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Category: storylines
July 8, 2013 at 7:59 AM

Justin Smoak looking like most interesting second-half story for Mariners

Justin Smoak goes deep against Bronson Arroyo of the Reds in yesterday's 3-1 win by the Mariners. Photo Credit: AP

Justin Smoak goes deep against Bronson Arroyo of the Reds in yesterday’s 3-1 win by the Mariners. Photo Credit: AP

Justin Smoak hit another home run yesterday and is now starting to pop them with a bit more frequency as the weather heats up. More interesting to me, the blast helped push Smoak’s slugging percentage up past the .400 mark to .403.

As many of you have already noted, Smoak has maintained a pretty solid on-base percentage all season long. After this much-improved, 4-2 road trip by the Mariners, Smoak’s OBP now sits at .360 for the year. Most teams will take an OBP that good from just about anybody. It’s the slugging part of Smoak’s game that has been the issue.

Smoak post-game yesterday referenced his season-long issues with runners in scoring position, which he also does need to work on. For now, though, what concerns me the most is whether he can finally put together the type of season overall that the Mariners are looking for out of a first baseman who was the centerpiece in the Cliff Lee deal. Once that happens, I’m pretty sure Smoak will relax somewhat and his added confidence will take care of the RISP come 2014.

For now, though, it will be interesting to see what he does this second half of 2013. The most interesting aspect of this remaining Mariners season, at least in my book.

It’s great to see what Nick Franklin has done. Brad Miller as well out of the leadoff spot. But both those guys are still in their “first time around” phase in the big leagues and pitchers will eventually adjust and they’ll struggle and have to fight out of it. Might even happen next year. So, what they do the rest of this year — think Dustin Ackley in 2011 — won’t automatically tell us what’s coming down the road.

But with Smoak, we’ve seen him at his worst. The pitchers know who he is and he knows them. This was his year to put something together and show the Mariners he is worth keeping.

And I think he’s just about there.

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