Corey Seager‘s first half of the 2016 has been one of the best by a Dodger rookie. Ever. Joc Pederson‘s first half of 2015 was impressive, but unfortunately he could not replicate that success in the second half of his first full season.
Seager has already surpassed or bettered Pederson’s offensive numbers from last year’s first half (although he has four fewer home runs). The young infielder has also shown his poise at the plate (Seager has 50 less strikeouts than Pederson had through 15 less games played). He’s the Dodgers’ top hitter this year, but so far he hasn’t garnered enough votes to get into the All-Star Game.
Seager may not be the next Nomar Garciaparra, who had 104 hits in the first half (80 games) of his rookie season in 1997 with the Red Sox, but the Dodger 22-year-old is sure to be a fixture in the lineup for many years to come. He has posted some of the most offensively potent numbers in his first 101 games by any Dodger shortstop in any year.
The Dodger heartthrob notched his second four-hit game of his career on Friday night in the 8-6 loss to the Pirates at PNC Park. He’s been a huge asset to the Dodgers in an offensively challenged season for them, and he’s been putting up historic numbers. He leads NL shortstops in WAR (3.4), wRC+ (138), runs (48) and hits (87). He also leads his team in nearly every offensive category. It may not be too farfetched to be including his name in MVP talk.
Seager’s impressive rookie start impelled me to compare his first month numbers to some touted rookies in their first Major League season.
Although Seager’s solid April solidified his place in the Dodger lineup, he’ll need to sustain his success. Both Pederson and Puig started their Major League careers off memorably, but they have experienced prolonged slumps since. Puig collected an incredible 44 hits through his first 26 games after debuting on June 3, 2013. Pederson had 17 hits through his first 21 games last season. Seager had 24 hits through his first 24 games.
We learned from Pederson’s second half power outage of 2015, a spectacular start to a career is not always a requisite to sustained success. Mike Trout, who is only a few months older than Pederson, didn’t really have a strong start in the three months of 2011. It wasn’t until May 2012 when Trout really got his baseball engine started. The 2012 American League Rookie of the Year had a strong start to his record rookie season, stealing eight bases in that month for the Angels along with 35 hits and 21 runs.
Puig’s first month in the majors was historically magical. Puig hit three more home runs than Pederson did in his first month and five more than Seager did (two additional games and one additional plate appearance then Seager). Puig was the special spark in 2013, along with Hanley Ramirez, which turned the team around and ignited that summer of love, launching the team into the legendary 42-8 winning spree.
Perhaps one of the most hyped up rookie debuts was that of the then 19-year-old outfielder Bryce Harper. Like Seager, Harper is a dynamic young player who made history within his first full month in the Majors. On May 6, 2012, Harper was hit-by-a-pitch in the first inning by Cole Hamels. Harper then stole home, the first teenager to do so since 1964. Hamels was later suspended for five days for the intentional beaning.
Eight days later, Harper hit his first Major League home run against Tim Stauffer of the Padres, and he became the youngest player to hit a home run at the big league level since Adrian Beltre in 1998 who was also a 19-year old. The Nationals went on to a first-place finish in the NL East with 98 wins.
Another remarkable Dodger rookie was none other than Raul Mondesi, the NL Rookie of the Year in 1994. Mondesi drove in the same number of runs (13) in his first big month as Pederson, but Mondesi collected an astonishing 22 doubles in that same month. Mondesi only walked once in those 22 games which was even more remarkable and makes Puig’s four walks in June of 2013 almost seem passable.
There have been 16 Dodgers who have won the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award. Seager is making his case to be number 17. Even though Puig’s first month in the show was mind-blowing and Pederson showed off his power by blasting 20 home runs in the first half of 2015, Seager’s polished level of play through the first half of 2016 has demonstrated his ability to not only contribute substantially both offensively and defensively but also his ability to adjust when needed.
Colorado’s Trevor Story has hit 18 home runs in his first 68 games with 14 less hits than Seager and 45 more strikeouts. Trayce Thompson is hitting .244/.323/.478 with 11 home runs in his first 64 games as a Dodger. He’s struck out 49 times and has 21 walks. You’ve probably forgot about him by now, but Andre Ethier also had a great start to his rookie season in 2006 when he hit .352/.403/.545 with 58 hits including 10 doubles, two triples and six home runs through his first 59 games.
While a successful start for a rookie can be a sign of what is to come, there is still a long season ahead. Another comparison should be made at the end of the season between these impressive then-and-now rookies. To start off with a bang is one thing, but to stay consistently productive through his entire rookie season is what the Dodgers are hoping Seager can do better than Pederson.
Youth springs eternal with the Dodgers in 2016 and beyond, and Seager may just be the first of another string of Dodger Rookie of the Year winners should he continue his excellence down the stretch.