Remember that two week stretch when Seth Smith was a Colorado celebrity? Smith was the perfect embodiment of everything ridiculous, unlikely, and flat-out mind-blowing during the insane post-season rush of 2007. In his very first taste of Major League baseball Smith became a pinch-hitter extraordinaire, thrown into some of the highest leverage situations imaginable: late inning at bats where the game, and the Rockies' playoff hopes, hinged on his performance.
And perform he did: Smith received 8 plate appearances in September of 2007. He got a hit in five of them. He scored four runs, including a go-ahead run against the Padres in the famous game 163 (the Rockies would need three more go-ahead runs before the game was over). A kid no-one had ever heard of hit .625 in September of 2007 because it was September 2007 and the Rockies are apparently still in debt to the Baseball Gods for that.
In the ensuing years Smith had some part-time years with the Rockies, hitting pretty well but not great, defending alright, and being perfectly useful while not a star. He was eventually traded to Oakland for a reliever, and just like that, faded from the consciousness of Rockies fans. I would run across a box score or a highlight on MLB Network and think, "huh, I remember Seth Smith. I liked him." Then I might look at his stat line, and it would be so boringly average that I'd immediately forget what it was. That was Smith after 2007. Spectacularly average.
So what the hell has gotten into him this year?
Before the 2014 season the Padres traded for him, again for a reliever. A position player being traded for a reliever is the ultimate shrug of the shoulders regarding your ability. Relievers are like snacks snagged from the vending machine, and the players traded for them are like the quarters you scrounge for under the couch cushions. Low value currency to get low value meals.
But in this metaphor, Smith has turned out to be some ultra-rare 1930's specialty quarter that, instead of Washington's noggin, features FDR giving Hitler a wedgie. Because Smith has been exceptionally valuable this year. Troy Tulowitzki leads MLB in wRC+, we all know this, but guess who's second? It's not Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Giancarlo Stanton or any of the other usual suspects. It's good-ol' Seth Smith.
Smith has a herculean .339/.427/.580 slash line--at Petco freaking Park-- which grades out to a 182 wRC+. That would have put him second only to Miguel Cabrera last season. His 1.5 WAR is more than a win better than any other position player on his team.
Therein lies the rub with this Padres team. It's like they're stacked with Seth Smiths (Seths Smith?), circa 2008-2013. Capable, but boringly, horrendously average. They have a couple good to great performers--Smith, Andrew Cashner, and, uh, how about Ian Kennedy?--but for the most part they are the definition of "whatever."
The Padres are 29th in batting WAR and 14th in Pitching WAR. Their blah 19-22 record perfectly reflects their abilities; they are the definition of a "three games below .500 team." If you're a good team, you should beat the Padres. Sure, you might run into Andrew Cashner and Ian Kennedy and drop a series. So they're a pesky team, but beatable.
Unless Seth Smith comes to bat in the late innings with the game close. Then you best beware.
Haha, Kevin Quackenbush.
Friday, May 16, 6:40 PM MDT: Eric Stults vs. Jorge De La Rosa
Saturday, May 17, 6:10 PM MDT: Robbie Erlin vs. Jordan Lyles
Sunday, May 18, 2:10 PM MDT: Andrew Cashner vs. Juan Nicasio