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2021 Angels Player Review: Kurt Suzuki

It wasn’t Kurt Suzuki’s best season with the Angels, but his catching experience made him a positive counterpart for the bullpen.

Los Angeles Angels v Texas Rangers Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Originally signed to a one-year contract in January 2020 as back-up support for catcher Max Stassi, veteran player Kurt Suzuki quickly became a regular presence on the field, playing 72 games and making 247 plate appearances.

Compared to Stassi who played 87 games, Suzuki experienced a quick promotion into a catching regular this season, but despite his time logged behind the plate, the former World Series champ recorded career-lows during his time with the Angels.

At the plate, Suzuki lacked the power of his previous years, but his time in the batter’s box wasn’t completely without its productive moments. After 219 at-bats, he completed the season with a .224 batting average, which paled in comparison to his career-high .303 average when he played briefly with the Oakland Athletics in 2013. His OPS also fell short, landing at .636% – his worst performance since 2015. He scored 17 runs with 49 hits, which was not only disappointing in line with the rest of his career, but it also failed to match Stassi who recorded 45 runs with 68 hits in 2021.

Defensively, the Cal State Fullerton alumni put up similar numbers, usually falling short of his career bests but still managing to keep the productivity baseline at an average level behind the plate. He recorded 597 putouts alongside 33 assists and 10 errors, and while his performance on defense never reached the potential fans have seen in the past, he proved to be a consistent counterpart for the bullpen, often creating powerful chemistry with some of the Angels’ biggest pitching names, including Raisel Iglesias and Shohei Ohtani.

With 15 years of MLB experience under his belt, there’s no denying that Suzuki is a talented catcher, but as for his run with the Halos, it proved to be a rougher season than we expected when he was signed.

2021 Stats

72 Games / 219 At Bats / .224 Avg. / .294 OBP / .342 SLG / .636 OPS / 49 Hits / 6 Home Runs / 16 RBI / 17 Runs / 8 2B / 12 BB / 44 SO

Best Offensive Performance

April 20 vs. Texas Rangers

After losing to the Texas Rangers, 4-6, on April 19, the Halos hit their stride the next night when Suzuki bolstered the offense with his first home run as an Angel – a 2-run shot down the right field line that helped secure the team a 6-2 victory. Suzuki hit a four-seam fastball off of Rangers left-handed pitcher, Taylor Hearn (4.66 ERA) in the top of the 7th inning, and with an exit velocity of 103.9 mph, fans watched as the ball nearly missed the foul pole and the catcher rounded the bases with his first Halo home run painting the scoreboard.

This run was the first of six home runs that Suzuki would hit before the end of the 2021 season, and although his power performances at the plate were few and far between, this particular hit was reminiscent of his 2017 season with the Atlanta Braves when he hit 19 home runs.

Best Defensive Performance

May 19 vs. Cleveland Guardians

Of course, we had to pick a Suzuki-Sho moment. When catchers see All-Star and MVP Shohei Ohtani on the mound, they know that their performance has to match his, and that’s exactly what Suzuki did on May 19. In the top of the fourth inning, with the score sitting at 1-1, Ohtani lost control of the ball which left Suzuki with a wild pitch. As Suzuki moved to keep the ball in front of his body, Guardians outfielder Franmil Reyes took the opportunity to steal third base, but not before Suzuki managed a quick recovery and a flawless throw to third that secured the out with a tag thrown down by Anthony Rendon.

From the effective recovery to the speed of the throw, this play earned Ohtani a much needed out, and although the game resulted in a 2-3 loss, the impressive out at third combined with Suzuki’s 11 putouts and a double play helped keep the game competitive until the very last inning.

May 28 vs. Oakland A’s

It may not be the defense fans we’re thinking of, but after a wild pitch from Ohtani led to some heated yelling from Oakland A’s first baseman, Mark Canha, the only defense that mattered was Suzuki stepping in to protect his pitcher.

While Ohtani waved off Canha with a quick nod, Suzuki was close enough to hear everything Canha said, and fortunately for fans, he wasn’t going to let it fly. The situation was de-escalated quickly by the umpires, but the heat of the moment was far from gone when it came to Suzuki’s catching performance. Ohtani finished off Canha with a strike down the middle while Suzuki threw out the runner attempting to steal second. The matchup between Ohtani’s pitching precision and Suzuki’s fire behind the plate gave way to an exciting moment that felt every bit as satisfying as fans needed it to be after seeing Canha yell at their MVP.

What to Expect in 2022:

Suzuki elected free agency in November after the completion of his one-year contract with the Angels. During his last ten games as a Halo, Suzuki said that he would be open to retiring from MLB, so it’s unknown at this point whether we’ll see Suzuki in a major league uniform in the spring. However, if his run with the Halos was his last season, he will leave MLB with an impressive career as a catcher.

2021 Overall Grade: C-