Cubs News

The simple change behind Seiya Suzuki’s resurgence in Cubs lineup

1 month agoTony Andracki

There’s a case to be made that the MLB trade deadline brought not one, but two, impact bats to the Cubs lineup.

Jeimer Candelario was the only addition to the everyday lineup but Seiya Suzuki has also enjoyed a major resurgence since the Aug. 1 deadline.

And it started because he was the player who was benched initially when Candelario came to town.

“He knows he needs to work on some things,” David Ross said on Aug. 5. “It’s hard to do that in-game so we are going to give him some time and he’ll be back in there when we feel like he can help us win games.”

Suzuki has certainly proved lately that he can help the Cubs win games, including Monday night’s 7-5 victory in Detroit. He was right in the middle of the action, singling and scoring a run in the 2nd inning and then smashing a home run in the 4th:

Suzuki actually got out to a strong start to his season and entered June hitting .293 with an .872 OPS.

But for a two-month stretch in June and July, Suzuki slumped to a .212/.282/.296 slash line (.578 OPS) with only 2 homers and 16 RBI over 46 games.

With Candelario in the mix, Ross initially opted to deploy Suzuki only against left-handers for a week’s worth of action. Against righties, Suzuki was on the bench, Mike Tauchman was in right, Cody Bellinger was in center and Candelario was at first base with Nick Madrigal at third.

That time off allowed Suzuki a mental reset and the results since have been very encouraging for the Cubs.

After the big night Monday, he is now hitting .333/.340/.733 (1.073 OPS) with 5 homers and 9 RBI in 13 August games.

The big difference? He’s just having more fun.

“I don’t think he’s putting a lot of pressure on himself,” Ross said. “I think he’s having fun playing baseball. I think he’s just out there doing what he does. He puts a lot on his back. He plays for a lot of people even outside of this country.

“Most guys that get to this level and are really great players have a lot of perfectionist in them. It’s an imperfect game and we’re imperfect people. Carrying all that can weigh you down, especially when you’re not doing what you want to do and what you’re expecting to do.

“I think it’s just a little bit of a reset. It looks like he’s having fun — smiling running around the bases, yelling in the dugout. I think he’s just having a really good time.”

Suzuki confirmed that sentiment.

“I’m just having fun a lot right now playing baseball,” he said through translator Toy Matsushita. “I feel really good. I feel like I’m being really aggressive at the plate and I’m making those right decisions.”

Suzuki has started the last 10 games for the Cubs in right field after being in the lineup for just 2 of the team’s first 8 games this month.

When he was on the bench, he wanted to make the most of his time and he feels like he accomplished that.

“I took some time out and thought to myself, ‘what can I do to make myself an even better player?'” Suzuki said. “And I think because of that timespan, I’m getting those results right now.”

Since he has returned to the lineup on a regular basis, Suzuki is also hitting lower in the order. He spent July batting 2nd against lefties and 4th or 5th against right-handers but is now spending his time in the 6-7-8 spots in the Cubs lineup. That can also serve to take some pressure off of the 29-year-old slugger.

Suzuki admits this is the first time he has been faced with such adversity. In Japan, he was a superstar and when he came over to the U.S., the Cubs paid him like a star with a 5-year, $85 million contract.

He hasn’t ever been the player that needs to fight for playing time or a spot in the lineup.

“I think it was really great for me because I was able to learn a lot of things while not playing and that can really benefit you as a player in the long run as well,” Suzuki said. “I’m glad I was able to use that time wisely.”

If Suzuki can find play near this level for the rest of the season, that will be a huge boost to the Cubs lineup in the middle of a playoff chase.

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