When a team continues to lose, minor issues become major topics of discussion. The defense of Dodgers’ shortstop Corey Seager has become one of those topics. Seager has been far from a sure thing when handling sharp grounders or trying turn double plays this year.
Objectively, where does Seager rank amongst other full-time Major League shortstops?
Seager ranks in the bottom third of the league in three key defensive sabermetrics: Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), Revised Zone Rating (RZR), and Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR).
RZR is an older metric, albeit, still relevant. It tracks the proportion of balls hit to a player that he successfully converts into an out. The two premier defensive metrics, UZR and DRS, rate how far above or below average a fielder is. Every play is calculated into the rating.
Through Friday, Seager ranks 21st in DRS (-2), 26th in UZR (-1.9), and 27th in RZR (.672). Seager could certainly rebound back to league average or above, but hasn’t recorded a positive DRS rating since 2017.
Seager’s defensive struggles this year could be a sign that he’ll need to move to third base, eventually. History suggests that it might be inevitable. Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. is the only shortstop, 6’4” or above, that has primarily played shortstop past the age of 30.
If the Dodgers re-sign Seager this offseason, there will have to be an earnest conversation about moving him to third sometime during the length of that contract.
Granted, current third baseman Justin Turner is under contract until 2022 and has a club option in 2023. But, if the universal DH is installed for the 2022 MLB season, Seager could move to third even sooner.
For now, Seager will, and should, continue to play shortstop.
If the Dodgers start winning again, his defensive shortcomings will recede into the background. If they keep losing close games, his statistics will continue to be a frequent topic of conversation.