Tag Archives: Kyle Seager

Mariners diddle mediocrity, Kyle Seager flirts with a perhaps underestimated ceiling

 

The Mariners, having recently crushed the Yankees in their own stadium for the third time in a row, have crawled back above .500, continuing the trend where they diddle with mediocrity while various players experience cavernous lows and inexplicable highs—often in such a way as to balance out the latter with the former, producing the same sort of mediocrity you see now except typically worse because, you know, Jason Bay.

The Mariners story this year was supposed to be one of change- like Barack Obama in the 2004 Presidential election, these bleeding-heart liberal fuckers just don’t know when to quit! Yet, similar but also not at all similar to Obama’s reign as supreme high sultan of the White House, the Mariners are not changed insofar as they are relying on new faces, they are changed instead by the increased production of old ones.

Utterly worthless analogies aside, much was made regarding Robinson Cano’s arrival with the Mariners this past offseason—and reasonably so. Cano came with an enormous price tag. The money Cano received to be the Mariners’ second baseman for the next 10 years was more than “go buy yourself a new car” sort of money; it more closely approximated “Sylvio Burlesconi sodomizing 15 Italian prostitutes in a pile of cocaine” sort of money.

Cano has been very good yet simultaneously disappointing since his arrival. He is without question the steadiest source of offense on the squad and far less prone to the precipitous ups and downs that plague even the more talented and productive of the Mariners’ other offensive contributors. That being said, the power numbers have yet to show up. Admittedly, this has hindered his production, as his slugging percentage is presently sitting well below his career average. Though really, anyone who thinks this is a long-term issue is a buffoon. Cano did not forget how to hit dingers out of the blue. In fact, Cano is not even a guy whose offensive game is predicated around trying to hit the ball out of the park all of the time anyway. Cano likes to spray the ball around the field. In doing so, he achieves a level of consistency that most Mariners (who commonly feature all-or-nothing approaches spurred by either the ignorance of youth or the ignorance of their coaching staff) lack.

If this sounds familiar, then you are one of about 20 people to have read my prior post from about a month ago pertaining to Kyle Seager. In this post I discussed Seager’s approach at the plate as well as his batted ball profile. Seager is a fly ball hitter who tends to pull the ball to right field—that is his greatest asset but it is also one of the reasons that his production tends to fluctuate between the frigid, Regina George-esque slump with which he entered the season and the zesty, Michelle Rodriguez-style hot streak that he has been riding ever since.

Guys who pull the ball and guys who hit the ball in the air suffer when the ball doesn’t leave the yard. These same guys tend to post below average BABIP (Batting average on balls in play) as well. Both of these trends make sense as most fly balls that do not go for dingers tend to be caught by the oft very good and in the worst case probably adequate fielders who are literally paid millions of dollars to ensure these balls do not touch the ground. Further, by pulling the ball all the time those few ground balls that these types of hitters DO hit are far more likely to be gobbled up by the shift—something that has become increasingly en-vogue in Major League Baseball since managers have apparently realized finally that you do not need to look like David Ortiz in order to pull the ball all of the goddamn time.

As I discussed earlier, Kyle Seager will get his. That has been proven over the course of two years and I am of the mind that the numbers Seager has had in the past will likely resemble the numbers he puts up in the near future, until age and injury eventually catch up to him, though those two events may exist in a place relatively far in the future.

All that being said, I think I (and other like-minded Mariners’ fans) may have been unfair to Seager in making this assumption. The Mariners have been so consistently terrible over the past few years that our appreciation for Seager has probably been greater than say, a fan of the Red Sox rooting for a similar player over a similar period of time. We have not been accustomed to good players, so when we have actually had one, we cherish him and do not demand any more than the 3.6 WAR that Seager seems readily capable of. In adopting that sort of mindset, however, we lose some of the space for hope in terms of progressing towards something even better than what we have now.

It is possible that Seager, as of right now, is simply in the midst of one of his many hot streak to which we have become accustomed. He will ride this wave of productivity like Patrick Swayze in Point Break until the wave crashes and he dies and comes back to haunt his wife like Patrick Swayze in Ghost. I can live with that progression, as the hot and cold streaks have thus far happily balanced out to an effective aggregate product. But I cannot help but wonder if there isn’t more to see here.

Seager is only 26 years old. He came out the same year Ackley did and while Ackley is commonly pegged as somebody to whom the “Breakout Candidate” tag can be fairly attached; Seager is represented as a guy who has reached his potential and will coast until decline inevitably seizes him by the balls and renders him old, wealthy and chubby with a flaccid power stroke and a struggling libido.

But why not discard this notion and instead believe that this is Seager’s breakout year. In doing so we are taking a leap of faith only insofar as Seager’s stature indicates a player whose ceiling could not possibly be that high. But hey, is that really a fair judgment to make, seeing as that same player with that same stature has been crushing dingers like these to right fields all over the league for 2 years and doing so with only about 2 years of major league experience under his belt?

I’m hardly guaranteeing that this is the case. In fact, I really doubt that it is. That being said though, why not wish for something better? It has been a long time since we have had a homegrown position player who has panned out as someone who contributes. It has been even longer since we have had a homegrown talent who has become a star. Seager is 26 years old and should only now be entering the prime of his career. He has been tearing the cover off the ball.

Who says he can’t keep it up?

Go Mariners.

The Seattle Mariners, reclaimers of optimism

The Mariners recently decided to take 3 of 4 games from the Oakland A’s. They wrapped the series with a completely unnecessary doubleheader yesterday brought on by a situation earlier in the year where Oakland’s poverty literally leaked on to the field of play, turning it into a Swamp of Sadness-equivalent and resulting in several of the Mariners’ ponies losing the will to live, languishing in the muck adrift in their own sense of desperate apathy, the faint call to carry on muted through the mufflers of their own helplessness until they were utterly submerged.

 

Yesterday’s doubleheader played itself out in about the oddest way imaginable. The Mariners picked up a win in the first game, going to extras following a weird start by Felix Hernandez in which we didn’t appear to have any of his pitches working. Felix surrendered eleven hits and 3 runs, yet the Mariners, behind a couple well-timed dingers by team strongmen Hart and Zunino managed to make it out alive from a game where Yoervis fucking Medina was credited for the win. Oddness.

 

The second game saw a resurgent Erasmo Ramirez return briefly from AAA in order to turn in possibly his most serviceable effort of the season, going 6 innings and allowing only 2 earned runs in the process. The problem in this second game was offense, which seems to hardly be surprising when the lineup includes the corpse of Brad Miller, Willie Bloomquist, John Buck, Cole Gillespie and Stefen Romero. I understand we want righties in the lineup but you need to have quality right handed hitters for this to make sense. If I want beer but don’t have any beer I don’t start fermenting my own urine. The Mariners are fermenting their own urine. It smells like Bloomquist’s grit.

 

A big positive to come out of the 1st of these two games is James Jones’ play in center field. The guy looks infinitely superior to anybody else the Mariners have wheeled out there since Franklin Gutierrez was patrolling center. He made a fantastic diving catch in the seventh inning and made a few excellent plays in the early innings besides. His routes look rather…sober…compared to those we have become accustomed to with Abe Almonte scurrying about. To cap it all off he flashed a plus throwing arm and was able to reach base a few times as well.

 

I still have no fucking clue why McClendon went ahead and slotted him in the 2 hole for his first start in the Major Leagues, but I am willing to suspend my disbelief if the guy continues to play well because frankly, the Mariners need good defensive outfielders to man center and if he can make the tiniest bit of noise at the plate and on the base paths I think he could be a valuable addition moving forward. The tools are there, if the polish can come with it on the job, then welcome to the squad Mr. Jones.

 

The Mariners are heading home following a road trip that took them to a game above .500 where they will be taking on the Kansas City Royals who presently mirror the M’s location around the mythical .500 line. Royals fans probably expected more from their squad moving into 2014—they experienced one of their better seasons in recent memory last year and have been posturing as though gripped by a win-now mindset as evidenced by their (probably idiotic) trade of former No.1 prospect in all of baseball, Will Myers, for serviceable former Rays’ starter James Shields.

 

The trade reeked of the same desperation-spunk surrounding the Mariners’ trade for disgruntled Canadian injury-enthusiast Erik Bedard in which we gave up Adam Jones, now a perennial All-Star for the Orioles and emerged no closer to “winning now” than we had been before, with the added caveat of lacking even the “winning then” that perhaps Jones could have helped with.

 

In that sense—I feel for the Royals’ fan base as a similarly afflicted bunch. The Royals also have several home grown positional prospects-turned-regulars who have taken forever to develop and often developed into something that rested well below their perceived ceilings as prospects. Eric Hosmer never became really as cool as he seemed, Alex Gordon didn’t figure it out until he was like 26, etc.

 

I suppose both of those players are better than their Mariners’ counterparts in Smoak and Ackley, but regardless, the results have not been there with a similar organizational approach.

 

So hey Royals, throw us a bone here. We can’t both make it to the playoffs can we? And you had George Brett once! Your franchise has even won/been to the World Series before!

 

At this point, as a Mariners fan, it is cool to even be able to care still. I have seen optimism dwindle so much faster than it has this season and for the team to remain afloat at this point in time is a revelation. I look forward to going home and seeing the Mariners play baseball and I have been able to do this for more than a month. I think this is what it must feel like to be a fan of a team that is good. I like the feeling. It makes it easier to sleep at night and it saves me money on liquor.

 

Go Mariners.

Kyle Seager and the streakiness inherent in hitting the ball in the air all of the damn time

Joey strokes the Seager boner of the Mariners’ early season confusion-orgy.

This is a necessary post to remind us all of why we love Kyle Seager.

Less sitting, more hitting.

Mariners’ fans are familiar with Kyle Seager. He has been a lone bright spot on a team that has had very few bright spots over the past few years. If you consider an average, productive, worth-having major league position player to be worth roughly 3.0 WAR, then Kyle Seager is the lone Mariner to qualify as a productive everyday Major Leaguer on this club for the past 2 seasons. This is pretty unfortunate, given how 3.0 WAR is kind of the low-end cutoff for this degree of productivity and most teams have a few of these sorts of players if not 5 or 6 of them.

The Mariners have Robinson Cano and Corey Hart now. This is cool and something that makes watching the mariners a tiny bit less depressing than it was the past couple of years. These are veteran players with proven track records who have been more or less the same guy throughout their careers and are now firmly operating within their prime years. The Mariners have had veterans before, but these veterans either had not been good players for a few years (Ibanez), or were simply never good players to begin with (Morse). It can be pretty depressing watching a team that is riddled with question marks. It is more depressing watching a team entirely comprised of question marks. The term “riddled” is used to describe some surface filled with a bajillion holes and thusly rendered into something resembling Swiss cheese. A lot of teams have had this Swiss-cheese consistency. The Mariners the past few years haven’t even really had any cheese at all which makes the term “riddle” not even really work. The no-cheese Mariners, some would call them (Nobody would ever call them that).

But there is more cheese here than meets the eye! Kyle Seager exists. He is the tiniest of morsels remaining after a drunk-five-year-old-with-a-hole-puncher-esque onslaught of inconsistency. And he isn’t even that consistent within his own consistency. That was a silly sentence. How can a player be consistently inconsistent? The term I would use: streaky.

Imagine if you will a coin. A coin when flipped has (basically) a 50% outcome of being either heads or tails. Let us then assign a positive outcome to one of these events. In the case of heads, you get 1 dollar. In the case of tails, somebody changes the channel at your apartment to the Hallmark Channel and then subsequently shatters your remote control. It’s all about the O.

Bad analogy do-over. Kyle Seager has been a player who can look terrible for stretches, but whose numbers have in our recent experience eventually trended towards a certain, predictable result over the course of an entire season’s worth of ups and downs. We have recently been provided some empirical evidence to support this claim. Kyle Seager spent the first two weeks of this year being absolutely terrible. Prior to this last week, Seager was arguably the most maddeningly awful player in the Mariners’ lineup. Yet, we as fans have come to expect Seager to be a solid contributor. How can these two outcomes coexist within the same paradigm and both be true? Streakiness. Seager is not alone in his up and down ways. Just look at Mike Zunino…

But what about Seager’s play results in this kind of streakiness? It is easy to assign a certain nebulous, platonic understanding of streakiness to a player without looking deeper into the player’s skillset to determine if there is perhaps, an underlying manner of playing the game that can result in this day-to-day inconsistency.

“Kyle is just hot right now” people might say. If those people were talking about Kyle Seager the way people talk about Hansel in Zoolander.

I believe that in Kyle Seager’s case there is a rhyme and perhaps a reason to his streakiness. Kyle Seager is a flyball hitter. Kyle Seager is also almost strictly speaking a dead-pull hitter. This year, there has been a record-setting pace for the number of infield shifting being done around the league. Teams are no longer simply shifting for big, obvious dead-pull guys in the traditional mold of a David Ortiz or Prince Fielder. Teams are noticing that little guys can be one-trick ponies too. Kyle Seager is one such player that could see more shifts in his future.

Let’s look at a Kyle Seager spray chart courtesy of baseballsavant.com. I have went ahead and filtered out the groundballs for a clearer picture into what I am looking for with Seager’s game.

Kyle Seager spray chart leftandright flies

Bingo bango bongo. As we can see, Seager’s success comes when he pulls the ball. Period. There is really no other interpretation to be drawn here. Seager is a dead-pull flyball hitter who shows impressive power to the pull side which the eyeball test validates by noting one of the more beautifully classic lefty uppercuts that I have seen in a while– let alone by a player in Mariners’ blue.

There is an upside and a downside to this kind of hitter and that is fairly easy to qualify. Fly ball hitters’ success is governed by the quality of their contact more so than a player who sprays the ball around and hits groundballs with more frequency. A guy like Cano is going to hit for a higher average and a higher BABIP than Seager because Cano is primarily a line drive hitter. If Cano misses a pitch, he may send a soft, broken-bat line drive into shallow center for a single. If Seager just misses a pitch, he is going to most likely be serving up lazy fly balls to right. When Cano hits the ball the other way, he is likely to get a few more singles as soft line drives drop down in front of the left fielder. When Seager hits the ball the other way, he loses distance and with it some of the success his pull-side power grants him, again, serving up lazy flyballs to the outfielder.

Players can change over the course of their careers, and Seager has several years of good baseball ahead of him. All indications point to Seager carrying the success he has had into the future- but if his style of hitting remains static he will likely remain prone to cold spells when his flies aren’t leaving the yard or crashing into fences.

This doesn’t bother me at all. We have seen what happens when Seager is squaring pitches up. Seager has carried the Mariners to 3 victories in the past 5 games. No player exists in a vacuum, and credit should be given to the guys who got on base in front of him in both of his go-ahead blasts this past week. That being said somebody has to sack up and hit the ball hard to drive those guys in. That guy has been Kyle Seager. The Mariners would do well to capitalize on this stretch, as it should be clear to everyone with eyeballs and the gumption necessary to sit down and watch the Mariners play baseball that when Kyle Seager plays well this team is astronomically superior to when he is mired in one of his slumps.

At the end of the year, Kyle Seager’s numbers will look good. They won’t reflect the AL player-of-the-week numbers he put up this past week. They don’t have to. As long as the hot stretches properly balance out the (hopefully shortened) slumps, the aggregate total will be a solid, above-average major leaguer. The Mariners don’t have many of those. We should all be grateful that he graces us with his presence. We should be doubly grateful that he seems to be superbestpals with Justin Smoak. If we were to get rid of Smoak would Seager’s production dip? Is Smoak required for moral support in order for Seager to continue to be productive? Would Smoak have to start for this to work, or could he be maintained in a symbolic role? This is something to be monitored moving forward, as I delve into the depths of their relationship via anonymous sources and idle social media speculation.

In the meantime, here’s hoping that Seager is doused with frigid Gatorade more often in the coming weeks. Sorry boss.

Umbrella!