In a poll recently conducted through yours truly, it was discovered that 43% of the Sodo Mojo reader base would be willing to give Justin Smoak time well into next season in order to straighten things out. Another 25% said they would tolerate him until the end of the season. Nearly 70% of you, would find it acceptable for Smoak to struggle the rest of the season. Fortunately for the Mariners fan base, it doesn’t appear as though any of us will have to suffer much longer.
When I conducted that poll, Smoak had a measly .561 OPS. Today, a mere 9 days later, Smoak has heaved his OPS into the .621 range. Smoak has also pushed his HR rate from 16 to 23. While Smoak has sacrificed plate discipline in order to discover this sudden hot streak, it is an acceptable trade off until the former struggling first baseball can find some sort of balance.
He can’t do this forever though.
Over the course of the past 10 games, Smoak has walked once. Not a super big deal, considering the results have been kind, but this isn’t a habit he can carry on forever if he hopes to find an sort of steady success. Really, Smoak hasn’t been walking all year. In his previous two seasons, Justin sported a walk rate of 11% and 10% respectively. This season he is working around 5%…so he is walking about half as much. I considered that he could be experiencing troubles picking up the ball or perhaps his contact rates have plummeted leading to a lack of confidence. Both considerations brought negative results. Smoak just isn’t walking.
As I stated before, the results have been kind to Smoak recently, in spite of “a hit or nothing” approach. But why?
Recession to the mean.
Smoak was one unlucky guy pre-recently. Even in a season of massive struggles, he currently has the highest LD% of his career at 16%. So lets take a look at this semi-mathematically. Crude math Matthias, sorry. If a line drive falls in for a hit 75% of the time and Smoak has 21 line drives, 16 of those should have been a base knock. Should be, except we have seen with our own eyes how many times Smoak has had those line drives taken away from him. On this visual evidence alone we can be certain that 75% of Smoak’s line drives have not fallen in for base hits. This is mirrored in his BABIP, which is floating down around .246.
His luck couldn’t continue to suffer forever however. So while he has only drawn a single walk in 10 games, Smoak is finally getting those base hits that have been taken away from him prior. The formula isn’t perfect, but for the time being it is working for him.
As the rest of the season goes on, Smoak is going to have to relearn how to draw a few more walks if he hopes to continue building on this sudden success. The hits have begun to fall in an while that is certainly nice to see, he can’t sacrifice his discipline to make it happen. I’m happy to see this turn around and I want Smoak to ensure it keeps going.