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The season that was: Justin Smoak

After 7 disappointing MLB seasons, Justin Smoak became a star in 2017.

The year before I was thinking his agent was a magician. Getting him a two-year, $8 million + contract seemed to be a work a magic. None of us considered the possibility that his option would be picked up.

Coming into the season, the question was ‘was 2017 a one-off or could he repeat it’.

Well, he didn’t quite repeat it, but he came close enough, and he was still a good player.

Standard Batting
G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ GDP HBP
147 594 505 67 122 34 0 25 77 83 156 .242 .350 .457 .808 122 11 3

Baseball Reference has him at a 2.3 WAR (a drop from 3.2 last year). FanGraphs has him at 1.7 (down from 3.6) giving him a value of $13.3 to the Blue Jays.

FanGraphs has him at a .349 wOBA and a 121 wRC+.

Justin walked more than last year (14.0%, up from 11.5) and struck out more (26.3%, from 20.1).

Compared to 2017, Justin hit fewer line drives (19.9% down from 21.2%), had more ground balls (39.5% up from 34.3%) and a few more fly balls (42.6, from 44.5%). Fewer of his fly balls left the park (16.7% down from 19.7%).

His hard contact rate was down a lot (33.8%, from 39.4%). Soft contact was up a bit (14.5%, from 13.1%).

Justin’s BABIP was up a bit .297 from .285.

He hit RHP (.245/.366/.501) much better than LHP (.235/.318/.317). Last year he hit left handers much better than right handers. His numbers against RHP are almost exactly the same as last year.

Justin hit slightly better on the road (.244/.354/.475) than at home (.240/.346/.441).

For the second in a row he hit very well with RISP (.289/.400/.535).

He was better in the first half (.245/.364/.480) than in the second half (.236/.327/.422).

Justin by month:

  • April: .255/.355/.441 with 4 home runs in 27 games.
  • May: .244/.404/.462 with 4 home runs in 23 games.
  • June: .200/.316/.413 with 3 home runs in 25 games.
  • July: .303/.374/..596 with 6 home runs in 23 games.
  • August: .245/.343/.447 with 5 home runs in 26 games.
  • September: .177/.292/.355 with 3 home runs in 23 games.

For the second year in a row he had a crappy September (actually 3 years in a row). I don’t know if he’s wearing down, like Buck and Pat tell us, or if it is something else.

I’m not a fan of UZR for first basemen, I think there is a lot that first basemen do that UZR can’t measure. But….Justin has a -0.8 UZR/150, down from 2.7 last year. He only had 1 error all season. Buck and Pat tell us he should be the Gold Glove winner. I’m not sure, I don’t think he has all that much range. It’s tough to know how voters will vote.

As a baserunner, FanGraphs has him at 7.3 runs below average. That’s much worse than last year’s -3.1. The -7.3 makes him the second worst baserunner in the MLB (Yangervis Solarte was the only one worse at -7.7).

His longest hitting streak was 13 games, running July 25 to August 9. His longest on base streak was 24 games. The longest he went without a home run was 18 games. The Jays were 65-70 in games he started.

His favorite team to face? He hit.333/.462/.857 with 3 home runs in 7 games against the Tigers. He also hit the Red Sox well, .324/.418/.662 with 6 home runs in 19 games.

Least favorite? He hit .133/.188/.267 in 6 games against the Astros. He didn’t hit the Astros well last year either, .172/.226/.241.

In games Smoak started he hit:

  • 2nd 11 times.
  • 3rd 96 times.
  • 4th 23 times.
  • 5th 5 times.

Smoak turns 32 in December. I’m curious to see if the Jays shop him around. They have been burnt a couple of times by not trading guys early. Playing OOTP I always think trade the guy a year early instead of a year late.

When I look at the Adam Lind trade I think ‘maybe we could get a good starter for Smoak’. Smoak’s contact is pretty inexpensive.

I’m not sold on Tellez, but then I don’t think Smoak will still be around when the team turns things around. I don’t see too much wrong with giving Tellez a season to show whether he can play in the majors or not. If not, we would have a season or two to look for the first baseman to be part of the team when it is ready to win again.

On the flip side of that, I don’t think it is a bad idea to have some veterans around even if we are building around the young guys (if the veteran is a good guy, we don’t need someone to show the young guys where the best strip clubs are in each city). Justin seems like a good guy to have around. Course Morales does as well. I’d be happier with just one of the two of them.

I am kind of worried that Justin might be that type that ages poorly. He’s quickly moving past slow and nearing continental drift speed. He’s coming up to his age 32 season and he’s just had his 2 best seasons in the majors, putting up 5.6 bWAR over the 2 years. A slight decline from this year and he’s average, another decline from that an he’s a borderline starter.

But I’m still a fan. I tend to like that guys that everyone wants to release and then they turn it around. We have had a number of those over the past few years. You would think we would start getting smarter and stop writing off guys so quickly.

I was wondering what Chris Colabello was doing these days. It looks like he wasn’t in organized ball this season.


Smoak hits a grand slam with 2 out in the 9th and an 0-2 count to put the Jays up 6-5 on August 31st against the Marlins.

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