The “New and Improved” Justin Smoak

Dave · April 21, 2013 at 10:53 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Last June, I publicly “gave up” on Justin Smoak. In that post, I presented a list of the first baseman in the last 30 years who had been given 1,000 Major League plate appearances before the end of their age-25 season. Justin Smoak was the worst hitter on that list when I published it. He is no longer the worst hitter on that list, because as you know, he had himself a pretty good September, and it was enough to push him to second worst on the list, passing Travis Lee so as to no longer be the least productive young first baseman of the last three decades.

You don’t need any reminders about Justin Smoak’s September. You might have seen it, if you were still paying attention to the Mariners last September, and if you didn’t, you certainly read about it all winter. The mechanical changes. The different approach. The adjustments. The confidence. Justin Smoak reinvented himself in September, you’ve been told.

Justin Smoak, September 1st of 2012 to April 21st of 2013:


PA BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA
179 11.7% 17.9% 0.146 0.336 0.275 0.363 0.421 0.342

Since the big change starting making itself manifest — remember, he didn’t come back up on September 1st, so it’s an arbitrary beginning point that simply eliminates a bunch of bad at-bats he had before he started hitting because they don’t fit the narrative, but that’s besides the point — Smoak has now racked up 179 plate appearances and has 12 extra base hits. Twelve. That projects out to 40 extra base hits per 600 plate appearances, or essentially a full season of regular playing time. To put that in context, Casey Kotchman has averaged 42 extra base hits per 600 plate appearances in his career. You remember Casey Kotchman, right? The underpowered first baseman who is in the big leagues for his contact rate and his glove?

That’s the kind of power that the revamped, new-and-improved Justin Smoak has shown since the beginning of last September. Overhauled Justin Smoak hits for about as much power as Casey Kotchman. You might look at the overall line and say “hey, a .342 wOBA, I’ll take that”, but note what’s driving that mark — a .336 BABIP which is simply not sustainable for a guy with Smoak’s profile. He’s extremely slow, he hits the ball in the air a decent amount, and he hits his fair share of pop-ups. That is not the profile of a guy who is going to post a high BABIP over any real length of time. Take the air out of those numbers, and you’re basically left with a guy who takes some walks and has gap power, but also strikes out at about an average rate, so he won’t hit for enough average to overcome the fact that he just doesn’t hit the ball very hard all that often.

This is, essentially, the inevitable conclusion that evidence forces us to draw: Justin Smoak is just not very strong. He’s never been very strong. He’s never really hit for power in any kind of extended sample. Even going back to the minors, he has a career .407 slugging percentage in Triple-A. That’s in 559 plate appearances, all of them in the PCL, which is the most hitter friendly league in organized baseball. In 50 games at Double-A as a 22-year-old, he had a whopping 16 extra base hits.

Justin Smoak has always been Casey Kotchman without the defense or the contact skills; it’s just taken us a while to realize it. But, at this point, there’s just no other conclusion to draw. If we look at the list of first baseman in the last 30 years that have been given 1,500 PAs through age-26, we find 49 names, and once again, Travis Lee is the worst hitter on the list. But he’s only going to be the worst hitter on that list for another day or two, because Justin Smoak has 1,495 career plate appearances, and he’s going to cross the 1,500 PA threshold at some point in Houston. And when he does, he’ll officially become the worst hitter on that list, as his start to the 2013 season has pushed his career wRC+ down to 88.

In fact, even if you double the time frame we’re looking at, and go back to 1953 so that we’re looking at 60 years of baseball history, you will find exactly two first baseman who received 1,500 PAs through their age-26 season and hit worse than Justin Smoak; Dan Meyer and Dalton Jones. They are two of the worst players to get substantial playing time in Major League history. Meyer finished with a career -5.6 WAR, while Jones finished with a career -3.6 WAR. They were artifacts of a time when talent evaluators weren’t so great at their jobs.

Now, Major League teams weed out players like Dan Meyer and Dalton Jones. They stop giving playing time to below replacement level players, because as the term suggests, there are equal or better players just hanging out in the minors, waiting for a shot at the big league level. Once it becomes fairly clear that a player is not substantially above replacement level, there’s no real reason to keep running him out there anymore.

Justin Smoak has 1,495 career plate appearances and is at -1.0 WAR. Maybe Justin Smoak made some real changes last September that he’ll be able to tap into occasionally, and maybe he’ll have a few more good months in the big leagues before his career is over. Guys develop at different paces. Baseball is weird, and bad players can become good players. It is not impossible for Justin Smoak to eventually become a decent Major League player.

But, at this point, there’s just no real reason for the Mariners to keep trying to squeeze blood out of this particular turnip. The mirage of hope that surrounds Justin Smoak is just that — a mirage. Until he magically develops some strength that he has never possessed before, nothing else he changes will really matter. There is a large mountain of evidence that Justin Smoak is just not strong enough to be a productive Major League first baseman.

He wasn’t strong enough before he made all those adjustments and he’s not strong enough now. At least with Jesus Montero we can point to his age and hope that maybe there’s some development time left that can make a difference. With Dustin Ackley, we can point to his contact skills, his speed, and his defense as reasons to think that he might still become a productive big league player.

With Justin Smoak, there’s nothing left to point to. He’s not young. He’s not improving. His mechanical adjustments haven’t made him any stronger, and he’s currently only making contact on 72% of his swings at pitches in the strike zone, about the same rate as guys like Mark Reynolds and Dan Uggla. This isn’t an approach issue. Justin Smoak can’t learn how to be strong. He simply lacks a physical skill necessary to make the rest of his physical skills worth playing.

I know a lot of people are questioning whether the Mariners have a developmental problem within the organization, given how the young core of hitters seem to be regressing and are nowhere close to living up to their minor league hype. And, I’m open to the idea that maybe the Mariners are doing something at the minor league level that is causing talented young players to underperform in the big leagues. But, with Justin Smoak, I think the reality is that we’re just seeing a physical flaw exposed. Scouts liked the swing, analysts liked the walks, and everyone — myself included — just ignored the fact that he was a bat-only player who lacked real power.

I don’t think the Mariners have failed to get the most out of Justin Smoak. I think we’ve seen the best Justin Smoak has to offer. It’s just not very good, and it’s time for the organization to move on and give someone else a chance. Or, at least, it would be if they had anyone at Triple-A or on the bench who deserved a promotion. They don’t, so we’ll get Justin Smoak a little while longer, maybe even for the rest of the year.

But, at this point, we can all give up on Justin Smoak now. He’s not part of the core. He’s not a long term answer to any question a Major League team should be asking.

Comments

70 Responses to “The “New and Improved” Justin Smoak”

  1. Westside guy on April 21st, 2013 11:05 pm

    So I’m curious, Dave. If you were the manager, going into Houston – would you say, tomorrow morning, “okay from here on out Kendrys Morales is our starting first baseman”?

    What would you do – if anything – tomorrow?

  2. Dave on April 21st, 2013 11:07 pm

    The Mariners roster sucks. Benching Smoak in favor of Bay, Ibanez, Andino, or whoever isn’t going to help anything. If I was the manager, I’d just be asking for better players.

    There are guys in Triple-A who are better than Justin Smoak. Not our Triple-A team, but other people’s Triple-A teams. I’d be trying to get one of those guys to replace Smoak. Preferably, it’d be an outfielder, since Morales can cover first base and it’d be nice to not have three replacement level outfielders on the roster anymore.

  3. Bodhizefa on April 21st, 2013 11:10 pm

    When exactly will the Mariners be scheduling the promotion for M’s handkerchief day? I’d like to have something to wipe away the tears (and also to blow my nose on something with an M’s logo on it).

  4. killeverything on April 21st, 2013 11:11 pm

    This is a bitter pill to swallow, but the evidence is alarming. I keep waiting for Justin to break out and be this player he’s clearly not. I often wonder what kind of Wheaties he was eating in September.

    It’s time for the org. to move on, I just am losing faith in their player development. Hopefully Zunino proves me wrong.

  5. Bodhizefa on April 21st, 2013 11:14 pm

    Dave, what’s a realistic timetable for guys like Morban, Romero, Miller, and Franklin? It would seem Romero and/or Morban may be able to fill in a corner outfield spot eventually. Or am I just dreamcasting too far into the future? It seems like the real issue is that none of the Ackley/Smoak/Montero trio has really panned out, but we don’t have anyone close enough to fill the gaps until at least mid-year.

  6. amac360 on April 21st, 2013 11:17 pm

    I’ll give it to ya, you convinced me. I have hung on to the Justin Smoak train for a while now, but it is just about done.

    However, we have no viable replacement, so might as well give him another month or two (or until Zunino is ready) to see if he can do anything more. Once Zunino is ready to go, if Smoak hasn’t done anything I am all for replacing him.

    C: Zunino
    1B: Morales
    DH: Montero/Morse/Ibanez

  7. Dave on April 21st, 2013 11:18 pm

    I’d say Miller and Zunino are the only two position players in the system that I think could represent any kind of improvement for the team this season. Franklin might be a not horrible second baseman this summer, but I don’t see him being better than Ackley, nor do I think he has a better future than Ackley. Swapping those two doesn’t really help anything.

    So, for me, it’s Miller replacing Ryan and Zunino replacing Montero at some point in a few months, and everyone else is 2014 or trade bait.

  8. The_Waco_Kid on April 21st, 2013 11:21 pm

    As you say, Dave, few questioned Smoak’s potential. That is what is so frustrating. There have been some good moves and some obviously bad moves, but it seems Jack Z has made a lot of moves that haven’t panned out, but which very few people objected to at the time. If Smoak, Montero, and Ackley all turn out to be busts, Z may well be fired. But I can’t imagine he’d be replaced by someone that would have passed on those 3.

  9. Spanky on April 21st, 2013 11:28 pm

    I really hoped Smoak had turned a corner for us in April/May 2011 when he started the year hot and single-handedly won several games on home runs or other hits. But his awfulness is undeniable. Is there a flaw in Mariner evaluations? How did we end up with Smoak and Montero…two non-athletic, slow, no defense, supposed middle order bats…as conerstones of future who now seem to be washing out. Uuugh…it just sickens me of the wasted time for this team.

  10. californiamariner on April 21st, 2013 11:49 pm

    Dave, do you think the team keeps Chavez once Saunders comes back?

    I wouldn’t mind seeing a Guti, Saunders, Chavez OF, with Morales/Morse playing 1B/DH for at least some of the games, such as Smoak’s off days. Which. I’m sure they’re going to give Smoak off days in the future, right? Surely this playing every day thing is just to let him have one last chance to prove himself? I’m trying to keep my sanity.

  11. gopilots70 on April 21st, 2013 11:51 pm

    Well,after so long just wanting this not to be true, I finally agree with you Dave. Let’s move on. Any suggestions on those other teams Triple A outfielders we might have a shot at?

    I am also glad to see that you are the first expert on these sites to say that its nearly time to move on without Ryan as well.

    I don’t think it was only Jack Z. who liked Smoak.

    Remember, though, Jack pulled a rabbit out with his acquisition of Cliff Lee for virtually nothing. So we still at least have Jaso to show for……never mind. And the other option was getting Montero a year earlier who nearly everyone was very high on too. Not Dave as I remember though.

    Any chance at seeing if Triunfel’s recent hot streak can carry over to the majors at least for a bit? I have been watching on MiLB and he has really looked good going the other way and even turned on one for an HR.

  12. californiamariner on April 21st, 2013 11:55 pm

    Not that I think Chavez is anything special, but at least he fills the defense/pinch runner sub.

  13. gopilots70 on April 22nd, 2013 12:11 am

    Are there any useful catchers still available? What about giving up on Smoak, Kendres to first and Montero to DH to give him a chance focusing only on hitting and maybe catching once a week?

    Shoppach and, oh, if we only had a catcher who hit left handed.

    Saunders/Guti,Endy/Morse is not too bad of an outfield.

  14. SonOfZavaras on April 22nd, 2013 12:16 am

    I really can’t argue with this evidence. And I have been as fervent a Justin Smoak guy as anyone.

    Well, feh.

    I was so sure Justin Smoak had turned a corner. I was sure September 2012 wasn’t a mirage. I swore to God I saw the light bulb going all Las Vegas inside his head when he was up at the plate.

    He was laying off the slider three inches off the plate and in the dirt this spring. He was getting XBH with major-league regularity…this spring.

    This is what I get for trusting my eyes instead of the cold, hard data.

    Being wrong really, really sucks.

    I don’t even know what Plan B could be at first base. I’m guessing it’s a young bat in the minors and not currently in the organization.

    But…here’s the thing. “Problems” is just a shorter word for “opportunities”.

    Show us a creative trade, Jack, when the time comes.

    I have not lost any faith in Jack Z. The fails are mounting, yes…and some of them kind of defy statistical belief in terms of luck and productivity garnered.

    But the mistakes he made aren’t blatantly obvious things that anyone coulda seen coming from a mile away.

    This team still has an improving Seager and Saunders and is one or two good moves away from looking a lot brighter.

    I’m watchin’ and a-waitin’.

  15. Jinbo on April 22nd, 2013 12:19 am

    Despite the fact that we don’t have a better hitter in AAA, demoting Smoak to Tacoma can still benefit the team in some way:

    1-Kendry Morales can shift to 1B, I know he is not a golden glove or silver slugger 1st baseman, but he is still (obviously) better than Smoak in both his bat and his glove.

    2-That would free the DH spot for someone who really needs it– like the injury prone Morse or a hitter like Raul who you wish not seeing him in the OF on any occasion.

    3-try to get Casper Wells back as now the Jays has DFAed him. Wells is just an ok 4th outfielder, but he is the best we can find in the market with a low price; do some roster maneuver if required– like DFA Carlos Peguero, his chance of becoming a productive hitter is as good as Smoak’s.

    4-once Saunders came out of DL, throw Raul or Bay outta window, we don’t need two pinch hitters (anyone in his right mind wont think them as “fielders”). Chavez will be the bench OF and Wells will field RF (given his arm) whenever Gutie is capable to play CF.

    …of course, any of the above can only happen if Jack is willing to give up on Smoak, which seems very unlikely so far.

  16. gopilots70 on April 22nd, 2013 12:28 am

    I think right now we would gladly take the 1977 or 1979 version of Dan Meyer. Another Mariner with a “sweet swing”.

  17. Jinbo on April 22nd, 2013 12:31 am

    >>gopilots70

    at least he once upon a time slugged 20HRs a season, something Smoak never did in minor and major.

  18. gopilots70 on April 22nd, 2013 12:31 am

    And I think Dalton Jones was one of the first baseball cards I ever got…1967

  19. gopilots70 on April 22nd, 2013 12:33 am

    Jinbo–

    Absolutely! And he was above league average in RC in two of his years with the M’s

  20. SonOfZavaras on April 22nd, 2013 12:39 am

    …of course, any of the above can only happen if Jack is willing to give up on Smoak, which seems very unlikely so far.

    One wonders exactly how long Smoak’s leash is now.

    And I have to believe that this organization acquired Kendrys Morales in large part because they feared Smoak not producing was writing on the wall.

    I’d say give Smoak another 100-150 ABs- see if warmer weather works any miracles- and then write him off. Give Morales first base, and tell Raul to eBay any and all baseball mitts he owns.

    Letting him go will ease a lot of the clutter on the roster.

    From 1B to DH, a relatively healthy lineup of Morales-Ackley-Ryan-Seager-Morse-Gutierrez-Saunders-Zunino-Montero should win SOME games.

    p.s. Psst. Wedge. (whispering) Casper Wells is a legit major-league talent as a 4th OF. No, really. Not lying. Get him back…or be treated to watching 41-year-old men prove they’re 41 on a nightly basis. Without Saunders and Guti, this OF is a joke.

  21. Adam S on April 22nd, 2013 12:39 am

    How did we end up with Smoak and Montero…two non-athletic, slow, no defense, supposed middle order bats?
    Dave answered this to some degree when he said “everyone — myself included — just ignored the fact that he was a bat-only player who lacked real power”.

    Dave, I wonder if you could elaborate on how this happens? Not so much how you missed but how scouts, and not just Mariners scouts, looked at Smoak and saw a top prospect rather than a marginal major league ball player. And in the same vein, how they missed on his defensive skills as well?

  22. GLS on April 22nd, 2013 12:40 am

    Is it out of the question that he could become stronger? Admittedly, I don’t know anything about strength and conditioning programs for hitters, and in particular what these guys do currently. However, I do know a lot about strength and conditioning in general, and I know for an absolute fact that it’s very, very possible for a guy his age to get physically stronger, especially if this isn’t something that he’s worked on a whole lot in the past. And no, it doesn’t require PEDs. The human body is actually capable of quite a bit, and this is a guy that has enough athleticism to play a sport professionally at the highest level.

    I’ve been wondering about strength for all of these guys, to be honest. The Mariners made a big deal a few years ago about getting rid of a bunch of the equipment in their weight room and replacing it with this high tech air-powered pulley system that was supposed to help build rotational strength. I thought it was interesting at the time and wondered if there would be any follow-up. There hasn’t been.

    Here’s a link to the story in the Kitsap Sun from 2010: http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2010/feb/25/mariners-fitness-program-not-just-heavy-lifting/#axzz2RAtJPCWw

    I wonder a bit if the Mariners were sold a lemon in this deal. This sort of programming isn’t without value, but you will not develop strength this way. It won’t happen. You get stronger by lifting heavier and heavier weights systematically and progressively over time. Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Press, Overhead Press, Pull-Ups, Barbell Rows, and Power Cleans are the fundamental movements that will make humans stronger. And yes, if you want to add in specialized movements for the sport of baseball to help with rotational power and rotational mobility, that makes perfect sense as well. But, understand that you will not develop fundamental strength without some focus on the fundamental movements of strength training.

    Fangraphs lists Justin Smoak at 6’4″ 230. I wonder how much he can deadlift.

  23. SonOfZavaras on April 22nd, 2013 12:43 am

    Fangraphs lists Justin Smoak at 6’4? 230. I wonder how much he can deadlift.

    I wonder how a guy who’s 6’4″ and 230 can NOT be physically strong enough to drive a baseball.

  24. Jinbo on April 22nd, 2013 12:55 am

    in a rather blunt matter: It doesn’t matter if Smoak can build up more physical strength anymore, his service time is up.

    If I think this right, keeping him on the 25-man roster past July 15th will cause him to enter his 1st arb. this winter, and his salary will without doubt raise to at least a million– obviously too much for a unproductive hitter like him.

    By that time the FO (if they are still rational to their decisions) will have no choice but to non-tender him, and we will lose our last chance of salvaging ANY remaining value out of him.

    As Smoak still got his last option this year, the best chance for us to try to salvage anything from him is to send him to Tacoma, and nowhere else.

  25. californiamariner on April 22nd, 2013 1:10 am

    Lets remember that the ability for hitting a baseball for power isn’t purely about size. Or even how much weight you can lift.

  26. Jinbo on April 22nd, 2013 1:20 am

    >>californiamariner

    Daniel Nava and Dustin Pedroia laughed in the face of the scouts who never thought they would come this far; all is right with the world.

  27. putnamp on April 22nd, 2013 1:22 am

    I’m probably not the first to say this but I don’t think the M’s can walk away from their history with hitters and feel like they just got a raw hand on every single one of them. That just doesn’t add up. Maybe Smoak’s legitimately done, maybe we lost our chance with him, but saying that it’s not the M’s failure to extract value out of him seems really myopic and self-serving on behalf of the FO.

  28. Jinbo on April 22nd, 2013 1:44 am

    >>putnamp

    yes, I do agree with the part that our hitting coaches have been a menace in the past 3~4 years. Every single one of them tries to “help” the struggling young by tweaking their swinging mechanic and until present days, none of these moves rings a bell if not making things worse.

    So far the only one who survived their “tinkering” is Michael Saunders, with the help of Mike Bard from outside the M’s system; that is sure some disturbing coincidence, isn’t it?

  29. GLS on April 22nd, 2013 1:58 am

    Lets remember that the ability for hitting a baseball for power isn’t purely about size. Or even how much weight you can lift.

    Oh, I get that, but at the same time I have to believe that it helps to be stronger than to not be. Honestly, the dude has always looked a bit soft to me and I just have a hunch that he’s underdeveloped in terms of strength.

  30. vertigoman on April 22nd, 2013 4:32 am

    I’m guessing here but I think Dave is referring to the “power” skill more than “strength”. There is little use in splitting hairs over Smoak’s conditioning or ability to harvest timber with his bare hands.
    Baseball “strength” is weird strength. Hips and wrists. Other than that it’s bat speed and the ability to square up the fat part of the bat with the ball.
    Saying Smoak’s has no power is more accurate than saying he has no strength. And I think Dave is just using the term for effect. Maybe I’m wrong. Who cares.

  31. vertigoman on April 22nd, 2013 4:34 am

    Also, I blame Wedge and his overvaluing of the “moxie” stat.

  32. PackBob on April 22nd, 2013 4:44 am

    With prospects I have to wonder just how much is skill in recognizing ML potential and how much is simply chance. I would imagine that most ML scouts can recognize good skills at the development level needed for the MiL, whether it be speed, power, or contact. But can’t miss prospects fail all the time and and overlooked prospects make it big.

    Maybe Jack Z. is deficient somehow in judging ML-ready talent, or maybe the random roller just put up zeroes for him. The more busts you have the less likely it is to be chance, but it is also bound to happen to somebody at some time.

  33. bookbook on April 22nd, 2013 6:17 am

    Send down Smoak, call up Thames?

  34. asuray on April 22nd, 2013 6:41 am

    One of the employees at the video game store near my house is probably around 6’4″ 230 lbs. I don’t think he can deadlift much more than a case of cool ranch Doritos.

  35. wetzelcoatl on April 22nd, 2013 6:54 am

    >>PackBob

    The thing that makes me feel a little better about Jack Z’s talent evaluation is the alternatives available to him. You look at the Ackley pick, the Lee trade, and the Pineda trade,and really, Jack Z got the best option available to him in all 3 cases. In the case of Smoak, he passed on Montero, in the case of Ackley, no position player from the top of that draft has done much of anything, except Trout who everyone missed. And in the case of Montero, he was dealing with a self limiting situation because the list of teams interested in a straight up top prospect for top prospect swap was pretty short.

  36. stevemotivateir on April 22nd, 2013 7:09 am

    bookbook-

    I’ve speculated about that as well. They could simply cut bay when Saunders returns, though that doesn’t change the fact that they desperately need outfield depth at all levels.

    Probably a good ideal to get another utility infielder as well. Maybe Triunfel? Can’t do any worse than Andino or even Ryan at the moment.

  37. Bremerton guy on April 22nd, 2013 7:21 am

    wetzelcoatl-

    No one had a gun to his head forcing him to trade for Montero or to trade Pineda.

  38. Westside guy on April 22nd, 2013 7:49 am

    Given that Pineda has yet to pitch in a meaningful game since joining the Yankees, it’s a bit premature to bemoan that trade.

    When Jack Z traded Lee for Smoak, a lot of folks said it was a mistake to prefer Smoak to Montero. Then, when Z went and got Montero, Yankee fans complained – loudly – that Cashman had gotten fleeced in that trade. Pretty much all of baseball thought Montero was a sure thing.

    I’m not happy with the state of the Mariners, but Jack Z wasn’t the only one who was high on Monty.

  39. KBomb on April 22nd, 2013 7:49 am

    I’ve always wondered why scouts were so high on Smoak when to the untrained naked eye, he just didn’t seem to have the build for it (I guess I’m shocked at his fangraph stats of 6’4″ 230lbs). Like many people have mentioned before, he just seemed a little “doughy”. Like, nothing about his play makes you think “Athletic”. Even for the extra pounds Prince Fielder is carrying, I swear that guy moves faster on the basepaths and in the field than Smoak.

    Its terribly disheartening to see him put a good swing on a ball, make solid contact, and see it die at the warning track. This isn’t just the Safeco effect. He just doesn’t have it and never has– the eyes don’t lie. Where did it all go wrong?

  40. JMB on April 22nd, 2013 8:36 am

    What’s even worse is that in another year, Dave’s going to write this same post about Ackley. And a year after that, Montero. Man this team is terrible.

  41. StorminGorman on April 22nd, 2013 9:14 am

    I came across this video showing Smoak’s strength and agility training from 2008: http://youtu.be/qs-rToxixXI Skip ahead to 1:30. Interesting to see him move: he’s just a thick dude. The video does address, however, the difference between raw strength and the explosive power that hitters need.

  42. Jinbo on April 22nd, 2013 9:29 am

    With Ackley’s athlete talent which everyone beholds, we have sufficient reason to blame our coaching staff for ruining a 1st round pick.

    As for Smoak… well, I started calling him “a sack of balls” since 2011 spring training, when he tries to literally HECK and CHOP for power and cannot contact for almost anything. I concluded this boy is worthless as a hitter ever since then.

    and Montero? Everyone, or anyone who saw him catch with the Yanks would come to nothing but one conclusion: Montero is catching because his clumsiness will do least harm if he just sitting behind the plate. The biggest mistake our FO made in Montero trade is they REALLY think him as a normal “catcher prospect who can hit” and field him for a whole season only to prove that he is not a catcher. Also, if Montero is as good as the scouts claimed, why wont the Yanks just keep him for themselves? Posada has retired and they were in dire need of a good (in bat or/and glove) catcher that year, the Yanks’ willingness to give away Montero in many proposed trade is the biggest warning sign itself.
    Still, our coaching staff is responsible for ruining his bat by “adjusting” his stance for so many times in 2012.

  43. californiamariner on April 22nd, 2013 9:31 am

    Welp Casper Wells to the A’s. Sucks seeing Beane take guys we should have.

  44. bookbook on April 22nd, 2013 9:36 am

    Wells to the A’s? On one hand, too obvious. On the other hand, the Astros don’t need any outfield help?

  45. Jinbo on April 22nd, 2013 9:36 am

    >>californiamariner

    CURSES!! *sigh*

    And I’m pretty sure our priority is higher than A’s on Waiver. They made into the playoff last year.

  46. Al in Portland on April 22nd, 2013 9:36 am

    Interesting that Smoak is compared with Dan Meyer (former Mariner) and Dalton Jones. At least they had the marginal ability to play other positions … Meyer started as an outfielder and Jones played the majority of his games as a second baseman and third baseman.
    At this point, it’s about time to move Montero to Tacoma and hand him a first baseman’s glove and have Morales play first. Maybe Ibanez can take pride in his first base defense as well. Or Morse. But running Smoak out there day after day is pointless.

  47. msfanmike on April 22nd, 2013 9:38 am

    “The mirage of hope that surrounds Justin Smoak” …

    That is beautiful, man. Well done and nice post!

  48. JasonJ on April 22nd, 2013 9:55 am

    My theory always has been that since Smoak looked like a slugger everyone assumed he was one.

    Say what you will about him looking doughy, but the guy has a big lower body (maybe not Frank Thomas, but in the vicnity) and looks like he should be able to generate a lot of power. As others have pointed out, big guys don’t always have strength that matches their size and this seems to be the case for Smoak. In fact, I don’t ever recall seeing Smoak hit any prodigious homers…seems like they were always in the first 10 rows or so.

  49. LongDistance on April 22nd, 2013 10:06 am

    Physical strength isn’t really the key to hitting, it’s technique and bat speed. Although having the biceps to swing big lumber fast generates the really high HR numbers. For fun, for those who’ve never seen it, here are some great online batting analysis clips on Babe Ruth’s swing. See for yourself, especially in Jaime Cevallos’s analysis, how pumping iron is going to take a back seat (I don’t think Ruth ever even looked at a dumbbell, let along picked one up…).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBmB–g0_U8

    http://www.viddler.com/v/99e4f6dd

    http://jaime_cevallos.youtube.video4me.net/user/Jaime_Cevallos/play/1bUvU4gH1GI/Babe_Ruth_Swing_Analysis_%28by_Jaime_Cevallos%29

  50. roosevelt on April 22nd, 2013 10:11 am

    Timely article. I am still waiting for you to write the article… “How Dave would fix the M’s”

    In summation, I am left with the inevitable conclusion that our Scout/GM is possibly clueless.

  51. Badbadger on April 22nd, 2013 11:07 am

    I was high on Smoak after last September until I noticed that he always hits well in September and that’s never translated into anything permanent. I guess he feasts on September call up pitchers or something. Anyway, I’ve already given up on him. If I were manager I’d send him down to Tacoma, make Morales the starting first baseman, call up a catcher to back up Shoppach and make Montero the DH to see if he can do better if he just concentrates on hitting.

  52. sotteson on April 22nd, 2013 11:13 am

    I second Roosevelt’s suggestion. Pretty please, Dave?

    Right now I’m ready to give up on Wedge and Jack Z. Nothing they’ve done has worked. This far into it, it can’t just be bad luck.

  53. South Pacific on April 22nd, 2013 11:20 am

    Does Z have anyone working for him that sees and correctly interprets this data? It seems incredible how they try to “believe” someone into productivity (Smoak, Bay, Chavez, …).

  54. casey on April 22nd, 2013 11:21 am

    what I don’t understand is how the Mariners can take so many can’t miss hitting prospects and strike out every time. And maybe with exception of Seager seems like we never do an Altuve where we take a long shot and turn him into a star.

    1. is the player assessment flawed on these guys – are the tools the M’s use for hitters flawed
    2. do we screw them up once we get them to high minors or once they hit the majors
    3. are we really unlucky and equivalent of a guy leaking money at a craps table
    4. is the makeup all wrong for these guys and it really takes a Mike Saunders who hires is own coach and works all off season on his own to turn into a quality MLB hitter not named Trout or Harper
    5. be patient Ackley and Montero will turn out okay
    6. and of course probably some combination of above

  55. lesch2k on April 22nd, 2013 11:24 am

    you ask how dave would fix the mariners. start by looking at dave’s off-season plan, it lays out a framework of the types of players he values. just change the names. add in a caveat of trading players close to free agency to a contender at the deadline for prospects. be happy to finish ahead of the astros

  56. qwerty on April 22nd, 2013 11:48 am

    Exactly what dept/whom is responsible for the development plan of our hitters? It’s not the M’s hitting coach. That, to me , is a superfluous position. Window dressing.
    WE do not develop and improve hitters. They come to our organization to forget how to hit.
    Are we suppose to believe that Ackley’s college and lower level minor’s success was a mirage? Why does Ackley have to change a swing? Did the M’s ruin it in the first place?
    I suspect we are moving players up too fast. I also wonder if the NW weather affects them once they get out of TN. (I’m trying to think outside the box here….)
    Also, Smoak’s lack of power doesn’t bother me. It’s his low average and lack of a plan at the plate. If he batted .290 w/ a high OBS and only hit 10 HRs. I’d live with that.

  57. McExpos on April 22nd, 2013 12:29 pm

    While I appreciate your analysis, Dave, I do find it somewhat frustrating when you write these “Victory Lap” articles.

  58. MrZDevotee on April 22nd, 2013 12:29 pm

    Casper Wells and John Jaso… BFF’s again, down in Oakland.

    (I would usually write “sigh” here, but really… It’s more becoming “yawn” when the most obviously annoying thing happens, over and over again…)

    Go M’s. Please?

  59. MrZDevotee on April 22nd, 2013 12:36 pm

    I was just thinking the other day about the “shadow” effect of sticking with Smoak for too long. Not sure if Kendrys has shown he’s different or not, but how much of an improvement would Morales see in his stats if he was playing the field everyday.

    There have been plenty of studies that show when position players ride the bench and play DH only, their offensive numbers decline.

    So not only are we dinging our lineup by sticking with Smoak too long, but we’re also dinging our lineup by making his replacement play DH 90% of the time, and dinging our defense by having Morales play DH, which pushes Ibanez/Bay into the outfield if we want to play them against a certain pitching matchup.

    Smoak is a cornerstone of problems in the lineup currently. Move him out of the picture and a whole bunch of pieces snap into a better place (and Casper Wells is still a MARINER, not an A).

  60. amnizu on April 22nd, 2013 12:38 pm

    You don’t have to swing a heavy bat to hit drive the ball, F = M(V^2) bat speed and good contact (eye hand coordination) are king when it comes to driving a baseball. Swinging a heavier bat helps, but only if you can maintain the same velocity and acceleration to the baseball.

    I suspect most players who swing heavier bats do so to slow their hands from rolling over more than the very marginal gain in power they gain.

    In Smoak’s case its good contact that is the problem and you cant really “tweak” hand eye coordination.

  61. ppl on April 22nd, 2013 12:47 pm

    It is time for a change. Smoak plays first and is good for little else beyond hitting. He also arrived in 2010. He should be the first one out the door.

  62. LongDistance on April 22nd, 2013 1:11 pm

    amnizu:
    I agree completely. I posted that line about lumber too quickly, and didn’t have time to correct my thought.

    When I spoke about heavier bats, it was meant to be an analogy to extremely muscular hitters such as (er) McGwire, who added sheer power to technique, and so elevated the percentage of HR.

    Ruth was an example of sheer technique, but without blimpoid musculature. Smoak impresses people as being a stud bull who, by simple muscle mass, should have a percentage tweak.

    But it just doesn’t matter, as you pointed out. His bat doesn’t go through the zone in a way that guarantees a good percentage of contact.

    I’m betting his contact zone is pretty dinky.

  63. groundzero55 on April 22nd, 2013 1:44 pm

    Good Bob and Groz today – I’m in Montana so I listen through the ESPN Radio app – they specifically brought up the possibility of some kind of organizational flaw that results in can’t miss prospects coming up and flailing. They even mentioned that the only “good” hitter who has come out of our organization in the past near-decade was Adam Jones, and he didn’t even really develop until after he left.

    Maybe the M’s are just really good at drafting pitching but not much else?

  64. MrZDevotee on April 22nd, 2013 2:04 pm

    “Maybe the M’s are just really good at drafting pitching but not much else?”

    Not saying that can’t be the case, but just speechless that supposed “can’t miss” guys, who have always been the top hitting prospects where they played (specifically- Ackley, Montero, Smoak) come to Seattle and become not just below average, but off the charts bad.

    This far into a season, for Ackley’s entire career of playing baseball, has he ever still been at .150? After presuming that LAST year was the worst year he’s ever had… And last year was Smoak’s worst (or tied for worst) and yet, he’s not as good as that this year, either?

    It’s dumbfounding.

    The pendulum is swinging from (the past two season) “this HAS to be a fluke… these guys are better than this…” to “what are we doing to screw these guys up.” And it’s swinging hard.

    And there’s no rhyme or reason to it.

  65. The_Waco_Kid on April 22nd, 2013 2:19 pm

    Part of me wants to look at the excuses. The M’s always have a way tougher travel schedule. Maybe some of these kids were promoted too fast. Maybe our awful offense has put too much pressure on them. Another part of me says, so what? All teams and players have struggles and the great ones overcome. Whatever Smoak’s problem is, he doesn’t deserve much more time to figure it out here. I assume the FO agrees, except as long as he’s out-hitting Ackley and Montero, he might get more time.

  66. 300ZXNA on April 22nd, 2013 6:31 pm

    So how do we go about trying to lobby the M’s to hire Dave as the next GM? I am dead serious. Well, serious in that if I were king of the universe I would give Dave the job, and that I think he would bring some great ideas into the organization, though I’m sure that Howard/Lincoln would never consider it unfortunately.

  67. 300ZXNA on April 22nd, 2013 6:33 pm

    And Guti just got hurt. No F’ing way.

  68. Jinbo on April 22nd, 2013 8:31 pm

    >>300ZXNA

    right after A’s claimed Casper Wells off waiver
    CURSES!!

  69. downwarddog on April 23rd, 2013 4:36 pm

    Beyond being terrible, Smoak should be DFA’d so the fans at Safeco never has to be subjected his stupid hillbilly theme song … which begs the question: why is a guy who can’t hit .200 even allowed to have a theme song?

  70. 300ZXNA on April 23rd, 2013 4:41 pm

    One last question: given that Josh Daniels is a very astute GM, do we think that perhaps he had picked up on the warning signs and was thus more than happy to flip him our way as the showcase piece for the Lee trade?

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