So much of baseball writing, it seems to me, ends up being the act of finding new ways to say the same thing as before. I don’t know how many times I’ve prefaced a post by saying something along the lines of “you alread...
So much of baseball writing, it seems to me, ends up being the act of finding new ways to say the same thing as before. I don’t know how many times I’ve prefaced a post by saying something along the lines of “you already know this.” There are a lot of people writing about baseball, and things in baseball tend not to change that quickly. So there’s a lot of repeat coverage, with the challenge being to keep people interested. It’s not always easy, but it’s fun to feel tested, and let’s get this out of the way: you already know the gist of what’s going to follow. But, a list, of four numbers:
Those are four wRC+ numbers, through today. In case you’re not aware, wRC+ is basically OPS+, for smarter, smugger people. Now, a list, of four names, to whom those wRC+ numbers belong:
I’ve jumbled everything up. Try to match the number to the name. When you’re ready, proceed, for the answers:
This is why I said you already know the gist. You already know that Ackley is a huge disappointment, and that Montero is a disappointment of some other but similar magnitude. Whenever the Mariners lose, people get to talking about the letdowns on the team, and Ackley and Montero are two of the bigger ones. It’s not just that Ackley and Montero are failing to establish themselves as members of the Mariners’ core — it’s that, when you watch them, it can be hard to believe they were thought to be core components in the first place. They play bad and look bad. It’s like the Mariners wanted to make enchiladas, so they bought Quikrete and fabric.
They’re both being out-hit by Munenori Kawasaki. Kawasaki is basically the starter in Toronto right now with Jose Reyes injured, and while Kawasaki hasn’t been good, he’s been passable, and he’s been better than Ackley and Montero. The team didn’t even give serious thought to retaining Kawasaki on a minor-league contract last offseason. This was justifiable, because based on the observations, he did not look good, or even mediocre. There’s a reason Kawasaki was considered something of a mascot last summer. His one skill was his personality. He looked like one of the weakest-hitting position players in Mariners history, and I found it impossible to believe he’d homered before in Japan. I saw video and still I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that Kawasaki possessed some sort of offensive competence.
He’s slugging .301. He’s Reggie Willits. He just hit maybe the deepest batted ball of his career, and it came down in front of the track. Kawasaki’s offense is funny, even when it isn’t absolutely dreadful. But, at varying points, Dustin Ackley was considered automatic, Jesus Montero was considered an elite-level future slugger, and Munenori Kawasaki was considered perhaps baseball’s least threatening bat. It’s May 20, 2013, and Kawasaki’s out-producing the other two. Maybe it isn’t going to last this way. But it shouldn’t be this way at all.
Thankfully, there’s Smoak, and Smoak’s improvement. Smoak’s improvement allows us to try to reconsider Smoak, and it also allows us to be a little more patient with Ackley and Montero, perhaps. For the first time all season, Smoak’s slugging percentage is ahead of his OBP, and his OBP is good. He’s been swinging at more strikes and fewer balls, and there are signs the power is coming along, trailing the improved command of the zone. If you arbitrarily select April 22 as a starting date, here’s Smoak since then, including Monday:
86 plate appearances, .314/.442/.529, 16 BB, 17 K
That right there is a hell of a hitter. A better hitter, naturally, than Justin Smoak actually is, bu