One of the differences between the Dodgers going into the playoffs in 2019 verses 2018 is that they have Corey Seager at shortstop instead of Manny Machado. The lost 2018 season is well documented as Seager had both Tommy John and hip surgery. Machado was acquired in July of 2018 to fill in before he became a free agent and the Dodgers didn’t make much of an attempt to re-sign him.
Seager not only had to recover from his major surgeries, but he also changed his diet as the Dodgers were afraid he’d blow up with all the inactivity.
Coming into the 2019 there were all different kinds of expectations on Seager. Many would compare him to Machado while others recognized that he could start slow. After a long rehabilitation both off and on the field it looks like the Dodgers are finally getting the real Corey Seager. This article will take a look at his gradual progress this season, as he seems ready for the post season.
First Month Struggles
During Spring Training, Corey Seager was brought along slowly and seemed noticeably thinner due to his new diet. He didn’t see actual game action until about two weeks out from Opening Day.
While Seager did hit a home run on Opening Day, the first few weeks of his comeback looked a little shaky. His defense was sloppy, and his bat was not the Corey Seager we became accustomed to in his first two full seasons in the bigs. Seasons that saw him take home the Silver Slugger award at shortstop in both campaigns.
His strikeouts were on the rise, and his slugging percentage was way down. Below are his statistics from Opening Day through April 30.
Getting Hot, Getting Hurt
Seager’s struggles continued in the beginning of May as he slashed just .194/.289/.355 (AVG/OBP/SLG) but then started to heat up. For the next month of games, he ended up slashing .354/.415/.625. However, as he was running the bases against the Angels in Anaheim on June 11, he pulled a hamstring. He ended up missing a full month of the season but we did get to see Seager and A.J. Pollock in a rehabilitation assignment with the Quakes. His full numbers from the beginning of May until his injury are below. As you can see, his bat was clearly looking like the Corey Seager from before 2018.
Seager came back after the All-Star Break and started slowly. In his first eight games back he slashed only .148/.258/.185 and continued to look a little shaky and unsure on defense. Through the rest of July and August he started to be pretty consistent, if unspectacular. He triple slashed .273/.313/.482 with 4 home runs over 37 games. While he did add 17 doubles, the power had not totally come back.
Below are his totals from the All-Star Break until the end of August.
Getting Hot, Staying Hot
— Michael J. Duarte (@michaeljduarte) September 23, 2019
In September the home run power has started to return. There were fewer doubles and more home runs as his slugging percentage spiked. The Dodgers have been batting him a bit lower in the order in many games but it seems to be working. Seager likes to attack the first pitch and that is not something the Dodgers want at the top of the order.
Batting anywhere from five to seven in the lineup seems to suit Seager and his approach. Against right handed pitchers he’s been batting behind Cody Bellinger in the order and bats seventh against lefties.
Some of the defensive metrics for Seager have him in the lower half of all shortstops defensively. He will never be a great fielding shortstop like Francisco Lindor but in the past he’s been ranked quite high. The eye test over the last month or so says that his defense is looking better. He seems to be making more plays than before. Feeling healthy and being confident he’s healthy are probably contributing to his better defensive play.
Corey Seager is trending in the right direction both offensively and defensively. Moreover, he’s having a campaign that’s worthy of a few Comeback Player of the Year votes as well. Plus well earned Player of the Week honors.
That’ll earn you Player of the Week honors.
— MLB (@MLB) September 23, 2019
As Los Angeles rolls into the playoffs, having a healthy and productive Corey Seager would be something they haven’t had since 2016. Remember, he was having back and elbow problems already in 2017. With him protecting Bellinger against righties and being in the lower part of the order against lefties the batting order is much stronger with a productive Seager.
A healthy and productive Corey Seager would increase the Dodgers odds of going all the way in 2019.