The Hiroshima Carp launched an unusual pre-emptive posting strike on Friday when they revealed they have begun the process of posting star right fielder Seiya Suzuki after the season.
In response, I’ve updated Suzuki’s profile page, and while you can read a lot of comments and reports about his short swing, speed, and arm, so I’m going to take a different tack and talk about Suzuki the individual and the way things are in Japan.
Carp playing it smart
Being a right-handed hitter will weigh against Suzuki’s earning the biggest possible contract for a player of his age, skills, and track record. But by letting it known early that the posting is inevitable, the Carp are priming the market early, knowing that their share can only increase the more MLB teams realize what a prize their guy is.
It may seem like a small thing, but it isn’t. Japanese companies want to believe they are in control, and so will tend to wait until the last possible moment to confirm what everyone else already knows.
This happened in 2018 with the Seibu Lions, who that summer got pissed about reports of Kikuchi’s posting and called them false, despite the fact that the team’s president announced it after the 2016 season.
The problem with playing “we know and you don’t” is that the markets for some players take time to develop. In 2015, Nobuhiro Matsuda waited until the last minute to pick an agent, who had little time to prepare and was playing catchup the whole time.
The Carp move, while different, is smart business because the more people know about Suzuki, the bigger the team’s share is going to be.
The real deal
There are a number of problems facing every Japanese player moving to the States and some that are specific to position players, but I believe Suzuki is as well-positioned to deal with these issues as anyone his age since Ichiro Suzuki.
The first obstacle is spring training and the preseason. I’ve written about it before, but players accustomed to measuring their preseason conditioning by Japan’s timelines can be derailed by what the pace of MLB camps.
Over there, coaches aren’t going to tell you how to fix things the way they do in Japan. Players need to seek out their feedback in order to find their own solutions. Japanese players learn this eventually in NPB, although it takes time because when players turn pro, they are expected to absorb their coaches’ lessons without question.
Veteran players, by dint of experience, learn how to best make use of their coaches’ skills, but until then, they’re expected to shut up and listen.
What Ichiro had, and what Seiya Suzuki has, is the experience of forging a unique individual path to success. Seiya Suzuki stood out as a young player because he studied and learned strength and fitness training methods that seemed the best fit for what he needed to apply himself.
I could throw Shohei Ohtani into this category, too, but the lessons of how to time and adjust to more velocity, appear to become harder to learn with age. Ohtani was a very similar hitter in Japan to Hideki Matsui at the same age, but one went to the U.S. at the age of 23, the other at 29.
Yoshitomo Tsutsugo proved this year that Japanese hitters in their prime can adjust, eventually. He, too, has long had a desire to do things his own way, but I like Suzuki’s chances of making the adjustments even quicker.
Suzuki strikes me as someone who deals with things in concrete terms. I don’t know whether that’s good or bad, but from speaking with him a few times, I get the feeling he understands the difference between information and knowledge and has a good perspective on where his skills are and where he wants to go with them.
Take that, and have a look at his profile. There you’ll see some of the things that make him a unique player, but the mental side, the human side, is, I think, the thing that is going to make him a prize.
It’s also why I believed he was 100 percent going to be posted this autumn as soon as he mentioned it last winter. He doesn’t mess around.