Texas Rangers: Marcus Semien due for regression

(Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images) /

Unfortunately, yes, you read that correctly. Marcus Semien, who finished third in the AL MVP race behind only Shohei Ohtani and teammate Vladimir Guerrero Jr, could be due for some serious regression. Now, this is somewhat expected. He had a career year in 2021, and that will be tough to match. In my second player profile and projection, I will discuss what you can expect out of the Texas Rangers newly acquired star, second basemen Marcus Semien.

Texas Rangers Marcus Semien’s 2021: .265/.334/.538, 45 HR, 102 RBI

Semien’s splits in 2021 were simply outstanding while playing under a one-year, $18 million prove-it deal with the Blue Jays. He also stole quite a few bags for the Jays, a career-high 15. He earned his seven-year $175 million deal with Texas. I think the best part of his stint with the Blue Jays is that he agreed to play out of position, switching from shortstop to second base, and he went and won himself a Gold Glove at the position. There’s value found in Semien that you can’t find elsewhere.

So where does the regression come in?

His expected stats from last year indicate regression, and the switch of ballparks will also tamp down his numbers. One expected stat I tend to look at is wOBA. wOBA stands for “Weighted on Base Average” and can give fans a more accurate representation of how a player is getting on base and how often. Usually, “expected wOBA” (xwOBA) is right around where we see the actual stats, within about 20 or so points of value. When players are outside of this scope, it’s worth flagging.

In 2021, Semien had a great .368 wOBA, good for 42nd, and ahead of the likes of Mookie Betts and Kris Bryant. But his xwOBA in 2021 was .331 (123rd), 37 points lower than his actual and the 8th highest difference in the MLB. For context, NL MVP Bryce Harper had a wOBA of .431 and xwOBA of .430, meaning that his season was no fluke.

Even scarier is a look at Semien’s 2021 SLG (.538, 21st) compared to his xSLG (.453, 93rd). That’s an 85-point difference and good for the 4th worst margin of error in the league. A .453 SLG is not poor by any stretch, but the margin of difference is what worries me. Sure, we can all accept that he overperformed, but if Semien comes back down to Earth, are we going to be seeing a guy whose value isn’t anywhere near the $175 million deal we bought him at?

Even his average exit velocity was middle of the pack at 89.7 mph. One piece of information I found particularly interesting was his expected home runs by park, according to Baseball Savant. This accounts only for wall height and distance, not environmental conditions. As a reminder, Semien hit 45 big flies this past season.

The Texas Rangers home field, Globe Life Park, is tied for 28th in expected home runs (32). So, based purely on the dimensions of our home stadium, Marcus Semien would have 13 fewer home runs than last season due to the height and distance of all 45 home runs he hit in 2021. This is significant when considering he is going to be playing at half of his games here. This should knock down his home run numbers.

It’s also worth remembering that the Blue Jays played half of their season in a minor league stadium which were both smaller in size than the typical major league ballpark, which may have inflated Semien’s home run total.

Even though there are credible reasons Semien may regress, there are some indications he could remain as dominant as he was in 2021. His Hard Hit % went up 12.7% from 2020 28.6 to 41.3, and his Barrel % went up 4% from 5% to 9.8%. These two stats don’t have much to do with environment and aren’t as subject to statistical ups and downs.

Semien is also an above-average player when it comes to discipline, with a low Chase% of 21.2, 7.1% below the league average. He’s also leaving the toughest division in baseball and entering into the righty-friendly confines of Minute Maid and T-Mobile Park for 19 games each year.

At the end of the day, results are what is going to matter for Semien’s 2022 and beyond. And I’m thinking last year’s results are too far from how he should be performing to expect a repeat. That’s why I’m looking for those numbers to level out. For Marcus Semien’s 2022 I’m projecting him at .261/.345/.460 with 32 HR, 92 RBI, and throw 11 stolen bags in there as well.

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By no means would this be a disappointing season from Semien. But I think it’s reasonable to lower expectations some as he joins the Texas Rangers in this first year.