Kurt Suzuki put up a combined .239/.297/.344 line with 16 doubles and eight home runs in 122 games and 445 plate appearances for the Washington Nationals in 2012-13.
Playing for the Minnesota Twins between 2014-16, the then-30-to-32-year-old backstop put up a solid .263/.316/.364 line with 75 doubles and 16 home runs in 368 games and 1,355 PAs.
Over the last two seasons, with the Atlanta Braves, Suzuki put up a .276/.341/.485 line with 37 doubles and 31 home runs in 186 games and 697 PAs.
Suzuki, now 35, talked after signing a 2-year/$10M deal in D.C. about his offensive numbers over the last two seasons in Atlanta, and what if anything he could identify that’s made the difference for him at the plate.
“Honestly, I have no idea,” the 12-year veteran admitted. “Just being honest.
“I obviously started my career off doing pretty well, then kind of hit a little slump, and the last two years, at age 33 and 34, kind of had a kind of like a renaissance, I guess.”
Did he change anything or make any adjustments?
“I really haven’t changed much,” Suzuki said. “I go out there and I don’t really think about launch angle or all these analytical things, I go out there and I just try to do some damage, and whenever they throw me a pitch that I think I can do damage with, I swing.
“I try to just battle up there, put a good at bat together. Obviously pitchers are throwing a lot harder now, so you don’t have to do as much. I just try to stay loose and just let the pitcher supply the power.”
A reporter on the conference call with Suzuki this week asked about the fact that he was pulling the ball even more than he has previously in his career, up to 48.8% and 52.6% in 2017-18, respectively, from a career average of 42.9% of the time.
He also posted the highest hard-contact percentage (Hard%) of his career in each of the last two seasons (33.3% Hard% in 2017 and 38.7% in 2018) and he put up his highest Line Drive% in 2018 (23.2% LD%).
Was it a conscious decision to make a change in his approach to try to pull the ball more often and focus on driving it to left field?
“I think it’s the way pitchers work people now, honestly,” Suzuki said by way of explanation.
“There’s so much information out there both offensively and defensively that you get, and you kind of study the data that you have and pitchers are going to work you and you have to make adjustments as a hitter.
“And really, I don’t go up there looking to hit a ball in a certain spot, I just kind go up there, like I said, and try to get a good pitch to hit and do damage. Whether it’s pulling the ball or whether it’s center or right it doesn’t really matter to me.
“When I try to start hitting balls in certain areas, that’s when I get myself in trouble. When I just kind of go up there free and easy, and let the contact point dictate where the ball goes.”
Suzuki said he’s also availed himself of the available data and changed his diet as he’s hit his mid-30s.
“I think obviously in my offseason workouts I take care of my body,” Suzuki told reporters.
“My wife is a big part of my nutrition. She’s really big on eating clean, eating healthy, which makes a difference. It does make a difference on your body.
“Just kind of working out and keeping my body healthy and any way I can to prolong my career I think has helped out. And it’s kind of showing right now.
“I think the analytical part,” he continued, “I wasn’t a big supporter of analytics, and last year I really got to understand it and really dove into it and used a lot of analytics in everything that I did offensively and defensively.”
Will the improvements he’s made over the last few seasons allow him to keep going even as he moves into his mid-to-late 30s?
“I’m 35 years old,” Suzuki said. “I feel like I’m getting better as a player. I feel like I have a lot to offer for younger players as well, and I just try to just go with it.”
Are the Nationals done adding catching depth, a clear weakness on the roster, after signing Suzuki?
ESPN.com’s Buster Olney wrote last week that Washington was, “one of the most aggressive bidders for Miami’s catcher J.T. Realmuto,” but the Nationals, “... reached a standoff with the Marlins in the asking price for Realmuto, after rejecting Miami’s request for star outfield prospect Victor Robles, so they moved on,” and signed Suzuki to a two-year deal that gives them a solution, if not the solution for their catching needs.
Will Suzuki split time with either Spencer Kieboom or Pedro Severino (or Raudy Read), or will Mike Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office add another backstop to the mix over the next few months?
“I think in this point of my career, my ego, I’ve got no ego, I’ve never had an ego, it was just to the point where [Rizzo] said I’m the guy,” Suzuki said when asked if he knew what his role in D.C. would be.
“Whether it’s I’m a guy that’s going to catch 50 games, or I’m a guy that’s going to catch 120 games, he made it clear that he’s going to bring me in to help the team win and that’s the bottom line.”
“The Nationals’ signing of Kurt Suzuki doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t continue to be interested in the Marlins’ J.T. Realmuto,” Boston Globe columnist Nick Cafardo wrote in his Sunday Baseball Notes column this week.
With the Marlins continuing to, “... to demand the world (as they should) for the coveted backstop, the Nationals didn’t want to be left with nothing at a position where they had a need,” Cafardo added.
“The Marlins wanted at least outfielder Victor Robles, and the Nationals wouldn’t do it. At least for now. So they signed Suzuki, 35, to a modest two-year, $10 million deal, and he could easily become a backup if such a scenario developed.”
“At this stage of my career,” Suzuki said last week. “I haven’t gotten by the first round of the playoffs. I haven’t played in the World Series before. That’s my goal. That’s the ultimate goal of every player, is to win a World Series, and I believe that with the team that we have here in Washington, we have a very good chance of it, and that was really appealing and excited me, and like I said, whatever [Rizzo] asks me to do I’m going to do.”