When a player has such a dramatic drop-off from the start of the season to the finale, it’s natural to wonder what type of competitor he is. All-Star shortstop Jean Segura went from otherworldly in the first half to below-average for the Milwaukee Brewers down the stretch.
The easy conclusion is fatigue in that the 23-year-old was playing in his first full MLB season at a demanding position. Of the Brewers’ first 100 games, Segura started 96 of them and appeared in two more. Through this period, he still owned a .353 on-base percentage, .471 slugging percentage and .824 OPS.
Over the final 62 team games, Segura started just 47 times, during which he had a .276 OBP, .325 SLG and .601 OPS. His power simply disappeared as he hit more balls on the ground, hitting just one home run compared to the 11 he knocked out in the first 100 contests.
Some may also argue this was simply a regression to Segura’s true talent, as he wasn’t going to maintain a .350/.470/.820 performance throughout the season. Overall, he finished with a .329 OBP and .423 slugging on the season, certainly respectable considering all the circumstances. That still leaves many to wonder if he’s going to sit in the .750 OPS range or closer to .700 moving forward.
The ZiPS projections for 2014 suggest that Segura will be closer to posting a .750 OPS. The Brewers would love an OBP in the .330s even if it meant losing some power, but Segura’s free-swinging ways will make a challenge to bump up the OBP without a little luck. It’ll be especially important to draw more walks should they peg Segura for the leadoff spot since he’s their best option.
Even more than with the stick, it was Segura’s defense that indicated a tired body (and mind) in the final months. Not blessed with a cannon for an arm, he relied heavily on taking good angles, acceleration to the ball and a quick release to prove he could be a high-quality shortstop without the traditional rifle.
As the season progressed, Segura simply looked slow, lacked the extra burst to snag grounders in the hole, and looked rather lazy in his mechanics – both with his footwork and his throws to first. I don’t believe the laziness was a conscious character flaw, but simply a consequence of of baseball’s grind.
Perhaps the best evidence of fatigue over regression affecting the young shortstop was the sudden inefficiency in the stolen base department. Through July 29, Segura was a phenomenal base stealer, swiping 31 bags while getting thrown out only four times. That’s a whopping 88.6 percent success rate. However, from July 30 to the end of the season, Segura had just 13 stolen bases and was caught eight times (62 percent).
A player does not simply forget how to effectively steal bases. The 26-plus percent dip in successful attempts is a clear sign his legs were heavy and that he didn’t have the same gear he possessed early in the year.
The Brewers remain hopeful Segura will be a rock at one of the toughest positions to fill in baseball. Most doubted his ability to handle shortstop, instead pegging him as a second baseman. Admittedly, his bulky lower half and overall arm strength could cause trouble down the road, but he’s been terribly impressive in his 1,640 innings thus far.
Should Milwaukee get a .750 OPS bat with above-average defense at short to go with a plus-plus base runner, the club will be in better shape than a majority of MLB teams. Segura has every opportunity to be a steady producer for the Brewers, and they want nothing more than to watch him develop into a long-term linchpin in their lineup.