The Dodgers’ Corey Seager Problem

In the wake of the Dodgers’ surprising and devastating (if you’re a Dodgers’ fan) loss to the Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS, there was an understandable amount of vitriol thrown at Dave Roberts and Clayton Kershaw. This was especially present in the Dodger blogosphere, which in their defense, has a readership they have to cater to in order to stay relevant. 

I don’t want to spend a ton of time on that. Suffice it to say this. If you loved Dave Roberts for the last few seasons, you loved him in spite of his blithering ineptness at in game management, ESPECIALLY when it comes to the bullpen. If you’ve loved Clayton Kershaw because of the fact that he’s the best regular season pitcher of this generation and it’s not close, you loved him despite is propensity to choke in the postseason. Even that isn’t entirely fair to say. He HAS had some good postseason starts, and a couple of dynamite relief appearances. His overall resume in the postseason, however, is merely mediocre. Which when you compare it to the unapproached brilliance of his regular season career is probably why people misapply the choker label to him. 

They both crapped the bed in Game 5. They both deserve to remain employed. (Yes, I’m a hypocrite. Yes, I have called for Roberts’ firing in the past, but even after his most egregious display of in game ineptness, I have come around to his other qualities, and accepted the fact that all other available managers out there are worse.)

Here is the real problem. His name is Corey Seager. I know. I know. I DO know. We all love him. He’s cute. He chews bubble gum. He’s loaded with offensive talent. But he’s a massive problem. I know this is an unpopular opinion, but it’s the unfortunate truth. 

People love Seager because of his virtually perfect left-handed swing that results in a billion doubles every season. They love his boyish good looks, and his “aw shucks” charm, and his honest-to-goodness 100% dedication to being a great player. They love all the same things about him that I do. Here’s the problem.

In the postseason, he sucks. If that’s not enough to make you hate me, there’s more. In the entire history of baseball, he’s one of the worst postseason players. In 131 career postseason plate appearances, he has an OPS of .605. That’s atrocious. The argument can be made that a 131 plate appearance sample size is not indicative of a player’s ability, but at 25 years of age, Seager has already had more postseason plate appearances than the overwhelming majority of players in baseball history. I was going to say 99%, but didn’t have the desire to do the research and calculations. Still, I’d venture to say I’m not far off. 

BUT WAIT, some of you might say! He was a Gold Glove finalist and defensive metrics grade him out as being above average so at least there is that! Matt Kemp was once a Gold Glove finalist. Adrian Gonzalez, possibly the worst fielding first baseman of all time, won four Gold Gloves. The people that vote on these things are at best clueless, and at worst braindead. 

And then you have defensive metrics. And before you dismiss me as a “Get off my lawn,” type, I’m not. I wholeheartedly believe in analytics and availing yourself of all data out there when it comes to making a decision. But defensive metrics? Whoo boy… Amazingly, they still take into consideration where infield coaches position the player. Yes, you read that right. Because the Dodgers dedicate a ton of resources into data acquisition, and apply it to their coaching, Seager is rated a high quality defensive shortstop. Sure, they get some of the evaluations right. Andrelton Simmons? Amazing. Matt Chapman? Like Brooks Robinson and Ozzie Smith had a son. Nolan Arenado? Barely above average. What the f***? Admittedly, that’s cherry picking but it’s only one example out of many. You can do your own Googling if you want, and find plenty of your own “wtf” cases of players’ defensive values. 

At the end of the day, Seager is a tree stump on defense who generally catches what is hit to him. (Here is  a link to his Fangraphs Inside Edge Fielding page if you want to bother) You can absolutely deal with it if he hits, which during the regular season he generally does when he’s healthy. In the postseason, he doesn’t. He’s had more plate appearances in the postseason than approximately 99% of players who have ever played the game, and has some of the worst numbers of any player in postseason history. 

For a player whose value is tied nearly exlusively to his offensive production, due to his utter haplessness on defense, that isn’t good. 

Unfortunately, it gets worse. Seager earned $4 million in 2019 to provide barely league average production. One can fairly argue that after missing a season with injury, it would be fair to cut him some slack. If that is the argument, it can also be fairly pointed out that the Dodgers made the World Series in 2018 without him, nearly won it in 2017 thanks far more to Charlie Culberson than him, and got eliminated in the first possible round in 2019 WITH him. 

Before long, Seager is going to get a contract that pays him in the neighborhood of $25 million a season. Yes, he is cute. Yes, he chews bubble gum. Yes, he tries his damned best. Yes, we all love him. But for a team that continually wants to cut payroll despite having virtually unlimited financial resources at its disposal, can you justify spending that kind of money on one of the worst postseason players in the entire history of the sport?

The Dodgers have a Corey Seager problem. They have MANY problems. But they have a Corey Seager problem, and it’s serious. 

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