State of the Smoak, 2
Do what with him?


"I believe in paying my dues, in watching the kids figure things out.  It makes winning more fun." - Bill James


Q.  Leaving him where?

A.  Well, so if this interpretation be true ... he's got his head together now, he's got talent, he's got power, he's playing his game ... but he just hasn't seen enough pitches yet in his career.

This would mean that he's in a position to learn much more quickly.  You don't learn much at all when you're in full-on retreat mode.  If you're losing 15-1 to somebody at racquetball, and totally humiliated in front of your boss or girlfriend, are you getting better?  Never happen.  You learn when you're doing your thing and better players are beating you.  To me, that's what's going on with Justin Smoak at the moment.

Smoak has had 2,000 pro at-bats,* majors and minors combined, and his OPS+ stands at 89 right now.  Carlos Guillen had 2,700 combined before he stopped having 90 OPS+ years ... then he had one fairly good season, and then he became an MVP.  Cecil Fielder had 1,900 minors and NPB at-bats*, plus 400 in Toronto, before he became an overnight sensation with a .592 SLG in the majors.

You could find guys who needed 4,000 pro at-bats to jell.  You could find John Olerud, who needed 1.  You could find Michael Jordan, who would probably have never learned.

If I (or anybody) were to say "Justin Smoak is due to jell at [a particular time, such as this particular time]" we'd be guessing.  Neither would a comps list help.  Players roughly comparable to Justin Smoak include John Olerud, Carlos Guillen, and Cecil Fielder.  Players roughly comparable to Justin Smoak include every pheenom power hitter who was rushed to the big leagues.  How do you create a template and a comps list for "a batter who is trying to recognize pitch spin"?

Honestly, tonight it looked like he has his own head together - took 'im long enough - and there's nothing for it but to wait until he starts "seeing" pitch types out of the pitcher's hand.


Q.  Do what with him?

A.  Spectator suggested doing a Michael Saunders with him.  Ya, they'll do that, at worst.  We talked about Smoak "getting beaten" ... the kid does have a .400 OBP and .550 SLG this month.  Thing is, the mainframe says that won't last.  But his performance right now on breaking stuff is meehhhhh, not terrible.  On fastballs it's sensational.  He could, in theory, cobble a 120 OPS+ out of that game, immediately.

But Saunders him?  Brilliant idea, which he may have leapfrogged.  Smoak looks as if he's turned a corner, the way he's managing the pitches.  Not the last corner he needs to turn, but a corner.

Should be much more fun to watch him after, than before.


Dr D



IcebreakerX's picture

You could say it's recognition, but has Justin ever hit a curveball or anything with a wrinkle in the past?
The only reason I ask is, it's quite obvious that the M's have suddenly gotten really good at diagnostic coaching, if Smoak and Saunders stick.
But if the remedy to Smoak (and to an extent Saunders) is simply reducing the swing and telling him to keep his top hand on the bat, what are the odds Smoak's awful pitch recognition is really a byproduct of him repeating DON'TLETGODON'TLETGODON'TLETGO in his head over and over and over and over?
Any numbers to suggest one or the other?


Olerud should teach some of these young guys that sweet swing of his and contribute to the institutional knowledge of the Mariner's organization.  The Mariners could use a borderline hall of famer who happens to be a Seattleite to boost morale in the clubhouse.  Besides, it would be good for Olerud.  He's probably sitting at home on his couch, too rich to work, too old to play baseball, and going so crazy with boredom that he is thinking about chopping down his neighbor's tree.
Bring the helmeted one out of retirement.  Its a win-win for everyone!


Must say that I completely agree with DC over at USSM. His point about seeing this kind of 10-day streak from Smoak before is appropriate. It looks like hes getting tons of fast balls right now. That shall not continue.


Think you'll find if you go back and analyze his HR's, you'll find a disproportionate number occured on pitches 83-87 MPH.  In fact for a while I was wondering if he had a slider-speed bat.
Lemme check ... yep, the pitch values on cutters and sliders are his best, career.  The fastball splits are a new thing for September, and a good thing IMHO.
Fascinating however that big slow curves - rare in baseball - are an Achilles' heel.  This September he has simply stopped swinging at them, which is an approach I endorse :- )


My impression was that the tree dispute was pretty routine.  It's a huge tree, the view is important, and if I owned the tree I'd consider "selling" it to Olerud.  No legal obligation of course.
As a specialist in the arguing field Mojo, how would you "arbitrate" between Olerud and his neighbor if you were to lunch with both of them and they simply asked your opinion?


Olerud has a few things working against him in the tree dispute:
1. The tree was there when he built the house. Whatever arrangements he made for his view should have been made before he built the house or bought the lot.
2. Trees, though common, are priceless. If you chop one down that you particularly like, you will never get another one exactly like it. You are dealing with a unique creature; A man can chop down a tree but only God can create one.
3. By account this tree was particularly rare. The article says it was a Chinese Pine and that it was old.
4. Further, a pine tree is particularly inoffensive. It doesn't pollute the neighbor's yard with leaves or seedlings or poop, it doesn't yap like a dog, it doesn't run along the ground and sprout in wierd areas like a Red Aldar or a bamboo, it doesn't eat the neighbor's wild birds from their bird feeder, like a cat, it doesn't abut any property line so that it is intrusive, the roots are not breaking or unsettling any concrete or foundation, it is not dangerous to little children, it does not carry any loathsome disease, and it does not grow at an alarming rate. Further, the objection to the tree is purely aesthetic, rather than causing any real economic harm. The tree is not costing Olerud his livelihood.
These factors combine to create a situation that money cannot fix. It is impossible for Olerud to pay for repairs, to make both parties happy. So, while this tree might be a small thing to some owners, who could then come to a reasonable agreement for its removal, if an owner likes the tree for its individuality, then an agreement will be unreachable.
I don't view this as a small or minor situation blown up by the media. To want the tree removed is one thing, but to sue for its removal is quite another. There are many things that people desire that they should not sue over. Further, Olerud does damage to the Christian faith by telling the zoning board that his neighbor is not a good Christian because he does not cut down the tree as asked. The Bible states that Christians should have the Church arbitrate disputes between them so as not to bring the faith into discredit. 1 Cor. 6:7. Olerud, whether he likes it or not, is a particularly influental person, so when he says these things, it reaches a larger audience than he probably intended. He should leave his private obsessions out of the public eye.

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