Free Seth Smith

Yesterday, we talked about Troy Tulowitzki powering the Rockies resurgence in June. While he’s the main reason, he’s not the only cog in the Colorado offense having a good month. Seth Smith is hitting .417/.463/.556 in June, fulfilling GM Dan O’Dowd’s preseason predictions of a breakout year.

Only, it’s only sort of a breakout season, because Smith keeps finding himself on the bench. It’s hard to break out when you’re sharing time with inferior players. Smith has appeared in 16 games this month, starting eight of them. He has 41 plate appearances in June, the same number as Ryan Spilborghs, who got the start in left field again last night. Spilborgh’s slugging percentage this month is lower than Smith’s batting average. Yet it’s Smith, not Spilborghs, who has been relegated to pinch-hitting duties the last few weeks.

How Smith has been handled by the Rockies this year is ridiculous. He hit .324/.490/.595 in April, despite only starting nine of the 18 games he appeared in and racking up all of 49 plate appearances. The Rockies responded to his hot start by giving him a whopping 60 plate appearances in April, and while his average sank, he drew 11 walks and had five extra base hits. In June, the average is back, and he’s still not playing.

For the season, Smith is hitting .303/.427/.500 for a .412 wOBA. He’s started 29 of the Rockies 72 games. He’s on pace for just over 340 plate appearances. He has a .412 wOBA.

There’s no argument to be made that Spilborghs is a better player. Smith is a 26-year-old patient hitter with gap power and above average defensive abilities who hits both lefties and righties. Spilborghs is a right-handed platoon guy who can hit lefties but shouldn’t ever start against an RHP. Especially not at the expense of Seth Smith.

Both Clint Hurdle and Jim Tracy should be embarrassed by how they’ve handled Smith this season. The team consideres themselves contenders now that they’ve caught fire, and yet they continue to let one of their best players languish on the bench. If you don’t want to play him regularly, Colorado, I’m sure 29 other teams would love to give him a real job.

Stop with the insanity. Put Seth Smith in the line-up and leave him there.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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13 years ago

Hmm, the M’s could use a LH outfielder after losing Chavez and the Rockies could use some pitching. Hmm. Hmm. I see a few potential matches there, though the Rockies would probably be smart by looking to move Spilborghs (as is rumored) to free up playing time for Smith, instead of the other way around.

The Ancient Mariner
13 years ago
Reply to  mymrbig

Paging Jack Zduriencik . . . Mr. Zduriencik, please come to the white courtesy phone . . .

13 years ago
Reply to  mymrbig

I’m a Rockies fan and a big Seth Smith fan. I can already see Smith being referred to as a “pinch hitter deluxe” (he’s 10 for 22 so far). I wonder if now they’ll never see him as a starter, but instead as a “super sub.”

If that’s the case, please, someone trade for Smith if you can give him a good home. I’d like to see what he can do playing full time. I don’t think that will happen in Colorado, as they’d both have to trade Spilly *and* give up on Carlos Gonzalez.

That said…in the current config of the team, I can see why Smith is losing out. What are the projections/MLE’s for Smith and Spilly? ZiPS had them pretty close, and if the non-Carlos Gonzalez playing time in left is when a lefty starter is on the mound, it makes sense to start Spilborghs.

Smith is really losing out to Carlos Gonzalez, and that’s based on CarGon’s stint in Colorado Springs, from which the Rockies must have concluded that he’s improved his plate discipline and it’s time to find out what he can do.