It’s been a disappointing year for Mariners 3B Kyle Seager. Undoubtedly, he is as frustrated with his performance as most of us are, but the season hasn’t ended and Seager hasn’t quit trying to turn himself around. In fact, recent changes may well prove that the real Kyle Seager is already back.
I, for one, am of the opinion that Kyle Seager has struggled with his mechanics all year. It’s easy to make an off-hand comment like that and not back it up though, so let’s go ahead and back it up.
In late June, I noticed that Seager’s hands had a little extra motion to them — not the obvious hitch but something more subtle.
For the whole low down, I recommend reading my personal blog post about this, but you’ll get the gist with a couple gifs from MLB.com and Baseball Swingpedia on YouTube.
Here is Seager’s swing (in slow motion) from early this year:
Pay particularly close attention to his hands as he begins to plant his front leg — they drift.
Just the drifting in question:
Okay, no big deal to some, perhaps, but this was new for Seager. Check out how still his hands were during his stride in 2016 (top) and 2017 (bottom):
Now, that seems like a huge difference, doesn’t it?
Well, on July 29th, the Mariners absolutely pounded the Angels’ Félix Peña, and although Seager didn’t join in on the first-inning fun, he did display a noticeable steadiness from the get-go.
Watch his hands against Peña:
And for good measure, here is his full pre-swing on August 10th:
On the broadcast of that August 10th game against the Astros, color commentator Mike Blowers remarked that Seager had been recently heating up as he adjusted his hands. Here is the full quote transcribed from the broadcast:
"Kyle has really been heating up lately. You and I have talked about it, Dave (Sims) — him pulling the ball with authority. And that hitch with his hands where he was dropping his hands and trying to get them back up again and then swinging…the reason why he did that — he wanted to drive the ball the other way, but he was missing the fastball, so he’s gone back to where he’s just trying to push his hands back and not drop them so much."
And, well, all the evidence you need is right here in this post.
Not only has Seager’s hitch recently disappeared, but the drift in his hands during his stride has been minimized since the Peña game.
Since that fateful day on July 29th, Seager has just a .282 wOBA but a phenomenal .436 xwOBA and his xwOBA on all fastballs in that time span is up to .584 compared to .378 for the rest of the season. So while the hits haven’t consistently fallen yet, the real Kyle Seager may already be back to an extent.
Given that he has played just 10 games since the 29th, any claim is subject to the small sample size caveat, but a significant uptick in expected production that coincides with a mechanical adjustment makes it tempting to believe in a real turnaround.
Let’s be clear though. His hands aren’t everything.
With steady hands, Seager still wasn’t great offensively in 2017. There may be a long way to go before he is a legitimate threat at the plate again; however, the 106 wRC+ he posted last year would still be a significant and plainly noticeable upgrade from his current 89 wRC+. But as Mike Blowers remarked, the initial change in Seager’s hands in 2018 was tied to his approach. Now that he has readjusted his hands, he may readapt at the plate too.
All things considered, going back to his mechanical roots and possibly back to his mental roots as well will likely only help Seager, and withthe Mariners in a real fight for a Wild Card spot, there is no assumption of anything being too little, too late. To fend off the upstart Athletics or even the Yankees, the Mariners will need every bit of help they can muster, and with these “new” mechanics, Kyle Seager could be just the guy to carry the lineup into the postseason.
All stats referenced prior to games on 08/11/18