Few players have shown more early season strides at the plate for the Pittsburgh Pirates than outfielder Jack Suwinski
Entering the season there were plenty of questions that Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Jack Suwinski was going to have to answer. Last season Suwinski struggled on the road, with consistent contact, agaisnt left-handed pitching, and with the swing-and-miss. Early on this season, Suwinski is showing progress with each of these.
Through his first 52 plate appearances this season Suwinski is hitting for a .244/.365/.634 slash line to go with a 157 wRC+, 17.3% walk rate, and a 26.9% strikeout rate. All of these are improvements over last season's .202/.298/.411 slash line, 100 wRC+, 11.0% walk rate, and 30.6% strikeout rate.
A big factor in Suwinski's improvements is the way he is hitting the ball. He ranks in the 100th percentile of baseball with a 27.2% barrel rate, 95th percentile in average exit velocity at 95.0 MPH, and the 93rd percentile in hard-hit rate at 55.2%. Last season, these three numbers were 12.2%, 88.3 MPH, and 40.4% for Suwinski.
Suwinski has also made strides with the swing-and-miss and putting the ball in the air more. In addition to his strikeout rate being down nearly 4% from last season, Suwinski has gone from swinging at 27.4% of pitches outside of the strike zone last season to just 16.3% of such pitches this season. This is a big reason why his walk rate has risen. He's also swinging at less pitches with his swing rate dropping from 43.1% to 37.7%.
Additionally, his ground ball rate has gone from 42.3% last season to 32.1% thus far this season, while his fly ball rate has rose from 42.3% to 57.1%. Being more selective at the plate has undoubtedly helped Suwinski lower his ground ball rate while increasing his fly ball rate.
Suwinski's improved patience and pitch selection at the plate has also led to improvement agaisnt left-handed pitching. While Suwinski has yet to collect a hit agaisnt a LHP this season, he does own a 36.4% walk rate and a .364 on-base percentage. Last season, he had just a 9.9% walk rate and a .225 on-base percentage against LHP. He's also dropped his strikeout rate against LHP from 34.2% to 18.2%.
All stats aside, even the eye test will tell you Suwinski is making strides against lefties. When facing LHP this season Suwinski has looked more comfortable in the box, his at-bats have been much more competitive, and even though he has yet to collect a hit he's been putting the ball in play more and putting good swings on the ball.
Finally, there are the huge strides Suwinski has made away from PNC Park. There is absolutely no way to make sense of it, but Suwinski was absolutely putrid on the road last season. In 171 PAs away from PNC Park he hit for a .112/.211/.184 slash line with a wRC+ of 15, a 36.3% strikeout rate, 9.9% walk rate, and just 5 extra base hits.
It's been just 29 PAs, but Suwinski has a slash line of .318/.448/.773 to go with a 210 wRC+ on the road this season. His walk rate away from PNC Park has risen to 20.7% while his strikeout rate has dropped to 13.8%. He's already collected 4 extra base hits, including 3 home runs which is the same amount of home runs he hit away from PNC Park all of last season.
It's a small sample size to begin the season, but Suwinski is showing plenty of improvement at the plate. Maybe most encouraging is that he has shown vast improvement in multiple areas. If these improvements can continue, Suwinski could still development into an every day impact player for the Pittsburgh Pirates.