It’s no secret that 2017 has been a breakout year for 26-year-old Eugenio Suarez. With only a few weeks left in the season, Suarez is batting .273/.380/.488, with 24 home runs, 75 RBI, 76 walks, 82 runs scored, and an OPS of .868. All of the above categories are career highs, with the exception of batting average. Suarez’s WAR for 2017 stands at 4.3, up from 1.7 in 2016, and his wRC+ is at 127, also a career high.
The man everyone calls ‘Geno’ has had an unbelievable season, but is it possible that he can be even better than this?
One indicator to support this theory is the difference in his home and away splits. Suarez has always hit better at Great American Ball Park than he has on the road, posting an .816 OPS at GABP and a .715 OPS on the road in his career. This is not uncommon, but to be considered “elite”, players’ numbers should be more balanced between the two.
As you can see in the above chart, this season he is hitting about 30 points lower on the road than at home. His slugging percentage on the road has really taken a hit because of only four home runs. Most fans would say, “Oh, that’s the GABP effect,” but according to Statcast, Suarez’s average home run distance is 392 feet, which clears the wall in most parks if he hits the ball to left or right field, particularly NL Central parks where he plays the most road games.
If you look at some of his peers at third base in the National League, Suarez isn’t quite at the same level yet. In 2017, Nolan Arenado of the Rockies has an 1.024 OPS at Coors Field and an .861 OPS on the road. The Cubs’ Kris Bryant has a road OPS of .959 and an home OPS of .897, while the Nationals’ Anthony Rendon has a .906 OPS on the road and an .975 OPS at home. The “elite” group of NL third basemen just don’t have a huge gap in their home and away splits. (*Note: I didn’t include Justin Turner because he’s played in about 30 less games than everyone else). Not coincidentally, all three are ahead of Suarez statistically.
More importantly than hitting consistently both at home and on the road though, Suarez needs to work on not going into a deep slump when he isn’t hitting well, if he wants to be considered among the elite. Slumps will happen. It’s baseball. Even Joey Votto goes through ups and downs. But when Suarez slumped this season, he really slumped.
June was not a good month for Suarez, and it has led to overall lower statistics. For comparison, Arenado, Bryant and Rendon all had a month where they did not hit very well, but their OPS did not drop below .750 during their “slumps.” Suarez’s OPS in the month of June was .664. Furthermore, each of those three only suffered in one or two categories and had respectable numbers in the other categories. Bryant had a miserable June, much like Suarez, but his on-base percentage that month was a respectable .388, with an OPS of .876. Even if he wasn’t hitting, he was still getting on-base. Suarez hit .190/.343/.321 in June. All of his numbers were miserable.
The good news for Suarez, however, is that he has had much better consistency after the All-Star break, hitting .300 with an on-base percentage over .400. His second half also has consisted of some record-setting numbers that puts him in some exclusive company.
Based on last month, it is very possible that Suarez is capable of putting together the kind of season that would put him in the “elite” category. 2017 is hopefully just the first step.
Suarez is arbitration-eligible this offseason, so it’s a given that he’ll get a raise. However, he’s not a free agent until 2021, and if the Reds can figure out what to do with the Suarez-Nick Senzel conundrum (but a good one!) at third base, he should be here for what will be the peak of both his career and the Reds’ best chance at winning. He’s become such an asset, both offensively and defensively, that if they don’t trade him to make room for Senzel, and I don’t think they will, he can be a legitimate middle of the order (or top of the order, with his .380 OBP) threat in the coming years.
*All stats are courtesy of Baseball Reference, Fangraphs and MLB.com.