Kyle Seager has seen what he needs to see from his new swing to know that this could be the one.
The results in terms of numbers are not there yet and there will always be adjustments, but 10 games into the season the Mariners third baseman feels better at the plate at this point in the season than any year previous.
“It’s a better swing than I’ve had,” Seager said, taking a significant pause before punctuating his thought.
The final four games of the Mariners’ long road trip started to show what Seager can do with his new approach. He hit two home runs in that span, including a go-ahead two-run homer in Wednesday’s 4-2 win over Kansas City, and added a double to the left-center field gap in another victory Tuesday.
That double was a product of a swing that is now less reliant on pulling the ball.
“I can handle the balls away, I can hit it to left field with some authority, I can still backspin to right field,” he said.
Seager brought the swing into spring training and has been fine tuning ever since. There will always be tinkering. Perhaps no one makes more adjustments – studied adjustments – over a season than he does, but this time it’s different.
“It’s minor things, nothing as big as I have done in years past,” he said. “That is kind of why I am excited about this, because usually I tinker pretty good. I am always looking for something better because I feel like I should be. This swing, I feel that once I understand it, know my checkpoints a little better, I really like the potential of it.”
Know his checkpoints. Sound familiar?
“He made some changes that are similar in some of the movements that I made,” said Mariners catcher Mike Zunino late this spring. “It gave both of us somebody to bounce some stuff off of. I can watch his at-bats now knowing what he is trying to feel, knowing what he is trying to accomplish. It just gives that extra bit of camaraderie in knowing what he is trying to accomplish. It’s easier to help one and other out.”
The move is a small hitch. Hands start high, come down and sync up with the leg kick.
“It just separates your hips and your shoulders really really well,” said Seager. “(Zunino’s) keys are a little different than mine, but it is definitely something that’s been very similar. He’s actually been able to help me quite a bit with it.”
While not exactly a case of shoe on the other foot, it was Seager who invited Zunino to his home in North Carolina following Mike’s brutal 2015 season. The two would work out together, hit in Kyle’s batting cage and talk hitting as Seager tried to help his younger teammate and friend. Zunino would start the season in Triple-A after undergoing a major swing change and have a refresher in 2017. Through the talks and work, Zunino came to understand his swing and checkpoints.
The two are now speaking the same language in the cages.
“That’s the way this game goes,” said Seager. “There’s an ebb and a flow and you get to the point where we are all competing for the same thing, meaning he’s established himself as he’s going to be a player in this league and is going to do good things in this league. We are getting to points where the swing was brand new to me and he had been doing it for a while so he could definitely help me out there.”
Seager has actually messed around with this swing for years. Inspiration came from what would perhaps seem like an unlikely source: former Mariners catcher Jesus Montero.
“He did something pretty similar to it and I remember marveling with (former Mariners assistant coach Mike) Brumley at the time, ‘Man he generates so much, how is he doing this?’ And we talked about that move. You can’t really generate much more than you do with that move. It’s a good move, you just have to control it.”
For Seager, the move is more natural and allows him to get into a good position to hit easier. He feels that he doesn’t have to force anything or try to manipulate barrels. In a better position he finds he doesn’t have to guess, doesn’t have to cheat. He can use the entire field and not have to sacrifice his power to the pull side.
“It’s an easier swing,” said Seager. “I can generate much easier with it without having to try. It’s the same swing I have tried to do for years, it just syncs up better.”
A cage session with Zunino could be on the near horizon as the Mariners catcher nears return from an oblique injury. While Seager appears to be on the right path with the swing, Zunino is happy to share his experience if needed. If not, they will just hit.
“He was the guy who was always in my corner,” said Zunino. “He was explaining stuff to me then that I get now, that I didn’t get then, because the basics weren’t laid out for me. He knows a lot about the swing and he’s always sort of helped me, and for that I am grateful. So it’s nice to be able to do that and now be able to go hit and have fun together and not have to stress about making huge changes.”
— Mariners (@Mariners) April 11, 2018