Smith is likely headed to the playoffs as a member of the Oakland Athletics. Image: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Checking In With Seth Smith

Josh Outman and Guillermo Moscoso combined to get a series of outs against the Arizona Diamondbacks tonight in the Rockies’ 4-2 victory. The fact that they are both appearing out of the bullpen only fuels the fire when it comes to the team’s decision to trade Seth Smith this past offseason. Smith already had a movement of followers who believed he was under-appreciated during his time with the team. They were upset that he was not given a chance to play every day (even though he was) and forced to platoon with players like Ryan Spilborghs. There was outrage that he was traded, so either Moscoso or Outman would have needed to shine on a team starved for starting pitching to justify the trade from a popularity standpoint. Neither one has, and so the “free Seth Smith” flame still shines, albeit with more of a “we miss Seth Smith” message.

Even with the underwhelming performances of those two pitchers, it is still worth asking: are the Rockies worse off without Smith?

Whatever the public outrage opinion, Smith never performed on the level of an everyday player for the Rockies. He was a solid platoon player who mashed right handed pitching and struggled mightily against lefties. Smith’s apologists will insist that he never got the chance to prove he could get it done against left handed pitching, but when his career average against them is .191, is that really an injustice? When he did get those rare chances, he did not get it done. He didn’t get it done because what makes Smith great is what also gets him in trouble: he pulls everything and he smashes fastballs. Pitchers from either side can adjust to those tendencies, but it is especially easy for a LHP to make life for Smith difficult.

Has any of this changed in Oakland? In a word: no. This season Smith is batting .169 in a scant 69 at-bats against lefties. Apparently the Oakland A’s also see whatever the Rockies saw that inspired them to make Smith a platoon player over the years.

Would you swap out any of the current Rockies outfielders for Smith? Tyler Colvin, also a left-handed slugger, has emerged to the point that he is platooned much less frequently (OK, there are some injuries too…). He has delivered a serviceable .259 BA against LHP and in roughly the same number of games (127 to Smith’s 117) has more home runs and RBI. Blame Coors Field if you want. Go advanced statistics on me if you want (1.6 WAR for Smith, 1.8 WAR for Colvin). Go whichever direction you want to take the debate…Colvin is better. I would also be remiss to not mention Eric Young Jr. and his electric play prior to getting injured. In 96 games he batted over .300, stole 14 bases and scored 36 runs. Would you swap him out for Smith?

Many felt that Seth Smith was treated unfairly in Denver. If Smith was truly underrated, then he would be making the Rockies look like fools for trading him. What has actually happened is much less controversial: Smith is almost the exact same player in Oakland, save for the fact he gets to start more often because of the designated hitter rule. He is batting .246 with 14 home runs and 51 RBI.

Like most fans, I will always remember Smith’s clutch moments for the team fondly. I loved when Drew Goodman called him Mr. Late Night. I loved when he bombed a home run off of Tim Lincecum in Coors Field and I loved when he capped off a miraculous 9th inning rally against the Cardinals with a walk-off home run. But we had reached a moment where Smith’s unhappiness with his playing time, combined with his tendency to try and do too much, combined with the “free Seth Smith” movement meant it was time to move on.

Smith was a nice platoon player in Denver, and he is a nice platoon player in Oakland. Whatever Outman or Moscoso can deliver (or fail to deliver) for the Rockies, it simply is not true that the Rockies gave up a lot for them by trading Smith. His production was replaced and in the process, the Rockies removed a player who seemed to have a chip on his shoulder because he felt he was treated unfairly by the franchise.

I sincerely hope Smith is a hero for the Oakland Athletics as they battle in the American League playoffs, but I am not sorry that he is no longer a member of the Colorado Rockies…even if we are stuck with Guillermo Moscoso.

Tags: Colorado Rockies Seth Smith

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