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Kyle Seager vs. left handed pitching, a love story

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Seager took a huge step forward vs. lefties in 2015, but just how good was he?

"Was this vs. a lefty? Probably, I mash against those dudes."
"Was this vs. a lefty? Probably, I mash against those dudes."
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

It seems like every time Kyle Seager stepped into the batter's box versus a left handed pitcher this year, Mike Blowers was there to praise how well he was hitting lefties. So just how good was Seager against southpaws this year? Spoiler alert: Really, really good.

Seager took a huge step forward vs. lefties in 2015. But first, a look back. Here is how Kyle has hit lefties since he was called up in 2011 according to our friends at FanGraphs:

Season

G

AB

PA

H

1B

2B

3B

HR

RBI

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

wRC+

2011

24

35

43

8

8

0

0

0

3

.229

.341

.229

.570

75

2012

103

215

233

51

36

7

1

7

35

.237

.281

.377

.658

85

2013

111

238

255

56

36

9

1

10

24

.235

.282

.408

.690

92

2014

110

219

237

53

35

12

2

4

24

.242

.291

.370

.661

90

2015

98

229

241

68

45

10

0

13

35

.297

.324

.511

.835

131

Well look at you, Kyle. Seager has slowly and steadily improved his hitting vs. left handed pitching since entering the league in 2011. But 2015 saw a radical step forward. In almost every discernible way, Kyle's performance vs. lefties really...knocked it out of the park (I'm sorry). Not only was he hitting for a better average, he was getting on base at a better clip and hitting for considerably more power.

Evolving and improving your game is an important skill for any hitter, and one Kyle has shown himself to be particularly adept at doing. But being good in oneself isn't how baseball is measured. So how does Kyle stack up against other lefties vs. lefties? Spoiler: this is some really fun company to be in. Sorted by wRC+, your 2015 Lefty on Lefty Crime Leaderboard:

Name

Team

PA

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

BABIP

wRC+

Joey Votto

Reds

210

0.467

0.542

1.009

0.211

0.397

178

Bryce Harper

Nationals

189

0.434

0.552

0.986

0.234

0.365

170

Anthony Rizzo

Cubs

198

0.409

0.472

0.881

0.178

0.333

145

Lucas Duda

Mets

132

0.333

0.545

0.878

0.26

0.378

144

Colby Rasmus

Astros

140

0.364

0.471

0.835

0.218

0.329

132

Dee Gordon

Marlins

169

0.373

0.45

0.823

0.1

0.403

128

Alex Gordon

Royals

146

0.377

0.44

0.817

0.16

0.337

127

Kyle Seager

Mariners

241

0.324

0.511

0.835

0.214

0.316

131

Brock Holt

Red Sox

128

0.394

0.413

0.807

0.101

0.442

121

Mike Moustakas

Royals

231

0.338

0.485

0.823

0.204

0.273

124

Alright, alright, alright. Kyle finds himself 8th by wRC+ as a lefty vs. lefties. Anytime you're in top ten with Bryce Harper, Joey Votto, and Anthony Rizzo, it's a pretty good day. Colby Rasmus and his hair are also here. If you use simple average as your barometer, Kyle jumps up to 6th. That's a pretty simplistic way to assess these things, but I thought I'd mention it. And all of this occurred in a year where the league average for left handed bats vs. left handed pitching was .244 and the wRC+ was 84. Lefty hitting against lefties has improved since Kyle has entered the League in 2011, but Seager has outpaced that progress, especially in the last two seasons.

Now it isn't all sunshine. Hitting .297 against lefties is great, but the weird reverse split Kyle had this year isn't the best. He hit .283 with a 143 wRC+ against righties in 2014 (yay), but managed just .249 and a 107 wRC+ against righties in 2015. These sorts of severe reverse splits are pretty funky. So while Kyle mashing LHP and being stymied by RHP is a neat season aberration, it's probably unlikely to continue. Kyle seems to take great pride in advancing his game every year (recall the comments of Tom McNamara in Brendan's excellent piece earlier this year), so maybe he'll come into the All-Star Break in 2016 hitting .298 with no strong splits to speak of, and I'll cry and we'll go to the playoffs. It would take a longer off season project to examine at bats from 2014 and 2015 to identify the adjustments Kyle made, so I have no idea if the difference in his approach is shifting things against righties (I doubt it). The splits will probably level out, but it would be great to see Kyle sustain his success vs. LHP while regaining productivity against RHP.

Because if Seager can combine what he did against lefties this year with the way he mashed righties in 2014, he's going to be an incredibly dangerous bat. For a team whose playoff window might be short, that kind of offensive uptick could go a long way. Maybe right into October.

And now, Fun Kyle Seager Hitting Lefty Pitching Facts (FKSLPF):

  • The Mariners hit four grand slams in 2015 and Kyle was responsible for two of them (fun). Hitting home runs of a lefty when you're a lefty is tricky. Hitting a grand slam off a lefty is just showing off. Stop it, Kyle. You made Jake McGee feel bad. So let's watch it again, with a little game winning solo shot thrown in for good measure:

  • That grand slam against McGee broke a long drought. The M's hadn't broken out the rye bread since September 28, 2013.

  • When Seager hit a solo shot off of David Price on July 23rd, it was only the second home run Price had allowed to a left handed batter this season, and only the 18th he'd allowed to a left handed batter in his entire career. Things really came off the rails for Price vs. lefties after our Sweet Prince went long in Comerica. Price has now given up 4 home runs to left handed batters in 2015. Total. Good job, Kyle.

  • Of all batters in 2015, only two had more home runs vs. left handed pitching than Kyle's 13: Teammate (and righty) Nelson Cruz tied 2015 Home Run Derby Champion (and righty) Todd Frazier with 14.

  • The heat map for those home runs looked like this: 

  • Those home runs traveled 5,171, which is 3.55 Empire State Buildings.