Justin Smoak's 2011 - What Happened?

Last night Dave Cameron posted an interesting article over at about the team attempting to acquire Joey Votto instead of Prince Fielder. Now if Fielder comes to Seattle it is generally assumed he would take the role of DH, but with Votto being a slick fielding first baseman it got people in the comments talking about what happens to Justin Smoak, would the team trade him? Is he a good enough hitter to occupy DH? One commenter said that Smoak has not proven himself as a major league hitter and that he should be flipped to allow Carp to hold onto the DH. Personally I think that this is a supid idea as Smoak is thought of as the more talented player. If anything, Carp should be traded while his stock is high, but I digress. The point of this is to take a look at Justin Smoak's 2011 and make a hypothesis as to what went wrong. I know Jeff touched on this earlier in the season, but I think what went wrong was June 25th and how the aftermath was dealt with.

One June 25th Marlin's pitcher Randy Choate hit Smoak with a pitch on the hand. Now from what I know I can say the hands are very vital when it comes to holding and swinging an item, in this case let's say... a baseball bat. I would imagine any sort of pain or soreness would inhibit one's ability to swing this item with the authority and skill that swinging with pain free hands would. However the Mariners claimed that nothing was wrong with Smoak and continued to play him as their everyday first baseman from the 26th until he was hit in the face and forced to go on the DL on August 12th. Jeff previously looked at some of Smoak's slump and pre slump numbers, but now that he's back from the DL we have some "post slump" numbers to look at as well!

April 1 - June 25

.260/.372/.480/.852 with 16 HR, 18 2B, 44 BB and 56 K's

June 26 - September 1

.131/.198/.178/.376 with 0 HR, 5 2B, 11 BB and 29 K's

September 2 - September 14 (his most recent game)

.326/.396/.465/.861 with 2 HR, 0 2B, 4 BB and 13 K's

The two extra base hits in 13 games is a bit concerning, but it's only 13 games. Again even though it's 13 games it's encouraging to see Smoak hitting again and it could give some evidence that yes, indeed there was something wrong with his hand. It seems all too convenient that his slump started the day after being hit and didn't end until he finally had extended time to rest and heal.

On the other hand, someone could argue he can't cut it for an entire season and his slump was due to fatigue. That he only came out of it because he had time to rest. I don't think that he would have been drafted in the first round and thought so highly of if there were questions about his stamina and the HBP is an extremely convincing catalyst.

If we take the slump out Smoak's season line would read as .270/.374/.478/.852, to me that seems like a legitimate amount of production from him. It was awesome when he was OPS'ing in the .900-1.000 range, but somewhere around the mid to high .800's seems like where his true talent may lie.

In this non expert's opinion Smoak is a middle of the order bat who needs to recognize when he hurts himself and take the time to heal so that he can give as much production to this team as possible. Unfortunately the slump put a damper on his season and certainly doesn't help him put a lockdown on first base for 2012, but he is still a young player to be excited about and someone to build a team around.

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