There are few things that can make us feel more anxious than when we realize that people we consider our friends don’t enjoy the same things we do. Music, comedy specials, how much to go outside. There’s a little daring in liking things, especially when we like them deeply. By professing that we like something, we invite someone else to say that they don’t like that something, and then suddenly, there is one less thing that knits us to that someone.
Not liking the same little somethings is fine; I like eggplant and I have friends who don’t and it has never mattered, not even one time. But it can be hard to suss out in advance which little things, when pulled open, will lead to the bigger somethings that do matter. And so sharing the things we like can make us feel nervous. Perhaps you, the eggplant disliker, don’t care for its texture. That’s fine; eggplant has divisive mouthfeel. But maybe you don’t like it because you prefer the meaty taste of the human persons you have folded up in your basement freezer. That’s considerably less good! I went in liking eggplant and came out knowing you’re a murderer. Friendship can be dicey in this way, but I guess we have to risk it.
So here’s what I like. I like watching Jean Segura play baseball.
I liked this single, on a ball just above the zone.
And I enjoyed this double, on a ball just below it.
This triple, and the exhausted bit of lounging at the end? Also good.
This home run? Another thing I liked.
Liking Segura does not constitute an exclusive preference on my part. I like other baseball things, too. I’m not so special in my affinity for the shortstop, who was just named an All-Star through the fan-driven Final Vote. Nor is my little bit of daring meant as a statement about value; by our numbers, Segura is tied for the 14th-highest WAR among qualified hitters, but he isn’t Mike Trout. He doesn’t hit for much power or walk very often. He isn’t that sort of player. But the sort of player he is is why I like him.
Segura, it seems, is always on base, and on base because he hit his way there. And indeed, that sense is grounded in reality. In 2018, 23 qualified hitters have a batting average of at least .300. Of those 23, Segura possesses the smallest differential between his batting average and his on base percentage.
2018 Qualified Batters (.300 AVG or Higher)
Segura has played in 87 games this season. He’s failed to record a hit in just 23 of those. He has 37 games with two hits or more, the second most in baseball behind J.D. Martinez, Francisco Lindor, and Nick Markakis, who are all tied up at 38 apiece. He leads the majors in games of three or more hits with 15. He got four hits in a game once. He hits for a lot of hits.
Now, I’ve said that liking things can make us nervous, and you might feel nervous now, but don’t be. This isn’t a sudden, sneaky endorsement of batting average. Our official policy remains that average is a deeply flawed way to understand who is good. But I think it has some merit as an indicator of a player whose game is marked by a particular kind of aesthetic. And in an era of baseball lousy with three-true-outcome hitters, I like Jean Segura because he is both undeniably good (a 128 wRC+! 3.1 WAR!), while also being different.
There is something thrilling about a guy who is seemingly always on base, and his presence is made more thrilling still by the means by which he reaches base. No staid walks and slow trudges down the line, but action and movement and a little bit of speed. Sometimes, Segura gets hits off of pitches that should be out of reach but aren’t, as his single and double show above. He presents to us a version of baseball full of possibilities, with his time at the plate marked not by a worrisome narrowing of our options, but an optimistic expectation that things might keep moving. And his aesthetic doesn’t just alter your expectation of his at bat, but of the whole inning. We’re probably going to see some action here. Something is going to happen! Of course, it doesn’t always. But he makes you think it might. After watching a bunch of home runs and a bunch more strikeouts, that possibility lets you breathe a bit. It gives you something else to look at.
This has been about what I like. Perhaps you prefer raw power or greater patience, or some Troutian or Bettsian combination of both. Maybe hitting isn’t your thing at all; perhaps pitching is your game. That’s fine. None of these options lead us to a dank basement freezer. They are all small things that we might like, and I think we’re free to pick and choose among them, and mix them at our leisure. I like Jean Segura so much because he is different, but still good. If the whole game were Seguras, I’d probably long for an Aaron Judge, and then this little daring would be about him. After all, we can’t subsist on eggplant, no matter how much we might like it.