Dodgers’ Corey Seager Once Again Reminding Us of His Greatness
Cody Bellinger has been the story of the Dodgers’ 2019 season, slugging his way into an exciting MVP race with Christian Yelich. Will Smith is the shiny new rookie we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from the franchise over the last four seasons. Matt Beaty is the under-the-radar breakout star like Max Muncy and Chris Taylor from years past. And of course, rookie pitchers, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin have gotten a lot of attention being the newcomers to the party.
But lost in the shuffle of all this, is the man who was once viewed as the future cornerstone of the franchise and a potential MVP-winner. Someone the great Adrian Gonzalez regarded as a future Hall-of-Famer if he stayed healthy. The sweet-swinging Corey Seager.
After seeing his 2018 season prematurely ended due to Tommy John surgery, and being replaced by Manny Machado for roughly three months, the 25-year-old became a bit of a forgotten man and a wild-card. But that’s what happens when you are churning out a sparkling new toy each and every season.
And with his brutal start to 2019 (.666 OPS through May 11th), we did forget just how good he was and can be. And the one month he missed this year with a hamstring injury didn’t help either.
Seager even went from being a lock at hitting second during his first couple of seasons to moving all-around the batting order. In fact, as of Wednesday morning, he’s had a combined 176 plate appearances come from the top four spots in the lineup, compared to the 226 from the 5th-7th spots. That speaks to both the depth of the lineup and where he stood as a player. So as a reminder:
Back in 2016 as a 22-year-old number one overall prospect in baseball, Seager went on to be crowned the unanimous NL Rookie of the Year while finishing third in MVP voting. And during his first two seasons in the show, he compiled the fifth-best WAR among all MLB players, behind just Kris Bryant in the National League, while collecting two All-Star appearances and Silver Sluggers.
In 2019, the shortstop is now hitting .269/.344/.462 with 12 home runs, a 3.0 WAR, .343 wOBA, 111 OPS+, and wRC+ in 101 games. Not great, not bad, but above-average. Yet, not what we’ve come to expect from him.
But considering the Dodgers’ shortstop essentially missed a full season in 2018 and was coming off two injury problems (hip surgery last August), expecting him to come out the gates firing was unrealistic.
Seager had to work off the rust. He needed time to rediscover his swing and get up to speed with tracking pitches. There’s only so much virtual reality can do in that regard.
And that’s what had happened, as Seager hit an exceptional .354/.409/.646 with six home runs, a .430 wOBA, and 170 wRC+ (including a 12-game stretch with 11 extra-base hits) in his 25 games leading up to the aforementioned hamstring injury.
It was a torrid performance that raised his season line to a healthy .278/.359/.468 and had us thinking that the star was returning to form. But the month layoff clearly hampered his momentum, evidenced by his .602 OPS in his first 22 games off the Injured List. But now the rust appears to be shaking off again.
Dating back to August 5th, the shortstop is hitting a robust .300/.352/.660 with three home runs and 12 extra-base hits in 13 games (including a three-hit performance Tuesday night), reminding us that this is the type of player he is.
Compared to the previous 22 contests, the infielder has upped his line drives over six percent and flyball rate from 31.7% to 53.3%, while drastically dropping his groundball rate from half the time to 37.8% during this stretch. And he’s paired that with a significant drop in his soft and medium contact (20% to 8.9% and 53.3% to 37.8%, respectfully) while doubling the hard contact (26.7% to 53.3%).
So he’s hitting the ball harder and higher? Not a bad combination for success. Oh, and he’s held his own at shortstop too, with six Defensive Runs Saved.
The belief was, once Seager started clicking, it would be similar to a mid-season addition of an MVP-caliber bat to what was already the best lineup in the National League, and top-five in MLB, without him. The 89 runs they’ve scored in the last 13 games is proof of that.
It’s this level of play that raises the Dodgers’ offensive ceiling to scary heights- one that could make up for any pitching woes they may experience in the postseason.
Not only do teams have to worry about Bellinger, Justin Turner, A.J. Pollock, an underrated Max Muncy, the impressive Will Smith, and eventually Alex Verdugo, but Seager adds another elite bat to the group. Any one of them can do damage at any time, meaning no lead is too safe.
And with how the Dodgers set their batting order, having Muncy, Pollock, or a fully-functioning Corey Seager hitting lower down in the order is lineup length that most teams would find extremely desirable and hate to face.
So, slowly but surely, the 25-year-old is rediscovering his All-Star form. And with it, comes yet another added layer to a new-look offense that is poised to redeem itself after sputtering last October.
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