He only wore the orange and black for 111 games in Baltimore, but by the end of the 2017 season, it sure felt like Seth Smith had been a member of the Orioles for years. Maybe that’s due to his difference-making ability being showcased immediately or his seemingly seamless transition into the clubhouse. Either way, his efforts over the course of the year should be noted and rather appreciated.
Dan Duquette’s decision to acquire Smith last offseason was somewhat of a no-brainer, especially considering the depth chart. Smith fit the mold of what the Orioles needed and filled in nicely, a reliable season from a previously reliable option. It’s exactly what the team was looking for. An increase in baserunners is what Duquette was after, and he certainly got more of those with the addition of the veteran outfielder.
The month-by-month breakdown
If the Orioles were looking for Smith to have a season along the lines of what he had posted in previous years, they probably couldn’t have been much happier.
Smith’s final slash line in 2017, .258/.340/.433 is impressively close to his career totals — .261/.344/.446. He entered Baltimore with a reputation of being a perfectly adequate lineup piece and exits the season with an entire season of confirmation of exactly that. There was nothing eye-popping about his day-to-day contributions, but they were consistent and true to his style of play.
April: 42 ABs, .238/.347/.476
May: 76 ABs, .289/.345/.395
June: 72 ABs, .236/.313/.458
July: 49 ABs, .286/.386/.551
August: 59 ABs, .305/.406/.441
September: 32 ABs, .125/.176/.219
Those numbers are about as Seth Smith as you can get. There’s nothing that jumps off the sheet, and not a whole lot that would make you doubt his ability as an every-day major leaguer. Rather, even now after the season is wrapped, it confirms everything we thought we knew about Smith’s season — it was perfectly acceptable when compared with expectations.
Those on-base numbers really jump off the sheet, especially in the months of April, July and September. Players don’t just post OBPs that exceed their batting average by more than 100 points. That’s mostly unheard of. Smith worked quality at-bats and ultimately posted the highest on-base percentage among the lineup’s regulars.
His presence at the top of the lineup was an attempt for Buck Showalter to find a consistent presence there, but it was undoubtedly forced for a guy who probably fits best in the lower portion of the lineup. Regardless, Smith admirably worked at the top with a .332 on-base percentage when in the leadoff spot, collecting 212 of his 330 at-bats there.
What lies ahead for Smith, the Orioles
The season was another positive one for the veteran — it worked for 2017, but with the contract up and a more attractive option primed to make an impact for the immediate future, the team will almost certainly be moving in a different direction for help in the outfield.
That attractive option’s name is Austin Hays, and he’s plenty appealing for the organization to feel comfortable heading into the spring. Where Smith brought with him a sure-fire “good” season, Hays comes with an unknown ceiling following a somewhat shocking minor-league development process. It’s most definitely exciting, and it allows the Orioles to comfortably move on from Smith at the corner outfield spot.
For Smith, there will be an opportunity to find a roster spot in the big leagues in 2018, even if it means he’ll have to wait until late in spring training to find work. His record of consistency at the plate is superb and he’s by all means an all-around plus. In his age-35 season, he could very likely be playing for his fifth team since 2013.