Finnish poet Eino Leino famously once wrote “Kell’ onni on se onnen kätkeköön”, which roughly translates to “Don’t compare or boast about your happiness.” Given that Finland has ranked as the happiest country in the world five years running, they may be on to something. It is almost always futile to compare your expectations, goals, or achievements to those of your peers, and in doing so let your happiness rely on it. With that in mind, I will waste no time here comparing Eugenio Suárez to the player that was stationed at the hot corner before him, or even delve too deep into the prevailing thoughts at the time of the trade that brought him to Seattle. It’s not that Eugenio would compare unfavorably; it’s just that doing so would miss the point entirely of what makes him so special. Who Suárez is, both as a person and a player, speaks for itself.
Good Vibes Only. That is the persistent mantra of the thirty-one year old third baseman, and has been since before he put on a Mariners uniform. Always wearing a smile, and always giving credit to his teammates in interviews, his happiness never seems boastful. It is a warm outlook that is easy to root for, but doesn’t by itself equate to success on the baseball field. As much as we may like the person who chooses that outlook, we still need to be able to root for the player. In this case the two really do go hand-in-hand. It would have been easy for Eugenio to give in to bad vibes following his 2021 season with the Reds. For the first time in his career he posted a negative fWAR at -0.1, and experiments with playing him out of position at shortstop lead to a narrative that he was a defensive black hole. Suárez already had the right attitude to either return to form or improve, but lacked a key element of a proper support system to get him there.
"I saw a difference three days after I started working with him" says Eugenio Suárez about working with Perry Hill. "So I said to myself, I gotta listen to this guy...he helped me so much."— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) June 22, 2022
The Perry Hill Effect is so real and something that doesn't get enough credit.
In the Seattle Mariners, and Perry Hill, he found that support system, and they invested the time and faith he needed to find his way back to success. He himself credits his work with Perry Hill for his improvements in defense, and after a full year on the team as the starting third baseman, we don’t have to only take his word for it. There were plenty of times we were able to see for ourselves his capabilities at making vital plays.
Eugenio didn’t only succeed in his defensive endeavors, but also performed admirably with his bat. A perfect example of a “three true outcomes” type of player, he lead the team in home runs at 31, was fourth in walk rate at 11.6%, and had the second highest strikeout percentage on the team at 31.2%. His 131 wRC+ was second-best on the team, his fWAR of 4.1 was third-best, and his ISO of .223 was also third-best on the team. In many categories he also compared favorably with the rest of the league, as well.
The type of player that he is makes for especially good news for the Mariners, as it’s exactly the profile of the kind of player that can succeed offensively in their home field of T-Mobile Park. John Trupin recently broke down the what and why of the park factors at T-Mobile, with Eugenio even getting a brief mention. Essentially one of the conclusions was that if you are not hitting a home run, you are very likely to be less successful, particularly in the area of extra-base hits. To that, Suárez stuck to his mantra of “Good Vibes Only”, hitting more than half of his home runs at home, and even exactly half of his 24 doubles.
The person and the player go hand-in-hand. It could be easy to dismiss “Good Vibes Only” as being toxic or blind positivity, or lackadaisical towards the hard work that needs to be done to be successful in professional sports; but that is simply not the case with Suárez. Not only does he use that positive reinforcement to his own benefit, he uses it to reinforce his teammates. When Eugenio was awarded the Unsung Hero Award by the Seattle chapter of the BBWAA, Daniel Kramer highlighted in his write-up the leadership role he had taken in the clubhouse. More than that, his comments featured in that piece make him a great ambassador for the clubhouse culture Seattle has cultivated, and the ways that it can be mutually beneficial.
That combination of outlook, hard work, and recognition of hard work are vital for a team that last year was on average one of the youngest in baseball. It can be the difference between a group of individuals playing for themselves, and a team playing for each other, and growing together. The benefit can extend beyond just the younger guys too. When Teoscar Hernández, Kolten Wong, and AJ Pollock join the club this year and see how quickly Eugenio has adapted and fit in after just one season, we can hope it facilitates their integration into the team dynamics as well.
There is a vibrant, yet humble confidence in Eugenio Suárez that permeates from him both on and off the field. His demeanor is the home run of attitudes, grandiose and easiest to cheer for. On top of that, he also just hits a lot of home runs.