MLB

Suárez’s start has promise and red flags

Eugenio Suárez was widely seen as a guy the M’s had to take on to alleviate the $11 million the Reds would have owed him this season as part of their trade for Jesse Winker. A month into the season however, the 30 year old third baseman has been the more productive bat of the two he could potentially be a surprisingly valuable bat for Seattle.

For starters, his slashline of .207/.309/.415 doesn’t look to impressive off the bat. But Suárez currently has the third highest walk rate of his career and his best wRC+ since the 2019 campaign. In that 2019 season he hit .271/.358/.572 with a wRC+ of 130.

The third baseman has had his batting average suppressed by the third lowest BABIP of his career at .275 (which is still 51 points higher than it was last season). But his OBP has bounced back thanks to the third highest walk rate of his career at 12.8%. His strikeout rate is concerningly high but it’s also not debilitating thanks to the fac that he’s still finding other ways to get on base.

That walk rate is as high as it is because Suárez is swinging at the less pitches outside the zone than he has in the past. Don’t believe me, let’s take a look at this heat map.

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He’s been susceptible to breaking balls low and away or inside throughout his first 93 PAs. But overall, he’s cut down on the number of pitches outside of the zone that he’s swinging at and it’s lead to longer at bats with more positive results — despite the low BABIP.

One of the more hilarious moments in the first four weeks of the season for the veteran was his triple in the first plate appearance of the series finale in Tampa Bay. What was a weak fly ball down the right field line bounced hard on the turf in the dome and went over the right fielder’s head.

While the pitch was out of the zone, he kept the head of the bat down and absolutely flipped the pitch out the opposite way. That’s something he’s historically struggled with and to see him have success with it in that at bat was perfect.

That little dink triple into right is hilarious and amazing; but it’s not something you should expect to see a lot of as he currently has the second lowest rate of opposite field contact of his career at this point. Suárez has actually reduced his pull rate by about 4.6% from where it was last season and about 9.6% from where it was in 2019. He’s actually got a career high in percentage of balls in play in the center of the field (37%).

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So far this season his hard hit rate is at the lowest of his career which means that his xBA (expected batting average) is at .218…which isn’t that far off of his actually batting average. But the good news is he’s still getting the barrel of the bat to the ball, even though it isn’t generating as many hard hits or actual hits as you’d hope for.

It’s important to remember it’s early, and while there are encouraging peripherals around Suárez’s start to the 2022 season there are just as many red flags. It will be interesting to see if where he heads this season. But even if his batting average continues to lag, but his OPS is in higher than .720…then this was a very valuable pick-up by general manager Jery Dipoto.

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