How Seiya Suzuki’s quick adaption to MLB resulted in NL Player of the Week
Seiya Suzuki wanted to make sure he used Spring Training to become familiar with major league pitchers and their velocity. He knew the quicker he could do that, the sooner he adjusted, the more likely he’d have success earlier in his big-league career.
“During spring training, he was working on his timing and his swing and there were a lot of things he was trying to be conscious of during spring training,” Suzuki said through his interpreter Toy Matsushita. “He was also worried about the velocity, the different pitch types that they have over here. That’s what he was clarifying during Spring Training.”
Once he did that, he knew the results would come — and, boy, have they. Entering Monday’s opener against the Rays, Suzuki had 4 home runs, 11 RBI and 2 doubles with a whopping 1.503 OPS. For his exploits, he was named the National League Player of the Week. He extended his hitting streak to 9 with a 4th inning single.
Seiya Suzuki extends his hitting streak to 9 games to begin his career.— Andy Martínez (@amartinez_11) April 19, 2022
Ties Akinori Iwamura for longest hitting streak for a Japanese-born player to begin his career (2007, Rays).
Also ties Andy Pafko (1943) for hits in consecutive games by #Cubs player to start their career.
“His motive is to contribute to the team’s win and he’s glad he’s able to do that and hopefully he wants to continue this,” Suzuki said.
Still, the hot start has been a pleasant revelation for manager David Ross and the Cubs.
“I mean, yeah, a little bit,” Ross said when asked if he was surprised about the start. “When you watch him play and you see all the numbers and how we believe in him from an analytical standpoint and also from a scouting standpoint — there were a lot of high expectations, obviously, that’s why we wanted him — and the fact that he’s come in and produced has been nice.”
The toughest adjustment baseball-related that Suzuki has had to face has come in the travel aspect. The longest trip Suzuki endured in Nippon Professional Baseball was a four-hour flight to Tokyo. Just this week he’s been on a 3 hour, 30 minute flight from Pittsburgh to Denver with a pair of time zones to travel through. There’ll be longer ones this season, too.
“With all the traveling, your body gets really tired,” Suzuki said. “So he’s just trying to find ways to make sure he’s out there 100% and that’s his motivation.”
Part of the success he’s had is simply due to the type of player he is.
“I think that he’s an athlete with aptitude who if you look back at historical evidence, he makes good swing decisions and he’s got great bat to ball skills,” hitting coach Greg Brown said. “Those are things that tend to hold true, no matter if you’re playing at little league [or MLB].”
That’s why Suzuki has tried to keep his game plan and approach simple. The Cubs, like other major league teams, have a plethora of data and information about opposing pitchers at their disposal, but Suzuki is more concerned with getting into the batter’s box and taking it at-bat to at-bat.
“You know obviously they have a lot of great data here, but when you step in the box, there’s some different stuff that you feel and that’s what he feels that is the most important,” Suzuki said. “So, he just has his own little data in his head that he relies on, but it’s been some great data that he’s been looking at from the team.”
That’s led to his success and it’s what the Cubs hope he can continue to produce as the season goes on.
“If you haven’t used something and have had a lot of success, you should stick with your routine of how you did it,” Ross said. “I’m happy he’s just being himself and feels really comfortable in having success.”