Suarez shows signs of hitting to all fields

Statcast breaks down Reds third baseman's 2016 season

January 17th, 2017

CINCINNATI -- As a player learning to be an everyday player in the big leagues for the first time, Reds third baseman demonstrated a full spectrum at the plate. Suarez flexed some power with 21 home runs. He was also streaky, going into and out of extended funks.

But in an encouraging sign for a young batter of 25 still learning his way, Suarez showed he can hit to all fields. And because of the tools offered via Statcast™ and, we might have an idea why.

Suarez showed he had good command of pitches that were low and away last season. According to Statcast™, his 94.7-mph exit velocity hitting pitches in the lower 1/9 of the strike zone was the highest among right-handed hitters in the Majors (minimum 50 results). In that part of the zone, he also batted .339 (12th) with a .597 slugging percentage (fourth).

Although the sample size is much lower, based on a minimum of 10 instances, Suarez's 101.4-mph exit velocity hitting against left-handers over the lower ninth of the plate also led big league right-handed batters.

Of Suarez's 21 homers, 13 were hit on pitches that were either low and/or away. Not coincidentally, almost half of his homers were hit to the opposite field or center field.

However, Suarez isn't as proficient hitting pitches to areas of the plate that might allow him to pull the ball.

Based again on a minimum of 50 results among right-handed hitters, Suarez ranked last (128th) in the Majors with an 83.2-mph exit velocity on pitches on the inner third of the strike zone. Although he batted .306 on those pitches, his slugging percentage dipped to .429.

Major League right-handed batters hit .308/.544 SLG on all batted balls in the zone, which puts the .291/.453 in further context. 

If you look at Suarez's individual hits in that zone (Statcast™ tracked 29), only six were at 92-plus mph, and 12 were below 80 mph. His average on those 29 hits was just 84.7 mph, while big league right-handed batters as a group averaged 95.2 mph on hits in that zone (and Suarez himself averaged 91.5 mph on all of his hits). 

In 159 games, Suarez overall batted .248/.317/.411 with 70 RBIs. That included hitting .173 in May and an 0-for-28 slump. He belted one home run over the final month of the season.

"When you're struggling, you're thinking too much and try to find a good position where you feel good and change a lot," Suarez said at season's end. "I changed my mental approach more than my mechanical approach because when I was in trouble, I thought about, 'Where are my hands? Where is my leg kick? Am I hitting the ball to the middle?' When you're thinking too much at the plate, you're in trouble. Now, I know I'm a good hitter and can hit to everywhere in the field."

Of course, scouts and pitchers from other clubs already know Suarez's strengths and weaknesses at the plate and will no doubt make adjustments in 2017. It will be up to Suarez, with the help of hitting coach Don Long, to also adjust and show he can drive pitches over any part of the plate.

If Suarez is able to do that, it will make him even more dangerous of a hitter in the upcoming season.