Considering Ranger Suarez' 1.36 ERA in 2021 was the lowest by any pitcher with at least 100 innings in 54 years, there is some regression coming.
It doesn't take a glass-half-empty approach to recognize that his ERA and home run rate are almost certain to rise this season, but even with the expected journey back to Earth, Suarez can still be an incredibly valuable piece in 2022.
Suarez appeared in 39 games last season, 12 as a starter. He pitched 106 innings. He is a difficult pitcher to project short-term because he spent time in 2021 as a long reliever, a setup man, a closer and a starter.
His role for the season ahead is clear. Suarez slots in as the Phillies' No. 3 starter in a rotation with Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Kyle Gibson and someone else. By mid to late May, Zach Eflin (knee surgery in September) could join them.
Three of the most well-known public baseball projections systems are Steamer (found at Fangraphs), ZiPs and Marcel (found at Baseball-Reference). Two of three forecast a low innings total for Suarez in 2022, though that is largely because of his low innings total the last three seasons.
Marcel, for example, uses the last three years of MLB data, with the most recent data weighted heavier. It regresses towards the mean and factors in age. Suarez pitched 53 combined innings in 2019 and 2020 so his projection looks different than it would for a pitcher who made a full complement of starts in three straight seasons.
Here are the projections ...
Steamer: 165 IP, 3.75 ERA, 8.7 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9
ZiPS: 102 IP, 3.79 ERA, 8.4 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 0.9 HR/9
Marcel: 87 IP, 2.90 ERA, 8.9 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 0.8 HR/9
Suarez in 2021: 106 IP, 1.36 ERA, 9.1 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 0.3 HR/9
Steamer projects Suarez to make 29 starts, while the other two have him starting about a dozen games. All three systems forecast meaningful rises in his rates of walks and home runs allowed whether or not he makes a full season's worth of starts.
The safest assumption to make about Suarez is that he will allow more home runs in 2022. He was taken deep just four times in 106 innings and just twice with men on base, an unsustainably low rate. The last National League pitcher with at least as many innings and a home run rate so low was Jake Arrieta in 2014.
Suarez has command, confidence and movement, but it's impossible to keep the ball in the park as much as he did last season, especially in this current environment with so many hitters' swings geared specifically toward the longball. As an example, Jacob deGrom has a 1.91 ERA the last four seasons and his home run rate has been nearly double what Suarez' was in 2021.
Even with a few more two- and three-run homers, Suarez can still be the pitcher the Phillies need him to be in 2022. They are not asking him to go win a Cy Young, they are not asking him for a 2.00 ERA, they're just asking him to stay healthy, continue to attack and keep them in games. He can do all of that while regressing to a normal home run rate and a low-to-mid-3.00s ERA. If that is where he settles in, that's a player any team in baseball would welcome, especially on a minimum contract. Suarez is not eligible for arbitration until next offseason.