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Are MLB pitchers catching up with Seiya Suzuki?
To say Seiya Suzuki started his first Major League season hot would be an understatement. The former Nippon Professional Baseball superstar opened his first series as a Major Leaguer by going 3-for-8 with a home run, six RBI, four walks and a sacrifice fly against the Milwaukee Brewers and creating all kinds of excitement for a Cubs team that needs every bit of it.
Suzuki wasn’t a one-series wonder either, smashing two home runs in his fourth game on April 12 vs. the Pirates, on his way to collecting a hit in nine of his first ten big league games, including six straight to start the season.
In the latter half of April Suzuki cooled a bit, finishing the month on a 0-for-12 skid with four strikeouts as his slash line plummeted from .333/.458/.632 on April 27 to .279/.405/.529 by months end.
Not only that but the man that early on in the season led the league in walk rate, went more than 30 plate appearances between free passes. Suzuki wasn’t hitting, nor was he getting the free 90 feet to first.
May has brought more of the same for the 27-year-old right fielder as he’s yet to score a run in 24 plate appearances and is batting a putrid .160 for the month, dropping his season slash line to .247/.360./463.
Seiya Suzuki’s advanced metrics provide clues
Suzuki has had only 111 Major League plate appearances, so it’s too soon to make any grand conclusions on what ails him, but there are some early clues in the advanced metrics.
Three of Suzuki’s four home runs have come off fastballs, as have seven of his eleven extra-base hits, on the pitch he sees 56.5 percent of the time and is batting .278 against. Two pitches that stand out in a negative way are cutters and changeups, which combined make up 19.6 percent of the pitches thrown to Suzuki.
He’s had some luck on cutters, batting .222 against the pitch, but his xBA is only .162 and xwOBA is a paltry .209. It gets even worse on changeups as Suzuki is hitless in 10 plate appearances (eight at-bats) with a .109 xBA and .225 xwOBA.
This is certainly a small sample size as he’s only seen 95 of these pitches combined early in the season, but they stand out in contrast to other pitches.
Aside from the numbers above, on all other pitches, Suzuki has a combined 6.2 RV/100 pitches, while on cutters and changeups combined that number is -2.5/100.
Pitching is about finding weaknesses and batting is about adjusting to pitchers when they find weaknesses. Early on Suzuki had the advantage and even admitted pitchers didn’t really know what to expect from him.
Now, in mid-May, as pitchers are getting an idea of what to expect from Suzuki, his weaknesses and holes, it’s Suzuki’s turn to adjust.