In the first half of the 2013 season, Jean Segura was on fire. Through June 28, he was on pace to hit .332 with 23 homers and steal 50 bases. He finished the first half with a .325/.363/.487 slash line with 11 home runs, eight triples, wRC+ of 135, and led the National League in hits (127) and stolen bases (27). He was on pace for roughly a six-win season. (I say “roughly” because WAR wasn’t listed in splits, so I took the liberty–and the error–of calculating it using his numbers through his first 81 games.)
After that, things came crashing down on Segura. He got on base significantly less, his power declined, and his numbers dwindled significantly. He hit .241/.268/.315 over the second half of the season with just one home run and a wRC+ of 57. His final numbers were nothing to scoff at–.294/.329/.423, 12 home runs, 74 runs, 44 stolen bases, 3.4 WAR.
2013 was, indeed, a tale of two Seguras. In the first half we saw the promise and emergence of Segura, 23, as one of the game’s best shortstops. He was named an All Star in his first full season for a team that wasn’t competitive. He was flashing surprising pop in his bat, driving the ball to all fields, stealing first base, adjusting quickly on defense to his relatively new position, and playing with a Gomezian hustle. Should we be concerned with his second half struggles? I mean, he posted the same OBP in the second half as Juan Francisco! Was it just basic regression or is there greater concern to be found?
I think that it’s best to not overreact either way. Sure, Segura showed flashes that he could be an upper-tier shortstop for a long time, but it’s unrealistic to expect a 23-year-old that’s just getting used to playing in the majors to hit .320 all year. At the same time, his rapid decline wasn’t the beginning of the end of young Jean Segura.
I’m a guy that, typically, likes to crunch and analyse and apply the numbers in as many ways as possible. In Segura’s case, his regression was more than just “regular”. He walked less, struck out more, and lost his power. But in this instance, I’ll attribute Segura’s significant drop off to just being flat-out fatigued. It is, in reality, impossible to measure but impossible to ignore if you watched his season progress. His plate discipline suffered (though he managed to swing and miss at a much smaller percentage of fastballs), his stolen base rate suffered, and, despite hitting more ground balls, had significantly fewer infield hits (from 16.2 percent down to 7.6 percent IFH%).
There’s not really much science or math behind it. It’s probably not the stylish way to look at the issue at hand. But it very well could be that the biggest reason behind Segura’s slump was that he was tired. He played in–and won the batting title–in the Dominican Winter League before the season. Including a heavier-than-usual spring training workload into this already-busy off-season and a nagging hamstring that first flared up in 2011 and showed itself again in the latter stages of 2013, and you might just have a tired Jean Segura.
Going forward, I expect Segura to find somewhat of a happy medium between his two sides from 2013. Remember, he was projected for a .267/.314/.375 season with only five homers, which looks a lot like his second half numbers. In the end, his final numbers far exceeded the projections, even with that forgettable conclusion to the season.
His five home runs in May were probably a power flash that we shouldn’t expect him to repeat going forward. Segura won’t ever be a twenty-homer guy; rather, it’s very comforting considering the other question marks around the team that we can really on a young player like Segura to steal 40 bases and hit .280 with a wRC+ over 100, if healthy.
As he gains experience and recovers this offseason, Segura should be able to maintain a greater level of consistency over the course of 162 games. This may require the customary, regular day off for Segura, but if it means a steadier line of production, it will be worth the investment for Milwaukee. When you have a 23-year-old shortstop selected to the All Star Game in his first full season, it would be a shame to burn him out.
And, at the very least, we can still rely on Mean Jean’s award-winning smile to carry us through the season, good or bad as the season may be.