Let’s get one thing out of the way before talking further about anything regarding the Designated Hitter – I loathe it. However, it is the rule in the weirdest year of all, 2020. There is also no doubt in my mind that the DH will be permanent in both leagues no later than 2022. With Corey Seager coming back with a two-run home run in his first at-bat in five games it got me thinking…
With Corey Seager’s injury issues how many games per 10 would you want him to be the DH?
— Tim Rogers *?? Dodgers Nation/Dodgers 2080 (@SDDodger) August 14, 2020
The Injury History
In a majority of Seager’s professional seasons, he has landed on the injured list. In his first year and two-thirds in the majors, he was relatively healthy. Then in August of 2017, he started missing time with elbow issues and later the National League Championship Series with a back injury. It is well known he missed most of the 2018 season with Tommy John surgery, then also had hip surgery.
Seager came into the 2019 season with some dietary changes and was noticeably thinner. The season started a bit slowly as Seager was recovering from two major surgeries. By June he was starting to get hot when he suffered a hamstring injury in Anaheim. He missed almost a month and took a while to heat up again. Ultimately, he still led the NL in doubles (tied with Anthony Rendon) while posting a respectable 113 wRC+ but a career-worst batted ball exit velocity of 88.8mph.
Now, he’s started 2020 off on fire only to end up sidelined by a minor back injury last week that almost put him on the IL. The injury came on a diving attempt at shortstop.
Taking Advantage of the DH
The Dodgers have used the DH in 2020 to give players like AJ Pollock some days off while still keeping their bats in the lineup. In his first game back after missing the previous five, Corey Seager was the DH and Dave Roberts says he could get a couple more starts there before taking his place as the shortstop.
Getting players like Justin Turner, Pollock, and Seager time as the DH is smart. With all the talent the Dodgers have, the Dodgers also used the DH spot to fully utilize the whole roster.
The Case For More Chris Taylor Playing Time
You know who leads the Dodgers in on-base percentage, one-third of the way through the season? Chris Taylor.
— Jon Weisman (@jonweisman) August 14, 2020
Chris Taylor has played an excellent shortstop for the Dodgers when Seager was not available. Additionally, in 59 at-bats he is slashing .288/.400/.407 (AVG/OBP/SLG). In the small sample sizes available on FanGraphs Taylor has outplayed Seager at shortstop so far in 2020. And again, Seager hurt his back diving for a ball that caused him to miss five games.
The DH Case for Corey Seager
I do believe that Corey Seager is one of the better shortstops in Major League Baseball. When healthy, he is an elite hitter and an above-average fielder. But you see the caveat when healthy with him often. The Dodgers will be at their best when their top two in the batting order are Mookie Betts and Corey Seager. Seager’s bat is not replaceable, especially when Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, and Joc Pederson are batting under .200.
With Taylor an actual upgrade on defense, I don’t see why Corey Seager should not be protected as much as possible. At a minimum, the rotating DHs should be Justin Turner, Pollock, and Seager. They all have either age or health concerns. Since the Dodgers sit Pollock against some right-handed starters that lessons the need for some of his time at DH. It looks like the Dodgers are not ready to let Edwin Rios play too much, so they need Justin Turner to play more at third.
Although all three are valuable players, Seager is one of the elite hitters in baseball when healthy. In his first two seasons, he slashed .308/.365/.512 (third in MVP voting) and .295/.375/.479. I do all I can to protect Seager and make sure he can stay in the groove. I’d want him to get at least half of his starts as the DH with JT and AJ getting the balance of the rest.
Given that the season is already a third over and how valuable Corey Seager is to the team, this is something for 2020 only. The goal is to keep him healthy and hot for this short season. Between some DH time and sitting a game here and there it gives Seager the best chance to be healthy throughout the season. Winning the division and getting home field advantage is important. Traveling in the COVID-19 era is an even bigger pain and being able to stay home for the first three game series could be a difference maker.