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The season that was: Marcus Semien

A look at Marcus’ 2021 season.

Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images

The Blue Jays signed Marcus Semien at the end of January, just days after signing George Springer.

Semien was coming off a poor 2020 season, where he hit .223/.305/.374. After a 2019 season where he was 3rd in MVP voting (though that season was an outlier. 2019 was his only season with an OPS+ over 100.

He signed a one-year, $18 million contract, agreeing to move from shortstop to second base. Marcus has been an excellent defensive shortstop, so taking the, at least, perceived demotion to the other side of the second base bag likely was a big deal.

The Jays likely didn’t expect him to be the 8.4 bWAR player he was in 2019, but they wanted someone who could go a long way to shore up the defense, which was a significant issue in 2020. Of course, his reputation as a team leader didn’t hurt.

On Semien’s side, taking a one-year contract could let him build value for a contract a year later. I think that worked out well for him.

Standard Batting
30 162 724 652 115 173 39 2 45 102 15 1 66 146 .265 .334 .538 .873 133 9 3 0
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 10/7/2021.

As mentioned yesterday, Marcus is only the second player in baseball history to hit 45 home runs in a season and not be Intentionally Walked.

Baseball-Reference has Marcus at a 7.1 (3rd in the AL) WAR. FanGraphs had him at 6.6 (second in the AL), making him worth $55.0 million to the Jays.

He had a .368 wOBA and a 131 wRA+.

His line-drive rate was about the same as last year (20.8% this year, 20.5 last). Ground ball rate down a little (31.0%, from 32.9) and fly-ball rate up a little (48.1%, from 46.6). As you could guess, more of his fly balls left the park (18.4%, from 9.3).

Semien’s soft contact was down (15.1% from 23.0) and hard contact w up (36.0%, from 28.0).

His BABIP was up just a little from last year, .276 from .260.

Semien had big-time reverse splits, hitting RHP (.274/.342/.564) much better than LHP (.243/.313/.469).

He hit much the same at his home parks (.262/.328/.542, 22 home runs) as in road parks (.269/341/.535 with 23 home runs).

Marcus’ first half (.277/.345/.528 with 22 home runs) and second half (.252/.321/.550 with 23 home runs) were almost equal.

With RISP he hit .239/.309/.575 with 12 home runs.

Semien by month:

  • April: In 24 games, he hit .211/.290/.368 with 5 home runs.
  • May: In 28 games, he hit .368/.429/.702 with 8 home runs.
  • June: In 26 games, he hit .264/.328/.500 with 6 home runs.
  • July: In 23 games, he hit .239/.302/.500 with 5 home runs.
  • August: In 30 games, he hit .237/.305/.508 with 8 home runs.
  • September: In 31 games, he hit .260/.338/.606 with 13 home runs.

Remember how worried we were about him in April?

On defense, he was pretty decent. He had a 6.6 UZR per 150 at second base. He made 8 errors (1 fielding, 7 throwing) for a .985 FA (league average was .982).

He played 21 games (14 starts) at short, making 1 throwing errors (.984 FA) and a 5.9 UZR/150 (I don’t trust UZR for such few innings).

FanGraphs has Marcus 4.0 runs better than the average baserunner, which would make him the 12th best baserunner in the AL. He had 15 steals, and 1 caught stealing.

In games he started Marcus hit:

  • 1st: 88 games.
  • 2nd: 45 games.
  • 3rd: 19 games.
  • 5th: 1 game.
  • 6th: 8 games.

A lot was made of him playing every game (Marcus started 161 games and came into the one game he didn’t start in the seventh inning. I’m not a fan of guys playing every day, especially when the reasoning is ‘he wants to play every day’. I think the odd mental health day is good for anyone, whether he wants it or not. But then, since we signed him for the one year, you might as well get your money’s worth.

And, of course, we know that he set a record for most home runs by a second baseman, which is pretty cool.

Before the season, we asked if Marcus would have an OPS over .775. 80% of us got it right. He cleared it by 98 points.

The big question is will the Jays re-sign him. Which goes along with how many years and how much money he will get. Semien had a super season. I guess the question is, ‘will he have another super season next year?’ He’s going to be paid like this is the new normal. I wouldn’t be a fan of paying a guy off a career year as a general rule. But then Marcus has some ‘intangibles’. He does seem to be a leader. He seems to get along with the guys. And he plays excellent defense. We can use a guy like that.

The questions for me are: Does he want to play shortstop? And would he rather play somewhere else? California?

I wonder that if Marcus were to sign a long-term contract, would Bo be willing to move to second base. I mean it wasn’t a good idea to move him to second when Marcus was only going to be here for a year. But, if it is for four seasons, maybe Bo could be talked into moving?

Marcus said all the right things about being willing to come back. Players almost always do. I never think it means much. I’m sure he would gladly come back if the team offered him the right amount of money and if the position thing worked out.

If that was his only season with the Blue Jays, we couldn’t have asked for a better one.


For his 2021 season, I would grade Marcus Semien an

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