LOS ANGELES -- Corey Seager homered Tuesday and Wednesday nights, matching his home-run output for the Dodgers' previous 53 games.So, which Seager shows up in October? The answer will go a long way in determining how far the Dodgers go in their annual quest to snap the World Series drought,
LOS ANGELES -- Corey Seager homered Tuesday and Wednesday nights, matching his home-run output for the Dodgers' previous 53 games.
So, which Seager shows up in October? The answer will go a long way in determining how far the Dodgers go in their annual quest to snap the World Series drought, making Seager even more of the Dodgers' X-factor than, say, Clayton Kershaw.
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Seager is hurt, which adds to the drama. He and club officials downplay a right elbow injury, but nobody will specify what it is or whether surgery is needed to fix it. What is clear is that since the injury knocked him out of the lineup Aug. 29 for 10 starts, Seager upon returning hadn't been the same player and the Dodgers hadn't been the same team.
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Until, that is, the Padres series, when Seager dusted off an awkward batting stance with an exaggerated toe-in of his right foot and his bat came alive against a last-place pitching staff.
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Seager insists the elbow does not bother him swinging the bat, only that the time missed because of it left his swing rusty. With hitting guru Shawn Wooten, Seager returned to an old stance and was hopeful to be trending in the right direction just in time for the postseason.
"I used to do it a lot more, but I haven't needed that feeling of tension," Seager said of the stance. "Putting tension on the front side helps in how you travel forward. I was collapsing a little bit backside and I couldn't maintain a path. In 2015, I was completely like that. Then I forgot about it, which I shouldn't have."
If the Dodgers are to go anywhere in October, Seager must regain his early-season production and improve on his previous postseasons, which have not been the best of times in a brief but spectacular career.
For example, Seager had a .986 OPS as a September callup in 2015, but a .485 OPS that October when he struck out eight times in 16 at-bats. That doesn't make him unique for the first time in that pressure cooker, and the Dodgers were eliminated in the National League Division Series by the Mets.
Seager's OPS was .877 last year when he won the National League Rookie of the Year Award. But after two homers (and a .130 average) against the Nationals in last year's NLDS, Seager had a .661 OPS while the Dodgers lost the NL Championship Series to the Cubs.
Which brings us to this year. According to Statcast™, Seager's chase rate had mushroomed from 25 percent during April through August, to 32.4 percent in September. He's also hitting the ball significantly softer, down from an average exit velocity of 90.3 mph to 87.7 mph in September, which is pretty significant.
That said, Seager has also gotten fairly unlucky. Statcast™ calculates expected batting average based on exit velocity and launch angle, and based on that, Seager should be hitting .226 in September, not .191. That 35-point gap is a substantial difference.
Seager is hitting just .176 on the inner-third, way down from the .426 he was hitting on such pitches before, which was by far an MLB high among lefties (min. 50 at-bats ending inside). Left-handed pitchers have been jamming him. Before the San Diego series, his slugging percentage against lefties was .150, down from .576, which was third-best behind only Charlie Blackmon and Joey Votto among left-handed batters. Seager's spray heatmap showed he wasn't getting much production beyond infield pulls.
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001. MLB.com reporters Joe Trezza and Daniel Kramer contributed to this story.