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Buying stock in Jean Segura

A new team and a new hitting approach may help Segura get back his his 2016-18 levels

Boston Red Sox v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Let’s begin with this caveat: it’s possible that Jean Segura won’t be getting any hits this season. That’s because it’s looking possible that there won’t even be a season. But if there were, Segura is the one player I believe will bounce back in the biggest way.

2019 was a disappointment for Jean. Even if we forget how he performed with the bat, there were some instances where his actions warped the fans perception of his attitude toward playing the game. When Andrew McCutchen went down for the year on a play where Segura’s hustling was called into question by a certain subset of the fanbase, he came out and spoke about how it affected him. Whether that that criticism affected his play on the field, we can’t be sure, but what we are sure of is that he suffered his worst season at the plate since he left Milwaukee.

Jean Segura 2016-19

2016 .319/.368/.499 5.60% 14.60% 126 0.371 0.353
2017 .300/.349/.427 6.00% 14.70% 111 0.334 0.339
2018 .304/.341/.415 5.10% 10.90% 110 0.327 0.327
2019 .280/.323/.420 4.90% 11.80% 92 0.315 0.302

While many of his counting stats were on par with what he has done, most of his important ones were down. It is possible to write off a lot of it as being a result of his BABIP falling, therefore giving him less of a chance to get hits and get on base, and there is a bit of merit to that argument. After all, his hitting a groundball 51.9% of the time was the second lowest mark of his career, but curiously came a season after his hit a groundball 51.5% of the time, a fraction of a difference.

It is quite possible that with Segura joining a new team last year, where the hitting philosophy of Gabe Kapler and John Mallee was employed, did not mesh well with the strengths Segura has shown in the past. Mallee and Kapler were big on lifting the ball, stressing that improving launch angle on a player led to better outcomes. If they had asked to try and improve his launch angle, that would show up in the data, but it doesn’t.

His launch angle, average exit velocity and barrel percentage were all more or less in line with what he has done since Statcast first starting producing public data. So it’s kind of hard to say that Kapler/Mallee screwed him up without getting Jean to come right out and say it, something that would probably not happen. It’s possible that the more proprietary data that the team relayed to Segura also didn’t help, the old “paralysis by analysis” argument, but again, speculating that he didn’t want the information or was overwhelmed by it is just that - speculation.

So we have to look elsewhere at the data. Did pitchers change their approach to him? A little bit, yes.

The amount of breaking pitches that Segura saw in 2019 jumped 4% compared to the previous season, while correspondingly, hard stuff dropped 3%. which is interesting because he didn’t necessarily swing and miss more often at breaking stuff. There also wasn’t much change in the damage he did against certain pitches, so again, we’re left wondering what exactly happened.

Looking at plate discipline, the only real difference to find in what Segura did in 2019 versus what he did in the past is by looking at how aggressive was within the zone.

Compared to what he was in the past few years while in Seattle, he was downright passive at the plate in 2019 when the ball was in the strike zone. He also continued a bad trend of swinging at more pitches outside of the zone, something that new hitting coach Joe Dillon will likely curb. Perhaps this is where the analytics of the previous regime worked on Segura. There was often talk of getting charts of where a player does damage in certain areas of the strike zone, waiting for a pitch in that spot and creating that damage the data said was there. It’s possible that Segura got so caught up in looking for pitches in that spot, he was too often letting hittable pitches go by and suddenly found himself in less hitter friendly situations where pitchers would up their breaking ball usage. Speculation, I know, but seems somewhat educated based on the evidence.

Of course, we can’t do a piece on Segura without talking about the physical transformation he has undergone since last season.

Not gonna say anything here, just going to let the pictures and video speak for themselves.

Whatever it was, Segura looks like he would be a prime candidate that would thrive under a different hitting coach and a new philosophy. When thinking of darkhorse candidates to lead the team in different categories during this truncated season, Segura is a good pick. This offense will need all the help it can get to spring to the finish line. Hopefully, Segura can regain his past form and help with that finish.