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The season that was: Justin Smoak

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A look at Smoak's 2016 season.

Tampa Bay Rays v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

I’m sure you know the story. Before the 2015 season the Jays picked up Justin Smoak on waivers, then non-tendered him and resigned him to a $1 million contract.

Smoak would go on to have a pretty poor season then (well 108 wRC+, so maybe averageish season), after the season, we signed him to a $3.9 million contract for 2016. Why? I don’t know, but it made more sense than the contract extension they signed him to in the middle of the season.

How did he pay the Jays back for the contract:

                                                                           
Year   Age   G  AB  R  H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
2016    29 126 299 33 65 10  0 14  34  1  0 40 112 .217 .314 .391 .705   87
Provided by "Baseball-Reference.com"

Baseball America has him at a -0.4 WAR. Fangraphs at a -0.1, giving him a value of -1.2 million to the Jays.

He had 2 at bats, in 3 playoff games, both strikeouts.

Fangraphs has him at a .309 wOBA and 90 wRC+.

Compared to 2015, Justin walked more (11.7%, up from 8.8) and struck out more (32.8%, up from 26.2).

He hit more line drives (27.3%, up from 23.7), fewer ground balls (30.5%, down from 42.7) and more fly balls (42.2%, up from 33.6). Fewer of his fly ball left the park (17.7%, down from 25.4).

His BABIP was .295, up from .254 last year.

Justin hit RHP (.221/.325/.413) better than LHP (.209/.284/.337).

He hit much better at home (.231/.326/.401) than on the road (.184/.283/.368).

Last year he hit great with RISP, this year, not so much (.167/.278/.310).

And you likely remember that he hit better in the first half (.231/.326/.401) than the second half (.184/.283/.368).

Smoak by month:

  • April: .189/.375/.216 with 4 RBI in 21 games (10 starts)
  • May: .309/.375/.521 with 5 home runs and 9 RBI in 29 games (24 starts)
  • June: .148/.246/.296 with 2 home runs and 7 RBI in 22 games (14 starts)
  • July: .216/.286/.539 with 5 home runs and 7 RBI in 18 games (13 starts)
  • August: .200/.250/.356 with 2 home runs and 7 RBI in 21 games (12 starts)
  • September: .056/.292/.056 with no RBI in 15 games (6 starts)

May was good....

Defensively? Fangraphs has him at a -3.1 UZR/150. I’ll admit I don’t think much of UZR for first basemen. He seems ok at the spot to me. He made 3 errors, for a .996 Fielding Average, about the league average of .994 for 1Bs.

Baserunning? He was 1.1 runs worse than the average MLB baserunner, better than last year’s 3.7 runs worse. I think he would win a race with Kendrys Morales.

His longest hitting streak was 7 games, longest on base streak 12 games.

Smoak’s favorite team to face? He hit .407/.484/.815 with 3 homers in 7 games against the Rangers.

Least Favorite? He was 1 for 7 with a walk in 4 games against the Royals.

In games he started Justin hit 4th (9 games), 5th (23 games), 6th (14 games), 7th 18 games) and 8th (15 games).


If I was a MLB player, I’d hire Smoak’s agent. Smoak will earn $12,150,000 for 2016 and the next 2 seasons (plus $250,000 buy out for 2019). I’d imagine his agent is some sort of magician.

The possibility of a 26-man roster is about the best news Smoak could get, but unless he suddenly learns to hit at age 30, I can’t imagine that he won’t be released at some point in the next couple of years.

In the meantime, the Jays need to find a first baseman. I don’t think any of us want to see Justin getting significant playing time. Is there anyone left that thinks Chris Colabello is an option? One that topic, does anyone else think that the effect of PEDs is half in the head? I get the feeling that players using feel like they should be great. That it calms that voice of self doubt in their head.

Or maybe it just makes them stronger and faster? One or the other.

The idea of Steve Pearce seems ok to me, until they talk about platooning, I don’t like the thought of Smoak getting the lion’s share of at bats in a platoon. I’d much rather sign a full time first baseman. Edwin is still out there.

Smoak seems like a likable enough guy. Marginal players don’t get contract extensions unless they are likable. He does have a ton of power, his home runs are rarely wall scrappers. I can see why you would want to give a guy like that every chance to figure things out, but I’m thinking we are past that point.