Three reasons why Phillies' Ranger Suarez is the most underrated pitcher in baseball

Ranger Suarez is not a typical starting pitcher in today's game.

He is not obsessed with spin rate. His 91.4 mph fastball velocity, a few ticks slower than the previous season, ranked in the 13th percentile among all qualified pitchers. He has fielded his position so well and so quietly that a Gold Glove Award murmur has been cited during his start.

And what happened as a result of that goodbye? Only the most wins in MLB. He's also the only undefeated pitcher with more than five wins, and the Phillies won all eight of his outings starting Wednesday vs. the Mets.

So, we have a mid-rotation starting pitcher who doesn't throw very hard, relies on a six-pitch mix, has a 7-0 record and carries the third-best ERA (1.50) in baseball, with the lowest WHIP to boot. (0.72) with And to think, just a few years ago, Suarez came out of the bullpen in more than half of his appearances. The 28-year-old southpaw is a throwback, and he's fast becoming a household name that we should all pay more attention to.

“What's impressive to me is that he's not a guy who's throwing 95-100 mph, the way the game is going,” Phillies starter Aaron Nola told Fox Sports. “He's a left-handed batsman who has 5-6 pitches and he commands every one of them. He has four strikeout pitches and that's what makes him tough. He's never out of the count, he's never out of an at-bat. That's why he's good. are there.”

Here are three reasons why Suarez deserves a bright spotlight and why he is currently the most underrated pitcher in the sport.

1. position, position, location

It's all about Suarez's movement and finesse. He draws the strike zone every five days. He dots the corners and gets hitters chasing. it is Also Keeping the opposition batsmen off balance for Suarez. He makes a case study of why throwing the ball with great command can be more effective than focusing mostly on high velocity. Suarez is bucking the trend and it's working.

How is he doing it? He has lowered last year's walk rate from 8.9% to 4.1% so far, the lowest in MLB. Consider: In terms of this dramatic decline: Through eight starts (43.2 innings pitched) last year, Suarez walked 14 batters. He has allowed just eight this year while tossing 54 innings already. He is also one of four eligible pitchers to sport a walk rate of 4.1% or better with a strikeout rate of 28.1% or better. His stellar strikeout-to-walk rate of 6.88 ranks ninth in MLB.

Suarez has spent time this winter focusing on his secondary pitches, aiming to better locate them in the zone. That improved command has led batters to chase; They can no longer stand frozen with the bat over their shoulder, hoping the ball will wander out of the zone, chasing a drawn walk. His chase rate on all pitches increased to 32.7% from 29.6% last year.

He's finding almost half of his pitches in the edge of the zone (44.8%), compared to the league average of 39%. Moreover, his ability to constantly replicate his release point created the impression that all five of his pitches were blended into one. The pitch reveals itself just moments before the ball reaches the plate, which is too late for the batters to get a good read and barrel the ball.

Speaking of which, Suarez has only allowed the ball to barrel through 5% of his plays (league average is 7%). That means opposing batters are connecting on an exit velocity of at least 98 mph just 5% of the time. In fact, the average exit velocity from Suarez's arsenal is 83.2%, which ranks in the top 2% of the league. That poor contact is another product of Suarez's improved command. Now, batters have to swing at a lot of Suarez's offerings, because if they don't, those pitches will fall for strikes.

2. He's on pace for 200-plus innings

Managers loosened their grip on Rob Thomson and Phyllis Suarez. They're letting him pitch deeper into games, largely because Suarez is pitching faster, getting outs faster and limiting his pitch count — all by design. Pitching into the seventh or eighth inning is a weekly objective for Suarez. Teammates who know Suarez best say he sees his outing as a failure if he is pulled early. They say it's possible Suarez's new mindset stems from his days as a reliever from 2018 to 2021. Even though he was out of the pen — he posted a 1.36 ERA across 106 innings and 39 games (12 starts) in 2021 — Phillies starters knew Suarez was always capable of going the distance.

Sure enough, Suarez's 54 innings are topped only by pitchers who have already made nine starts, and his 6.75 innings per start leads the majors. Suarez and Nola are the only two pitchers with at least eight innings in multiple starts this year, and they are two of five hurlers to toss a shutout. Suarez is one of four pitchers to throw more than 50 innings and surrender fewer than 10 walks. Only Suarez recorded 50 plus innings and 50 plus strikeouts while playing an ERA under 2.00.

MLB Power Rankings: Phillies or Dodgers for No. 1 spot?

MLB Power Rankings: Phillies or Dodgers for No. 1 spot?

It helps tremendously that Suarez is a ground-ball pitcher with an elite sinker. Thanks to that excellent command, Suarez throws his sinker into the strike zone 62% of the time. On average, his sinker moves 16 inches away from right-handed batters and drops 29 inches. The league average is a 24-inch drop. But it's not just drowning; Suarez has multiple weapons to help him get out of jams, including an improved curveball that he started throwing in 2022. Only three pitchers in baseball have a higher ground-ball rate than Suarez's 57.7%, and all three have a much higher walk rate.

Since Suarez is already limiting walks, he rarely needs double-play balls, and is getting out quickly via ground balls. His quickness, and ability to pitch deep into games lead the Phillies to believe he can reach 200 innings for the first time in his seven-year career.

3. He's a legitimate Cy Young candidate

Suarez's 1.7 FWAR is tied with former American League standouts Tyler Glasnow and Dylan Seaz for the NL lead. Right behind them is Suarez's Philly teammate, Jack Wheeler, who is still looking for his first career Cy Young Award in 2021 after finishing runner-up to Corbin Barnes. Certainly, the fact that Suarez keeps company in the most advanced metrics speaks to how elite his season has been. But his work is still rare by historical standards.

Suarez is the fourth pitcher in the modern era to have a WHIP of 0.72 or less when his team wins in each of his first eight starts. The other three happened in the 1900s — as in the decade, and all three (Mordecai Brown, Eddie Joss and Christy Mathewson) are in the Hall of Fame. We can pump the breaks in Cooperstown for now, but the youthful buzz around early Cy Suarez is valid.

“Stay healthy this year, and he's got a chance,” Nola said of Suarez's NL Cy Young win. “He's definitely got the makeup for it. For me, if guys are going to win the Cy Young, he's going to have to be healthy all year long. That's a tough thing to do, and you have to put a lot of emphasis on it, but he's a pitcher, in my opinion, that's it.” can win.”

Suarez isn't the only one on his pitching staff going for his first career Cy Young, and that competition is leading to great success within the Phillies rotation. Philly's 6.0 pitching FWAR was the best in MLB before Nola's shutout Tuesday, and it wasn't particularly close. Their 2.65 starting pitching ERA ranks second in baseball, trailing only the Red Sox. The dominance — and length — is leading from the rotation to a more ideal, low-pressure situation for the bullpen, which is the weakest part of the roster still able to record a 1.9 fWAR that ranks third in MLB.

Suarez is a No. 3 starter, pitching like he's the best in the league, paying dividends for a Phillies team that became the first club to reach 30 wins this season. Beyond Suarez's ceiling as a Cy Young pitcher, he's already proven to be a huge weapon in October — he owns a 1.62 ERA in nine playoff appearances (seven starts) over the past two years. Suarez has been a true X-factor for the Phillies, but this year, he could be the catalyst for another Fall Classic appearance.

Disha Thosar is an MLB writer for Fox Sports. He covered earlier Mets As a beat reporter for New York Daily news. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Disha grew up on Long Island and now lives in Queens. Follow him on Twitter @Disha Thosar.

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