Not The Last Word On Justin Smoak

Jeff Sullivan · July 12, 2013 at 9:31 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Yesterday was a decent day for Justin Smoak, against the Red Sox. Yeah, he finished just 1-for-4 with a line-drive single, but he also drew a walk, and in the seventh inning he flew out to the track in center, and in the fourth inning he hit a bullet that Dustin Pedroia somehow managed to pick, and in the second inning he took Jonny Gomes to the fence the other way. Smoak, basically, walked, and made solid contact four times out of four tries. He didn’t leave the yard, but he easily could’ve.

The big problem with arbitrary endpoints is that they’re arbitrary. It’s right there in the term. You can hand-select various endpoints to try to make whatever argument it is that you’re making. It’s not that they’re necessarily completely without substance, but they’re misleading and it’s just a bad practice, if you can avoid it. Now, I want to look at Justin Smoak since last August 14. That reads as an arbitrary endpoint, but it’s not, and here’s why: that’s when Smoak came back last season from a stint in Tacoma. During that stint in Tacoma, Smoak worked on changing his swing mechanics, and if I were doing this to try to make a biased case in favor of Smoak, I’d probably leave out that Smoak’s half-August was terrible. But it counts, because that’s when Smoak returned, and it seems reasonable to look at numbers since a point at which a given player changed.

The stats:

  • .274/.369/.438
  • .322 BABIP
  • 100 starts

How about the stats from the window right before the above stat window? From 9/13/2011 – 7/23/2012:

  • .197/.263/.327
  • .222 BABIP
  • 100 starts

People have asked what’s different about Justin Smoak. Well, his swing is visibly different, at least and especially from the left side. Since being recalled, Smoak’s numbers are virtually identical from both sides of the plate, even though I’ll grant that only shaves the samples even further. Between the two stat windows above, Smoak’s home runs stayed the same, but his double power has increased, his walks have increased, and his strikeouts have decreased. And, of course, there’s the 100-point leap in batting average on balls in play.

If you’re familiar with stats, you’re immediately skeptical of anything related to a BABIP boost, and that’s perfectly fair. But over Smoak’s career until his 2012 demotion, his BABIP was .248. That was over a significant sample, and it seemed to be a problem of his, stemming from inadequate quality of contact. Smoak didn’t really seem to make a habit of barreling up, as it were. Now, it subjectively feels as if the quality of his contact has improved, and the numbers support the assertion. With better contact quality, you get more hits, and Smoak’s registered a lot more hits.

Line-drive percentage is a thing that’s available, but I don’t like it, because I don’t like how line drives are scored. There’s way too much subjectivity and way too little year-to-year consistency. But line drives are important, because line drives are good contact, and I personally feel like the best measure we have available is BABIP. A guy will get more hits if he’s hitting the ball better, and Smoak’s been hitting the ball better, hence all the hits. And, whatever, his line-drive rate is up too, rather substantially, if that’s your jam. Before, it seemed like there was a flaw in Smoak’s process, and he didn’t quite have the right timing. He hit too many lazy fly balls. That was an issue that he most certainly had. He still hits lazy fly balls, but in between those, he’s hitting more rockets.

This is getting to be interesting. Smoak’s probably never going to reach the 30-dinger plateau, but his other improvements have made him look like an actually reasonable starter. Just as a reminder, here’s Smoak’s slash line since coming back:

  • .274/.369/.438

And here’s Nick Swisher since the start of 2011:

  • .262/.367/.450

Swisher, of course, adds value from his defensive versatility, but he also spent a lot of time in Yankee Stadium instead of Safeco Field, so. Swisher and Smoak are looking like similar offensive players, but where Swisher is 32 and Smoak’s 26. Maybe Smoak will grow into a little more power. Maybe Smoak will get only more comfortable with his new swing mechanics. Maybe Smoak won’t hit a whole bunch of dingers, but maybe he’ll still be all right anyway, because he gets on base and adequately fields his position.

Over the last calendar year, Chris Davis has a .367 OBP. Edwin Encarnacion, .367. Allen Craig, .358. Adrian Gonzalez, .357. Smoak is never going to match Davis’ inconceivable power, but getting on base is the best thing you can do consistently, and this is how Smoak’s made himself into a contributor. His swing has allowed him to drill the ball more often, while also allowing him to get a better look at the pitches. So there’s been an effect on both discipline and contact.

Ultimately, what we don’t have is a superstar first baseman. Smoak’s not a great fielder, he’s not a good runner, and he’s not a great slugger. Power would be great. Lots of first basemen have power. Smoak would be better with more power. But, a lot of us, on many occasions, have gotten close to just giving up on Smoak completely. There were times he looked absolutely, utterly hopeless. He’s showing now why it’s so hard to deal with struggling young players, because sometimes they never come out of it, but sometimes they do, and you can always look back and say “well he was still young.” Smoak doesn’t look like a star, but he looks like a guy a good team can play at first base, and he looks like he’s not a problem. We don’t know for sure whether that’s actually true, at this point, but we can at least have the discussion. Justin Smoak doesn’t suck. All right.


47 Responses to “Not The Last Word On Justin Smoak”

  1. Sportszilla on July 12th, 2013 9:40 am

    It’s amazing how generally positive the M’s infield future looks. Smoak/Franklin/Miller/Seager could all be average/above average at their position, and they’d damn well have to be, given that the team doesn’t have an outfield prospect of note.

  2. spuuky on July 12th, 2013 9:49 am

    I don’t think anyone will dispute that you can be a positive contributor at first base without great home run power. I mean, John Olerud did play here.

    In fact, Smoak’s (admittedly, age 26) 2013 looks a lot like Olerud’s 1990-1992 (age 22-24) seasons. Obviously he strikes out a lot more, but you don’t have to be all of Olerud to be good, either.

  3. bfgboy on July 12th, 2013 10:41 am

    I may be just a complete and total novice in this, but isn’t putting Smoak on the right side of the plate for match-ups doing him a disservice? He seems to be hitting really well on the left side, and quite awfully on the right side. Wouldn’t he be better off just staying on the left side against both lefties and righties? I’d greatly appreciate it if somebody could elaborate on this.

  4. MrZDevotee on July 12th, 2013 11:11 am

    Glad I’m not an idiot on this one– I said yesterday in the game thread that I was totally confused, and felt dumb about the idea, but Smoak is looking competent.

    Flailing less and walking more.

    And Jeff explained it here… His more compact swing, while it costs him slightly in power, allows him a longer look at pitches, however short.

    And while he might not hit the 30 HR plateau, he’s certainly a candidate for consistently 25-30 HR’s, which is adequate. He doesn’t lack power, it’s just not his only tool anymore.

    And- tu-dah- how fun is it that, like folks always say, a MLB players best years are 26-28, so he’s entering the window where guys “figure it out” the best they will.

    It’s an odd comparison, but he could be a Raul Ibanez (Kansas City years) late bloomer, kinda hard to quantify, decent regular for a lot of years. And I’d take that, even if it’s a disappointment versus what I wanted him to be (Texeira-like).

  5. scraps on July 12th, 2013 11:54 am

    It’s nice that young players can improve at the major league level, even Mariners.

    Seriously, it is nice, and makes me hope, for instance, for Dustin Ackley.

  6. Dave on July 12th, 2013 11:56 am

    With all due respect to Jeff, I disagree with most of the words he wrote about hitter BABIP. A .327 BABIP might not look like it’s just so far out of line with the norm, but Smoak is a very slow hitter who not only hits a lot of fly balls, but hits a lot of infield flies, which are BABIP killing automatic outs.

    For all the talk of him squaring up the ball, he’s still posting an IFFB% of 11.1%, well above the league average. Balls in the air go for outs far more often than ground balls, so hitters who hit the ball in the air, and especially hitters who hit the ball in the air to the infield, post sustainably lower BABIPs than other hitters.

    The other type of hitter who posts a low BABIP? Slow runners who don’t have the speed to beat out any of their little squibbers, giving defenders enough time to make plays on balls that result in infield hits for other hitters.

    Smoak is both of these, still. I’d guess his true talent BABIP is probably closer to .280-.290. Take 40 points off his BABIP, and you’re looking at a league average hitter. A league average hitter who provides no value as a baserunner and is an average defender at the easiest position on the field to play. That’s not quite replacement level, but it’s close.

    Justin Smoak has probably improved some since going down to Tacoma and making some changes. The problem is that he needed to improve a lot, and he mainly needed to improve his ability to hit the ball over the wall, because the rest of his skillset doesn’t work without home runs.

    Justin Smoak is better, but still not good enough to play everyday for a team trying to win. Part-time guy and bench depth? Okay. Everyday first baseman? Not on a contender.

  7. spuuky on July 12th, 2013 12:02 pm

    Dave, I’m curious – at how many at bats of improvement would you be willing to concede that his line is a legitimate reflection of his skills, and a reasonable baseline for future predictions?

    500? 1000? I’m sure there’s a number, I just wonder what it is.

    And by his line, I mean his slash line, I guess. If his OBP is high enough and he hits enough doubles, he’s obviously valuable regardless of home runs – I’m assuming you’re disputing that he can sustain a high enough OBP and rate of doubles.

  8. DarkKnight1680 on July 12th, 2013 12:54 pm

    I think a 2-2.5 WAR guy is about what we’re looking at currently. I see some real parallels between him and Lyle Overbay. If you throw out an injury-affected 2007 season, Overbay was worth 10.7 wins over 5 years in the 04-09 range. Walk rate around 12%, K rate around 18%, ISO around 180, slow, never hit more than 22 HRs, LD% around 22. Overbay hit more GBs, Smoak hits more FBs, HR/FB rates around the same.

    That said, the amount of solid contact that Smoak is displaying is encouraging. I’m willing to watch the rest of 2013, and add in his post-change 2012 numbers to decide who he is.

  9. flightrisk on July 12th, 2013 12:57 pm

    I don’t think the 7 IFFBs this year so far in 257 plate appearances (222 ABs) are going to destroy his value, and part of the reason his IFFB% is higher is that his overall number of FBs is down a few ticks, too.

    I think Jeff scouted out the difference, this year to last: harder contact. Will he sustain that higher LD%? I have no idea, but while he does, he’s a reasonable first baseman (and will have a better BABIP). Looking at his Fangraphs page, I think it’s 50-50 whether he keeps it up or not (though the Mariners have taught me to err on the side of pessimism!), given his age. For now, he’s not unwatchable, which is just another way of saying what Jeff said: He doesn’t suck. And I’d ask, maybe he’s a little better than that?

  10. Robo Ape on July 12th, 2013 12:59 pm

    On the question of defense, despite first base being the easiest position on the field, my eyes tell me Smoak actually plays a very good first base, better than average, in fact. To that point, I’m curious about the following:

    1) What is it that folks see that puts Smoak in the “average” camp?

    2) If I remember correctly, the UZR positional adjustment for first base is like -10 runs. How much better than average does one even need to be to have a meaningful impact?

  11. make_dave_proud on July 12th, 2013 1:09 pm

    > For all the talk of him squaring up the ball, he’s still posting an IFFB% of 11.1%, well above the league average.

    Dustin Pedroia: 11.1%
    Albert Pujols: 12.3%
    Mark Trumbo: 12.8%
    Ben Zobrist: 13.6%
    Manny Machado: 14.6%
    Jacoby Ellsbury: 15.5%

    Cherry-picked list here, but IFFB% doesn’t strike me as something to get very worked up about.

  12. bookbook on July 12th, 2013 1:14 pm

    I think Smoak can be a starter on a contending team – look at the 1B’s on several of the recent playoff teams. They haven’t been great.

    He probably needs to be the worst or second worst regular on any team with playoff aspirations, but someone has to be that…

  13. VivaAyala on July 12th, 2013 1:21 pm

    I do think there’s some good evidence that Jeff is correct in that Smoak is simply hitting the ball harder now.

    Courtesy of :

    Batted ball distance (home run and fly ball leaderboard:

    2013 295.89 ft. (33rd, between J. Bruce and M. Holliday)
    2012 284.28 ft. (121st, between D. Stubbs and A. Ethier)
    2011 279.86 ft. (144th, between D. Pedroia and N. Markakis)

    That appears to be a substantial improvement in hitting the ball hard. While his current .327 BABIP may be unsustainable in part due to the factors Dave identified, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he could sustain something around .300 BABIP by simply squaring the ball up. That’s what he is at over the past calendar year, by the way.

  14. californiamariner on July 12th, 2013 1:23 pm

    I don’t think there is any doubt that Smoak in the last 100 games has been a different and better player than the guy we became accustomed to. I’m still skeptical about wanting him to be your everyday 1B. If he can sustain the level he’s performed at for the last 100 games, I would be fine with him at 1B, but that is still not the level of an above average 1B. That may be fine, if you get production from other places on the roster. I think sometimes people forget that playoff teams often are going to be average at a few positions. I’m kind of pessimistic though, thinking this may be a mirage as Dave was saying.

    One question I have is at what point does a BABIP sample become noteworthy? Is it like 500 PAs? More? How many PAs do we need to see before we can say maybe Smoak has changed his profile as a hitter? Also, why can you use his IFFB% over this season, but then say his BABIP for the season isn’t useful? Just wondering the different sample sizes for those two. I looked at the “When Samples Become Reliable” post on Fangraphs, but it doesn’t have BABIP or IFFB%.

  15. jbarr08 on July 12th, 2013 1:41 pm

    With due respect to Dave, how does this quote: ” I’d guess his true talent BABIP is probably closer to .280-.290. Take 40 points off his BABIP, and you’re looking at a league average hitter.” fit in with an empirical analysis ethos? It’s more of the “I’ll believe my eyes” thought process that we’re supposed to guard against.

    Skepticism of what the numbers are telling us is fine; I think Jeff was more than fair in hedging what Smoak showed pre-August demotion against what he’s shown since. But I’m not sure why the above quote should be given equal weight to stats-analysis driven commentary.

  16. djw on July 12th, 2013 1:50 pm

    Question: are there examples of players like Smoak–who hit the ball in the air at similar rates and have poor speed–who consistently sustain BABIPs in the 325 range? If the answer is “no” or “only a couple” I think Dave’s pessimistic addendum to this post is warranted. If there are more of these creatures out there, it’d be interesting to compare Smoak to them.

  17. djw on July 12th, 2013 1:56 pm

    With due respect to Dave, how does this quote: ” I’d guess his true talent BABIP is probably closer to .280-.290. Take 40 points off his BABIP, and you’re looking at a league average hitter.” fit in with an empirical analysis ethos? It’s more of the “I’ll believe my eyes” thought process that we’re supposed to guard against.

    This isn’t fair at all. It’s based (I think) on knowledge of BABIP trends for various types of players. If, as I think Dave implies, Justin Smoak’s post 8/14/12 BABIP is higher than players of his footspeed and batted ball profile are capable of sustaining, then we have a choice: we can believe Justin Smoak has a unique skill set, or he’s been BABIP lucky of the last five months. We know that stretches of BABIP luck are fairly common occurrences, whereas players with skillsets that unique are rare indeed, so betting that we’re seeing a common thing rather than a rare thing is entirely based in an empirical approach.

  18. Paul B on July 12th, 2013 2:08 pm

    Just as a reminder, here’s Smoak’s slash line since coming back:

    but he looks like a guy a good team can play at first base, and he looks like he’s not a problem.

    Looking at some former Mariner firstbasemen who were good but not great, I think Smoak’s upside as a hitter is somewhere in this range. Probably better than the last, but not quite up the the first two.

    David Segui: .291/.359/.443 (15 seasons)
    Paul Sorrento: .257/.340/.457 (11 seasons)
    Casey Kotchman: .260/.326/.385 (10 seasons)

  19. MrZDevotee on July 12th, 2013 2:31 pm

    I’d add Tino Martinez to that list… And drop Kotchman, myself…

    Tino Martinez .265/.334/.466 (6 seasons w/ M’s)
    David Segui: .291/.359/.443 (15 seasons)
    Paul Sorrento: .257/.340/.457 (11 seasons)

  20. NorthofWrigleyField on July 12th, 2013 2:38 pm

    Dave conveniently left out the 13% BB rate, which leads the team (3rd among all MLB 1Bs… his OBP ranks 7th). That’s not based on luck. He’s consistently posted an acceptable OBP each month this season. I said this a while back when I noticed his OBP creeping above .350 while his SLG% was sub-.400… if all he does is post acceptable OBPs and play sufficient defense, I’m happy letting Smoak do his thing. Since then, he’s rewarded me pleasantly, by improving in other statistical categories as well even if he’s not likely to sustain them. The OBP seems legit and adequate, with potential for better. Justin Smoak is by far not the problem on this team.

  21. Choo on July 12th, 2013 2:43 pm


    Based on which study you look at, BABIP stabilizes somewhere between 825-1,125 PAs. IFF% stabilizes between 165-225 PAs. This doesn’t guarantee that rates become stable, or unchangeable, once a player reaches those plateaus – players change and evolve. It’s just a point of reliability for projecting future performance.

  22. stevemotivateir on July 12th, 2013 2:44 pm

    Yeah, Dave conveniently left out his RBI total, too, which ranks 8th. That’s lower than Franklin’s total and just 1 better than Ryan’s.

    The general point is that his production isn’t that great for a first baseman.

  23. Dave on July 12th, 2013 2:44 pm

    Yeah, the idea that I just made up the .280-.290 BABIP forecast, and it’s not based on actual data analysis, is hilarious. And sorry, but if you don’t see how an inflated BABIP leads to an inflated OBP, you’re missing something.

    By the way, ZIPS rest-of-season forecast for Smoak: .285 BABIP, .317 wOBA, 103 wRC+. Steamer ROS: .270 BABIP, .316 wOBA, 102 wRC+. Yeah, yeah, I know, he’s “different”, so we can throw away the forecasts, just like we could throw away all the projections that suggested Michael Saunders was probably going to regress, because he overhauled his swing and that data was all useless too.

    Forecasts aren’t always right, but you can’t do better by just picking the data you want and pretending like they’re wrong when you want them to be.

  24. californiamariner on July 12th, 2013 2:46 pm

    I was about to write a hate post on how stupid the Mariners are for sending Erasmo down, but then I remembered the all star break is coming up so he doesn’t have to miss a start.

    Thanks Choo

  25. stevemotivateir on July 12th, 2013 2:55 pm

    If the M’s could actually ship him off for a decent outfielder, or even package him, I would be thrilled. I’m not sold on him as a long term option for 1B and his value right now may be at it’s highest.

  26. PackBob on July 12th, 2013 2:57 pm

    I’m encouraged by Smoak’s progress and the question for me is will he continue to progress? I see nothing compelling that determines his current level to be his future level. It may be, but it may not be.

    Smoak’s defense to me looks fine, and I don’t think UZR has enough to work with to determine other than a general fit. What is it that people see that says Smoak’s defense is not good?

  27. MrZDevotee on July 12th, 2013 2:59 pm

    Dammit Steve…

    You wrote:
    “…his value right now may be at it’s highest.”

    And much as I want to hate that comment, and offer a rebuttal, it strikes a “he’s right” chord with me. A really LOUD, clangy, reverberant “Heee’s riiighhtttt…”


  28. djw on July 12th, 2013 2:59 pm

    Dave conveniently left out the 13% BB rate

    No, he didn’t. If he regresses to a ~280ish BABIP, continues to not have much power, continuing to strike out 22% of the time, that walk rate is how he’s going to manage to be an average hitter. Note that the projection systems Dave is suggesting we take more seriously see the walk rate as 12.4% and 12.6% going forward. One can acknowledge he’s changed his approach to draw more walks and that’s made him a better player, but be worried that the sum total of his skills makes him look like a roughly league average hitter going forward.

  29. MrZDevotee on July 12th, 2013 3:02 pm

    I agree about the defense. 1B with it’s negative defensive adjustment just seems like a hard position to rate.

    Smoak’s range isn’t great, but it’s better than some of the preeminent, offense-first 1B guys in the league.

    He seems above average at scooping out bad throws (seems really good at that, to my eyes), which is a nice skill.

    He’s not a defensive specialist, no, but I don’t understand the “his defense if barely adequate” numbers and how they come to be. Because they seem wrong to me.

    But “seem” and “to my eyes” is pretty weak evidence. I confess.

  30. globalalpha on July 12th, 2013 3:11 pm

    I have to believe that the breakdown of LD/FB/GB rate drives BABIP more than anything. Isn’t league average BABIP on line drives something north of .700, with BABIP on FB ~.150 and GB ~.250? So obviously players who make more consistent contact and have a higher line drive percent will sport sustainably higher overall BABIP. In 2012, Smoak had a 18% LD, 40% GB, 42% FB rate. Based on those rough BABIP numbers he would have a .289 BABIP overall. His actual BABIP was .242, significantly lower. (Evidence that say his BABIP on ground balls could be lower than the .250 average due to slow speed, or he hit more IFB with a .000 BABIP. Or partly back luck.) This year, his rates are 39% FB, 38% GB, and 23% LD, leading to an estimated .315 BABIP using the same average rates as for 2012. His average BABIP is .327, higher than expected. I would hazard a guess that part of the increase above the expected rate is due to luck. But the increase in expected BABIP from .289 to .327 is due entirely to the 5% increase in his line drive rate. Is that sustainable? If we believe his swing has improved and he makes more quality contact, I would say yes. That’s a .038 improvement in BABIP potentially due to increased quality of his swing. Even a .315 BABIP going forward is probably a ceiling on expectations. But here is evidence that he should certainly have a sustainably improved rate compared to prior years.

  31. HighBrie on July 12th, 2013 3:11 pm

    I’m excited we’re having a Justin Smoak discussion at all. I understand the cynicism, but I think in the face of equivocal stats that Smoak and Saunders may as likely exceed the crap projections of their early careers as regress back to Mendozaville. Baseball is a minefield of disappointments, but Smoaks are a little rainbow in every season. With a unicorn sliding down it.
    I will also point out that we might-could have had Prince Fielder for $25M a year over 7 or 8 years and had the same results. So, color me fairly excited. If the one thing holding the Mariners back from really contending is Smoak, then let’s fix us a Smoak, but I hesitate to think that day is nigh.

  32. djw on July 12th, 2013 3:33 pm

    I don’t understand the “his defense if barely adequate” numbers

    What numbers are those? Fangraphs defensive WAR has him at pretty much exactly league average. The adequacy of defense is always relative to what else the player brings to the table, of course, but I taken in isolation, average to very slightly above average doesn’t seem like ‘barely adequate’ to me and I’m not sure why you’d characterize them that way.

  33. stevemotivateir on July 12th, 2013 3:36 pm

    A Morse discussion will be necessary soon as well. I can’t imagine he’d have much value right now, but even with a strong second half performance, it’s hard to believe he’d be worth the qualifying offer and he certainly shouldn’t be in the outfield plans (or any plans) moving forward.

  34. MissouriMariner on July 12th, 2013 4:33 pm

    Call me a pessimist but it would be a nice improvement to have league average hitters….

  35. Westside guy on July 12th, 2013 4:53 pm

    Re: Morse (per Steve’s comment)

    Given his past injury tendencies combined with how much he’s been hurt this year, and given the team’s bad experiences with a certain other injury-plagued outfielder… I wonder if they’re going to give him an offer at all. Especially given how Ibañez has done – they may very well extend Raul and not Morse.

    I’m not saying this scenario would be a good one (I actually don’t want either guy re-signed); but I’m just speculating on what this Front Office might choose to do.

  36. DarkKnight1680 on July 12th, 2013 5:32 pm

    On the defense question: I don’t think UZR, which is what is being used for WAR, takes into account 1B “catching” except if errors are committed. As far as I can tell, it is only taking into account the rate at which balls in the player’s “Zone” are turned into outs, and the number of plays that the player makes outside that zone, plus errors, double plays, and arm (for outfielders).

    This seems like an oversight, as where Smoak definitely seems to shine is at turning throws into outs. I’ve noticed that when Morales is at first, a lot more throws seem to end up getting past first, while Smoak seems to dig out pretty much everything thrown his way.

    His range is probably below average, but his efficiency on balls in his zone is very good, his receiver skills are excellent, and he doesn’t commit a lot of errors. I’d say he’s an above-average defensive 1B when you take into account his receiver skills.

  37. NorthofWrigleyField on July 12th, 2013 5:41 pm

    Of course the BABIP leads to an inflated OBP (in fact, the six 1Bs ahead of Justin Smoak in OBP ALL have BABIPs even greater than his… most significantly so). But look where it’s inflated it to! I’m ok with it going down quite a bit from there. ZIPS and Steamer both project him for a .350 OBP at the end of the season. I’ll be very pleased with that number. On this day, he has basically the same WAR as Prince Fielder in 30 less games at 1/40th the cost. I have no reason to suspect it will stay that way, but it doesn’t have to.

    There’s nothing wrong with “league-average hitter” Justin Smoak, when there’s potential for even more. That’s something to be celebrated not ridiculed. That’s a win coming back from the brink of banishment to the minors. At the beginning of the season, I wanted him to start in AAA (which still might have been the right decision). During the first two months of the season, I consistently wanted him to be back in AAA, and not just on injury rehab. I’m really glad he’s convinced me otherwise.

    Considering the potential pitching staff the Mariners have for the future, league-average hitting could be all they need. And I’m not giving up on Justin Smoak being even better than that, especially in a time period where he’s showing he might just be.

  38. McExpos on July 12th, 2013 8:56 pm

    It’s a good thing that Dave keeps coming into the comments to correct Jeff Sullivan on his articles. For a moment I almost entertained an opposing viewpoint.

  39. Jeremy on July 12th, 2013 9:53 pm

    Hey–it’s Dave’s site. He’s got a right to maintain the site he wants to run.

  40. Typical Idiot Fan on July 12th, 2013 10:34 pm

    It’s a good thing that Dave keeps coming into the comments to correct Jeff Sullivan on his articles. For a moment I almost entertained an opposing viewpoint.

    1. Dave used to do this on LL.
    2. Having differing view points is healthy and helpful for discussion, not harmful.
    3. What if one of us said it instead? Would that make you happy?

    Stop making the person more relevant than the message.

  41. Jeremy on July 12th, 2013 10:44 pm

    Yeah–Jeff produces some awesome work, but sometimes (rarely, but still) he comes to conclusions that feel slightly premature.

    Maybe Dave has been around the block one or two more times than Jeff…

  42. Don Money on July 12th, 2013 10:48 pm

    I like the Tino Martinez comparison for Smoak, it is quite accurate. Smoak’s ability to pick throws in the dirt is clearly above average and not only results in outs but negates extra bases as well as extra pitches that have to be thrown after an error. This is a huge team contribution that should not be minimized. His RBI total will be the next stat to jump as the team batting improves with the addition of Franklin, Zunino and Miller. Games won’t be as tight offensively and his at bats won’t be as stressful, allowing him to relax. We are watching the real arrival of a solid major league player.

  43. Kazinski on July 13th, 2013 12:53 am

    I think Dave’s is relying on projections is maybe a little too much. After all the projections on Smoak when he came up made us think he would be a lot better than he is now. Then he was pretty bad. Now he is decent.

    Maybe he is just hard to project.

  44. scraps on July 13th, 2013 3:28 am

    Yeah–Jeff produces some awesome work, but sometimes (rarely, but still) he comes to conclusions that feel slightly premature.

    Well, not this one:

    Smoak doesn’t look like a star, but he looks like a guy a good team can play at first base, and he looks like he’s not a problem. We don’t know for sure whether that’s actually true, at this point, but we can at least have the discussion. Justin Smoak doesn’t suck. All right.

    (emphasis added)

  45. terry on July 13th, 2013 3:49 am

    Fan graphs is the preimiment site for knee jerk analysis following a minuscule sample size. Jeff’s supposition based upon nearly 400 PAs and an obvious landmark in Smoak’s timeline would be considered too stale to be of any interest over there.

    Dave is in a weird position. He proclaimed Smoak dead on arrival in no uncertain terms and the trolls that don’t care for his style of back and forth see Smoak as an opportunity for some payback. Unfortunately for as much as we like Dave, as Ms fans, we gotta root for Smoak’s resurgence,. Besides that, if sustained, Smoak’s story would be good for the soul.

  46. McExpos on July 13th, 2013 7:52 am

    Anyone who has read Jeff knows that he’s not a writer who deals in absolutes. Though he has a deep understanding of statistical analysis, many of his articles (and I mean this as a compliment) boil down to, “We have new information and we’ll have to see where this leads us.” He enjoys learning new things about players/teams and he often challenges his own assumptions about what he thinks he knows about baseball.

    And what is Dave’s message? Regression? That is the mother of all buzz words in baseball. I can shoot down any argument you’ll ever make by a combination of two phrases: “regression to the mean” and “bad/good process is still bad/good process.” Sure, it may be right much of the time, but if you think a USSM reader needs to have Dave remind them in comments about regression, then you’re crazy.

    You can call me a troll if you want – and after 10 years of reading LL and USSM I could probably play the part well enough – but I do think that there is some room for uncertainty, if not flat-out optimism, regarding Smoak. And it’s not irrational, and therefore not in need of being corrected, to say that new data means the jury is still out.

  47. Athanasius on July 13th, 2013 10:42 pm

    The point of the post is pretty simple: there’s new evidence on Justin Smoak and that evidence points to him not being bad. Hardly a ringing endorsement or even a definitive one.

    My preference is to read the analysis of those who are open to new information and what it might say about a player/team rather than those who make weak arguments about said information due to previously made rigid and overly dogmatic conclusions.

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