On June 28, Jean Segura was on pace to hit .332 with 23 home runs, 94 runs scored, 67 RBI, and 50 stolen bases, placing his performance among the elite shortstops in recent years. And that was after he had cooled significantly after a white-hot start. Today, his pace suggests he’ll finish up at .298/13/79/53/48. That’s nothing to scoff at, and it significantly outperforms even the most pre-season projection for him. But it most certainly points out that something has gone awry from the end of June to where we currently stand.
From July 1 to present, Segura has hit .263/.297/.332 with one home run and 20 stolen bases, although he has also been caught nine times. Previous to that, Segura had stolen 24 bases being caught just twice — oh, and by the way, he also was batting .327/.360/.508 with 11 home runs. Breaking it down by month, here’s his triple slash over the course of the season:
Taking this a little further, we can look at his wRC+ broken down by month. wRC+ is of course presented as an above/below league average so the number itself holds meaning relative to the rest of baseball. But for fantasy purposes, it’s illustrative to juxtapose Segura’s performance with that of NL league average by shortstops — which today stands at 87 wRC+.
Yes, I could have just said he was performing as a below average shortstop since July, but I’m a visual learner. So Segura has gone from otherworldly, to great, to pretty good, to clunk. So what in the world is going on here?
Is it good old fashioned regression? Maybe.
He has underperformed his xBABIP based on hit trajectory in both halves, but it was probably unlikely that he was going to maintain a 15.3% HR/FB rate nor that 16.2% IFH%, which by the way, was the highest in baseball in the first half. Second was Mike Trout at 15.3%. It is, of course, smart for Segura to take advantage of his speed and hit so many ground balls, but it’s worth highlighting that line drive rate in the second half as less than encouraging.
Pitchers weren’t really throwing him anything new before and after July 1:
His whiffs per swing really didn’t change much in total, but as you can see below he did have more trouble with the change, sinker, curve, and cutter. But he actually improved against the fastball and slider.
It’s hard to arrive at the why, but one of the most obvious issues after July 1st was his lack of power. Here’s an overlay of pre and post July 1 ISO (apologies for the wonky border lines, and credit Brooks Baseball):
Lots of purple and red before and lots of blue after. His ability to hit for power just vanished after July 1. Perhaps the answer is easy for this 23 year old? As I was griping about Segura’s second half on Twitter, the venerable Jim Breen (and resident Brewer expert) chimed in:
@michaelcbarr Fatigue is certainly a factor. I'm hoping he skips winter ball this year. He's also become a ground-ball machine.
— J.P. Breen (@JP_Breen) September 16, 2013
It might not be very satisfying. It might not be fashionable. Frankly, it might not even be correct. But Jean Segura might just be worn down. The stolen base rate could certainly lend some evidence to this, even if you don’t buy fatigue relative to other counting stats. We’ll probably just never really know what’s happened in the second half.
The obvious question is how to value him going into next season. He’s still seen as one of the better value picks of the 2013 fantasy season, so it’s unlikely you’re not going to keep him — but when projections come in positing a repeat of this year, it’s probably good to hang on to the Steamer projection for 2013, which looked like this: .267/.314/.375 with five home runs and 24 stolen bases. I recall thinking that was rather pessimistic, and it turns out that’s true. But it does look an awful lot like the Segura we saw in the second half, with the exception being the speed.
Segura has youth and inexperience to blame for the second half slide, so it’s certainly within the realm of possibility that he figures out how to carry the torch a little longer in 2014. But I suspect you’re going to see some pretty lofty expectations as far as the projections go, and I’ll probably be relying pretty heavily on that of ZiPS in this case.