Is Corey Seager the Best Hitter in the NL?

Our first Deep Dive of the 2020 season has arrived!

This year’s Los Angeles Dodger to get off to a ridiculous start is not nearly as surprising as last year’s. Cody Bellinger took the league by storm in 2019, outperforming projections to a degree rarely ever seen. By contrast, Corey Seager’s start to 2020 should not come as a shock to those who have followed the young shortstop’s career to this point.

Seager made his mark early in MLB with a rookie season for the ages. Both his wOBA and OPS were a full standard deviation above the league average, and among qualified batters, he finished 13th in wOBA, 13th in OPS, and 10th in wRAA. Not bad for a first attempt at Major League pitching.

Season stats for Seager not including his 2015 cup of coffee or 2018 injury-shortened season. Sources: Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, Baseball Savant

His 2017 numbers were in line with his rookie campaign, which made the baseball universe believe that he was going to be a perennial All-Star and perhaps MVP candidate. Unfortunately, as most know, the world had other plans for Seager in 2018. Surgeries on his hip and his elbow cost him not only the 2018 season, but also much of the offseason leading up to 2019. Due to this, the 2019 season was not up to the same level that we had seen from Seager in 2016 and 2017, but the numbers were by no means bad. He led the National League in doubles. His wOBA and OPS were still above league average despite never feeling right during the season.

Fast forward to 2020. Through 11 games, Seager has a .459 wOBA, a 1.132 OPS, has already added nearly a full win to the Dodgers, and is hitting nearly 2/3 balls hard. This is not to say that the entire season will go like this for Seager, but there so far has been no sign of slowing down. In fact, his .375 batting average is under-performing. He has an expected batting average at this point of over .500. Like I pointed out in Quick Pitch, every ball that Seager hits is leaving the bat with a fury. Even his outs look good right now.

Source: Baseball Savant

Contact like this shows why his xBA is so much higher than his actual even at this point in the season. The best part for Dodger fans is that the ball is getting sprayed to every field with this kind of power.

Source: Baseball Savant
Source: Baseball Savant

From the examples, one can see that Seager is hitting all kinds of pitches in different zones. In his career, Seager has been ruthless not only against the fastball but the slider as well. This sets up to be a two-headed monster that plagues relievers especially in this new era of high velocity fastball/slider repertoires. He even shows that the changeup isn’t safe in the SF game facing Tony Watson.

The short answer to the original question is still at this point no, Corey Seager is not yet the best hitter in the NL; however, based on his underlying numbers from 2016 and 2017 as well as the start to his 2020 season, there is no reason he can’t be. Keep an eye on this guy.

Quick Pitch – 7/27

Coronavirus Outbreak

The first weekend of the 2020 MLB season is in the books, and it’s fair to say that it didn’t exactly go as planned. With news that at least 14 individuals inside the Miami Marlins organization have tested positive for coronavirus, the league office has its first true test. The 60-man player pool was created in order to combat the effect of an outbreak occurring throughout an organization. The main issue here, however, is and always should be protecting the health of the highest risk individuals inside MLB’s universe. It isn’t time to freak out yet. It’s time to sit back and see what Commissioner Manfred and the league will do to keep this season going in a safe manner.

Corey Seager…

Let’s talk about baseball. The Dodgers no doubt will be disappointed with an opening series split with the woeful San Francisco Giants, but there were a couple very encouraging signs that deserve some attention. 

When Corey Seager broke his body in 2018, many thought it would be unlikely that he would come back to be the same player that he was prior to the injuries. This claim was not necessarily debunked in 2019 when Seager had a very good but not great season at the plate and didn’t flash great arm strength at shortstop. Many Dodgers fans wanted Seager to be traded in the offseason or even at the deadline last year for someone like Francisco Lindor, but I was not one of these people. Seager’s approach at the plate is quite different from other Dodger batters; it’s well known that he relishes attacking the first pitch especially when it is a fastball. 

In this weekend’s opening series, Seager had 16 official at-bats. 12 of these 16 at-bats resulted in a hard-hit ball (95+ mph exit velocity). What’s even more interesting to me is that his approach at the plate has not changed despite calls for him to do so from fans. Seager is mashing the ball, and he’s doing so on the first pitch regardless of where it is.

With the exception of the ball that hit his wrist/bat in the last game, all of these balls were “hard-hit.” Source: Baseball Savant

If he keeps this up, he will be in the running for MVP at the end of the season. Eventually these hard-hit balls will find space in the field of play or leave the yard. It may still be a little premature to say so, but I’m going out on a limb to say that Corey Seager is back.

Article image sourced from LA Times.

Quick Pitch

Opening Day 2020 Edition

  1. The Ball is Still Flying

The Los Angeles Dodgers scored 27 runs in three Summer Camp games against real MLB opponents. Of those 27 runs, 16 of them were scored via the 6 home runs the team hit in those games. Historically, Dodger Stadium, as we all know, is not exactly home run hitting paradise with its large dimensions and notorious marine layer. The only evidence we need to justify that marine layer is Joc Pederson’s “I hit that ball to Pasadena” (thanks Joe Davis for the quote) reaction to a walk-off home run last year on Jackie Day. That ball got out by about 3 feet LOL. 

When MLB was accused of modifying the baseball to facilitate more home runs last year, the league responded by saying it just had gotten more efficient at coring the baseball. Well, so far in 2020, the coring of the baseball seems to be just as if not more efficient. It’ll be interesting to follow the home run trend this season, especially in a 60-game season.

2. Brusdar Graterol is Insane

So, this observation is even more obvious to those watching the Dodgers than the home run one. Graterol, originally a top prospect in the Twins organization, has long been touted as a flamethrower with starting potential, but I didn’t realize how hard this dude could throw until Monday night. The Diamondbacks may as well have been the Bad News Bears in the batter’s box. Graterol touched 101 mph with his 2-seam/1-seam fastball, and his command looked like it was in mid-season form. 

Source: Statcast, Baseball Savant

With the main struggle of the 2018 and 2019 Dodgers being the back end of the bullpen leading to Kenley Jansen, command and velocity like Graterol’s would be a welcome addition to the 2020 squad. The best part of this for the Dodgers is that originally Graterol wasn’t even coming to LA originally in the Betts deal, but Boston basically gifted him to the Dodgers when they didn’t like Graterol’s medical history. Thanks boys.

3. The New Rules Suck

I know the season hasn’t even started yet, but I already hate the new rules. Being a baseball purist, I love the idea of bringing pitchers in to face one guy. I love that pitchers hit in the NL. I love that games aren’t decided in extra innings until someone gets a guy who starts in the batter’s box across home plate. I get that 2020 is weird, but these rules didn’t need to happen. Let baseball be baseball. Those who actually follow the game are not worried about it. Leave it alone.