A while back, I wrote a thread called “Justin and Justin” which gave normalized splits for both Upton and Smoak over a 3 year period. I was very surprised that while Smoak did equal Upton, but neither looked remarkable as hitters. In this process, Smoak proved to be good for a . 254 / .340 BA / OBP with 20 HRs. This was a good year for Smoak and hardly ridiculous numbers for one of the biggest BABIP sluggards in all of MLB. Basically, he looked like a hidden gem with some potential to go from bottom dweller to middle of the pack. Fairly modest numbers that I figured make a Plan D at best.
However, in this process I used Smoak’s normal HR/FB rate, which was 11.8%. I do that for everyone. Well, in the case of Smoak, there needs to be a clear addendum.
In his home park, Smoak is, to be kind, feeble. Last year his HR/FB rate is 4.9%. Now, on the road, his HR/FB rate was a rmuch better 19.5%, and for his career it is 15.8%. That is a pretty good improvement, albeit no into elite territory But if you think about what this means. Smoak is a guy who hits flyballs about 40% of the time. His road numbers indicate nearly one of every 6 will go for a HR anywhere but Seattle. So, if he gets 600 plate appearances, then after walks and strikeouts, his career indicates he would make contact about 430 times. If 40% go for flyballs, that means he puts the ball in the air about 172 times in a full season. If 16% of these go for home runs, that brings his estimated projection total in any ballpark not named Safeco to 27. I could live with that, especially from a buy low candidate.
I re-ran his projection with the elevated HR rate, and he figured to be a .265 / .350 hitter with 27 HRs (techncilly, 26.8). Ben, I know you never read my posts but go make a call about the price of The Freak from Goose Creek! The Mariners have some needs beyond outfielders who can hit. They might be amenable to a closer or a reliever, or potentially a LHRP to replace Furbush if they deal him for Morse. But give Jack Z a call today ! Forget about 1 year of Mike Morse (which would cloud Seattle’s 1B / DH situation even further, making Smoak that much more expendable).
Mike Carp, on the other hand, the guy Seattle reportedly has available, has similar HR/FB rates at home and on the road. Smoak is clearly the better buy low candidate.
Forget Napoli, his bad hip and his questionable defense. Seattle has a logjam of 1B/DH players, and their offseason strongly hinted they wanted options beyond Smoak, or possibly instead of Smoak altogether.
I have no idea how WAR is calculated, but if Mark Teixeira can post . 251 / .332 splits with 24 HRS and be worth 3.6WAR on baseball-reference and 2.9WAR on Fangraphs, one might expect Smoak to at least meet and probably exceed those numbers, despite Teixeira’s bigger lead in defensive categories. Smoak is certainly a capable 1B with the glove.
I have been touting Smoak as a hidden gem since last September, and I posted the “Justin and Justin” thread the day before he went on his mini-tear that has gotten way too many references this off-season. But, hey, every time I dig a little deeper, my confidence in him as an extremely good target for the Sox does seem to grow little by little…