Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Seager came into this season as the clear choice for the starting third baseman job and a good chance to hit near the top of the order. In his first two years he appeared to be dependable and clutch for a team that needed someone to fit that profile. His numbers were not astronomical but he was someone the Seattle Mariners needed in their lineup everyday to provide much needed offense.
This season, with what should prove to be an improved team offense at the end of the day, Seager seems to have not shown up with a triple slash of .179/.304/.328. So what is it that is holding Seager back?
First thing I noticed compared to last season is that Seager is striking out at a higher rate. His strikeout rate last season was 17.6% compared to 21.5% this season. While not a huge increase it is certainly something that has attributed to the drop in production. This is likely due to Seager seeing more first pitch strikes as he is getting them at 69.6% this year.
Falling behind in the count early puts a hitter in a hole immediately. They can no longer be so selective but rather must be protective. This number is a bit inflated as the league average this year is nearly 10% lower than what Seager is getting. To improve on this Seager must be more aggressive so pitchers aren’t attacking early in the at bat but rather cautious.
While the increase in strikeouts isn’t helping with Seager’s struggles there is much more to the issue. His BABIP is alarmingly low. As someone who has hit close to the league average in his career, there is no doubt his .208 BABIP is most troubling to his production so far this year. With such a drastic change from his numbers in previous years and hitting so far below the league average we hope to see a change in production.
The only problem is that BABIP is not entirely based on luck. Seager runs well enough to swipe a few bases but this does not mean that he will beat out every ground ball. This is a problem as he is hitting groundballs 46% of the time and line drives at just a 10% rate, changes of nearly 10-12% from previous years.
Seager usually has around a 20% line drive rate and around 35% groundball rate. This is especially difficult with a pull hitter like Seager while some teams are using a shift against him. As long as Seager keeps putting on the ground and to the right he will continue to struggle.
It’s difficult to say why he is hitting more grounders than usual. His plate discipline is consistent from previous years. Swinging at bad pitches isn’t causing the problem for him. Perhaps the slight increase in changeups seen has caused this trend of ground balls. Whether this is a pitch selection issue or hitting mechanics problem, Seager is a good enough major league player to make adjustments and be productive again.
This past Wednesday, Seager flashed some power to show why he is an everyday player hitting two home runs and walking off against the Houston Astros then went 2-for-4 last night.
Could this be the start of him returning to form? Everyone hopes so but Kyle should be monitored. In season adjustments are always needed; let’s just hope he can make a quick adjustment without needing time in Tacoma, but its not out of the question.