Last week, Chicago Cubs outfielder, Seiya Suzuki, was named the National League’s Player of the Week. He also joined Art Williams (1902), Hal Jeffcoat (’48), and Tony Taylor (’58) as the only Cubs since 1901 to have a 10-game on-base streak to begin a career. Now, he is leading the majors with a .492 on-base percentage and a 1.180 on-base plus slugging.
Will Seiya Suzuki win 2022 NL Rookie of The Year?
Seiya was not a popular choice for NL Rookie of the Year ahead of the season. Most people didn’t see the exceptional debut coming. His early at-bats for the Cubs in spring training have been rough, with five strikeouts, one walk, and one hit-by-pitch in 11 plate appearances over his first four games.
But nobody in the club was really worried about what the stats said in spring training. His numbers in Japan speak for themselves. Suzuki hit .315 with a .414 on-base percentage and .985 OPS throughout his nine seasons with the Hiroshima Carp. Last season, Suzuki was the Central League batting and on-base percentage leader and was named NPB All-Star for the fifth time in his career. He was also awarded his fifth career Central League Golden Glove Award and sixth straight Best Nine Award.
Aapting to the MLB
Some believe that the unprecedented access to data that he had never experienced in Nippon Professional Baseball was the key to helping him adjust to MLB pitching. However, Suzuki hasn’t used any of that information.
“I haven’t looked at any of the data,” Suzuki said.
“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.”
“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.”
Seiya Suzuki vs. Ichiro Suzuki
Although they share a surname, Suzuki is not related to Ichiro Suzuki, the former Seattle Mariners star who had his extraordinary debut in 2001. Ichiro Suzuki’s first season earned him both most valuable player and rookie of the year — making him the 2nd player in MLB history to win the two awards in the same year.
The comparisons between the two have been coming since the 2012 draft, in which Seiya was selected out of high school by the Hiroshima Carp in the second round. Later, he was nicknamed the “red-helmeted Ichiro.” He was also initially given the same number as Ichiro, 51, before changing to No. 1 for the 2019 season.
Mike Trout’s Big Fan
When Seiya Suzuki was asked why he chose the number 27 at his introductory press, he didn’t hesitate to take the mic and said, “Mike Trout. I love you.”
Suzuki’s admiration for Trout started in 2015 when Hiroki Kuroda rejoined the Carp after 7 seasons and 79 wins for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Yankees.
“There was a time Kuroda told me about a player I reminded him of with a similar build and skill set. He told me if I work hard, I could be like him.” Mike Trout was the player Kuroda referenced to inspire Suzuki.
“I started searching for a video of this guy,” Suzuki explained. “When I found it, I was mesmerized by his talent. He could run, he could throw, he could hit, and he had power. For Kuroda San to tell me I had it within myself to develop into that kind of player was so inspiring. It gave me great motivation at the exact time I needed it most. It influenced my training, my diet, and my whole approach. I became so much more focused on becoming that guy.”
It’s still too early for a ROTY talk; however, Suzuki is showing great hitting power and patience at the plate.
As the season goes on, if he keeps adjusting and playing at these levels, then he would ensure a ROTY title for himself.