So we are at that time in the season when we start to look back. Look back at the disappointments and the triumphs, the status quo and the surprises. The tale of Eugenio Suarez has been a fascinating one to tell. At the All-Star break this year he had 20 HR and a .248 AVG, and since then he’s hit 25 HR with a .300 AVG. Right now he’s sitting on 45 HRs and making a run at the homerun title, behind only Pete Alonso. Suarez, we all know, was acquired from the Tigers for the low low price of only one Alfredo Simon, veteran reliever. That’s right. Since joining the Reds, he has bested his season HR total every season. On top of that, he’s increased his wRC+ and oWAR every year except this one shockingly, 2019 (including fewer RBIs). What does that mean? Well, on the whole, it means he’s not quite as efficient as he was at the dish the year prior. He’s evolved each season, but for some reason, despite the HR surge he’s produced less with it this year. So sports fans, lets dive in and see what we learn.
So looking at the last 3 years we see the surface of the result data. In 2017 he learned to walk, jumping from an 8.1% walk rate to 13.3%, and drive a few more balls out increasing his ISO to .200 for the first time. Then in 2018 everything clicked. He traded those walks for selective hits and started to put more power in those hits. Hmmm, then in 2019, he’s taken a step back. Walks dropped again but instead of adding hits he has struck out more. His ISO has climbed a lot in the last 2 years, but the only XBHs that have increased are homeruns (doubles have been stagnant or gone down). More balls leaving parks means hitting them harder right? Not always.
|Barrel%||Exit Velo||Launch Angle||FB%||HR/FB%||Pull%||Hardhit%|
Along with production, he’s been down in EV, Hardhit% (and wOBA). What he has been up in is Barrel%, LA, pulling balls 50%+ (10% more) of the time. This has resulted in a ballooned 30.6 HR/FB rate. The increase from 2017-18 seems like real growth on the heel of hitting the ball in the air more. His 2019 looks a lot like others 2019s, Suarez joining the Launch Angle Revolution. AND I’ll add, that him pulling the balls more looks to be him compensating the drop in average and walk rate. Suarez appears to be trying to jump on balls early (pulling) that creates more swing and miss chances, making him more vulnerable to offspeed pitches in order to maximize power in his swing.
So my initial thoughts seem to be in pointed in the right direction. Suarez has always hit fastballs well, and this year, he is really crushing them at a .660 SLG clip. 29 of his 45 HRs have come off of fastballs, vs only 18 last year. But this leap forward in dominating FBs has come at the cost of reduced effectiveness against breaking balls and severely handicapping his ability to handle offspeed pitches; whereas, last year he had a very balanced approach and managed all pitch types without a glaring hole.
So this leaves the question then, what will Suarez do next year? Will he continue to sacrifice effectiveness for power and roll the dice on flyballs? His HR/FB rate is likely not repeatable as very few players can duplicate that over multiple seasons. If his approach remains the same and flyballs return to norms, he could end up with 36 HRs and a .240 AVG. Or he could adjust back to a more balanced 2018 approach and hit .275 with 32+ HR. One thing is true, he always seems to improve.
I’ll leave you with this final Table…
With the exception of a dismal (word of the day) June, on a month to month basis Suarez has been a pretty consistent source of power like a nuclear plant. Last year he was consistent too, save the month of April. 6 HRs a month with one down month will still get you to 33+ HRs, so a bit of a dropoff would still be good. Because, despite the concerns 1) he does play in the NL Central and 2) the field he calls home is Great American Sandbox (which is always friendly to hitters that can get the ball in the air). His approach to deadeye fastballs will be something to ponder this offseason. But then whoever heard of snozberries? We are the music makers. We are the dreamers of dreams.