Corey Seager had a subpar season for the Dodgers in 2019. Many MLB experts ponder over his expectations for the 2020 season.
It turns out the Corey Seager question was a two-parter. Heading into 2019 the focus was squarely on Seager’s health. Would the star shortstop be recovered from a pair of surgeries in time to start the season and play a full year?
Results were seemingly not in doubt. Prior to the start of the 2019 season, Steamer projections showed Seager projected for 5.7 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) according to Fangraphs. That put him ahead of projections for Anthony Rendon, Christian Yelich, and Nolan Arenado.
Anticipation ran high. Seager was healthy enough to make his fourth straight Opening Day start, but the results over an entire season, interrupted by yet another injury, disappointed. The shortstop’s .272 average, .335 on-base percentage, 19 home runs and wRC+ of 113 were all the worst of his three full years with 500 or more at-bats.
The question now becomes whether those results indicate a player still in recovery mode, or if this performance sets the bar for a new normal.
As industry experts ponder over the results of 2019 and start to make their educated guesses for 2020, early returns show a tendency to bet on the latter.
White did note that Seager was coming off an injury, has been an elite player, and had a great September, so he deserves a pass for his subpar season.
“The plate discipline was fine throughout the year. It’s just he wasn’t hitting the ball as hard as he did before…” White said on the podcast. “And if he’s at less than 100 percent physically that explains a lot of it right there. He’s only 25.”
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In 2019, Corey had a hard-hit percentage of 42.3% which is very close to his 2017 hard-hit rate of 44%. Other than his line drive rate down exactly 2 percentage points, Seager’s other batted ball data were in line with his career averages this season.
StatCast, however, seems to confirm Scott White’s assessment as Seager’s average exit velocity was 88.8 MPH in 2019, which is down from his career average of 90.1 MPH. A closer look at Seager’s splits from last year doesn’t seem to clear things up.
With almost an identical number of plate appearances for each half (270 and 271), Seager’s average dropped from .278 to .266. Yet his doubles and home runs were up slightly in the second half (2 more doubles and 3 more home runs).
And the hot September that White cited didn’t carry into the postseason. The Los Angeles Times noted the shortstop went just 3-20 with eight strikeouts in an article that focused on the team’s postseason hitting approach.
The sample size is far too small to be indicative, but continued success in October would have offered some small reassurance.
Of all the available numbers, perhaps Seager’s age, as White highlighted, gives the most hope for a quick rebound. At this stage, it’s the intangibles, more than the statistical data, that offer reassurance for a Corey comeback.