Phillies Season Preview: Ranger Suárez could have a big season with his curveball

Suárez is a vital part of the Phillies' rotation in 2024, and his health and curveball will be key in how his season turns out.

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Ranger Suárez
Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Ranger Suárez / Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
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The next player in our Philadelphia Phillies 2024 Season Preview Series is starting pitcher Ranger Suárez.

Previous season previews: José Alvarado, Andrew BellattiAlec BohmConnor BrogdonNick CastellanosRodolfo CastroKody ClemensJake CaveDylan CoveySeranthony DomínguezDarick HallKolby AllardBryce HarperJeff HoffmanOrion KerkeringRafael MarchánBrandon MarshYunior MartéMichael MercadoMax CastilloNick NelsonAaron NolaLuis OrtizCristian PacheJ.T. RealmutoJohan RojasMichael RuckerWhit Merrifield, Cristopher Sánchez, Kyle Schwarber, Edmundo Sosa, Gregory Soto, Bryson Stott, Matt Strahm, Garrett Stubbs

We'll start with a look back at Suárez's 2023 performance and then examine where he might end up this season using the popular Steamer and ZiPS projection systems, which can be found on FanGraphs.

Ranger Suárez 2023 stats and 2024 projections

2023 Stats: 22 GS, 125 IP, 4-6 record, 4.18 ERA, 3.90 FIP, 1.42 WHIP, 119 SO, 48 BB, 2.4 fWAR

2024 Steamer: 28 GS, 155 IP, 10-9 record, 4.04 ERA, 4.26 FIP, 1.36 WHIP, 135 SO, 58 BB, 2.3 fWAR

2024 ZiPS DC: 28 GS, 150 IP, 8-7 record, 4.02 ERA, 4.17 FIP, 1.34 WHIP, 127 SO, 53 BB, 2.3 fWAR

Ranger Suárez 2024 season preview

Ranger Suárez's 2023 had its ups and downs. He showed impressive stuff for stretches, which led him to finish with a 2.4 fWAR. After starting the season on the IL with elbow inflammation, the lefty got into game action in mid-May. Once he got his feet under him, he went on a run, posting six straight quality starts from May 30 to June 27 with a 1.35 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 40 innings.

He missed more time with a hamstring problem and finished the year with 125 innings over 22 starts. His 4.18 ERA was his highest since his rookie debut in 2018 (not including the four innings he threw in 2020).

Fans will most likely remember Suárez's 2023 for his ridiculous run in the playoffs. He threw 18 innings across four starts with a 1.93 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, and 9.16 K/9.

That's the Suárez the Phillies hope shows up this season. So far, so good in spring training. The 28-year-old has impressed in three starts, posting a 0.00 ERA and 0.80 WHIP with 12 strikeouts in 10 innings.

Projections don't give Suárez enough benefit of the doubt in 2024

Despite projecting slight improvement in his ERA and WHIP this season, Steamer and ZiPS don't think Suárez will be nearly as good as he was in the playoffs or even before 2023 — between 2021 and 2022, he pitched to a 2.72 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 261 1/3 innings. The models like him to move closer to those ratios, but not enough to match what it looks like he's capable of based on his recent performances.

Steamer sees a 4.04 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in his future, while ZiPS predicts a 4.02 ERA and 1.34 WHIP. That's a better-than-league-average ERA (4.33) and right around a league-average WHIP (1.31). The WHIP is understandable, as his career mark is 1.31, but he could easily improve on the ERA, with a career average of 3.41.

Either way, the projections believe he'll be just as valuable and he'll finish with 2.3 fWAR.

The key for Suárez is his health and his curveball

After only making 22 starts last season, the Phillies need Suárez to get back to his workload from 2022, when he made 29 starts and threw 155 1/3 innings. The projection models think he'll get there this season; if he stays healthy, it's entirely possible.

If he stays healthy, we'll also get to see him throw his curveball more, which is a good thing. Last season, his curveball was arguably his best pitch. He upped the usage to 19 percent after introducing it in 2022 when he used it 7.8 percent of the time. The Philadelphia Inquirer's Alex Coffey put together an insightful piece on his increased curveball usage (subscription required) last season.

The big breaking ball was his best strikeout pitch, with a 37.7 percent whiff rate and a 39.8 percent strikeout rate. When batters did make contact, they couldn't do much with the offering. The Statcast numbers from Baseball Savant below show how much opponents struggled against the curveball.

BA

xBA

SLG

xSLG

Exit Velo.

Hard Hit%

.143

.169

.226

.246

83.4 mph

20.4%

As the Phillies de facto third starter coming into the season, Suárez is going to be a big part of the rotation. A trip back to the World Series is in the plans, and if he can recapture just a bit of his postseason magic, big things could be in store this season.

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