Corey Seager returning to dynamic form was as big a reason as any that the Dodgers snapped their championship drought in 2020.
It’s damn-near impossible to compare this shortened year to previous seasons, but Seager had one of the best extended stretches of any Dodgers shortstop in history.
Seager already has the top two home run seasons by a Dodgers shortstop, and three of the top four. But in this truncated pandemic 2020, a season a little more than one third of a normal year, Seager hit 12 of his 15 home runs as a shortstop. Only six Dodgers shortstops have had a full season with more.
The secret to Seager’s success this year was hitting the ball hard, and doing it often. He had the second-most batted balls with a 95-mph exit velocity, and the second-most barrels in baseball. Seager’s 93.2-mph average exit velo was three ticks above his career average.
Seager hit .307/.358/.585 during the regular season, and to give an idea of how effective he was, his batted ball numbers suggested even better numbers, with an expected .330 batting average and .653 slugging percentage.
His ascension back to the top of the lineup had the Dodgers at their best form. With Seager hitting second behind leadoff man Mookie Betts, LA averaged 6.28 runs per game and was 40-13 (.755), including the postseason.
You can’t talk about Seager’s 2020 without including his October, one of the best postseason performances in baseball history.
Coming into this year, Seager struggled in previous postseasons, hitting .203/.275/.331 in 31 games. The Dodgers having their best players play their best when the lights shone brightest was a driving factor in winning the World Series, and nobody rose to the occasion more than Seager. He hit a ridiculous .328/.425/.746 in 18 postseason games, and had the second-most home runs (eight), second-most runs scored (20), and second-most RBI (20) of any postseason in MLB history.
Counting the postseason, Seager hit .312/.375/.624 with 23 home runs in 70 games this season. Twenty of those homers came as a shortstop, a total at the position reached only by Seager himself (twice) and Glenn Wright (1930), and that’s for a full season.
Maybe the best comp for Seager’s 2020 was Hanley Ramirez in 2013, a campaign limited by a torn thumb ligament and a hamstring strain. Ramirez that year is the only Dodgers shortstop with at least 200 plate appearances with a higher slugging percentage and OPS than Seager this season.
Shortened shortstop greatness
The Dodgers seven years ago, when Seager finished the season at Class-A Rancho Cucamonga, never got to see their all-world shortstop in his full form, with Joe Kelly breaking Ramirez’s ribs with a fastball in the NLCS. Those Dodgers fell short, but the 2020 version had their shortstop operating on all cylinders, and they, including Kelly, now have rings to show for it.
Stats: .307/.358/.585, 151 wRC+, 15 HR, 1.9 WAR
Salary: $7.6 million
Game of the year
It was hard not picking Seager’s 4-hit Game 4 of the World Series, in which he homered and scored three times, but since the Dodgers lost that one we’ll go in a different direction.
Down 3-1 in the NLCS, the Dodgers got two home runs out of Seager in Game 5 against the Braves (and one more to open the scoring in the Game 6 win the next day). His first homer gave the Dodgers their first run of Game 5, in the fourth inning against Tyler Matzek, then added a two-run shot against Jacob Webb in the seventh inning to put the game away.
Seager is the only Dodgers shortstop with two home runs in a postseason game, and his was the 12th multi-homer postseason game by a Dodger at any position.
Seager has five years, 32 days of major league service time, and is eligible for salary arbitration this winter. He has one more season before he’s one of the coveted prizes on the free agent market, unless the Dodgers can sign him to a contract extension first.