[Author’s Note: If you are a member of the Seager family, a dear friend, or have an undying loyalty to Kyle I recommend not reading any further. I’m sorry.]
Generally speaking, when it comes to writing about baseball I try to avoid two things:
- Personal attacks on the players (particularly regarding their physicality, personal lives, etc.)
- Hot takes
That said, the utter travesty of Kyle Seager’s 2018 forces my hand. If we were to unfairly foist the blame of another lost season onto a single player, it would be Kyle Seager. When the Mariners season ends at Game 162 this year, Seager will be the one forced to shoulder the vast majority of that blame.
Sound overreactive? Take a look.
Projections should be taken with a grain of salt, of course, but Kyle Seager has thus far demonstrated the greatest disparity between his projections and current play. His closest compatriots, in terms of differences in wRC+ and fWAR, are Mike Zunino and Dee Gordon, with Guillermo Heredia and Cameron Maybin on their heels. There’s plenty to be written about the failures of Gordon (and the team’s failure to remove him from the leadoff spot sooner), the not-so-Goodness of Zunino, whatever the heck happened to Heredia, and the travesty that was the Maybin trade, but the team counted on more from Seager. Just how much did they count on him?
FanGraphs’ leverage index was created by Tom Tango, to attempt to measure “how ‘on the line’ the game is at that particular moment.” pLI, in particular, is a player’s average leverage index for all game events. Gordon Beckham earning the highest pLI of the year is the most 2018 Mariners fact, so I had to leave him in there, but for all intents and purposes Kyle Seager has had the most high-leverage opportunities than any other player on the team. In contrast, his WPA, which “captures the change in Win Expectancy from one plate appearance to the next and credits or debits the player based on how much their action increased their team’s odds of winning,” is tied for third-worst on the team. WPA/LI, or “Context Neutral Wins,” serve as an even greater indictment of Seager’s season. This determines “how much value a player provided regardless of the leverage,” and the Mariners third baseman has been fifth worst in all of baseball by this metric. All season long Seager has been left in positions that give him the opportunity to uniquely help the Mariners succeed, and all season long he has fallen short.
Now, I’d be remiss if I wrote about Seager’s struggles and failed to mention shifts. He’s been a victim of the shift, this is true - more so than all but four other players in baseball - but even pressing to beat those shifts can’t really excuse this:
In fact, when shifts are often at their most extreme (when there are no other runners on), Kyle Seager has spent 2018 hitting, essentially, like Andrew Romine (career-wise).
The bad news is, well, all of this, and the fact that after reviewing film of his at-bats there don’t appear to be any overwhelmingly obvious changes to his mechanics that could present a straightforward fix. He looks a touch slower, but if we’re going to diagnose him with something I’d say that he’s been pressing to beat those shifts. We can see that reflected in his plate discipline, which has gone down the toilet, with career low and high BB% and K% respectively.
Perhaps Seager can rediscover his plate discipline and cease swinging at pitches he can’t handle next year. It’s too late to save the 2018 Mariners, but there are no alternatives to Seager at any level in the organization. Until 2021 at least, Kyle Seager will be the Mariners 3rd baseman. He needs to rediscover or reinvent himself, because the Mariners can’t take another year like this from their former star. Neither can we.