Jean Segura's Hot Streak Is Helping Erase the Mariners' Slow Start
Although the Seattle Mariners haven't played October baseball since 2001, general manager Jerry Dipoto made what seemed like a million trades over this past offseason with one goal in mind -- to win right now and get back to the postseason.
One of those trades included shipping Ketel Marte and Taijuan Walker to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for Mitch Haniger, Zac Curtis and Jean Segura. Haniger has been an asset to the club, but it's Segura who has been a real difference maker at the top of Seattle's lineup.
Did the Mariners buy high on their new shortstop? It was possible after a breakout season from Segura that put him in some rare company, and Dipoto recognized that it'd be hard to expect similar production in 2017.
There's still plenty of season left to be played, but a recent hot streak from Segura has helped Seattle make their way out of the American League West basement and into a virtual tie for second place.
A Slow Start
For a team with postseason aspirations, getting off to a slow start is never preferred, but there's normally a lot of time to get back on track. That's part of the reason why an MLB regular season takes six months and 162 games to complete.
However, the Mariners need a handful of things to go their way in order to be successful this year, and getting off to a 2-6 start certainly didn't help.
Segura didn't show a whole lot of power through his first 35 plate appearances -- his Isolated Power (ISO) stood at just .094 -- but he was still an above-average hitter, posting a 118 wRC+ with a .335 wOBA to go along with a .313/.353/.406 triple slash.
Things didn't appear to be getting any easier once he was put on the 10-day disabled list (DL) with a strained right hamstring.
Trip to the Disabled List
Injuries -- especially to impact players -- stink, but this did create an opportunity for Taylor Motter to blast his way onto a few season-long fantasy baseball rosters. And saying he filled in admirably is probably an understatement.
Segura ended up being sidelined for a total of 12 games, and Motter took over shortstop for the duration of his DL stint. All he did during his chance to play every day was slash .289/.347/.756 with 5 home runs, 12 RBI and 7 runs scored. It also resulted in a .464 ISO, .453 wOBA and a 201 wRC+.
The only problem? Seattle didn't get much closer to .500 during this period of time.
When Segura hit the DL, the Mariners were 2-6 and 3.5 games off the pace in the AL West. By the time he returned, they were 8-12, still in last place and 5.5 games out of first.
Returning to Make an Immediate Impact
Upon Segura being activated and getting installed back into the top of Seattle's lineup, they've finally begun to turn things around. Entering action on Wednesday, the Mariners are still 6.0 games out of first place, but they are tied with the Los Angeles Angels for second and have crawled to within a game of .500 with a 16-17 mark.
It was like a switch flipped for the shortstop once he stepped back into the batter's box, as he's slashed .410/.446/.574 with 2 homers, 10 RBI and 15 runs scored through his last 61 plate appearances entering Wednesday. This has led to a .164 ISO, .441 wOBA and a 192 wRC+ during this span while the Mariners have posted an 8-5 record in that time.
The sample sizes aren't even, but it's easy to see the difference in his batted-ball profile. The below table compares his line-drive rate (LD%), ground-ball rate (GB%), fly-ball rate (FB%), soft-hit rate (Soft%) and hard-hit rate (Hard%) from before and after his DL stint.
While Seattle needs to have a productive rotation in order to stay in the race for a postseason spot, it's pretty clear that Segura is an important piece to the puzzle. His current run is likely unsustainable, but having him produce at a high level from the leadoff spot will have a huge impact on the rest of the offense and mainly for guys like Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager.
Prior to Opening Day, the Mariners had a 51.0% chance of making the playoffs, but their slow start dropped that number to 31.4% as recently as April 11th. This recent stretch of successful play has their odds back up to 38.0%, according to our metrics. So, they're moving in the right direction, and as long as Segura is leading the offensive charge, they'll at least have a fighting chance at breaking MLB's longest postseason drought.