Brewers: Justin Smoak Starting to Catch Fire at the Plate
By Matt Carroll
The Brewers have waited all year for some of their offseason acquisitions to heat up. Justin Smoak might be showing signs of doing just that.
Of the many new players who were brought in by the Brewers this offseason, first baseman Justin Smoak was one with some of the highest potential for a big season. His big power numbers (85 homers over the last three seasons) induced enticing visions for a player who now got to call Miller Park home.
Unfortunately those visions didn’t materialize to begin the odd 2020 season. Though he was hardly the only Milwaukee player to go through an offensive slump this year, an extremely slow start at a plate combined with a few atypical mistakes in the field had him drawing the early ire of fans.
To say his start to 2020 was bad, offensively, would be an understatement. Through his first 11 games (43 plate appearances) Smoak was slashing just .128/.186/.231 with just two extra base hits and a single walk. He was also striking out a whopping 44.2% of the time.
Then came a game on August 9th against the Reds, a 9-3 win for the Brewers. Smoak went 3 for 5 with a double and a run scored, driving in two on the day. The performance alone raised his batting average 54 points for the season.
That game was apparently just what Smoak needed to get going because he has looked much more comfortable at the plate ever since. While other hitters have continued to struggle, Smoak seems to be one of the few players starting to find his way.
Since August 9th, Justin Smoak ranks toward the top of most Brewers offensive categories.
Ever since that 3 for 5 game, Smoak has started producing on a much more regular basis. The switch hitter is slashing .265/.321/.571 over his last 13 games and finally has his season batting average over the Mendoza Line at .205.
Those numbers compare rather nicely to the other Brewers hitters in that stretch. Since August 9th, Smoak is third in batting average behind just Luis Urias and Mark Mathias and is second in slugging and OPS to only Christian Yelich.
Smoak is also striking out less, down to just a 20.8 K% over those last 13 games. That actually puts him below his career strikeout rate of of 23.5%, further proof that things are returning to normal for him at the plate.
And with the general increase in production comes the return of the power stroke. Three of Smoak’s four homers on the season have come since Aug. 9th, at a rate of one homer every 16.3 at bats. That’s even better than the 17.4 AB/HR he’s averaged over the last three years, one of the reasons the Brewers signed him in the first place.
While it is great that Smoak is starting to find himself offensively, it will take more than just his increased production for the Brewers to get on a roll and start scoring runs consistently. Hopefully his hitting can rub off on the rest of Milwaukee’s hitters.