Sunday, August 14, 2022

Seiya Suzuki Exceeding High Expectations


16 games into the 2022 MLB Season and there have been good and bad signs for this Cubs team.  One question mark entering the regular season was if Seiya Suzuki would live up to lofty expectations by the fans, he has done that and more so far.  After an NL Player of the Week on April 15th, he looks ready for more success.

The Stats

Numbers do not tell the whole story of course, but they are always a good place to start.  In 16 games played, Seiya has slashed .354/.492/.688 for a Major League-leading 1.180 OPS.  This translates to a 243 OPS+. Suzuki’s OPS+ and OBP are both Major League-leading numbers as well.

The signs are promising when you look at advanced metrics as well.  On Baseballsavant, Suzuki is in the 97th percentile for Barrel%, 69th percentile for average exit velocity, and 57th in HardHit%.  All these hard contact signs make it less likely that Seiya has been “lucky” in the first few weeks.

How is Seiya different from power hitters?

Seiya is currently tied for 5th in the National League with 4 home runs.  Unlike the other sluggers on the list like Joc Pederson or C.J. Cron, Suzuki’s K/BB ratio is 1.23.  A lot of sluggers are happy if that ratio is under 2, with Cron’s being 9.5 to 1.

Seiya has a chase rate in the 98th percentile and a walk rate in the 99th, demonstrating good knowledge of the strike zone forces pitchers to throw him pitches that he can do damage with.

Also unlike sluggers, Seiya is impossible to shift.  He has hit a double to left, center, and right field.  He has homered once to left, once to left-center, once to right-center, and once to right.  Joey Gallo is another slugger who hits the ball hard and has a good walk rate, but he is unable to go the opposite way which has hurt his effectiveness this year.

Where to Improve?

Seiya has played errorless baseball in Right Field, but his defense still can improve as the year goes on.  Right Field at Wrigley is more difficult than at other parks, and as the year goes on he will get more comfortable with the angles and wind.

On Baseballsavant, Suzuki’s reaction is above average, but his route is below average.  He is getting off to a good jump but having trouble reading where the ball will be off the bat, but with another good defender in Heyward, he has not made any big mistakes.

Despite his great K/BB ratio, the strikeout rate can still get a little bit better.  Suzuki is in the 35th percentile for strikeout rate, at times he has been unprepared for fastballs high in the zone.  Some of the strikeouts in the Pittsburgh series can be explained by 13 games in 13 days since April 12th.

A day off for travel hopefully can get him to reset heading into a tough couple of series that Ed covered.  It begins tonight in Atlanta, against a solid left-handed pitcher in Max Fried.

2022 NL Rookie of the Year?

Before the season began, I wrote about Seiya’s chances at winning Rookie of the Year.  The odds were +380 before the season began, and today they are -150.  The math behind the odds says that Seiya has gone from a 20.8% chance to a 60% chance to win in less than 3 weeks.  Hunter Greene is the next closest right now with +900 odds.

According to Vegas, the award is Seiya’s to lose a few weeks into the season.  Hopefully, he continues to have more success as the weather heats up, the ball starts to fly, and more fans get to the Federal Landmark for baseball.

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