Pirates Fans Are Sold On Suzuki

Obviously this is not universal belief held by all fans of the Pittsburgh Baseball Club; mostly because some people view it as a pipe dream not even worth discussing. However, for the most part, Pirates Fans have taken to social media in order to add recently posted Japanese Outfielder Seiya Suzuki to ever growing list of players Ben Cherington and Company need to acquire for the off-season to be successful.

The Pirates need an outfielder and most believe they will sign a veteran free agent; so why not the recently turned 27 year old of the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of the Nippon Professional Baseball League? The team is interested in him according to multiple reports and they need help in the outfield. Seems like the perfect fit. But, is it really?

Part of me thinks that Pirates Fans are just excited to mentioned in the sweepstakes. Along with this excitement comes hope; that the team may be more invested in improving in the short term. No more gradual growth, as part of their current rebuild. It’s time to make a splash signing to speed up the timeline, which honestly no one has set; except for maybe the fans themselves.

Still, I can’t help but wonder if this is the right move or not.

Sure, you can look at the stats that many publications are spewing to convince yourself of the necessity to acquire Suzuki; however, I’m more apt to look at history for answers. Luckily, we don’t have to go back too far.

During the off-season in between the 2019 and 2020 two Japanese outfielders-Shogo Akiyama and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo-were posted by their respective teams-the Seibu Lions and the Yokohama Bay Stars-following illustrious careers; with each being elected to five All-Star games, while Tsutsugo added two home run derby championships to his resume.

Now, if you listen to the weekly Bucs In The Basement Podcast this is will be a refresh/repeat of the final segment of this week’s show; although if you are like me-a visual learner-sometimes it helps to see the statistics in order to process them fully.

In 10 seasons with the Bay Stars, Tsutsugo totaled exactly 4000 plate appearances, hit .285, owned a .910 OPS and blasted 205 homers; with his last one coming in 2019, during his 27 year old season. That year he batted .272 with an .899 OPS, and hit 28 homers.

Not to be bested-at least in some categories-Akiyama hit .301, earned a .829 OPS and crushed 116 bombs in 9 season with the Lions, across 5326 plate appearances. In the course of his 31 year old season in 2019, he would hit 21 homers and bat .303 with an .864 OPS. For Shogo, his calling card was always his patience at the plate, as he struck out only 802 (17.2%) times while walking 526 (11.3%) times.

Now onto the coveted Suzuki. In 9 seasons with the Carp, Seiya stepped up to the plate 3536 times, hit 182 homers, batted .315 and posted .985 OPS. Just this past season he would hit .319 with a 1.079 OPS and 38 homers. Similar to Akiyama, Suzuki is also known for his K to Walk Rate, which sits at 19.1% to 16.3%; and just like Shogo and Yoshi he is a 5 time All-Star. Although, there are some differences in the three men, in that only Akiyama and Suzuki have won Gold Glove Awards; 5 to 3 in favor of the Akiyama.

Why, I am going through all of this? Well it’s pretty simple, as we all know how Tsutsugo and Akiyama performed after they signed their deals with the Tampa Bay Rays (2 years/$12 million with a $2.4 million posting fee) and the Cincinnati Reds (3 years/$21 million).

Tsutsugo owns a .209 batting average with a .697 OPS and 16 homers (8 in 43 games with the Pirates) over 447 plate appearances, while Akiyama has batted .224 with a .594 OPS and 0 home runs. Combined they have earned .4 fWAR and -.6 WAR over 2 seasons. This hardly makes their collective $27.4 million price tag worth much thus far.

Which ultimately brings me back to the questions I had concerning the motivation(s) behind Pirates Fans wanting to bring Seiya Suzuki to Pittsburgh.

It honestly has to be the excitement of the Pirates actually doing something that could potentially improve the ball club, even if it doesn’t work out; which history tells you is more than likely to happen.

I can’t blame fans for wanting something like this to happen; whether it be Suzuki or someone else. I just can’t co-sign on the idea right now; especially if it means spending upwards of $50 million over 6 years for a total wildcard. That has disaster written all over it.

Published by Craig W. Toth

Former Contributing Author at InsidethePirates.com, Co-Host of the Bucs in the Basement Podcast and life-long/diehard Pittsburgh Pirates Fan!

3 thoughts on “Pirates Fans Are Sold On Suzuki

    1. I really hope you are being sarcastic. Ohtani came over at 23 is a generational talent. Maybe I should talk about Ichiro too.

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    2. Ohtani and Ichiro are exceptions to the rule. That’s like saying teams should draft every high-schooler from New Jersey because Mike Trout. (Side note: I realize Trout has had injury woes in recent years, but I’ll never cease to be amazed and amused by the Angels’ futility while having arguably the two best players of their generation.)

      Out of 72 Japan-born players, we’ve had 16 hitters (excluding all pitchers except Ohtani) reach 100+ PAs in MLB. On the one hand, this is a small sample; on the other hand, at least half as many failed to even reach 100 PAs, and all of these 16 have played this century. Precisely two (Ohtani and Matsui) have had elite career OPS, and only two others (Ichiro and Fukudome) have even cracked above-average OPS (.750), neither eclipsing .760. If you prefer bWAR, then the list stays at four players with 10+ career WAR, just drop Fukudome and barely add Nori Aoki.

      By the way, this includes Tsutsugo at a poor .697 and Aki Iwamura at a pedestrian .720, though to be fair to Iwamura, his knees were flat-out gone when he joined the Bucs. I’m not taking the Japan-born bait again until the success rate changes, because the risk is too high of a flop.

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