Everyone, I assume, is well aware that Jerry Dipoto shuffled the Mariners roster this offseason like a man possessed. But few of the moves really stand out as blockbusters, with most of them being smaller deals to fill in the gaps. The team already had its core — Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager, Felix Hernandez and James Paxton, to name a few — so it makes sense that the focus would be on supplemental players.

One player, though, does have a chance to be a core piece, if he is able to maintain his production from 2016, and that player is Jean Segura. Segura is coming off of a 5-win season (a career year), after two replacement level campaigns, so projecting him for 2017 is difficult (as though normal clairvoyance isn’t hard enough).

Looking beyond the production and into the nuts and bolts can provide a better idea of what caused his breakout, and hopefully at least lend us some insight into whether it will continue. In Segura’s case, we can see a sharp decline in his chase rate, as well as a jump in his hard-hit rate. Those are two important numbers for a hitter, and when combined with contact rate can provide a nice idea of the factors that underlie a performance.

So, I went to FanGraphs and found the seasons most similar to Segura’s 2016 in chase rate, contact rate, and hard-hit rate (back to 2002, when that data becomes available). The goal is to then look at those players’ follow-up seasons to get an idea of what a reasonable expectation for Segura may look like. Keep in mind there are plenty of limits to this: there’s more to the game than those three numbers, and there’s no guarantee he sustains them anyway. But this might at least tell us how sustainable they are.

Here’s our initial sample:

Season Player PA O-Swing% Contact% Hard% OBP ISO wRC+ WAR
2011 Albert Pujols 651 31.0% 86.6% 30.5% 0.366 0.242 147 4.0
2012 Yadier Molina 563 30.6% 85.3% 31.7% 0.373 0.186 138 6.1
2014 Neil Walker 571 31.4% 83.6% 28.6% 0.342 0.195 130 3.6
2008 Justin Morneau 712 30.3% 85.4% 29.2% 0.374 0.199 128 3.3
2016 Jean Segura 694 31.2% 84.9% 29.7% 0.368 0.181 126 5.0
2015 Mike Moustakas 614 33.0% 85.0% 31.5% 0.348 0.186 122 3.6
2013 Shane Victorino 532 31.9% 85.5% 28.0% 0.351 0.157 119 5.9
2016 Adam Eaton 706 31.1% 84.6% 31.5% 0.362 0.144 115 6.0
2015 Matt Duffy 612 30.7% 83.6% 28.5% 0.334 0.133 114 4.8
2011 J.J. Hardy 567 30.8% 85.9% 29.4% 0.310 0.222 113 4.4
2014 Conor Gillaspie 506 33.0% 84.7% 29.1% 0.336 0.134 111 1.6
2015 Brian McCann 535 31.8% 84.6% 31.7% 0.320 0.204 106 3.0
2011 Neil Walker 662 30.4% 85.5% 30.9% 0.334 0.134 106 2.6
2010 Howie Kendrick 658 31.2% 83.3% 31.6% 0.313 0.128 98 1.7
2014 Brian McCann 538 31.3% 86.1% 31.0% 0.286 0.174 94 2.4
2010 Aaron Hill 580 31.0% 84.4% 30.9% 0.271 0.189 77 1.2
2014 DJ LeMahieu 538 31.1% 85.5% 28.1% 0.315 0.081 66 0.7
AVERAGE 31.3% 85.0% 30.1% 0.335 0.170 112 3.5

There’s a pretty wide range of performances there, which is a clear indication that chase, contact and hard-hit are far from all-encompassing. That said, only 4 of the 17 were below league average in wRC+, so we at least know that Segura’s rates generally lead to solid offense.

At the bottom, you can see the group averages, which include a 112 wRC+ and 3.5 WAR — a very nice season. Now, consider what these players did in the following season (note: Segura and Adam Eaton don’t appear, because they haven’t had follow-ups yet).

Season Player PA O-Swing% Contact% Hard% OBP ISO wRC+ WAR
2013 Yadier Molina 541 35.6% 87.2% 34.4% 0.359 0.158 133 5.5
2012 Albert Pujols 670 35.6% 84.7% 33.5% 0.343 0.231 133 3.6
2009 Justin Morneau 590 29.3% 79.2% 39.6% 0.363 0.242 126 3.3
2011 Howie Kendrick 583 31.9% 79.5% 28.5% 0.338 0.179 123 5.3
2012 Neil Walker 530 33.6% 82.0% 30.5% 0.342 0.146 112 2.7
2016 Mike Moustakas 113 22.2% 86.2% 37.4% 0.301 0.260 110 0.7
2015 Neil Walker 603 32.6% 81.7% 32.2% 0.328 0.158 108 2.4
2015 Brian McCann 535 31.8% 84.6% 31.7% 0.320 0.204 106 3.0
2016 Brian McCann 492 30.2% 81.9% 35.5% 0.335 0.170 103 1.3
2015 DJ LeMahieu 620 24.8% 85.2% 26.6% 0.358 0.087 89 1.9
2014 Shane Victorino 133 38.1% 82.9% 21.0% 0.303 0.114 87 0
2016 Matt Duffy 366 28.2% 85.3% 26.2% 0.310 0.099 84 1.2
2012 J.J. Hardy 713 29.7% 87.8% 31.1% 0.282 0.151 78 2.4
2011 Aaron Hill 571 28.7% 85.8% 23.9% 0.299 0.110 77 0.6
2015 Conor Gillaspie 253 35.9% 77.9% 21.4% 0.269 0.131 67 -1.2
AVERAGE 31.2% 83.5% 30.2% 0.323 0.163 102 2.2

Off the bat, that’s not particularly encouraging. Some got better, and some stayed about the same, but as you can see by the averages, they mostly trended in the wrong direction. The average wRC+ and WAR fell to 102 and 2.2 respectively — closer to average than the good-to-great from the previous table.

Perhaps most interesting is that the average chase, contact and hard-hit rates remained fairly consistent. The largest variation was 1.5 percentage points in contact rate — chase and hard-hit were both within 0.1 points.

The most firm conclusion we can draw is likely that, while those three areas are important, they aren’t everything (which isn’t particularly helpful). The second is that it seems as though they are relatively stable from year to year, so the gains Segura made could very well be real. And it does seem as though the players who were better able to maintain their chase/contact/hard-hit were also better at maintaining their production.

Conversely, players like Conor Gillaspie and Shane Victorino struggled in one or more of the areas, and saw a sharp decline in their production. Gillaspie swung at balls more often, made contact less often, and saw his hard-hit rate drop by about 8 percentage points — his wRC+ followed suit with a 44-point drop. Victorino made a similar amount of contact, but his chase run increased by 6 points, while his hard-hit fell by 7 points, and in turn his wRC+ fell by 32 points.

We probably aren’t significantly closer to knowing what the future holds for Jean Segura, but we do have some evidence that he made some important strides last year that, if repeated, figure to keep him on a somewhat similar track.

A repeat is asking for too much, most likely, but even if he suffered the average regression from our sample above — 10 points of wRC+ and 1.3 WAR — he would still be sporting something around a 115 wRC+ and 3.5 WAR. That would be a massive upgrade over what the Mariners received last year from the below-replacement Ketel Marte, and would likely make Segura part of the M’s core.

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