Seattle Mariners: Taking a look at what’s wrong with Kyle Seager

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 19: Kyle Seager #15 of the Seattle Mariners flips his bat getting struck out relief pitcher Matt Bush #51 of the Texas Rangers during an at-bat in the eighth inning of a game at Safeco Field on September 19, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. The Rangers won the game 3-1. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 19: Kyle Seager #15 of the Seattle Mariners flips his bat getting struck out relief pitcher Matt Bush #51 of the Texas Rangers during an at-bat in the eighth inning of a game at Safeco Field on September 19, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. The Rangers won the game 3-1. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images) /
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Kyle Seager easily had the worst year of his Mariners career. He hit a measly .221, with his lowest home run total since 2013, and only walked 38 times. The defense came in as his worst since 2013 as well. Fans need to ask, what’s wrong with Kyle Seager?

For most players who are heading into their age 30 season, they are slowly exiting their prime. Back in the late 2000’s or early 2010’s a players prime was later, but that usually involved some extracurricular reasons. Now players have their prime around age 26-29. For a third baseman who has been a solid defender and very healthy, 30 shouldn’t have been a problem. Instead, we started looking for reasons as to what’s wrong with Mariners 3B Kyle Seager. It became the worst year of his career since he started playing full time.

Seager seemed to still be hitting the ball well, as he overcame the blip in 2017 of a very high fly ball rate. Looking at Fangraphs, in 2017 he had a fly ball rate of 51.6%. His previous high was 45.0 in 2013, the worst season of his career to that point. In 2018, he lowered it back below 45.0%, albeit barely, to 44.6%. His line drives were back up near his career average, and his launch angle dropped as well.

It could simply be that he had some bad luck the last two years. Seager had a career BABIP of .290 after the 2016 season. In 2017 and 2018, it was much lower, at a combined rate of .256. You could look add 34 points to his average this year and be back to .257. This is a much more realistic and understandable number for Seager.

The lower BABIP could lead to another factor mentioned earlier. Seager only walked 38 times this year. Nearly 2.5% lower than his career walk rate average, Kyle was likely forcing it at the plate, as it’s easy to become disgruntled when hits aren’t landing like they normally do. This would explain the career high in strikeout rate as well. His career average before 2018 was 16.7%, and in 2018 in jumped up to 21.9%.

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Looking at Seager’s line drive rate is another example of how he ran into bad luck in 2018. He still managed to get extra-base hits and around the same rate he has in the past per hit. In fact, he raised his career average in this stat up to 9.0%.

Seager is making good contact, and on a good plane, when hits the ball. His line drive rate was back up near his career average, and he popped out in the infield for the second lowest rate of his career. When it comes down to what’s wrong with Kyle Seager at the plate, it simply looks to be bad luck, with an added on snowball effect of forcing and trying to make things happen.

The defensive side is a different story. A likely factor is the struggles at the plate affecting his mental strength. When you struggle at any aspect of a game you are playing, it leaks into the other areas. Getting robbed a couple at-bats in a row, or smoking a few line drives at people could nag at you while you are on defense, and make you a half step slow.

Kyle Seager was a negative in a lot of fielding aspects this year. The one that stands out the most is how many runs Seager was worth on defense based on plays made. He was worth 10 runs less than an average third baseman this year. His only saving grace was that he was good at turning double plays, and was a much better fielder at home than on the road.

There was a seven-run difference at home vs. on the road in Seager’s fielding this year, one of the larger gaps in his career. There is a legit possible reason for the difference this season. Kyle and his wife welcomed their third child to the world in August, and this was their first born during the season.

Having a new baby at home during the season could easily explain a section of his struggles this year. It may sound odd at first, but life changes a lot when it happens, and taking away more sleep from the life of a ballplayer could have a draining effect. Look at Seager’s stats in the month of August. This was easily his worst month.

He hit .183 in August, with a .225 on-base, and grounded into as many double plays, five, as he did in all the other months combined. A large part of this could be explained away with a look at his BABIP that month. It was an incredibly low .192.

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For all the reasons we are looking at as to what’s wrong with Kyle Seager, it looks mostly to be some bad luck. His fixed his launch angle. He hit fewer pop-ups, and more line drives. If Seager gets back to a normal level of luck, it should make a world of difference in fixing his game. As the BABIP rises, so should Kyle Seager’s all-around game. A little more sleep would probably help too.