I’m going to give you five players to compare. Complete cherry-picking of stats (through Sunday’s games), of course, but for comparison’s sake, which player would you rather have?
- 31 2⁄3 IP, 0.57 ERA (0.84 FIP), 45.7 K%, 9.5 BB%, 90.9 LOB%
- 30 1⁄3 IP, 0.59 ERA (1.13 FIP), 46.4 K%, 8.9 BB%, 80.6 LOB%
- 31 2⁄3 IP, 0.85 ERA (2.17 FIP), 26.5 K%, 9.8 BB%, 81.1 LOB%
- 29 IP, 0.93 ERA (3.39 FIP), 23.6 K%, 7.3 BB%, 89.6 LOB%
- 34 2⁄3 IP, 1.04 ERA (3.78 FIP), 31.8 K%, 20.3 BB%, 94.9 LOB%
I don’t need to tell you, but you’ve probably figured out that these are the top five relievers by ERA according to Fangraphs. The top players on the list have dominated the competition by striking out nearly half of the batters they have faced, meaning the ERAs they are putting up are legit (look at that top FIP). The next three pitchers have gotten their ERAs a different way, not by striking out batters, but by limiting the damage they allow in a game. There are some serious left on base numbers here among the five pitchers, though the difference in FIP and ERA suggest there is a lot of smoke and mirrors to their sterling ERAs.
By now, you have guessed that Ranger Suarez is one of these players. Have you figured out which one he is?
I’ll give you a minute.
Suarez is the fourth name on this list. In order, the other names are Josh Hader, Craig Kimbrel, Emmanuel Clase, Suarez and Alex Reyes. Using ERA to determine who the best relievers are in the game is dangerous since modern bullpen usage means there is more of a chance someone else will let in a runner you left on, but even still, these ERAs are impressive. Suarez is right there with some of the top names in the relief game and is deserving of an All-Star spot.
We have witnessed first hand how valuable Suarez can be with this team. The bullpen, while not as bad as the 2020 tire fire, can best be described as “unreliable” since no one seems to know how to hold a lead anymore. Suarez has been the lone bright spot with the team back end relievers, giving the team the support needed on days when it doesn’t look the best for them. It’s not just that he’ll get the important outs. It’s that he’ll do it for more than one inning.
Of those give relievers at the top, only Suarez averages more than one inning per appearance. What most remarkable about Suarez’s appearances is how often he has kept the Phillies in a game. Three times this year he has pitched at least 3 innings in relief. All three times the team has either held onto a lead or taken a lead. In those nine innings, Suarez has allowed exactly two baserunners, one a hit, the other a hit by pitch. He didn’t allow a run in any appearance for his first eleven, which spread over 20 1⁄3 innings. He’s been touched up a little more lately, but not enough to qualify him as an ineffective reliever. He’s been stellar for the team and an anchor that Joe Girardi can rely on.
The problem with putting Suarez on the All-Star team will come down to numbers. With team requiring at least one representative each, it’s going to be hard to include Suarez as a member when Zack Wheeler is almost (deservedly) guaranteed to garner the most consideration as the Phillies’ rep. Other bad teams like the Diamondbacks or Rockies might have to sneak a reliever in just make sure they have someone there to represent their team, meaning Suarez could get squeezed out. It would be a shame too, since he has put up numbers that, in a blind test, can be compared with any of the elite relievers in the game.
It’s going to be hard for the team to change Suarez’s role moving forward. On the one hand, he has shown he can get outs against any batter, in any situation, meaning he would probably be the team’s top option late in games in high leverage situations. On the other hand, he has been so valuable in the current role he’s in, that of an old-school “fireman”, giving the team multiple innings of shutdown baseball that they may not want to move him from that spot. Whatever spot he’s in, he has demonstrated that he is more than worthy of a spot in Colorado next month. We’ll have to hope that the roster crunch falls his way and that he gets a spot on the team.