These past four weeks have undoubtedly provided one of the best offensive stretches of Kyle Seager’s career. But, to simply say the Seattle Mariners’ veteran third baseman is having a pretty nice August drew an emphatic response from manager Scott Servais last week.
“Pretty nice? You kidding me? He’s on fire! He’s killing it!”
Servais laughed, and proceeded to knock on his wooden desk three times, not wanting to somehow superstitiously interrupt Seager’s current hot streak. He didn’t seem to. Seager has continued to rake in the three games the Mariners have played since beginning this short six-game homestand.
Since July 22, Seager, who missed the first two months of the season recovering from a surgery to repair a tendon in his left hand, is slashing at .359/.433/.796 in his past 29 games, and leads all major leaguers in slugging during that span.
“Kyle’s certainly got a lot of confidence right now,” Servais said. “He’s on the fastball. He’s not missing it. I think when we’ve all seen Kyle at his best is when you don’t see all the deep counts, the foul balls.
“I mean, that (home run) ball he hit in Tampa they other day against (Diego) Castillo, 98 mph, that’s awesome. It’s hard to do that.”
Servais there was referring to the rocket Seager pulled 408 feet deep to right at Tropicana Field last Tuesday. It was Seager’s 17th homer of the season -- his fifth to clear 400 feet since June -- and 11th in this torrid month-long stretch.
It’s not just homers he’s hitting, either. Seager has hit safely in 27 of his past 29 games with nine doubles, a triple and 30 RBIs in addition to the long balls, has walked 13 times while striking out just 20, and has consistently made solid contact even when an at-bat results in an out.
Keep in mind his batting average had dipped to a season-low .186 the game before this sudden hot streak started.
“You just look at where his numbers are now,” Mariners hitting coach Tim Laker said. “I think he’s raised his average like 60 points -- and he had a whole lot of at-bats when he kind of hit rock bottom.
“He’s ended up having a really good last month, and hopefully he can just finish strong and carry that momentum into the offseason, and start next season in stride.”
How exactly did Seager break out of his delayed, slow start to the season to become a player of the month candidate in August? It took a lot of work with Laker, he said.
“Just working with the guys in the cage, I got back to some posture stuff that I was doing in years past,” Seager said. “Laker’s been really great for me. He’s been awesome. I’m just trying to learn as much as I can from him.
“I was hinging a lot in the beginning of the year and I found out the hard way that’s not a good move for me.”
Laker said Seager would get stuck on his back side, and wasn’t getting any length to his swing.
“He couldn’t stay through the off-speed pitches, and he was kind of working under the fastballs at the top of the zone,” Laker said. “So, we just made a conscious effort to get him taller on his back side.”
Seager knew something wasn’t right Laker said, and he trusted Seattle’s coaches to help him make the necessary adjustment, and worked tirelessly to figure out exactly what that adjustment needed to be.
“He worked really hard,” Laker said. “He came in early a lot and just kind of grinded through. We tried different things and different drills, just to kind of get him the feeling of doing it, and just adjusting his posture. It’s nice to see that hard work pay off.”
This is finally starting to become the type of season Seager wanted to have before diving for a ground ball during spring training sent him to the 60-day injured list in March. He had worked on slimming down during the offseason, and was ready to improve on a career-worst .221 average in 2018.
“The offseason was something I needed to do for myself because I wasn’t able to physically do the things I wanted to do,” Seager said. “This has definitely reaffirmed everything about the work I put in this winter.”
“I’m happy for him,” Servais said. “He put in a lot of work in the offseason to get his body in different shape, and he’s starting to get some results for it. So, good for him, and good for us.”
The Mariners have a winning record (15-13) during Seager’s recent offensive tear, and though a winning season was far out of reach by the All-Star break, his production does at least pump some positivity into Seattle’s clubhouse entering September.
Though Seager, who is 31 and a nine-year MLB veteran, doesn’t necessarily figure into the Mariners’ long-term plans for a rebuild, it’s still likely he spends the next two seasons with the organization.
He’s owed $19 million in 2020, $18 million in 2021, with a club option starting at $15 million in 2022. If he sustains this recent offensive production, he would surely turn some heads around the league, but a clause in his contract -- the 2022 club option becomes a player option if he’s traded -- makes him a risky trade possibility for opposing clubs.
Should he remain with Seattle through the end of his contract, and when the Mariners aim to start making playoff pushes, these numbers are promising.
“It doesn’t just stop because (I’m) hitting now,” Seager said. “It’s a continual process.”