We spend so much time talking about Mariners who are doing very well or very poorly. It makes sense, since after all, those are the performances that we notice and that stand out in a long, long season. Kyle Seager has 20+ homers for, like, the first time in team history! Edwin Diaz only strikes people out! Joaquin Benoit is bad but he's not ours anymore!
We also notice the players who are particularly outspoken or whose personalities come through all the time. Even when Felix isn't KING FELIX, he's still the King of our hearts, and he stands out at all times, if we're focusing on him or not.
Yet some guys seem to always remain below the radar, never drawing much attention or fanfare. They show up to the ballpark every day, working their everyday job, then driving home with the kids in tow.
Here's to that player. Here's to Seth Smith, the Underappreciated Mariner.
Now, Seth, like the entire team, had a disappointing June, with an OPS of just .631 and a wRC+ of 72. That's right - a corner outfielder without much defensive or baserunning value, if any, wasn't even hitting.
But when that calendar flipped to July, a light switch flipped on in Seth's brain. This month, All-Star Dad has slashed .302/.393/.585 with an outstanding 167 wRC+. Obviously, he's not that good of a hitter - that figure would make him the best hitter in all of baseball - and upon further inspection, he's definitely getting lucky. He has a robust HR/FB rate of 40% this month, well above his lifetime rate of 11.7%. He's also helped by his platoon status, which gives him a high proportion of favorable matchups especially when compared to everyday players.
I don't want to spend time pointing out his luck or his flaws, however. Seth Smith is the kind of player you need to win ballgames. He hits the ball really hard: just 11.9% of his contact is classified by Fangraphs as soft contact, well below the league-wide rate of 18.8% and good for 7th-best in the league among all players with at least 250 plate appearances.
His consistency has also been remarkable. Since breaking into the league in 2007, Smith has a wRC+ of below league average just once for a full season, and that year it was still 95.
Really, he just gets the job done. Here he is going with the pitch and getting a nice-if-fluky RBI double, which also served as his 200th career two-bagger.
And in this one, Smith takes advantage of an Ubaldo Jimenez meatball and makes him pay, going yard for his first career grand slam and his fourth home run in as many games.
(Also of note in that video - Dave Sims is criticized from time to time by many M's fans, but this call was pretty outstanding.)
Seth Smith, Professional Hitter is fun to watch. And his importance to this lineup isn't something to sneeze at. Just ask Kyle Seager, also-noted Professional Hitter, as quoted by my friend and fellow Garfield High graduate Maddie Lee in the recap from that Orioles sweep.
"He always puts together a professional at-bat, but over the course of the season, you get hot and you get going. And it's been a lot of fun for us to kind of jump on his back."
The Mariners jumped on his back and, in doing so, revitalized their season. They'll need him to keep hitting and keep playing well if they want any chance at making the postseason - and I think he can do it.
P.S. I really wasn't kidding about driving with those kids.
Spotted: Seth Smith buckling his kids into the family mini van in the team parking lot. This is real. He does it all.— Aaron Goldsmith (@aaronmgoldsmith) July 3, 2016