Justin Smoak and Spring Expectations


Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

When Justin Smoak was awarded starting duties at first base by manager Lloyd McClendon there was a collective groan from the Mariners blog-o-sphere. Just as it seemed that Mariners fans had had enough of Justin Smoak and his continuing disappointments, he was thrust into the limelight again. But this time we are all too hesitant to trust him.

Smoak has been hot and cold for nearly the entirety of his Mariners career. Splitting his 2013 season into two, there’s over a 50 point drop in his batting average and a drop of over 60 points in his OBP.

It’s not exceptionally shocking to see that he’s a streaky guy, that’s pretty much the one thing that’s guaranteed about Justin Smoak. The shocking think is that we were all surprised to hear when he was assigned first base, and then started to burn up the basepads in Peoria.

Justin Smoak is having the spring of a lifetime, as of today he’s batting .311/.380/.557, with three home runs and 10 RBIs. These are exceedingly good numbers for a guy who we had considered off the opening day lineup only a few short weeks ago.

More than that, Smoak has hit six of his 19 hits for doubles, giving him over half of his hits for extra bases. This is the kind of production that manager McClendon had tried to coax out of Smoak earlier in the spring, when he commented:

"“For me, Smoak is a guy who should hit 40-45 doubles and 20-25 home runs. Not the other way around. He can still be productive. He’s tried to put the cart before the horse.” – Lloyd McClendon on Justin Smoak"

Part of his production may have to do with the instruction of one Robinson Cano. It seems that Cano has taken Smoak under his wing lately, and has been working on some swing mechanics with him. No word yet on if Smoak has tried hitting beans down the hallway with a stick.

How much can we really trust spring results though?

I mentioned on Tuesday that there are some serious problems with the Mariner’s spring training roster assignments. That thought was echoed by BigDog330 in the comments “The Mariners are looking too hard at spring results once again”.

Lets put it this way, there’s plenty to be excited about, but the games don’t matter. Show me those same numbers in the regular season, and I’ll be one happy blogger, but show me those numbers in the spring, and there’s always a lingering doubt that we’ll see another Brandon Maurer come April.

Smoak is a streaky player, we know that. Right now he’s hot, but he could just as easily turn cold again. Eventually we might learn to trust it a bit more, and eventually Cano might be able to turn Smoak into the doubles-machine that McClendon is dreaming of.

In the mean time, Justin Smoak is leaving us little doubt as to why the Mariners were so quick to thrust him into the first base slot.