Thursday December 30, 2021

Kyle Seager Says See Ya

Longtime Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager announced his retirement yesterday, which I first heard through retweets of his wife's Twitter account. That seems to be the way they announced it. Seager, who always seemed sensible, doesn't do social media.

I'm seeing a lot of commentary about how he went out with a bang, hitting 35 homers with 101 RBIs in 2021, both career highs, and how the 35 dingers are the second-most in baseball history for a player's final season—after David Ortiz's 38 in 2016. That is impressive. Less impressive, and less commented upon, is Seager's career-low 2021 batting average, .212, and the second-lowest OBP of his career, .285. He also set a career low in hits over a full season (128) and a career high in strikeouts (161). He became a kind of two-outcome guy: 24% of his plate appearances were strikeouts and 27% of his hits were homers.

His saddest record, though, isn't on him: For players who played their entire careers in the 21st century, Seager is second to Adam Dunn in games played without ever making the postseason. And with Dunn you can spread the blame around; he played for six teams. Seager just played for the M's. The onus is on them. And if you expand the parameters to players who played their entire careers in the post-1969 playoff era? Seager is 15th on the list, but, again, every player above him played for multiple teams. Think of that, M's fans. In the playoff era, no player has played more games for just one team without ever making the postseason. Unleash the mojo. 

That mojo was apparent from the beginning. I'd forgotten this, or never knew it, but Seager made his Major League debut on July 7, 2011, after only two weeks in AAA, and went 0-4 in a 5-1 loss to the Angels. At that point, the M's were only two games below .500 and 4.5 games out of first place in the weak AL West. They still seemed to have a shot. Instead, they would go on to lose the next 15 in a row, setting a team record with 17 straight losses, and Kyle started in seven of those games before being reassigned to AAA Tacoma on July 21. That was his intro to the club: lose, lose, lose, lose, lose, lose, lose. It was a horrific team, finishing dead last in almost every major offensive category. And the reason Kyle was rushed to the Majors the way he was? Our everyday third baseman was a guy named Chone Figgins. Yeah, that team.

But Seager showed us something. He was brought back in early August and was hitting .111 on August 6. Three weeks later, he was hitting .310. In a 10-game stretch from mid-to-late August, he hit .500 with an .816 slugging percentage, and the Mariners future suddenly seemed more than just hoping Dustin Ackley might finally turn things around.

Did Seager ever live up to that promise? He was a solid .200/.300/.400 guy with a slight upward trajectory in his early years. His batting averages, for example, went: .258, .259, .260, .268. We were hoping at some point he'd bust loose, and the M's, probably hoping the same, took a gamble. In December 2014, a year after we'd shoveled a ton of money at Robinson Cano, and a day before we signed Nelson Cruz to a four-year deal, the M's inked Seager to a seven-year, $100 million contract. In 2014, he'd made the All-Star team and won a Gold Glove, and maybe the M's were banking he'd keep doing that, but he would never do either again. For a few years, though, the upward trajectory continued, and in 2016 he went .278/.359/.499 and finished 12th in the MVP voting with the 8th-best bWAR in the American League: 6.7. And he was only 29. But all of those would be career highs. He would never hit over .250 again and would retire with a .251/.321/.442 line.

He's all over the M's record books, particularly in the counting stats, firmly lodged in fourth place in Games Played, At Bats, Hits and Total Bases, with the same triumverate ahead of him: Edgar, Ichiro, Junior. He's fourth in homeruns and RBIs, with Jay Buhner replacing Ichiro. He's third in strikeouts. Seager has the seventh-most bWAR in M's history. One asumes he'll make the Mariners Hall of Fame. One assumes no one wears #15 again except the fans in the stands.

Posted at 09:07 AM on Thursday December 30, 2021 in category Seattle Mariners  
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Twitter: @ErikLundegaard