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Seiya Suzuki’s offense by the numbers

Let’s take a closer look at Seiya’s Statcast numbers.

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Seiya Suzuki at bat in Milwaukee against the Brewers
Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

One of the bright spots in the Cubs’ lackluster 9-15 start to the 2022 season has been Seiya Suzuki’s hot start. The Cubs signed the NPB superstar to a five-year contract after the lockout ended and he did not disappoint, earning NL Rookie of the Month accolades for April with a .279/.405/.529 slash line and a wRC+ of 162. Any questions about whether he’d be able to translate his bat to ball skills to MLB were quickly answered as he hit the ball with authority to all fields [VIDEO].

I’ve been keeping a close eye on Suzuki’s Statcast data and was waiting for at least 50 batted ball events because as Eno Sarris has noted for the Athletic, 50 batted ball events is the “threshold after which the Barrel metric starts providing more information about the player than league average numbers.” As a reminder, a barrel is a ball that is hit at least 98 mile per hour at a launch angle that produces at least a .500 batting average on balls in play. Most barrels have results that are much better than that. As of the end of the White Sox series we have 54 batted ball events for Suzuki, so let’s take a look at the barrels per plate appearance leaderboard:

Top 25 players - Barrels per PA

Name BBE Launch Angle Max EV Max Distance Barrles Barrel % Barrel/PA
Name BBE Launch Angle Max EV Max Distance Barrles Barrel % Barrel/PA
Aaron Judge 61 11.7 114.9 453 19 31.1 18.6
Mike Trout 56 22.8 112.9 472 15 26.8 16.0
Yordan Alvarez 61 11.1 113.1 447 13 21.3 14.9
Rowdy Tellez 60 18.4 114.2 453 13 21.7 14.8
Giancarlo Stanton 65 11.1 119.8 444 13 20.0 12.9
Christian Yelich 65 9.9 113.6 447 13 20.0 12.4
C.J. Cron 74 11.0 115.5 466 12 16.2 11.5
Austin Riley 72 8.7 114.6 437 13 18.1 11.4
Willy Adames 68 19.7 108.6 442 13 19.1 11.4
Christian Walker 66 19.0 111.9 467 11 16.7 11.3
Jeremy Peña 64 11.3 110.3 426 11 17.2 11.3
Bryce Harper 74 14.3 113.8 427 12 16.2 10.8
Hunter Renfroe 65 15.6 112.5 402 10 15.4 10.5
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 74 7.0 117.9 467 11 14.9 10.3
Freddie Freeman 73 12.6 112.3 425 10 13.7 9.9
Max Muncy 55 20.7 106.5 386 9 16.4 9.9
Kyle Schwarber 58 13.9 113.2 468 10 17.2 9.8
Marcell Ozuna 86 15.2 113.9 429 11 12.8 9.7
José Abreu 65 8.1 110.2 400 9 13.8 9.5
Seiya Suzuki 54 13.6 110.9 412 9 16.7 9.4
Anthony Rizzo 75 17.2 113.3 415 10 13.3 9.3
Juan Soto 77 8.3 113.2 451 11 14.3 9.2
Sean Murphy 63 16.1 114.0 452 9 14.3 9.0
Tyler O'Neill 66 13.8 110.3 396 9 13.6 8.7
Barrel data through May 6 Statcast

Seiya is in elite company with both his barrel percentage and with the number of barrels he generates per plate appearance. He ranks 20th among qualified hitters in Barrel/PA and 11th in Barrels per batted ball event. That actually leads me to one element of Suzuki’s game I wanted to highlight today, he has fewer batted ball events per plate appearance than most of the other hitters on this list because he’s so selective in terms of his swing decisions. In fact, among qualified hitters, Suzuki is tied for the fifth lowest raw number of batted ball events through games of May 5.

Suzuki is one of the most disciplined hitters in MLB by O-Swing percent. O-Swing percent is the rate at which a player swings at pitches outside of the zone. It’s also a metric that stabilizes relatively quickly. Below are the top 25 qualified hitters in 2022 by O-Swing percentage according to FanGraphs:

Top 10 batters by o-swing percentage

Name Team O-Swing% AVG OBP SLG wRC+ wOBA
Name Team O-Swing% AVG OBP SLG wRC+ wOBA
Yandy Diaz TBR 18.1% .301 .440 .425 172 .395
Trent Grisham SDP 19.6% .159 .275 .239 62 .246
Alex Bregman HOU 19.8% .247 .343 .449 137 .350
Anthony Rendon LAA 20.6% .222 .361 .453 123 .350
Max Muncy LAD 20.7% .151 .319 .315 84 .296
Seiya Suzuki CHC 20.8% .250 .365 .475 137 .365
Aaron Hicks NYY 21.0% .270 .397 .317 122 .331
Jake Cronenworth SDP 21.2% .208 .322 .333 96 .297
Mike Trout LAA 21.7% .316 .447 .671 224 .477
Juan Soto WSN 21.7% .271 .417 .510 166 .409
O-Swing and key offensive stats FanGraphs

What probably jumps out at you right away is that a low O-Swing percentage isn’t perfectly correlated with success at the plate. There are a couple of hitters who are definitely struggling here. That said, anytime there is a batting leaderboard that includes Juan Soto and Mike Trout on it, you’d probably rather be on that leaderboard than off of it. The bottom line is that Suzuki is very good at recognizing pitches out of the zone, and he refrains from swinging at those pitches better than most of the league.

Suzuki isn’t just selective by refusing to swing at pitches outside the zone. He has the 19th lowest Z-Swing, or zone swing, percentage in MLB, at 60.2 percent. While not swinging at pitches in the zone can be a problem for hitters, it can also be a sign that hitters are recognizing pitches exceptionally well and waiting to do damage on their pitch. Juan Soto is 12th on that list, as are some other hitters off to a hot start in 2022.

One of the things I’ve been keeping a close eye on is how pitchers are attacking Seiya at the plate. So far he’s seen 436 pitches according to Statcast. Statcast buckets those pitches by three types: fastballs, breaking, and offspeed pitches. Fastballs include four-seam, two-seam, cutters and sinkers. Breaking balls include sliders, curves, knuckles and others. Offspeed pitches include splitters, changeups, plus fork and screw balls. Below you can see the pitch mix Seiya has seen so far, along with how he’s done on those pitch types:

Suzuki pitch type & results

Pitch Type # of pitches % of pitches BA xBA SLG xSLG EV Whiff%
Pitch Type # of pitches % of pitches BA xBA SLG xSLG EV Whiff%
Fastballs 249 57.1% .280 .255 .520 .581 91.1 19.2%
Breaking 142 32.6% .250 .177 .500 .351 89.4 20.0%
Offspeed 45 10.3% .000 .146 .000 .190 91.1 31.6%
Pitch type, results and expected results Statcast

Suzuki has been very effective against fastballs so far. He’s slugging .520 against those pitches, and expected stats indicate he was a little unlucky there with an xSLG of .581. He’s been less effective against offspeed offerings, although, admittedly, they’ve only made up about 10.3 percent of the pitches he’s seen so far. As pitchers continue to adapt to Seiya, I would predict he’ll see fewer fastballs and more offspeed stuff until he adapts back and demonstrates he can do a lot of damage there as well.

Finally, we have just enough data to get an idea of where Seiya hits the ball. The answer is, he hits the ball to all fields, with authority:

Seiya Suzuki spray chart
Statcast

The batted ball data bears this out. So far Seiya has 31.5 percent of his hits to the pull side and 37 percent to the opposite field. He hits the ball in the air a lot with a 53.7 percent fly ball percentage and a 9.3 percent line drive percentage.

Suzuki has impressed with his debut so far, but it’s worth remembering baseball is a game of adjustments. He’s struggled a bit since his red hot start with just a .182/.262/.255 slash line and wRC+ of 54 across 61 plate appearances in his last 15 games. But baseball is a game of adjustments and we’re likely just seeing the beginning of pitchers changing how they throw to Suzuki. Suzuki will obviously adjust back and I’d expect those numbers to rebound. I will return to update these numbers and trends as we get more data as the 2022 season continues.