Mariners Insider

When is a ‘great’ at-bat not all that great?

Post by Larry Larue / The News Tribune on July 14, 2012 at 2:16 pm with 6 Comments »
July 14, 2012 2:16 pm
Justin Smoak

When an orgainzation admits its looking not just for tangible results from its players, but for ‘indicators’ that talent is emerging, you get the situation the Seattle Mariners find themselves in – raves about at-bats that produce …. outs.

It happened last night, after a 10-pitch at-bat by Justin Smoak with the bases loaded in the fourth inning of a game Seattle lost, 3-2. In it, Smoak fouled off a handful of pitches, hitting one into the upper deck in left field, well foul.

After the game, manager Eric Wedge said Smoak gave the team a “great” at-bat, tough on the 10th pitch he popped up to shortstop for the second out of the inning.

“That was probably my best at-bat of the season,” Smoak said. “ If I could have delivered there, we wouldn’t have batted in the ninth inning. I kept battling, fouling off pitches, hitting the ball hard. I’ve got to come through there.”

Smoak at least understood that, good as he felt in that at-bat, he’d failed to make the kind of out that would have scored a run – never mind a hit that might have changed a then-scoreless game. But in reporting what Wedge and Smoak said, and what’s been said much of this season in the Mariners clubhouse, are we in the media painting an accurate picture?

The job is just that, reporting. What they say makes the papers, and if you disagree with it, it’s not your place as a beat writer to say ‘well, not really.’

So here’s a little added perspective. After the game last night, scouts from other teams were not quite so complimentary of Mariners at-bats. One said Smoak was ‘clearly cheating’ on fastballs, which is why he kept pulling 94 mph fastballs foul. That approach also leaves him completely vulnerable to off-speed pitches.

Scouts, like players and managers, are fallible. What they say about Smoak or Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager or Jesus Montero may be colored by which team they represent, what night they see him and who they’re sitting next to in the stands.

‘Great’ at-bats, however, more often than not result in a pop up. We can probably all agree on that.

Leave a comment Comments → 6
  1. westside_guy says:

    I’m not a fan of Wedge; but I think we have to take statements like this one with a grain of salt. One of his roles is to protect his players and do what he can to further their development – and making a statement like “Smoak had a great at bat” may just be a matter of him trying to help Smoak’s confidence or to shield him somewhat.

    Frankly that’s one of the few things I think Wedge does well – protect the players (until he gets totally fed up and cuts loose!).

    That said, I think when Carp comes back – Smoak needs to head to AAA for a while. He’s currently lost when he’s facing decent major league pitching. I don’t know whether Carp is really going to be a major league asset; but at this moment in time Smoak is definitely not.

  2. I have been down on Smoak, but I think the “scouts” critique of that at bat is wrong. They say he was “cheating” on the fastball which made him vulnerable to the off-speed pitch.

    Well, after Smoak crushed those two fastballs foul, the Rangers came back with an off-speed pitch (I think it was a straight change). They saw the same thing the scouts did. What did Smoak do? He stayed on it and fouled it off.

    I remember it because I was thinking the same thing – that Smoak was going to strike out on the off-speed. The fact that he didn’t, that he stayed with the pitch says a lot.

    Now if he could turn that into a hit, we’d have something.

  3. I agree with jtmyers. I’m no scout, but I watched that at bat and felt that Smoak is improving. Was quite disappointed in the final result, of course. I’ll feel a whole lot better about it if it translate to some positive results in tonight’s game.

  4. bbnate420 says:

    He’s looked pretty lost tonight so far.

  5. Didn’t see much of the game–did see the walk, he wasn’t flailing–but the numbers don’t look good.

  6. I think Wedge’s hands are tied.

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