FanPost

Breakout by the Numbers: Eugenio Suarez

Photo by Robin Platzer/Getty Images

Happy new years eve! I wanted to post this before the events of this evening and ahead of new years day to give you guys something to read and discuss when you are hungover tomorrow.

Eugenio Suarez

Earlier in the offseason the Dbacks added Eugenio Suarez to fill the void at 3rd base that has plagued this team for several seasons now. I already wrote about this earlier in the offseason but one question continued to interest me, why the sudden power drop off in 2023? This is what I am referring to (warning not for the faint of heart):

Eugenio Suarez Home Runs

HR

PA/HR

Difference

2019

49

13.5

2020

15

15.4

-1.9

2021

31

18.5

-3.1

2022

31

20.3

-1.8

2023

22

31.5

-11.2

As you can see from the above, the rate at which Eugenio Suarez has been hitting home runs per plate appearance has been declining since his career year in 2019 when he hit 49. Some of this can be expected given 2019 was the record breaking year for home runs across major league baseball and Suarez moved from a notorious homerun haven in Cincinnati to Seattle. However it is the monumental drop off in home runs per plate appearance that occurred in 2023 that interests me the most. With such a significant drop off in homerun rate, you would expect a drop off in batted ball data:

Metric

2019

2020

2021

2022

2023

Exit Velocity

89.3

89.1

89.1

89.8

90.3

Barrel %

13.8

14.4

15

14.8

13.2

Hard Hit %

40.8

44.7

39.8

43.5

43

Sweet Spot %

38

29.5

33

36.4

37.7

The answer isn’t here. Surprisingly some of Suarez’s batted ball data actually improved compared to previous seasons. This is really good news considering the drop off in home run rate. If these metrics were to also show a decrease compared to his peak I would be pretty concerned about the ability Suarez has and his outlook moving forward.

It wasn’t until I was listening to a podcast on a similar type player that I was able to find the culprit, HR/FB rate:

Rate

2019

2020

2021

2022

2023

HR/FB

29.5

24.2

19.6

19.3

12.9

As you can see when compared to the above PA/HR rate, the trend line is almost an exact match. And if you add 6 points to his 2023 HR/FB rate, his expected home run total jumps right to 32 homeruns or almost exactly where he has been the past 2 seasons.

So the million dollar question when it comes to Suarez is, why the drastic reduction in home run per fly ball rate? Especially when the batted ball metrics are still strong. Suarez’s average HR/FB rate prior to 2023 of 23.2 would’ve ranked 8th in 2023, but for some reason in 2023 Suarez ranked 75th among qualified position players. What happened?

I’ve seen some people attribute his drop off to whiffing on more pitches in the zone. However his in zone whiff % was only marginally up at .6% higher than 2022, only about 2.9% up since 2020. So not really correlating to the massive drop off in home runs.

His flyball% dropped a significant amount at 4.8%, but was still higher at 34.4% than 2019 at 31.6%. However this was almost directly proportional to an increase in line drives of 4.4%. This would also support his higher average exit velocity. He did lose about 1% of average launch angle.

Because the batted ball data remained so strong, this is almost surely due to some bad luck. This is supported by the large difference in xISO vs ISO as well as xSLG vs SLG. Suarez’s batted ball metrics support the idea that the power is still very much there even if the home runs weren’t. If that is truly the case, it is quite possible that the Dbacks were able to buy Suarez extremely low. For essentially nothing.

In addition to bad luck, it is also possible that playing 162 games took its toll on Suarez from a physical and psychological standpoint. Several of the Mariners power hitters including France and Julio also had rather inconsistent years with the power. Even though this didn’t show up in his batted ball data. I think playing in all 162 games is almost out of the question in 2024 considering how Lovullo manages the lineup.

2024 Outlook: Most likely for 2024 Dbacks fans should have some cause for optimism as Suarez’s batted ball data remains strong despite the drop in HR/FB ratio. Due to the rather large gap in xISO vs ISO and xSLG vs SLG, we should expect some of that bad luck to balance back out. Most likely Suarez’s HR/FB rate returns closer to his career average and the homeruns follow. In addition to bad luck, this would also be accelerated by hitting fewer line drives and more fly balls, putting him more in line with his historical fly ball rates in 20, 21, and 22. This seems to be the most likely culprit considering the flyballs that shifted to line drives were likely the well struck ones that with a higher launch angle wouldve likely carried for a home run. If that is the case, don’t be surprised to see 30-35 homeruns from the hot corner position accompanied by above average defense at the hot corner. Maybe breakout isn’t the right word as much as a return to form with continued improved defense. If he hits like he has previous to 2022 with the improved defense at 3rd, that’s a very valuable player.

More from a speculative standpoint, I think this offense not being as reliant on his production as Seattle was will lead to him hitting lower in the lineup as well as more off days. Now that he is in his 30’s, more days off for a power hitter vs fewer days off will probably be a good thing. Either way, this is one of the guys I am most excited to see!