The Pittsburgh Pirates have plenty of players who could improve next season, and these four could take a step forward because of some promosing underling numbers.
There are plenty of ways to evaluate major league baseball players. In today’s game of baseball, the stuff you typically find on the back of a player’s baseball card aren’t at the forefront of many fan’s minds. There’s plenty of underlying numbers that are becoming much more popular in today’s sport.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have plenty of players who have an underlying number that could help them significantly in 2023. There are ways the Pirates can take advantage of these, as they could have the player adjust or, with new rules, take advantage of something that is now implemented in the game.
Jack Suwisnki – 12.2% barrel rate
Barrel rate is any baseball hit at least 98 MPH and between the 26-30 degree launch angle range. The launch angle range increases every 1.0 MPH added. While exit velocity and hard-hit rate might measure how often a batter hits a ball hard, barrel rate measures how often they make quality contact. Last season, Jack Suwinski had a barrel rate of 12.2%.
Jack Suwinski turned in a respectable year at the dish, slashing .202/.298/.411. The rookie outfielder hit 19 home runs in just 372 plate appearances with a .209 isolated slugging percentage. He was about as close to league average as you can get. Suwinski had a .709 OPS, .311 wOBA, and 100 wRC+, compared to the league average of .706 OPS, .310 wOBA, and 100 wRC+.
Suwinski only had an 88.3 MPH exit velocity and 40.4% hard-hit rate, which, again, were very close to the league average marks of 88.4 MPH and 35.8%. However, what he shined in was barrel rate at 12.2%. This was in the top 86th percentile. There were a total of 39 players in 2022 with at least 300 plate appearances and a 12%+ barrel rate. Of those 39, only Suwinski, Gary Sanchez, Patrick Wisdom, Luke Voit, Christopher Morel, Max Muncy, Ryan Mountcastle, and Joey Gallo had a sub-110 wRC+.
Now the difference between a 100 wRC+ batter and a 100 wRC+ batter might not seem like a major difference, but that’s the difference between Suwinski and Jake Cronenworth or Rowdy Tellez. It’s a decent step forward. Some of those hard-hit baseballs that fielders snagged in the shift may also help Suwinski. After all, he was shifted on 71.2% of the time in 2022. How many more hard-hit baseballs will be more difficult to make an out on with the limited shifting and Suwinski’s raw power? It should surely help him in 2023.