Corey Seager Is Locked In

Between Randy Arozarena’s remarkable postseason and Mookie Bettstour-de-force, there have been plenty of standout performances this October. But what Corey Seager has done in the playoffs is just as impressive. He earned the NLCS MVP award after completely demolishing the Braves pitching staff with nine hits, including five home runs and two doubles. His homer in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the World Series marked his seventh dinger of the postseason, the most hit by any shortstop in a single playoff year.

For Seager, this October has been the culmination of a year in which he’s returned to form. After injuring his elbow in early 2018, which led to Tommy John surgery, he struggled to regain his previous level of production the following season. From 2015 through April of 2018, he posted a 133 wRC+, winning the NL Rookie of the Year award in 2016 and earning All-Star honors in both ’16 and ’17. Last year, his offensive production fell to just 13% above league average, and he missed about a month of the season with a hamstring injury. But the late start to the 2020 campaign was a blessing in disguise for Seager, as the additional time off allowed him to heal and strengthen himself. Here’s how he described the state of his body to Pedro Moura of The Athletic:

“Last year especially, I just wasn’t physically as strong as I’d have liked to have been. Your body kind of changes. You get tired, things start changing positions on you. Just being strong again and being healthy again has definitely helped that.”

In 2019, Seager’s hard hit rate was just 38.2% and his average exit velocity was just 88.8 mph, both career lows. Both of those marks rebounded to career highs in 2020: a 55.9% hard hit rate and a 93.2 mph average exit velocity. That’s a stark illustration of his rebuilt strength.

With his power fully restored, it’s no surprise that he’s continued to crush the ball in the postseason. But what’s more impressive is that four of his seven home runs in the playoffs have come against left-handed pitchers. Corey’s brother Kyle has a reputation as a left-on-left killer. Since his debut in 2011, Kyle has hit 73 home runs off of left-handed pitching, the fifth most in baseball. Corey is no slouch against lefties either. He’s posted a .336 wOBA against southpaws during his career, a 43-point difference from what he’s done against right-handed pitching (Kyle’s platoon difference is just 22 points). But most of that damage has come against left-handed fastballs. He’s historically struggled against left-handed breaking balls and offspeed pitches.

Corey Seager vs. LHP
Pitch Type HR K% BB% wOBA
Fastballs 21 15.3% 8.1% .387
Breaking 5 33.1% 6.8% .259
Offspeed 0 42.5% 7.5% .170

Seager has collected just five home runs off a left-handed non-fastball in his career. This postseason alone, he’s hit two home runs off a breaking ball from a left-handed pitcher — three if you consider a cutter a breaking ball. For our purposes, I’ll include the home run he hit off an A.J. Minter cutter because Minter’s version of a cutter acts like a hard slider with above-average horizontal movement.

Corey Seager’s Postseason Home Runs
Date Pitcher Pitch Type Count Exit Velocity Launch Angle Distance
9/30/2020 Freddy Peralta Four-seam 2-2 107.8 25 447
10/13/2020 A.J. Minter Cutter 2-1 107.0 26 416
10/14/2020 Grant Dayton Curveball 0-1 105.4 29 442
10/16/2020 Tyler Matzek Four-seam 2-1 104.8 32 415
10/16/2020 Jacob Webb Four-seam 0-0 101.5 30 413
10/17/2020 Max Fried Curveball 0-1 106.9 43 359
10/21/2020 Pete Fairbanks Slider 1-2 104.0 31 425
LHP marked in Blue.

Seager’s first home run against a lefty came in the seventh inning of Game 2 of the NLCS.

Minter’s cutter catches a little too much of the plate and Seager goes with the pitch and hits it out to deep left-center field. An opposite-field home run isn’t uncommon for Seager — he’s shown an ability to hit the ball out in any direction. But just seven of his home runs against left-handed pitching have gone the other way, and all five of his previous home runs off left-handed breaking balls were either pulled or hit to center.

In the next game, Seager ripped a Grant Dayton curveball for a home run in the third inning.

The degree of difficulty on this dinger wasn’t very high. Dayton hung his pitch right over the heart of the plate and Seager crushed it. It was the second longest home run of the seven he’s hit in October and the longest he’s ever hit off a left-handed pitcher, regardless of pitch type.

Seager’s most impressive feat against left-handed pitching came in Game 6 of the NLCS against Max Fried.

During the regular season, Fried didn’t allow a single home run and held opposing batters to a miniscule .219 wOBA off his curveball. He’s allowed just six home runs off the pitch in his career. And the pitch Seager hit out wasn’t a bad pitch either. It was located on the inner half, elevated a bit. With the amount of vertical and horizontal break he generates with his curve, the pitch probably looked like it was going to hit Seager’s shoulder out of Fried’s hand. But Seager hung in with the pitch and hooked it down the right-field line for a home run.

Seager is now tied with Arozarena and a handful of other players who have hit seven home runs in a single postseason. I’ve updated this table of single postseason home run leaders that first appeared in Jay Jaffe’s piece about Arozarena’s outstanding postseason:

Single Season Postseason Home Run Leaders
Rk Player Team Year PA HR
1T Barry Bonds Giants 2002 74 8
Carlos Beltrán Astros 2004 56 8
Nelson Cruz Rangers 2011 70 8
4T Troy Glaus Angels 2002 69 7
B.J. Upton Rays 2008 72 7
Jayson Werth Phillies 2009 62 7
Daniel Murphy Mets 2015 64 7
Jose Altuve Astros 2017 80 7
Randy Arozarena Rays 2020 69 7
Corey Seager Dodgers 2020 62 7
10T Carlos Correa Astros 2020 55 6
Giancarlo Stanton Yankees 2020 31 6
11 other players 6
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

Both players now have a good shot at climbing to the top of that list. While Arozarena has cooled off a bit after his incredible start to the postseason, Seager has continued to light up opposing pitching. Their battle to top the postseason home run leaderboard will be a fun storyline to follow throughout the rest of the World Series.





Jake Mailhot is a contributor to FanGraphs. A long-suffering Mariners fan, he also writes about them for Lookout Landing. Follow him on Twitter @jakemailhot.

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SucramRenrut
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SucramRenrut

Always great to see what finally healthy players can really do. To many stories going the other direction.

TerryMc
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TerryMc

The name on the bottom of the table above is also one of those “fun to watch when they are healthy” players. Stanton with 6 HRs in 31 plate appearances really makes you wonder what he would have totaled if his team had advanced. I was happy to see the Yankees lose, and there’s no possibility that a 1HR in every 5PA rate could be maintained, but I’m confident the post season HR record would have been smashed.