Part I of this series featured Brandon McCarthy and Part II featured Josh Reddick. After the jump, hear from Seth Smith, interviewed along side Josh Reddick at FanFest's "blogger exclusive," followed by my analysis of the A's OF and DH situation and the team's rumored interest in Manny Ramirez and Conor Jackson.
Nico: Obviously what would be best for you, career-wise, would be to handle left-handed pitching the way you handle right-handed pitching. I was wondering what you can do, other than just "getting a lot of at bats against lefties," what are the things you feel would get you from where you are to where you want to be?
Smith: I think getting more at bats is pretty much the thing. You know, I hit ‘em in the minor leagues fine, and in 2009 I hit ‘em great, and then 2010 was the first time I started seeing them sparingly. In 2011, my final numbers weren't that good, and I didn't really face them a lot then either. But I get good at bats, and the numbers aren't there and they definitely need to be there, but it's not as bad as it looks and I definitely feel confident when I get in the box against a lefty.
You know a lefty vs. lefty, especially in my position it was a little tough because you don't play against them a lot and then when you do it's a left-handed reliever type guy who's in baseball to get you out. So, I need to improve against lefties but at the same time it's not as bad as it seems.
Editor's note: Let's check Smith's self-assessment against the data...
Smith's minor league slash lines against LHP were:
2005 (A+, age 22) .273/.347/.407
2006 (AA, age 23) .300/.349/.392
2007 (AAA, age 24) .262/.373/.385
2008 (AAA, age 25) .273/.392/.348
Conclusion: Smith did hold his own against LHPs, but he didn't slug much, and in these seasons he was generally batting about 40 points higher, with an OBP about 20-30 points higher, and a SLG% a full 100-200 points higher, against RHPs. Smith's SLG% against RHPs, as he climbed up the minors, was .479, .518, .584, and .574. He mashed RHPs, and merely "got on base a fair amount" against LHPs.
At the major league level:
In 2009, in 68 PAs, Smith hit .259/.368/.500 against LHPs.
In 2010, in 53 PAs, Smith hit .154/.182/.212 against LHPs (he walked only once!)
In 2011, in 99 PAs, Smith hit .217/.272/.304 against LHPs
Conclusion: Smith didn't actually get more opportunity in 2009 than he did in 2010-11, and the statistical noise on all these stats is enormous, but his recollection of when he succeeded and when he failed is accurate.
Question: How excited are you to get the chance to play every day, and not sit on the bench behind somebody in a spot role?
Smith: You have to be excited; I'm excited. I was in Denver, and it was great - got called up in 2007 and played in the World Series, and my playing time built throughout my career, but never got the opportunity to be "the guy," and in some aspects felt I earned the right to at least have that opportunity and was never given it, So I'm excited about the opportunity to come here and have a legitimate shot.
Question: You're coming from a hitting environment that's obviously completely different (from Oakland). Do you have ways that you plan to not let that get in your head?
Smith: I've talked to (Jason) Giambi, I've talked to Mark Ellis, and kind of gotten their feel for it and they said it's definitely different, but I'm going to take the same approach. Coors Field is obviously a great, if not the best, place to hit but it's not as "crazy" as people think it is. It's fair, homerun-wise; you're not going to pop one up - maybe down the line here and there, but that's anywhere - but there's a lot of green grass and it's built for line drives and doubles, which from what I hear is what (the Coliseum) is built for. So it kind of plays into the type of hitter that I am. I've been fortunate to hit a good number of homeruns in my career so far, but it's not something I try to do and it's not something I build my game around. So I think there will be some small adjustments here and there that I'll have to make, but overall if I have good at bats and hit line drives, I think I'll be ok.
Speaking of Seth Smith, and the crowded "OF-DH picture," I have to say that the alleged interest in Manny Ramirez and Conor Jackson has this fan and writer confuzzled. The trades for Smith, Reddick, and Collin Cowgill, and the signing of Jonny Gomes, along with the "now or never" status of the talented but enigmatic trio of Chris Carter, Michael Taylor, and Brandon Allen, leaves no room for Manny to be Manny or for Conor to search for his missing ‘n' without completely undermining the point of the rebuild: To find out what you have, and to figure out who can help you in the upcoming years.
As it is, you have to platoon Seth Smith with Jonny Gomes just to field an OF of Smith, Gomes, Crisp, and Reddick, with Cowgill as your 5th OFer. Signing Jackson would most likely squeeze Cowgill out of a major league job and at age 25, having already mastered AAA, Cowgill is ready for a big league trial. (Already squeezed out of the Opening Day mix, it would appear, is Taylor, now 26 and poised to repeat AAA.)
Meanwhile, signing Manny means -- well, it means nothing in April and May, when he's not even eligible to play. But ultimately, it means Chris Carter hears footsteps when what I feel the A's need to do is to hand Carter the DH job and tell him to relax, that 2012 is for finding out what he can do, so relax and show us what you can do. You will find that out best if Carter is not looking over his shoulder, or worrying about a bad week or month costing him his job.
I dearly hope the A's won't give up on Allen just because he had a lousy month. 2012 is the ideal year to give these guys who are in their mid-20s -- Allen, Carter, Reddick, Cowgill, Taylor -- a long look, a legitimate chance to show what they can do. Hopefully a couple of those guys emerge as "keepers," and there's enough talent in that group for it to be a real possibility. Manny Ramirez and Conor Jackson can only take playing time away from the very players who need that "full season shot": Talented guys in their mid-20s for whom it's "now or never" time. Signing a "has-been" or a "never-quite-was" will simply not help this team further its goals. Committing to the "mid-20s guys" for the 2012 season will.