Just who is Kyle Seager?
The Seattle Mariners thought they had it all figured out after his final month boon in 2012 and his emergence though the first half of 2013 — and the answer was good.
In fact, it was better than good: carrying a .293/.359/.488 triple slash going into the All-Star break, Seager’s .846 OPS fell just behind that of Evan Longoria (.863) and was ahead of third basemen like Manny Machado (.807). Under some different circumstances — if he played in the NL, for instance — he might have even been good enough to represent the M’s in the Midsummer Classic.
So, with that expectation set for Seattle, things would only look up from here with their young third baseman … until it didn’t.
As it turns out, when a player goes all gangbusters with a ridiculous .396/.464/.635 triple slash through 112 PA in July that makes him easily the best third baseman in the game for that month at 1.8 fWAR, there’s really nowhere to go from there but down.
I just don’t think the M’s would have expected that “down” to be a total collapse of his offensive game, that’s all.
Yes, while the 25-year-old’s .274/.346/.453 line is still quite good on a big-picture perspective, it also belies just how bad he’s been since July ended. Keep in mind that this was an emerging offensive star whose average hit .300 after play on August 1, and that should give you a bit of an idea of how far down he’s come.
Currently mired in a five-game hitless streak that’s seen him go 0-for-17, Seager is at serious risk of posting consecutive sub-.700 OPS months after a brutal .194/.303/.340 line in August and currently owning a .670 OPS in September. The pop is still there as he’s hit five homers over 145 at-bats since August, but there are signs that suggest something is seriously off with his swing.
The easy way out here would probably to point out his .234 BABIP over the last 30 days compared to the .319 he got in the first half and just chalk up the whole think to luck, but that isn’t the right answer here.
Not when his line drive rate has collapsed to 17.6 percent since the break, and not when he’s basically been a pop-up king since then, hitting them at a brutal 16.5 percent rate — more than double of his 8.2 in the first half. Is he trying too hard to force the ball into the air and capitalize on the 12.3 percent HR/FB rate he posted in the first half? The 51.6 percent fly ball rate he has (vs. 40.4) suggests so, and the approach clearly isn’t working.
Instead, his numbers paint a pretty clear picture of someone forcing issues beyond his skill level.
He’s swinging more (44.0 percent in second half vs. 41.1, but making less contact overall (82.6 percent vs. 83.8). But the lynchpin is that he’s actually making more contact with pitches outside the zone (68.5 percent vs. 62.1), and as we’ve seen in his batted ball numbers, it isn’t exactly what you’d call good contact.
So, what the M’s have have for about a month and a half now is a player who isn’t known for his glove, and who hasn’t hit for much except for the five homers that lead the team in the last 30 days.
Is this the Kyle Seager they can expect going forward? Or is his first half more indicative of what the team is going to get on a consistent basis? Will they see a sample size large enough without the wild, lengthy ups and downs that their third baseman has exhibited this season?
All of those questions may not be too pertinent to the M’s as far as competitiveness in the AL West goes this year, but it’s something they’ll have to closely monitor going forward.