Dodgers’ Seager Putting the Sophomore Slump to Shame
By Sunit Bhakta
The Dodgers’ Corey Seager is coming off an excellent rookie season, but many have wondered if he’d regress in 2017 due to the infamous “sophomore slump”. Well, so far not really.
The Dodgers are hoping Seager fights off those two words that can put fear into millions. It’s famous myth in American sports, most prevalent in the NFL (for quarterbacks) and MLB players.
In recent years there have been promising MLB players such as Shelby Miller, Kyle Hendricks, Jedd Gyorko, Wil Myers, Wade Miley, Jordan Pacheco, Jason Heyward, and Vance Worley (among others) who had promising rookie seasons, looked like future stars, but for some reason or another dropped off the next season significantly.
Some eventually recovered, but others did not, and this has been the case with many young players in the history of the game.
As high as many people were on Corey Seager after his 2016 ROY season where he hit a borderline-MVP (finished third in voting) .308/.365/.512, with a 137 OPS+, .372 wOBA, 137 wRC+, 26 home runs, and 40 doubles, a lot of projections had him going through a bit of a regression this season. Not a slump but a down-take in production.
After a solid start, he went through a rough four game stretch (April 16-April 19) that saw him go 2 for 16 at the plate with eight strikeouts (six straight at one point). Personally I never considered that the sophomore slump would be a thing with him, but after watching that stretch, it started to creep into my mind a little.
Remember, he did slow down in the playoffs last year, so I started to wonder if the claims for a regression were valid. It was even more worrisome because Seager is the best and most valuable position player on a team with World Series hopes.
It was probably just an overreaction though, as he has put all worries to bed. Since that rough stretch, he’s had 32 plate appearances and has hit .385/.500/.769 with three home runs (one ridiculous bomb). 24 games into the season, the 23-year-old stud is hitting a robust .310/.402/.552, with five home runs, six doubles, a team leading 17 RBI, and has a 160 OPS+, .407 wOBA, and 157 wRC+. Oh, and the slowdown in the playoffs? Probably just fatigue.
The season is still young, but his numbers are up across the board. You’d like to see him strikeout less, but he’s walking more than he did last season, which is a promising sign. If he continues to show this patience, he has a legitimate shot at an OBP over that shining .400 mark.
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During the Dodger game against the Philadelphia Phillies last night, broadcaster Joe Davis mentioned how Seager leads the entirety of baseball with 36 hard hit balls. That averages out to over one a game, which is remarkable.
He is seeing the ball well, lifting it more, and making some ridiculous contact. Looks like he was correct when he said that he did not have his A-swing last season.
Seager has also been one of the only Dodgers that can actually hit with runners in scoring position (RISP). He is 9-20 with a home run, three doubles, and 11 RBI in those high leverage spots. The kid can flat-out hit whenever and wherever.
Seager seems to be alright and is laughing in the face of the so-called sophomore slump. He has the ability to keep up the numbers he has posted thus far because he’s just that good. He’s a special player who will do a complete 180 on the feared regression and follow his spectacular rookie season with another MVP-caliber year while improving from last season, just like Kris Bryant did in 2016.
In an ESPN article by Robert Sanchez, Seager is said to be driven by fear. A lot of young players are, and that can usually be a detriment to them and affect their abilities (ultimately taking the form of a season or multiple season slump). However, Seager is different, poised beyond his years.
This is what makes him truly special, other than his bat. His poise and quiet confidence that he possesses for such a young player is really remarkable. He truly carries himself like a veteran, and I believe that is the biggest reason why he will not regress. He knows he has to keep working to get better, does not take not anything for granted, knows how to control his emotions and uses them for the better, and performs when there’s pressure on him.
The superstar-in-the-making is turning the term “sophomore slump” into a real myth. I’d be surprised if it was any other way.