How can you sell him short?
Seager sparkles, but teammates still get more attention.
Ironically, we had been talking about how he had managed to maintain a low profile this season. Now, he was about to have to speak into a collection of television cameras and voice recording devices.
“You’re cornered,” I informed him of the obvious. Seager smiled again. “I know,” he said. “There’s no escaping now.”
I jokingly apologized for stopping him at his locker, which made it possible for him to be trapped.
“It’s OK,” he said.
And it was OK. A television reporter asked him about new teammate Yu Darvish and Seager replied, “I think everybody’s really excited. I’ve seen him throw a few times, seeing my brother face him. It’s obviously elite stuff.”
He went on politely fielding questions like this for the next few minutes, then quietly slipped out of the room.
Seager doesn’t necessarily avoid the spotlight, but he doesn’t invite it either. It has resulted in the All-Star shortstop doing the unthinkable: having a spectacular season that somehow has gone unnoticed in a market the size of Los Angeles.
“Chase 2.0,” Manager Dave Roberts called Seager, a reference to the team’s soft-spoken veteran Chase Utley.
Cody Bellinger has made headlines with his prodigious power, Justin Turner has become the people’s champion, but it’s Seager who remains the team’s best position player. He continues to bat second in the order — “according to my computer, the most important spot in the lineup,” half-joked general manager Farhan Zaidi.
Seager blasted a two-run home run in the ninth inning Saturday to blow open the game at Citi Field, a 7-4 victory over the New York Mets. The home run was his 19th of the season. He is batting .306 with 55 runs batted in while playing a premium position.
He entered the weekend fourth in the NL in Fangraphs’ version of wins above replacement and sixth in Baseball Reference’s. The only NL position players who rank ahead of Seager in both Fangraphs’ and Baseball Reference’s versions of WAR are Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Anthony Rendon of the Washington Nationals.
“Offensively, you look up, he’s hitting .300, he’s hitting for power, he’s getting on base,” Zaidi said.
More than he did last year. His on-base percentage is .397, up from .365 last year, the byproduct of a significantly improved walk rate. He’s walking in 12.6% of his plate appearances, compared to 7.9% last year, when he finished third in NL MVP voting.
“Corey has evolved,” Roberts said. “He’s understanding more the cat-andmouse of how people are pitching him. You see pitchers going to secondaries a lot more with Corey. He’s really understanding sitting on pitches and really conducting an at-bat and hunting for certain pitches. Because of his mechanics, he can cover a lot of pitches and a lot of locations. But his ability to now hunt specific pitches or certain zones is going to make him an even better player.”
Or, as Zaidi said, Seager is “selectively aggressive.”
“There are situations where he’ll go after a first pitch,” Zaidi explained. “There are also times when he will grind out a 10-plus-pitch at-bat, take the big walk and pass the baton to J.T. and Bellinger. The versatility there is what keeps opposing pitchers guessing. His ability to do both, I think, makes him a really tough hitter.”
Seager remains a steady shortstop. If he lacks the athleticism of some who play his position, he compensates by placing himself in the right place at the right time.
“Corey is as in-tune a young player as I’ve ever seen,” Roberts said. “He’s in tune with pitch sequences and knowing the coverages. There have been times when he’s called the right coverages that have kept ball in the infield and we’ve turned double plays.”
That most of this is unnoticed doesn’t bother him.
“I like being to myself, doing my thing, getting ready,” said Seager, who acknowledged he has followed Utley’s lead.
If his teammates are the ones who are the subject of attention, great.
“There’s been a lot of guys who deserve the attention, deserve the articles, the questions,” Seager said. “More power to them. It’s what’s making us good. No way to complain about that one.”
The Dodgers are winning. Seager is playing and playing well. The other players are doing the talking.
“Perfect” for Seager, Turner said.
“I think him and Chase are very similar in their demeanor on the field and around the clubhouse,” Turner said. “It’s very quiet and serious. Seager will smile and laugh a little bit more than Chase does, but I think he enjoys the quiet, under-the-radar rep that he gets.”
Seager has always been cordial and cooperative with the media, but spends little time in the parts of the locker room that are accessible to reporters compared to, say, Bellinger.
“Corey is obviously much more conservative and kind of stays to himself more, where Cody is more the kid in the candy store,” Roberts said. “Corey’s kind of an old soul. He’s old school. He just wants to play baseball. Cody lets me grab his face and shake it. I wouldn’t do that with Corey.”
But Seager continues to be recognized by the people in the know. He made his second All-Star game this year because he was voted in by the players. And before the game Saturday, Seager received a visit in the dugout. Seager spent a few minutes speaking to the man before shaking his hand and taking the field for pregame warmups.
The visitor? Alex Rodriguez.
COREY SEAGER (5) HEADS for the dugout after his long two-run home run in the ninth inning gave the Dodgers a 7-3 lead over the Mets. He has 19 homers.