Seiya Suzuki played sparingly in the first week of August following a particularly brutal two-month stretch that saw him bat .212 with a 59 wRC+ and just two homers in 202 plate appearances. With the addition of switch-hitting Jeimer Candelario ahead of the deadline, David Ross needed to make room for a more productive hitter and Suzuki was the odd man out for a while. Rather than sitting the right fielder as a punishment, the hope was that he’d gain a new perspective from sitting for a while.
“He knows he needs to work on some things,” David Ross told reporters of the temporary benching. “It’s hard to do that in-game. We’ll give him some time, and he’ll be back in there when we feel like he can help us win games.
‘It could turn in a day. We’ll talk to the hitting guys, talk to him, and continue to watch batting practice.”
Ross added that Suzuki may have been taking things too seriously and was possibly missing out on excellence in the pursuit of perfection. Rather than jumping on a pitch just outside his happy zone, Suzuki would take a strike. Then he’d take another. Then he’d end up popping out harmlessly. By keeping him out of the lineup for a good chunk of those early August games, Ross gave Suzuki the chance to relax and remember that the game is supposed to be enjoyable.
“I’m just having fun a lot right now playing baseball,” Suzuki said a couple weeks back via 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.”
Since being inserted back into the everyday lineup on August 9, Suzuki has been the Cubs’ best hitter and it’s not even close. His 1.6 fWAR doubles what Nico Hoerner has put up and his 202 wRC+ is 87 points higher than Ian Happ has managed. Suzuki has seven homers in his last 103 plate appearances after hitting nine in his first 385 PAs of the season, plus he’s hit 10 of his 26 doubles. Dude has been a straight-up kaiju.
Maybe Ross should think about sitting Dansby Swanson, who’s batting .194 with just 0.2 fWAR in that same span. Despite his first career four-hit game on Sunday, Mike Tauchman has struggled to a .176 average and has been worth -0.2 fWAR. A lot of randos crept out of the woodwork to remind me of those single-game exploits, but the larger sample says the leadoff-hitting center fielder needs to get back on track.
Gee, if only the Cubs had a guy on the roster who could play center in the meantime. I continue to grow more convicted in my theory that Alexander Canario‘s promotion was more a reward to get him an MLB paycheck while the Cubs shut him down ahead of the Arizona Fall League. He suffered a catastrophic injury over the winter and his ankle could be barking at him a little, or maybe they had been wanting to slow him down regardless.
Anywho, let’s get back to Suzuki. Not only is he raking right now, but he’s doing it late in the lineup. The Cubs don’t give opposing pitchers much time to breathe because even the bottom third of the order can do damage, then it’s right back to the top. Being out of a traditional run-producing spot may be helping to alleviate some of the pressure Suzuki would otherwise put on himself, which is leading to what could end up being a very strong season.
His numbers are better across the board than last season and he could easily end up surpassing 20 home runs, but the real promise lies in the future. Imagine if he’s able to put up anything close to his recent production over a full season. For now, it’s about continuing to crush baseballs for a playoff contender that just keeps piling up wins. Now that’s fun for everyone…except for the Cubs’ opponents.