Justin Smoak finished the season incredibly strong. Posting a OPS around 1.000 with 5 bombs certainly has more than a few ears perked, and even has some wondering if Smoak has finally figured it out. However, I come to issue a warning and bring up what may be becoming an alarming trend.
As most everyone is aware, September does not offer the same level of competition as the rest of the regular season. Rosters are flooded with minor league talent, pitchers are on their last leg, and teams with guaranteed playoff spots are running the kids out their along with those teams that have been eliminated. Smoak performed well at this point last season as well, after struggling the majority of the regular season. A free pass was issued however, due to some off the field issues. September is not the time to judge Justin Smoak on what he could be. As a matter of fact, lets delve a little bit deeper into this numbers and unearth their dirty little secrets.
At first glance, the competition against which Smoak hit these home runs is encouraging. With the likes of Zack Greinke, and C.J Wilson mixed in there one could easily assume that the power and ability is legitimate. However if you dig deeper, dusting past the surface you’ll begin to notice a few things. First of all, Mike Trout was quoted recently stating how difficult it was to stay focused after being eliminated from the race. While the HR of of Wilson was measured to be plenty by ESPN’s HR tracker, the one off of Greinke was assessed to be just enough and lucky. The previous three home runs were hit off less than elite pitching, late in the ballgame against a fatigued starter or non threatening reliever, in ball parks more hitter friendly than even the new and improved SafeCo field.
Smoak hasn’t discovered anything new, he is succeeding where he has succeeded before. He had already shown us the ability to crush minor league talent, but throughout the course of the season, when the arms are fresh, and the talent is legitimate, Smoak struggles. He will struggle again if given the opportunity to start next season, and who knows how far back he could set the Mariners back if he starts stringing together another season of horrible baseball. The Mariners have to look elsewhere, they have to find an upgrade over Justin Smoak. Because if they don’t, fans and the organization alike, are going to be severely disappointed.