This morning, Dave Cameron over at USS Mariner wrote a post that essentially said it’s time to give up on Justin Smoak. His argument is well researched and laid out, as always. I don’t always agree with Cameron, but this one’s kind of hard to argue with.
You can read the post and form your own opinions. I’m in favor of giving Smoak more time, at least into the first half next year, but my hope is wearing thin as well. The Mariners should definitely be thinking about replacements, as I’m sure they are. Getting Mike Carp healthy and hitting would be a good start.
Cameron’s post got me thinking about something else, though. Smoak has been very good at times. Not very many times, but the beginning and end of 2011, May this year, he was the type of first baseman with which a team can fight for the pennant. Obviously, the problem is that those hot streaks are vastly outnumbered by his cold streaks, and when Smoak is cold, he’s ice cold.
The question that came to mind is, why do players even have hot and cold streaks. More importantly, when do we look at hot streaks as a sign of what should be expected as a player matures? Streaks can be the product of circumstances, or maybe of being “in the zone”, as they say. I don’t think there are any generalizations to be made on hot streaks. They’re just one of those weird sports things. Sometimes a player is feeling it, sometimes they’re not.
A streak can be a streak, or it can be a glimpse of the future. What’s difficult with a younger streaky player like Smoak is when you have to decide whether the hot streaks or cold streaks are closer to his true ability. He clearly has the talent or physical tools to be an all-star level bat. His hot streaks have proven that. The question is whether he needs that extra bit of oomph, that whatever it is that players feel when they get hot, to reach that level.
As Mariner fans, we have to hope not. We need Smoak to grow and improve to the point where that upper level he occasionally reaches becomes closer to his normal level of production. He needs consistency, and some good luck. He also seems to need to get the voices out of his head. Confidence doesn’t appear to be one of Smoak’s attributes.
Whatever the issues, the Mariners are running out of time to see what Smoak can become. His hot streaks need to become his normal level of production. As much as I want it to happen, I’m not holding my breath.