This past off-season, I started making fun little projections, and to my surprise Justin Smoak looked like he should have been an identical hitter to Justin Upton (on the threads “Justin vs. Justin” and “Smoak and Mirrors”), and possibly a better hitter. I surmised Smoak was a hidden gem who needed out of Seattle, and strongly urged Cherington to make a move. Of all the recommendations I made, there was no player I campaigned for louder and more often than Smoak.
Smoak then proceeded to start the season hitting with even less the firepower of the Salvation Army, and made me question my methods. And to make it look worse, Upton came out of the gate hitting more moonshots than NASA, just to slap me with an even bigger dose of reality.
However, in a fit of Karmic Justice, the kind of windfall that can only be brought about only by the Sample Size Gods, order has been restored and once again I have confidence in my methods. As of today, the season totals are a little more even:
Smoak: .273 / .372 / .437 / .809OPS (134 OPS+) in 339PA
Upton: .267 / .358 / .473 / .831OPS (125 OPS+) in 468PA
Upton has the power advantage, some of which could be related to ballpark, with 20HRs to Smoak’s 11. Some also might related to an oblique injury that Smoak seems to have incurred at some point. This injury is why Smoak has significantly lower PA totals, as he missed a lot of time. And this HR advantage is at least somewhat countered by the clear OPS+ advantage that Smoak has. Any attempt to argue that Upton has anything but marginally better should include that Smoak has been injured and plays in a bigger ballpark. And then try to explain the OPS+ disadvantage that still includes his insane April contributions.
Since Smoak came off the DL on June 18, the two players have hit as follows:
Smoak: .309 / .396 / .540 (.936OPS) with 8 HR in 159 PA.
Upton: .299 / .361 / .471 (.832 OPS) with 5 HR in 175 PA
Granted, small sample size, and no OPS+ number is available, although we can expect it would strongly favor Smoak.
However, Smoak’s ultra-slow start should not be completely ignored. If we look at both hitters since May 1, an arbitrary date that should satisfy dgalehouse’s need for round numbers as well as eliminate the majority of the increasingly apparent inaccuracy of the hot start for Upton, and the numbers still favor Smoak.
Smoak: .291 / .390 / .509 (.899OPS) with 10 HRs in 228PA
Upton: .258 / .354 / .393 (.747 OPS) with 8HRs in 356 PA.
Again, fewer PA for Smoak, but this span does envelope his DL stint, and even includes some of his injury-related struggles.
While I later called myself out for what looked like an obviously egregious prediction on some thread whose title I cannot recall, I am now realizing that maybe there is something to what I was doing. I think Ben needs to bring me on as a consultant.
Maybe I should also revisit my recommendation that the Sox take Francisco Liriano (175 ERA+) over Ryan Dempster (93ERA+). (Maybe I should also realize the players whose projections look surprisingly good tend to get injured a lot.)
Or maybe I should see what happens with even bigger sample sizes. Such as an actual season…