Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak takes a cut from left side during live batting practice today in Peoria, AZ.
Spoke briefly with Justin Smoak this morning about his plans for the spring and how he hopes to carry over the success he enjoyed last September. Let’s face it: September surges have happened for Smoak before.
In 2010, he hit .340 in September with an OPS of 1.001. Had anybody really dug into it, though, they’d have noticed the whole month was fueled by a lone 10-day stretch that began in Texas — where Smoak tends to hit very well — and saw him go 16-for-33 (.485) with four homers. He only appeared in six other games that entire month.
And yet, following that, there were pronunciations that Smoak was somehow “cured” of all that plagued him.
Fast-forward to 2011 and after a good start, Smoak eventually faded for four months. Then came September, when he hit .301 with a .793 OPS.
No, it wasn’t as good as his 2010 numbers, but they were still his best since April and done over 22 games instead of the 15 he’d had the prior September. And I don’t think anybody will complain too much about Smoak if he hits .300 with an OPS near .800 for the rest of his career.
Problem is, he hasn’t.
Along came 2012 and the strong September for Smoak faded into oblivion. He had his worst year yet, until…September! Smoak spent the final month hitting .345 with an OPS of 1.005 — this time over 26 games.
I mean, you really, really want to believe Smoak has turned the corner this time. Jack Zduriencik wants it even more, believe me. He staked his reputation on the Cliff Lee trade and Blake Beavan, John Jaso/Michael Morse or not, if Smoak doesn’t pan out, the mega-deal goes down as a bust.
So, I asked Smoak,what’s different this time?
“This past one was different for me, compared to the other two,” he said. “The other two were good Septembers, but I didn’t really know what I was doing.”
“At the end of last year, I got something from it,” he said. “The other two before that were good, but I don’t really know what I did. The last one, I made some adjustments and it was a confidence-builder for me.”