Mike Blowers explains Mariners 3B Kyle Seager’s swing changes and why he needed to make them
One of the more interesting storylines heading into the Mariners season was whether we would see a bounce back from Kyle Seager after he put up the worst numbers of his career at the plate in 2018.
When eyes were put on Seager in spring training it was quickly apparent that he had gone to work in the offseason to make major changes. He was notably smaller and there were reasons for that, reasons he discussed with the media before the full squad reported to Peoria in mid-February. Listening to the whys and seeing the physical results of the changes made his story heading into the 2019 season that much more intriguing.
Would these changes be a difference maker?
Of course the intrigue had to be put on hold for two months as Seager suffered a hand injury in the final days of spring training. His season debut was pushed back but the questions we had in Peoria remained, and over the last week we have got our first look at the new Seager at the plate. The success or failure of what he has done will be reflected in the play and numbers and he appears to be off to a promising start. Especially worth pointing it is that we have seen him hit the ball the other way quite a bit in his first handful of games.
Leading up to spring training and his first regular season game, Seager was very good about going into depth to detail what led to the changes. On a recent Mariners pregame show on 710 ESPN Seattle, I ran one of those interviews from spring training then had former MLB third baseman and current Mariners broadcaster Mike Blowers further break down what Seager was saying. Blowers was able to help give a better understanding of what was going on – interpret hitter-speak, if you will. I felt it was a good opportunity to learn a little bit more about the process that goes into making major changes for a hitter.
Blowers detailed Seager’s evolution as a hitter and how being asked to switch from second base to third base prompted him to add bulk to his body. Seager had been candid about the fact that coming up as a smaller middle infielder, he hit like that profile. As a third baseman he felt bigger numbers would be expected of him, so he got bigger. That clearly worked for some time but at some point it appeared to turn into more of a hindrance, something that took Seager a long time to identify.
“It makes sense what he is talking about,” said Blowers. “As you go along, you have injuries and you get older and all of a sudden what you had been doing every year isn’t going to work anymore.”
Wear and tear play a factor as well. While we all knew about the toe injury that plagued Seager last season, there were other conditions that would seem to have caused Seager to be less than 100 percent the last couple of years. We don’t know exactly what they were because at the time Seager wouldn’t talk about them, but there were many days over the last two years where he would be seen with ice or heat on his back. Last year he often had a stim machine on his neck, too.
“Listening to Kyle talk about his back, not being able to get into certain positions, I think that is the bulky frame he was carrying around with him that he thought he had to (have),” said Blowers. “But that was over the course of several years. Then you start having injuries – he plays every day, he doesn’t take days off – and you have to make changes because what worked before doesn’t anymore. I give him a lot of credit because it is not an easy thing, the commitment and the dedication you have to have to get to where he is now. And really with an unknown, it hasn’t been proven yet, it says a lot (that Seager made the changes).”
Seager has always been an extreme ‘tinkerer’ at the plate. When he wasn’t getting the results he wanted he looked to his swing. He would look at mechanics and getting into certain positions to hit. Blowers explained why that wasn’t the answer.
“Where he is at directionally at home plate, your movement has to stay toward the middle of the diamond. All of the sudden if you are too bulky, you have back problems, a foot issue, you start spinning off the ball and your direction starts going right-center or right field. That opens up an entire half of the plate to the opposition and you are going to be in big trouble and it makes your swing a little bit longer.”
This may be what ultimately convinced Seager that his issues at the plate were more than a matter of fixing approach or mechanics. He didn’t feel right at the plate. To remedy this he changed his offseason routine, hiring a trainer who had him dedicate the first two months of the offseason to diet and stretching. When he finally picked up a bat after those two months he could feel the difference immediately.
Blowers believes the increased flexibility and quickness should help Seager at the plate. He is also encouraged by what he has seen in his approach. Time will tell if physical changes will lead Seager back to the kind of production we saw from him before 2017, however.
“I think what we saw in spring training this year is as simple an approach as we had seen from Kyle in a very long time,” Blowers said. “My hope is he goes out in the first week and it goes well, because then he will stay with it the rest of the way. He’s put the work in, if he sees the results and more importantly he feels it, he will stay with it. I think that over the course of time when you have played this game for a long period of time you are going to have to make adjustments because of age and the wear and tear on your body, and he’s done that.
“We’ll see how it works out for him. I think it’s going to be a very good thing.”
Listen to both Blowers’ thoughts from the roundtable and Seager’s interview from spring training either in the players embedded in this post or in podcast form here.