoak. With Princes weight issues its a great opportunity to use both of them and look into trading Carp, who’s stock couldn’t be higher. Unless Evan Longoria, Pablo Sandoval, or Ryan Zimmerman are coming coming back in the deal I just don’t understand.

  29. CCW on December 1st, 2011 12:10 am

    Carp was a lot more selective at the plate in the minor leagues than he has been in the bigs, but he displayed less power in the minors. It seems to me there is reasonable hope that he puts the two together (a la Pena, as Dave alluded to) and has a very productive few years in the middle of his career.

  30. eponymous coward on December 1st, 2011 3:50 am

    In a healthy season his slash line should look something like this:.260AVG/.330OBP/.400SLG/.730OPS

    The composite slash line for ALL MLB 1B:


    So, if that’s what you’re expecting from Smoak in 2012, you’re saying he’ll be a below-average 1B.

    1B is a tough crowd of hitters- an .800 OPS gets you a C grade.

  31. JoshJones on December 1st, 2011 8:45 am


    So, if that’s what you’re expecting from Smoak in 2012, you’re saying he’ll be a below-average 1B

    I agree completly. I was being modest in my opinion of what he’s capable of. He’s 24. If he puts up just an average slash line then theres reason to be excited about the future of Justin Smoak.

  32. MrZDevotee on December 1st, 2011 9:36 am


    Pretty close to what I’d expect our entire lineup‘s averages would need to hit, if we want to be above .500. (AND, almost exactly St. Louis’ team line last season)

    (Is it sad that looking at that statline, as a Mariner’s fan, makes me drool with as much anticipation as finding a glass of ice water in the middle of a 110 degree desert?)

  33. eponymous coward on December 1st, 2011 12:33 pm

    If he puts up just an average slash line then theres reason to be excited about the future of Justin Smoak.

    Being an average MLB player in your mid-20s (Smoak will be 25 next year) is not really a Big ****ing Deal (to quote our vice president in a style suitable for a family publication).

    Here’s an exercise: go look at Votto, Tex, Pujols, Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, Miguel Cabrera at ages 22-24- a nice group of “elite” 1B. All better than Smoak at comparable ages, by a lot. Even guys who are farther down the list like Konerko? Better than Smoak at a comparable age.

    Yes, you can do special pleading about his injuries/personal life, whatever, and there are the guys like Edgar, Jose Cruz Sr. or Ibañez who develop late. This isn’t a argument of “trade him for a pile of magic beans, he’ll never do anything”. It’s observing that he has not done anything yet that’s deserved projecting him forward very strongly beyond “ok, this is someone who could develop into a MLB regular, but has not gotten there yet”, and the clock’s kind of ticking on that, and the projection systems don’t really like him (or Carp, who this also could be about), which is reason to have some skepticism that he’s going to develop into an elite, top range in MLB player. The reality is that Smoak’s closer to developing into a guy like Adam LaRoche or Lyle Overbay- a guy who is fine at 1B while he’s cheap, just don’t overpay, rather than someone you “build” around- and he hasn’t even developed into that guy yet.

  34. eponymous coward on December 1st, 2011 12:54 pm

    Pretty close to what I’d expect our entire lineup‘s averages would need to hit, if we want to be above .500.

    Uh, really?

    The Cardinals won 90 games and a World Series hitting like that last year, and they allowed 692 runs last year.

    We allowed 675, and that was AFTER dumping Fister and Bedard in trades so we could give Vasquez an opportunity to serve up 70 MPH meatballs for opposing hitters to hit into the bleachers. (You can see this in the starter allowed OPS for August and September: almost .800).

    We’d be fine if we had an AVERAGE offense + Felix +Pineda +Decent #3 To Be Named Later + Vargas + the usual cast of suspects in at #5, if the bullpen and defense weren’t problems. The problem is that the offense isn’t even close to average yet. All we need to do is get there and things would fall into place- but the problem is Zduriencik hasn’t fully been able to clean up Bavasi’s mess yet, and he’s had some swing-and-a-miss on guys like Figgins, Bradley, Griffey Mk II, Kotchman and Cust where the results have been bad (regardless of what you think of the process behind the rsults), the guys he’s brought in trade like Smoak and Guti have had setbacks, and I think he’d like the Morse trade back- we could use a decent RH hitter. He’s been better than Bavasi, no doubt about it, but better isn’t the same as “good enough”- he’s done a lot of good things, but let’s not overstate his success, either. He can’t make many unforced errors on player evaluation and win in this division- the superior process has to lead to superior results or he’ll get run over.

  35. Valenica on December 1st, 2011 1:21 pm

    Jeff Sullivan said it best:

    Watch what happens when you exclude Smoak’s 6/25 – 8/12 batting line from his final numbers:

    Smoak, overall: .234/.323/.396
    Smoak, adjusted: .270/.360/.470

    If you believe the injury explanation, he’s already a league-average 1B bat, and his ISO is .200, not .160. He has the potential to adjust, improving BB/K/ISO/Contact%s into something special.

  36. eponymous coward on December 1st, 2011 2:19 pm

    OK, sure.

    But you can do this with other guys, too- remember when Jose Lopez got down in the dumps about his brother and tanked after his All-Star game?

    All the games count. Otherwise it’s still special pleading, a “yes, but…”. Let’s see Smoak do it over a full season.

    Oh, and let’s go ahead and concede the point for argument’s sake, and assume that Smoak really was a ~league average player at age 24, and we will totally ignore the injury history and his bad year in MLB the year before, and just use when he was healthy as the sole indicator for what we can project him to: being a league-average 1B isn’t anything special for a 24 year old, either. Eric Hinske and Casey Kotchman were league-average or better at that age, too, and their careers haven’t exactly gone on to superstardom. Adam LaRoche came in and played OK (1.0 WAR in slightly over halftime play) at age 24; he’s not exactly blowing people away, though he’s had a decent career. A decent season at age 24 does not imply superstar at 27-29 (and remember, this is AFTER ignoring other data that projection systems are including in their evaluation- Smoak actually didn’t have a decent year, we’re just special pleading it for the sake of argument). Career progression doesn’t work like baking a cake (“put into oven until age 27-29 at 350 degrees”). Sometimes you peak early, sometimes you peak late, sometimes you peak on the typical schedule.

    The difference between Smoak and, say, Fielder? Fielder was a well above average player at age 23. No special pleading needed.

    At this point, given projections that call things into question, I think all we can say is “Smoak could be a ~league average player if he stays healthy. Let’s see what he does in 2012 before we go anywhere else.”

  37. MrZDevotee on December 1st, 2011 2:54 pm


    We’d be fine if we had an AVERAGE offense

    Yeah, we would hope that to be the case…

    But we’d likely need to hit better than average because we have to earn wins against the Rangers, the Red Sox, Detroit, Kansas City, and the Yankees, who all ranked at or above where St. Louis ranked in hitting last year… (And THOSE were all playoff teams, or close to it– or the anomaly, Kansas City, somehow)

    And yeah, we prevented 18 runs more than they did, which is a whopping 1/9th of a run per game. Doesn’t seem like much of a margin for error, much less the difference between 5th in batting, and 12th-18th…?

    Also, you might be “mis-remembering” some of the marquee guys’ early seasons too (I added a couple more for historical reference)…

    Prince Fielder at 23

    Adrian Gonzalez at 23

    John Olerud at 23

    Alvin Davis

    Not saying he’ll be a super star, just saying the book’s still out on him. Not even a whole chapter written yet. Hard to come to conclusions on 1 or 2 full seasons for most players…

  38. eponymous coward on December 1st, 2011 3:15 pm

    Also, you might be “mis-remembering” some of the marquee guys’ early seasons too

    All the words count when I write something like:

    Here’s an exercise: go look at Votto, Tex, Pujols, Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, Miguel Cabrera at ages 22-24- a nice group of “elite” 1B

    There’s a reason why I specified an age range. Keep in mind that last year was Smoak’s age 24 year. His age 23 year wasn’t good either (he spent most of it in MLB, and had a lot more MLB plate appearances than A-Gon did at the same age- 43 games is a smaller sample size/adjustment period than 100-ish). A-Gon had a much better age 24 year than Smoak did last year (.304/.362/.500, 3.7 WAR), so if you want to go “Smoak=A-Gon at some age”, we’re back to special pleading about his injury.

    The bottom line is all of the players I mentioned had established themselves as quality MLB starting first baseman by the time they had as many plate appearances as Smoak did (~900 PAs)- they’d stayed healthy and had their full season where they chipped in a good year’s performance over a year. And, in fact, this is true of the other guys on YOUR list too: Alvin Davis was Rookie of the Year at age 24, and jumped from AA ball (something Smoak wasn’t able to do, incidentally). John Olerud posted a .265/.364/.430 season for the Blue Jays at age 21- an age at which Smoak was still in high A ball, for a total of 14 games.

  39. eponymous coward on December 1st, 2011 3:38 pm

    Oh, and:

    But we’d likely need to hit better than average because we have to earn wins against the Rangers, the Red Sox, Detroit, Kansas City, and the Yankees, who all ranked at or above where St. Louis ranked in hitting last year…

    Aside from the fact that the teams you mentioned played in the AL and got a DH, the point is that if you score around 760-770 runs (which is around what the Cardinals scored last year), and allow 670 runs (which is around what the Mariners allowed- in fact, the Mariners allowed around 20 less runs than the World Series champs, think about that), you have a +100 run differential.

    That’s a bigger run differential than the Tigers and the Rays had last year- two AL playoff teams. It’s bigger than the run differential that the Diamondbacks, Braves and Brewers had- better than five of the eight teams that made the playoffs. You’d have a legitimate shot at the playoffs- +100 run differential is a 90 win team (every 10 runs over/under on differential roughly equals +/-1 win over .500, so +100 runs is ~90 wins). That’s less than what Texas had last year, but that still means you’re in a pennant race for the wild card, and again, you don’t trade Fister and Bedard if you’re in a pennant race.

    Focus on run differential, not how you got there.

  40. MrZDevotee on December 1st, 2011 4:12 pm

    That is a pretty damn good run differential… I hadn’t noticed than gap. Better point that I was grasping at.

    So yeah, if we can maintain pitching and get to somewhere near 700+ runs, we’re probably at least in the hunt for something more than “please, not ANOTHER 100 loss season”…

    I’ll gladly lower my expectation to:
    .250/.310/.400 as a team

    (roughly the Angels last season– although it’s still a bit optimistic to even reach for 670 runs, which is roughly what that should garner, and 110+ more than we scored last year… oh, AND still nearly 100 fewer than St. Louis).

  41. Valenica on December 1st, 2011 4:38 pm

    A-Gon had a league average bat at age 24. So did Votto. So did Konerko. Not all star 1Bs hit like stars at age 24 – M-Cab and Pujols are exceptions as 2 of the best hitters in the last 10 years.

    Plus you can’t just compare them like that – A-Gon, Votto, and Fielder were all high school draft picks, while Smoak was a college pick. Mark Teixeira is the only “star” 1B out of college, and he struggled at age 23. College and high school picks have different development timelines. You can’t compare high school draft picks up in the Majors at 21 with a college pick who didn’t reach it until 23 and claim the high school player better because he’s younger.

    How about Kevin Youkilis? College pick, didn’t even reach the Majors until age 25. Three .800 OPS seasons, an .850 OPS season, then age 29, break out to .950 OPS seasons for three years.

    It is special pleading on injury because there’s evidence of it: twitter, circumstantial, etc. You can choose to ignore the evidence because it’s not confirmed – that’s your prerogative. But who would know about Justin Smoak’s slump better than Smoak, Wedge, and Z? Not us.

    Reason it out with basic game theory – if these rumors aren’t real and Smoak really is bad, I would acquire Fielder, sell high as I can on Smoak and use these “rumors” as the reason for his poor season to sell to some sucker of a team. But if the rumors are real, I keep him. .830 OPS college 1B bat at age 24 has good chance to be special.

  42. eponymous coward on December 1st, 2011 6:16 pm

    How about Kevin Youkilis? College pick, didn’t even reach the Majors until age 25. Three .800 OPS seasons, an .850 OPS season, then age 29, break out to .950 OPS seasons for three years.

    If Smoak has that career path, great.

    But he hasn’t yet.

    Which is all I’m saying, basically: he’s flashed some skills, but let’s see him do it for a year without an injury before we start projecting him for improving on them.

    Reason it out with basic game theory – if these rumors aren’t real and Smoak really is bad, I would acquire Fielder, sell high as I can on Smoak and use these “rumors” as the reason for his poor season to sell to some sucker of a team.

    This assumes Z’s got the budget to really go deep in the Fielder sweepstakes (which I am quite skeptical about, as well as skeptical that handing a 5-7 year contract to a player with “old player skills” is all that good an idea), and again, I am NOT saying “trade Smoak for magic beans”, just that “might be able to perform ~league average for an entire season” is not the same as “has shown he can perform at ~league average for an entire season, so we should pencil him to grow on that”, and that given that projection systems that do a pretty decent job of projections don’t seem to think he’s all that, we should be willing to entertain the notion that we’re really looking at someone whose ceiling is in the Kotchman/LaRoche/Overbay/Hinske universe of “decent player, doesn’t hurt your team at the right price, not great player and don’t expect the universe out of the guy”- and if we get “decent player”, great, just don’t expect him to explode all over the AL year after year.

    But you know what? That’s fine, if that decent player a) won’t cost a ton, b) isn’t blocking a better player or precluding a better option for the 2012 Mariners, and really, I don’t see better options out there (let’s not rehash Fielder, and Votto probably isn’t coming here). When was the last time the Mariners had a decent 1B that wasn’t a free agent import, either on an expensive contract where we ended up with a year or two on the downside of their career (Sexson, Olerud) or as a veteran stopgap (Segui, Sorrento, Branyan, Kotchman)? Freakin’ Tino Martinez, who came up over 20 years ago, with the 1991 Mariners for a cup of coffee. That’s just a pretty stunning indictment: this farm system hasn’t produced a competent hitter at 1B capable of sticking at the position for the Mariners in two decades (and this has been a group effort, up to and including completely blowing the talent assessment on players from David Segui to Mike Morse)- and we had to raid Texas’s system to have someone well on the right side of 27. I mean, really? 20 years of drafts and signings and you can’t produce a first baseman? FAIL.

  43. eponymous coward on December 1st, 2011 6:26 pm

    Ack, I mean David Ortiz. But anyways, look, saying “I want to see Smoak put together a full season where he performs as a ~league average player before I start to think he can grow on that, especially since projection systems seem to hate his development path”… surely that’s not unreasonable, is it? Or do we have evidence that projection systems generally blow it bigtime and miss by a mile on 24 year old 1Bs with his combined minor league/major league numbers?

  44. Valenica on December 1st, 2011 7:06 pm

    So we should just project Smoak on his full year’s worth of numbers, even if there might be evidence he was hurt for 1/5th of it?

    Projection systems are quick and dirty ways to project everyone out as fast as possible. But as fans with more in-depth knowledge, we need to be taking account the variables that the projection system doesn’t take into account: injuries, mid season improvements, mechanic changes, development path, age. If building a baseball team was as easy as following projections, anyone could build a winning team.

    And really, the question is pretty simple: is Smoak a good bet to succeed or not? If he’s not we need to go all in on Fielder (8 years) and trade Smoak. If he is, then we need to keep him and wait for him to develop. Now are you going to just use a simple projection system that spits out projections in seconds through a simple algorithm to decide, or are you going to consider what the injury effect was, what his work ethic is like, his extenuating circumstances, etc. and how it affected his numbers?

  45. SODOMOJO360 on December 1st, 2011 9:08 pm

    So Cust, Bradley, Vidro….these are the piece of crap DH’s we have dealt with the last few years. I will take Carp at DH without blinking!

  46. eponymous coward on December 1st, 2011 9:37 pm

    we need to be taking account the variables that the projection system doesn’t take into account: injuries, mid season improvements, mechanic changes, development path, age.

    Many of which you don’t know when it comes to what will happen to Smoak in 2012, unless you’re capable of knowing the future, in which case, buy lottery tickets.

    And really, the question is pretty simple: is Smoak a good bet to succeed or not? If he’s not we need to go all in on Fielder (8 years) and trade Smoak.

    You’re making it sound like seeing if a 25 year old 1B can give you 2 WAR for close to the league minimum (which is basically what saying “I would like to see if Smoak is capable of being an average player in 2012, and I don’t want to count on him for any more than that, given 2011 and projections that don’t like his career path so far” is) is the WORST THING EVAR. So let’s say Smoak ends up at the end of 2012 with 2 WAR for ~500K in salary, no long term deal (if Smoak blows up his knees the day after the season ends in 2012 and his career’s done, you say, “Sorry, it’s been great, have a nice life”)? On what planet is this a BAD thing?

    And here’s the thing: Fielder’s a 5 WAR player. He’s going to make 20 million a year. So you’re saying is this: that if Smoak’s ceiling is 2 WAR, we need to dump him for a gain of 3 WAR per year, and pay 6-7 million per WAR.

    Have you really thought this through? Do you seriously think the Mariners should pay 6-7 million per marginal WAR to go from a 90 loss team to a playoff contender?

  47. greentunic on December 1st, 2011 10:45 pm

    I agree that projections can be limited in determining Smoak’s performance after such a “freak-accident-injury” year. Of course I WANT them to be wrong, so I may be influcned, but I really think he has the skillset. And he has massive power. I could easily see some of those warning track shots start to carry more as he ages a bit.

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