Chicago Cubs right fielder Seiya Suzuki needed only one full week of games to earn his first accolades in Major League Baseball.
Suzuki’s sizzling start has helped the Cubs produce the best offense in the majors, leading in key areas including batting average, on-base percentage, doubles and OPS. Pitchers have struggled to solve Suzuki, who posted a .412/.545/1.059 slash line in his last six games with five runs, seven hits, two doubles, three home runs, five RBIs and five walks to earn the National League Player of the Week award.
“During spring training, I was working on my timing and my swing,” Suzuki said through interpreter Toy Matsushita before Monday night’s 4-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays at Wrigley Field. “There were a lot of things that I was trying to be conscious of during spring training, but once the season started, it’s just me and the pitcher.
“I was also worried about the velocity and the different pitch types they have over here. … But once the season started, it was just the game. I just want to get the results and I’m glad I’ve been able to do that.”
Suzuki tallied his first multi-homer game Tuesday in Pittsburgh. He became the first Cubs player with 10-plus RBIs in his first 22 plate appearances since 1920, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He reached base safely in each of his first nine games and took an eight-game hitting streak — the second-longest to begin an MLB career for a Japanese-born player — into Monday’s game.
He extended the streak to nine games with singles in the fourth and eighth innings and also reached on an error and a hit by pitch.
“He seems to be a real steady player, confident within himself, having good at-bats,” manager David Ross said Monday. “He goes about his business. He’s a hard worker, good teammate. Seems things are flowing really easily for him right now.”
The biggest learning curve for Suzuki besides adjusting to big-league velocity is the travel schedule. Traveling as much as major-league teams do can wear down players’ bodies, so Suzuki is trying to find ways to ensure he’s 100%.
Suzuki’s success stems in part from staying true to himself. He noted during spring training how he had much more data and information at his disposal with the Cubs than he experienced in Nippon Professional Baseball.
However, Suzuki hasn’t used any of that information, instead utilizing his feel in the batter’s box and what he knows.
“That’s what I feel is the most important,” he said. “I just have my own little data in my head that I rely on.”
Clearly this approach is working for him.
“If you haven’t used something and have had a lot of success, you should stick with your routine of how you did it, right?” Ross said. “So just getting comfortable here and trust in his athletic ability is what I would lean on too.
“I‘m happy he’s just being himself and feels really comfortable and is having success.”
Suzuki’s success goes deeper than leading the Cubs in most offensive categories and ranking as one of the best hitters in the league early on. He has been selective at the plate, but when he makes contact, he barrels the ball a lot. A barreled ball is a batted ball with the perfect combination of exit velocity and launch angle.
Suzuki’s 17.1% barrels per plate appearance is tied with the New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge for second in the majors behind the Yankees’ Giancarlo Stanton (20%). Suzuki’s barrels per batted ball event is tops at 35.3%, ahead of Stanton (30.8%).
Ross admitted to a little surprise that it hasn’t taken long for Suzuki to adjust to big-league pitching, though Suzuki’s experience in the competitive NPB can help aid his transition.
“There are a lot of high expectations — obviously that’s why we wanted him — and the fact he’s come in and produced has been nice,” Ross said. “This is the best pitching in the world and you expect somebody to struggle just a little bit — inevitably every player does — but so far the fact that he’s gotten off to such a great start and we’ve faced really good pitching has been impressive.”
Source: Berkshire mont