Justin Smoak hits a 108-MPH homer
Time to turn that moosh into muscle.


Just a token nod to the blue and teal so's Matt doesn't file litigation over finding more sophisticated sports onsite :- )


Justin Smoak scored and drove in the M's only run, on a 426-foot shot off a 17-win pitcher who otherwise fired a shutout.  ESPN's home run tracker gives us the trend on the force with which Smoak has hit his 2012 home runs.  The most recent dingers are at the top of the chart.  

The tags are No Doubt, Plenty (normal HR), or Just Enough.  You could project a hitter's next HR year off clustering of No Doubters or Just Enoughs.  As we recall, Adrian Beltre hit a ton of JE's among his 25 homers in 2008; he then hit 8 homers in 2009.


You probably noticed for yourself how many of the first 11 dingers were below average (103.5 MPH) in their speed off the bat.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but the weather, wind conditions, etc. in Safeco Field wouldn't have much or anything to do with speed off the bat.

It's a pleasure to look at that near-perfect little trend among the most recent 5 dingers.  And, hm, when was the last time Justin Smoak hit a 108+ MPH shot ... one since April 2011, off Andy Sonnanstine.  Smoak used to hit these 108+ MPH homers more routinely:  two of his first four 2011 homers were 110+ ... wouldn't it be nice if somebody went and organized his Speed Off Bat trends for us?

Oh, wait, somebody did:  ThirteenOfTwo has a magnificent article that endeavors to track the impact of Justin Smoak's hand injury (and swing speed) by using Speed Off Bat, line drive rate, fly ball rate, etc.  He reminds us that Smoak's rookie season, 2010, was comparable to Jesus Montero's this year, and that in April 2011 he came charging out of the gate with a .280/.400/.525 month.  Not long after, he cracked both his thumbs.  Not long after that, pitchers stopped walking him.  Other things happened too.  See Thirteen's assessment.

A rival fan there battles Thirteen to the death, fighting for his right to tag Justin Smoak as a player who was feeb to begin with.  However, you the SSI reader watch both Batted Ball data and the CF camera, and you remember Smoak's effortless home runs the opposite way, back in 2010.  You remember him in 2H 2011 and all during 2012, swinging mightily at the ball, watching it caught 10 feet in front of the warning track, and cursing the ballpark for its injustice.  


There is no question that Smoak's power is gone for one reason or another.  Certainly the Mariners are wit'choo on this one.  They're sending him home this winter with a public challenge to "Get Stronger."  

I guess we need Gordon here, or Dr. G, or somebody who's fractured their thumbs and tried to hit 108-MPH homers.  Is it likely that Smoak's thumbs, recovering under stress the whole time, are only now bouncing back to full strength?  

Following Dr. G's earlier Nostradamus-like prophecy on Felix ... perhaps Smoak's painful thumbs got him a little bit out of the habit of doing his bench presses? The Mariners have all of Smoak's weightlifting specs and they don't like them.


Before Smoak's 108-MPH homer tonight, he had three hits and a 106-MPH homer last night.  He was .281/.361/.406 his last 11 games, before two more hits and an HR tonight.

Spectator had the right idea.  Hopefully Justin Smoak gets to take over Michael Saunders' seat in "Honorable Dry Dock" at Seattle.  Nice that he's given a flash of the old power before he does so.


ghost's picture

Doc...I don't mind the football articles...I swear I don't. :) I don't like the sport, but it's your blog and there are a ton of football fans in Seattle.
As for Smoak...the hand injuries, his father's death and a bit of young laziness I think have combined to sap his power. Do you remember when Matt Lawton had that one really good year and then the next season sucked because he tore up his grip thumb? Or when something simmilar happened to Craig Biggio for about half a season because he kept getting plunked on the hands?


2012 – One ND, 7 JEs
2011 – Zero ND, 6 JEs
Speed off the Bat (MPH) of the 2011 Just Enoughs: 110.0, 110.4, 106.0, 105.1, 109.9, 102.8. Only one of those was below average. He was CRUSHING line drives that barely made the seats, either because of trajectory or (Safeco or Comerica) park effects. FYI, Justin only homered in 3 parks last year: Safeco, Comerica and Cleveland’s Progressive. That’s…weird.
The whole thing is weird. You don’t country-strong a 420-foot oppo shot into the Safeco pen in May and then hit weak, slow shots the rest of the time unless you’re screwing something up in your approach…or are injured. Did he get tired of smashing balls that died on the warning track early in the year and decide to swing under balls a little more to get more loft, thus losing batted-ball velocity and power? There were times it sure looked like he's been an upper-body swinger, but was that because of hamstring issues that took his lower body out of the equation?
There was a lot wrong with Smoak the last 15 months. He was injured. Both thumbs being busted up was a problem. Swing trajectory became an issue, as did rotational mechanics. I am HOPING that Pentland put Smoak’s Humpty Dumpty act back together again during his time in Tacoma, but there’s no way I’d bet on it, because he’s spent the last year being discombobulated.
With multiple factors at work in his demise, it means repair on multiple fronts to get him simply to the “productive” stage of his career, forget star-level. I’m hoping the work has begun, and I still think 27-28 year old Smoak is gonna crush it for someone, a la Mike Morse in Washington.
Whether we think that will happen with us, next year… couldn’t speak to it. He and Carp have had lost years that we couldn’t afford. Our sOPS+ at the 1B position (relative to league) is 62. Sixty TWO. The only worse position on the field was SS, and Brendan Ryan makes up for it with his glove in ways Smoak cannot and never will. With proper 1B contributions we’re above .500 and in the wildcard chase.
We can’t lose next year to the same problem. Catcher, 3B and CF were fine for us this year. 2B is all right. We can add offense to SS by platooning Franklin with Ryan, easy-peasy. Our problem, as always, is corner power. LF, RF, 1B and DH, all crusher positions, were all in the 60s as far as sOPS goes. Maybe that’s a Safeco problem, or a young-hitter problem, but whatever it is, we need to fix it. And betting on the guy with a half-dozen issues to get them all corrected by next spring isn’t gonna make me happy.
Unless we fix another corner with a massive upgrade, anyway. We ARE planning to upgrade and not just move deck chairs next year, aren’t we?


I don't think we need Franklin. They say you deal from positions of strength, right? Well, Franklin's getting moved off shortstop, Miller's staying there, and over at 2B we've still got Romero, Lopes, Marder... Ackley... Ryan's production, if he can just hit a LITTLE, is fine. Even this year is fine. I'll take 2 WAR out of SS, even if it's all the glove. But no, I think Jack Z can and will deal Franklin with impunity to bring back the pieces he wants. As for positions of strength: still got an amazing set of starting pitching prospects (Walker, Hultzen, Paxton, Maurer, Ramirez, Beavan, Fernandez, etc.) and an amazing, young, cheap MLB bullpen (Pryor, Capps, Wilhelmsen, etc.). To top it off, this free agent class, while awful as a whole, has absurd depth in the outfield: Bourn, Swisher, Ross, Pagan, Cabrera, Upton, the list goes on. Jack Z has both massive trade resources and a sweet free agent market to fill the outfield whole. And yes, it's only one outfield hole: the OF sOPS+ disasters largely came from Figgins and Ichiro, who are gone now. Guti/Saunders/New Guy is a very good outfield, and even Guti/Saunders/Thames/Wells probably produces at an acceptable level.
But you're right. Someone's gotta fill the 1B hole. Whether it's Carp, or "resurgent" Smoak, or a trade acquisition (it won't be an FA), that needs plugging. My money's on Carp at the moment, but I'll admit it doesn't look amazing.
Still, this is an offseason where Z had tremendous trade resources plus a whole lot of payroll space and a free agent market seemingly tailored perfectly to suit our needs. Conveniently, it has coincided with a time when the Mariners are basically just a .500 team playing a hard schedule, only a few WAR from the playoffs. Now is the time; go big or go home.


But if we wanted a platoon, well Nick is a far better LH hitter than right, and Ryan is the perfect defensive replacement for a shaky offensive SS in later innings and against lefties. They fit well together to get us better offensive performance without sacrificing D.
I agree with you though, I think Nick Franklin and a frontline minor league pitcher are going out this winter (with some bullpen guys or other things) to get a vet hitter who can actually, you know, HIT. Unlike the vets on this team now.
I also wouldn't be surprised to add a FA pitcher, of all things, just to make sure Hultzen doesn't have to be a #2 the second he's promoted. If we're aiming at the playoffs next season and preparing for potentially no Felix after 2014, then you'd want to get your playoff rotation issues settled immediately, and it's got to be easier to get FA pitchers to come here than hitters.
Trade for a hitter, sign a FA pitcher, maybe grab a second tier FA OF, promote another stud younger or two from the Hultzen/Walker/Paxton/Zunino/Franklin group, with Romero/Miller/Smith/Burgoon/etc laying in wait as Seager was a coupla years ago, and see what happens.


Weird, ain't it?  :- )
Which is why speed off bat would usually mean more than landing spots ... fortunately ESPN gives you that.  ... the only exception would be if some hitter defeated himself by hitting sky-high balls like Russell Branyan... but then, that guy would be have a lovely flyball ratio.
I hadn't thought of it that way:  "Smoak and Carp lost years we couldn't afford."  Hadn't occurred:  maybe a player is going to be good, but maybe you don't got time ta wait.

StalkCutter's picture

It's my guess Captian Z isn't trolling Franklin this winter. However, I bet many GM's and Franklin himself wish he were.
Nobody who wants a World Series ring wants to play in Seattle.


CF Franklin Gutierrez, IF Nick Franklin, and RP Shawn Kelley to St. Louis for OF Allen Craig. The Cardinals could use Death To Flying Things for a year in center field as an excuse to move Jay over to a corner, Kelley upgrades their wanting middle relief corps, and Franklin represents a reasonable replacement for the aging Furcal and Schumaker, neither of whom are that amazing. Their farm is remarkably bare for infield prospects other than Kolten Wong, but they're loaded with slugging OFs like Matt Adams and Matt Carpenter. Both teams would be dealing from strength. The Mariners, on the other hand, don't need one more year of Guti, especially considering the injury risk he represents. Sign a free agent outfielder like Swisher, Pagan, Bourn or Upton for the other job. Best part of this deal is that it averts the need to fix the 1B hole: if Smoak/Carp faceplant, move Craig to 1B and Thames/Wells can platoon for the LF job. Now all that's left is to sign a bargain basement FA starter like Bedard and call it a day.
SP Danny Hultzen and SS Brad Miller to Kansas City for OF Wil Myers. The Royals, let's face it, need pitching more than they need hitting. Way more. WAY more. They can afford to swap a #3 overall hitting prospect for a #9 overall pitching prospect, then take a couple of second-tier guys in the deal at positions of need for their big league club (their middle infield is almost as bad as their rotation). The Mariners, as with Montero, get a young and highly touted offensive prospect in return for a young, highly touted pitching prospect. Myers plugs in in one outfield slot with Gutierrez and Saunders at the other two: no need for a free agent acquisition here. Go spend all the money on Zack Greinke and enjoy your new pitching staff of death in front of an incredible defensive outfield to go with your incredible defensive infield.
SP James Paxton and SP Blake Beavan to Minnesota for OF Josh Willingham. Remember how the Royals need pitching? The Twins are worse. Blake Beavan would be their #2 immediately. Besides, they've got four outfielders (Willingham, Doumit, Span, Revere) for three slots, and not all of them can stick around. All of those contracts are amazing, and if I'd known he was going to be that cheap I'd have been a little miffed that the Mariners didn't manage to sign Willingham last offseason, but his contract is somehow the least team-friendly of the bunch. He's not as young as Myers or Craig, which is why Paxton is the only member of Cerberus on the table (no matter who your favorite is, Paxton is by far the least valuable of the three on the trade market right now). He's also not controlled for nearly as long. But he simultaneously provides the Craig "you don't need to spend on 1B" advantage AND the Myers "you don't need to spend on OF" advantage. Now you can splurge on a pitcher AND lock up all of your good guys immediately.
I'd be happy with any of these, though I tried to build each as a slight overpay on the Mariners' part so as to eliminate my pro-M's bias. The Myers deal obviously offers the most upside, but also the most risk. The Willingham deal is nice because you're getting a known quantity, not a guy who might implode in the major leagues, while building a safety net for two holes and still leaving cash to upgrade the rotation. The problem there, of course, is that Willingham isn't around for very long relative to Craig and Myers. The Craig deal is probably the best position player upgrade possible, providing a guy who's both young and "proven" (a full season of 150 wRC+ now) and around for ages while filling two position player holes. The problem, of course, is that it hampers your ability to upgrade at SP, since Craig would require more to acquire than either of the other two.

poinsette's picture

That is pretty bold considering that Franklin would have been eligible for the draft this year out of college and is already playing AAA. Miller? Let him get his feet wet - he is not a shortstop, maybe 3b or OF. Just because Franklin and triunfel are splitting equal time at 2nd, doesn't mean he is coming off SS.
Sick of watching Ryan. How many SO's and hits does he have? the defense is ok, maybe he should shave.


The defense is the best defense of any shortstop in baseball. Brendan Ryan seems to make at least one amazing play every game he's out there. He's saved at least half a dozen games for the M's pitching this year. The bat is frustrating to watch, yeah, but this is a down year. I fully expect him to bounce back with the bat and remain godly with the glove, which is a perfect acceptable major league player. Man, I wish we could DH for the shortstop, though.


...any of the other resurgent places this year. A few years ago none of em wanted to play in Tampa either. They'd play there now.
*shrugs* If given their choice between the Yankees and the Ms, I'm sure many players would take NY. Most players aren't given that choice. When we make a playoff run in the next 2 years it'll help swing perceptions about the org. Most national pundits have us as an up-and-comer with a HOF ace that needs a couple more pieces to really compete.
If a player buys into that, and thinks he's the piece... Money talks, but having that chance to chase a pennant or wildcard is important. Once we start getting named in the WC chase in late September, they'll want to play here. Not getting the #2 or #3 pick in the draft any more will help a lot too, and we've already gotten to that point.

poinsette's picture

And what makes you an authority on Ryan's defense - because the media says so? A lot of plays Ryan makes him look like he is overworking it - ikn maybe because he is 30? Here's a novel idea, put a young, smooth fielding middle infielder there that can hit.

poinsette's picture

Why do some spectators constantly look for something positive in a consistent negative environment. Why not be the voice of objection in large numbers to try to turn things around. Also, name a big league name besides Ichiro who wants to play in Seattle - Oh - my bad, not even Ichiro! Or, look at it the other way around, what team is pounding on the door to trade for the big league guys we have. That's why you are set on trading the youth that have been successful because there is no trade bait at the big league level.
I bet there are a lot of GM's wanting a 21 year old "MIDDLE INFIELDER" who can compete at the AAA level. It's a shame that the Mariners in last place are not playing their top prospects in September. Name four fielding guys in Seattle's top prospect list that were called up.


Every defensive metric that exists says Ryan is the best defensive shortstop in baseball. Every. Single. One. DRS, UZR, even fielding percentage for that matter. A "smooth defensive" middle infielder would be worse than Ryan because there is no one in the major leagues better than Ryan. The media doesn't say Ryan is good at defense, it gives Gold Glove awards to Jeter. The media is silly and wrong about defense almost all of the time. But it is not wrong to assert Ryan's defensive value. Why do you continue to make claims without any evidence other than eyeballing that suggests he's overly enthusiastic?


I spent most of 2001-2008 asking whether the M's were going to offer truth in advertising.  Put a sandwich board outside clarifying that fans were buying a nice night in the open air, rather than a "pennant race" like every other team was selling.
But Franklin?  I'd say he most definitely wants to play in Seattle, as opposed to Tacoma.  WHICH major league team probably doesn't start mattering to rookies for a while.... ;- )
Bring it on StalkCutter :- )


It's not like the offense has been competent for very long.  There have been some barren cupboards for a long, long time and you're absolutely right:  it's been the bats that have been the biggest problemo.
Looks like times are a' changin' though.  Saunders and Seager, among others, have become org-developed players that any club would be glad to produce... wondering how many of the next wave are going to exceed them...

poinsette's picture

why do I continue to make claims without any evidence.......like your claims that Franklin should be bait.

StalkCutter's picture

Thirteen, It's called loyalty with an unrelenting prescription of bad-tasting reality. Sounds like you need a dose.
The M’s, 35 years in the league, 4 playoff appearances, and yet to appear in the World Series. Consistently finishing last and you want to validate and covet proven sub-Mendoza performers with subjective WAR measures.
The M’s fans have been exposed to successful baseball so infrequently many fans don’t know what a winning player looks like.

poinsette's picture

thirteen. you should stop cutting and pasting the stats because they do get updated. look up hardy and peralta, and they hit above the mendoza!

poinsette's picture

those are not top prospects, their on the 40 man roster - there's a top 20 prospect list, you might want to check it out.

Add comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><p><br>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.


  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.