With school back in session, I headed off to bed in the bottom of the seventh of last night’s game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Taijuan Walker had finished his work for the night, the M’s led the Angels 4-1 on the batting prowess of Seth Smith, but I was going to miss the offensive explosion in the inning when the M’s scored six runs to put an exclamation point on a fine game. Yeah, stick it to those Angels, I always say. The M’s move within five games of .500, their consolation prize for the season. Better still, they make it that much harder for an indifferent Angels team to position themselves for a Wild Card spot.
But the hero of the night, and one of my favorite players on this team, was lefty Smith. When G.M. Jack Zdurencik acquired him in the off-season for young right-handed reliever Brandon Maurer, I was quite pleased. It put a solid, if unspectacular, player in the perennially short-handed Mariners outfield, though it cost them a pretty talented player in Maurer.
Of course the plan was that Smith would be the left handed bat in a right field platoon with Justin Ruggiano. Things never quite worked out that way. Nelson Cruz went to right field. Ruggiano was gone. Smith spent a lot of time at DH until Dustin Ackley’s struggles caught up with him. Lots of turmoil and unmet expectations could have turned Smith’s season upside down.
Instead, he’s put together a solid if unspectacular season. His slash line is .251/.328/.458. He has an OPS+ of 120, not as good as last year, but an above average number in line with his career numbers. His wRC+ is 116, above his career average of 108. Overall he’s done his job, hitting right handed pitching for a .256 average, while avoiding left handed pitching that holds him to a .220 average. He has 46 extra base hits, including 11 dingers in 401 plate appearances. All that while providing average defense in the outfield. According to Fangraphs, Smith is a pretty nice .2.3 WAR player.
There were a lot of expectations for this season, that have mostly turned to dust. The offense has been spotty, the rotation has had weeks of inconsistency, the bullpen collapsed. Amid all that, Smith has pretty much been the player we thought we were getting on December 1st when the Maurer for Smith trade was made: a guy who hits right handers and plays a decent defense. No flash, no drama, just does what he’s supposed to do.
Smith’s home run to right off Garrett Richards in the 2nd inning got the party started last night. He tacked on an RBI double in the 5th just for extra measure. A nice job of sticking it to a team I really don’t like. But he’s been doing that all year.