At the All-Star break, it looked like Eugenio Suárez was having a down year. He had hit 20 homers and was slashing .248/.326/.484. While there are plenty of hitters who would have loved to have a year like that, his 104 wRC+ was a far cry from 2018’s mark of 135. Since then, Suárez has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball. In the second half, Suárez is slashing .307/.392/.720 and he’s hit 28 homers to bring himself within one homer of Pete Alonso, the major league leader. Suárez also broke Andres Galarraga’s record for most home runs in a season by a Venezuelan earlier this week when he hit his 48th homer on Wednesday.
Suárez hasn’t just gotten back to his old self; he’s become something else entirely. By ISO, the last three months have been three of the five best of his career. His September (.545), July (.444), and August (.317) have ranked first, second, and fifth respectively. Suárez’s last 200 plate appearances have been the best of his career in terms of slugging. He had a hot stretch in the middle of 2018 but nothing like this.
After petering off at the end of last season— his ISO in September was just .148— Suárez isn’t just finishing strong. He has become unstoppable.
Suárez has always been a moderate fly ball hitter. According to FanGraphs, he has a career 38.8 fly ball percentage. In the second half, 47.6 percent of his batted balls have gone in the air, and an astonishing 40.6 percent of those have left the yard. No one can maintain that kind of home run to fly ball percentage over a full season. It’s easy to explain this away with the confluence of the juiced ball and his home ballpark being one of the most homer-friendly.
However, it’s not as if Suárez is hitting a ton of wall scrapers. He’s hitting bombs. Since July 1, 20.4 percent of his batted balls have been barreled. 11 of his homers have traveled at least 425 feet.
Suárez’s power surge has come at the expense of more strikeouts. Overall, this is the highest strikeout rate of his career. Since the second half began, it’s been 31.5 percent. Tony Wolfe at FanGraphs pointed out that Suárez has been especially vulnerable to offspeed and breaking pitches this year. Suárez is chasing out of the zone more often this year especially on breaking pitches. He’s even swinging at more fastballs out of the zone, so it’s not like he’s being more selective. His swinging strike rate is a career high 12.0 percent. He’s just crushing the fastballs he connects with.
At the All-Star break, Suárez looked like an average hitter with decent power. Now, he may wind up leading the majors in homers. It’s been quite the turnaround for the Reds third baseman who suddenly turned a down year into a career best.
Kenny Kelly is a writer for Beyond the Box Score and McCovey Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter @KennyKellyWords.