Re: How about Justin Smoak?
posted at 1/5/2013 5:49 PM EST
In response to hill55's comment:
On the subject of 100-point drops in OPS, last season opposing hitters posted a .626 OPS at Safeco Field and a .777 OPS against Seattle pitchers at their home parks.
For Mariner hitters, the disparity was not as great: .622 at home and .703 on the road.
It's tough to draw conclusions when one player went from a hitter-friendly minor league environment to pitcher-friendly MLB venue, and another player went from a pitcher-friendly minor league environment to a hitter-friendly MLB venue.
In the last 30 years, there have been 55 first baseman (including Smoak) who have been given 1,000+ plate appearances through their age 25 season. Every single one of them hit better than Smoak has, and weâÂÂre not just talking raw numbers that can be explained away by Safeco Field or the change in run environments. By wRC+, which accounts for both a playerâÂÂs home park and the average performance of the league at the time, SmoakâÂÂs 87 is the worst of the 55 players on the list.
Travis Lee was better. Greg Colbrunn was better. Casey Kotchman was better. John Mabrywas better. Conor Jackson was better. Brad Fullmer was better.
Yes, there are examples of guys who sucked early and then developed later. Erik Karros was lousy through age 26, then put together a nice five year run from 27-31, including two years where he was a legitimate all-star. Tino Martinez didnâÂÂt have his first really good year until he was 27, and then he had a nice little peak for a few years after that. Carlos Pena bounced around the league until he was 29 before turning into a monster. So, itâÂÂs not impossible that Justin Smoak will eventually become a fairly useful player.
ThereâÂÂs a few problems, though. The obvious one is the point weâÂÂve already made âÂÂ all of those guys were better through age 25 than Smoak, and they all produced at around an average clip before turning into above average hitters. Smoak hasnâÂÂt done that for more than a few weeks at a time. Here and there, he gives glimpses of being good, but over a consistent period of time, heâÂÂs never been more than just okay. All of those guys improved substantially, but they had long stretches earlier in their career where they were actually good. Smoak has never had a long stretch of being a good Major League hitter.
Beyond that, though, itâÂÂs worth noting that even the peaks of the guys who did improve werenâÂÂt all that great. Karros had +5 win seasons at 27 and 31, but from 28-30, he was basically an average player. Martinez had two +5 win seasons at 27 and 29, but was more of a +3 win player at 28, 30, and 31. These are the best case scenarios, and they were more solid players than stars. You wouldnâÂÂt mind having their peak years, but they werenâÂÂt franchise first baseman, and they didnâÂÂt have very long peaks even after they took a step forward.http://www.ussmariner.com/2012/06/26/giving-up-on-justin-smoak/