Early on in the year, one of the biggest digs on Cubs manager David Ross was his repeated insistence of having guys like Eric Hosmer and, then, Trey Mancini in the lineup, despite better options being at his disposal.
As Chicago spun its wheels and failed to take advantage of playing in a weak division, criticism mounted - and rightfully so. But as the Cubs have come roaring back, now with a better than 50% at making the postseason per Fangraphs, Ross and the team have made the tough calls necessary, perhaps none bigger than the benching of Seiya Suzuki.
Cubs still need Seiya Suzuki to figure things out at the plate
Suzuki had looked lost at the plate, especially in June, when he mustered a .475 OPS in 89 trips to the plate. Here in early August, Ross has opted for Mike Tauchman in right with a surging Cody Bellinger in center, keeping a guy who relentlessly grinds at-bats in the lineup over Suzuki, despite the latter's five-year, $85 million contract.
"When things don’t really work out, obviously for a long stretch, it becomes a mental thing. During that span, I just couldn’t organize what was the first thing to work on ... I‘m confident in what I did to get here, and so now all I need to do is get out there, get those results and I think I’ll get more confidence."- Seiya Suzuki via MLB.com
Ross went to Tauchman over Suzuki, hoping to let the 28-year-old outfielder catch his breath and reset mentally. Obviously, a productive Suzuki would add yet another layer to a suddenly deep Cubs lineup that's been firing on all cylinders more often than not. Obviously, Chicago had hoped for more when they added him in free agency prior to the 2022 season, but Suzuki hasn't been able to take his game to the same level as he did in Japan.
In the NPB, he slashed .309/.402/.541 over the course of nine seasons before making the jump to MLB following the 2021 campaign. He's come nowhere near that level of production with the Cubs, though (.256/.332/.412). Ross has been right to go with Tauchman, who seems to work the count full multiple times a game and come up with clutch hits regularly, and if he can get Suzuki back on track, it'll be interesting to see how he keeps both guys in there.
But, if nothing else, it's been nice to see Chicago play the hot hand, realizing that every game counts and - regardless of his contract status or his obvious desire to be in the lineup - Suzuki hasn't been the guy who puts them in the best position to win. Hopefully he can get going again on Wednesday, as he's back in the lineup and batting sixth against the Mets in New York.