It will be a little shorter morning blog post since I had a morning flight and they lost my luggage (on a one-hour flight from Dallas to Houston) and it won’t be delivered to the hotel till game time. So I gotta go out find a clean shirt to wear.
Perhaps something like …. THIS
Before I get to the links, the much-traveled Casper Wells was claimed off of waivers by the Oakland A’s. He’ll join John Jaso on the roster. It’s almost as if GM Billy Beane is trolling the Mariners blogosphere.
I predicted that Wells would be DFA’d by the Blue Jays before May 20. And I was right. Not sure about this situation. But the A’s really can use as him a 5th outfielder instead of having Michael Taylor sit on the bench and not play every day.
Speaking of the blogs …
Dave Cameron of USS Mariner and Fangraphs writes about Justin Smoak. The numbers and the analysis are not pretty. Basically, Dave believes the Smoak we are seeing now is all he will ever be. From the piece ….
That’s the kind of power that the revamped, new-and-improved Justin Smoak has shown since the beginning of last September. Overhauled Justin Smoak hits for about as much power as Casey Kotchman. You might look at the overall line and say “hey, a .342 wOBA, I’ll take that”, but note what’s driving that mark — a .336 BABIP which is simply not sustainable for a guy with Smoak’s profile. He’s extremely slow, he hits the ball in the air a decent amount, and he hits his fair share of pop-ups. That is not the profile of a guy who is going to post a high BABIP over any real length of time. Take the air out of those numbers, and you’re basically left with a guy who takes some walks and has gap power, but also strikes out at about an average rate, so he won’t hit for enough average to overcome the fact that he just doesn’t hit the ball very hard all that often.
This is, essentially, the inevitable conclusion that evidence forces us to draw: Justin Smoak is just not very strong. He’s never been very strong. He’s never really hit for power in any kind of extended sample. Even going back to the minors, he has a career .407 slugging percentage in Triple-A. That’s in 559 plate appearances, all of them in the PCL, which is the most hitter friendly league in organized baseball. In 50 games at Double-A as a 22-year-old, he had a whopping 16 extra base hits.
It’s tough to argue with what Dave is written. I really believed that some of the swing changes would make Smoak better. I didn’t think he was a 30 homer guy, but I didn’t think 15 to 20 were out of the question.
I’ve noticed he’s picking up a lot of pre-swing movement again, including a lot in the lower half, and at times he doesn’t load his legs properly or stay balanced. It’s something that happens. He’s also getting a lot of top hand on his swing, and hitting the ball with top spin instead of backspin. Also he needs to make an adjustment, teams are throwing him breaking balls and a lot of them. And he’s just not doing much with them.
I don’t know if Smoak will ever be the player people hoped he could be. But I do think he’s still better than what we’ve seen so far. How much better? I don’t know.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo looks at Justin Verlander’s decrease in velocity in his fastball this season in his “10 degrees” column. Felix Hernandez and his drop in velocity is the second degree of it.
As for the road trip so far, it’s been pretty bad. The strikeouts are alarming. I know people are calling for Smoak, Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero to be sent down. I think we are about two weeks away from something like that happening, maybe longer. It’s not just the Mariners being stubborn and refusing to send a player down, it’s about having a viable replacement to put in their place. Until Michael Saunders comes back it could be an issue since the Mariners starting center fielder can’t play back to back days yet. I guess there is Eric Thames, who is putting up numbers with the Rainiers. Though he’s also put up numbers at the Triple A Level. But he’d be another sub-par defender to go with other sub-par defender.
People will say call up Mike Zunino. We’ve seen that he needs seasoning at the plate and behind it still. People will say call up Nick Franklin, but he’s still got plenty to do with his approach and he started the season behind a little. Rich Poythress is the starting 1B in Tacoma and in his first season there. You could bring up Alex Liddi and to some shifting around.
It’s 20 games into the season. I don’t think the Mariners will continue to play this poorly and hit this poorly. I’m not saying they will suddenly transform into a juggernaut. But it probably won’t stay this bad. If it does, then I will be covering firing and hirings.