Early on in last years prolific season, I distinctly remember Len Kasper saying, “This guy will be good for 30 HR and 100 RBI every year.” When I initially herd that statement I thought to myself, those words came out way too nonchalant. But then I thought, if Rizzo can go 30/100 every year or even near those numbers than he’s most definitely got my vote! Nonetheless i’d like to give credit where its due, Lenny’s been spot on with his analysis thus far.
2014: 32 HR/ 78 RBI
2015: 38 HR/ 101 RBI
2016: 43HR/ 109 RBI
And as this year’s All-Star Voting is coming to a close, you better believe Lenny’s projections continued. Rizzo is on pace with 17 HR and 47 RBI, and doing so in dramatic fashion. Anthony Rizzo is your typical meat of the order hitter, someone you love to have at the plate when you have guys on base. The GOAT himself (Joe Maddon) thought he would try and mix things up as of late, in hopes to find that path the 2016 Cubs previously paved. For the past couple weeks Joe decided to lead off with one of the leagues best two strike hitters.
Everyone who’s a Cubs fan knows this story, Anthony then goes on to go 7-7 leading off games not to mention his 3 homers. Rizzo is historically the best lead off hitter in any 7 game stretch, and we all owe Maddon a tip of the cap for giving him the chance. There is more to this decision than just being a great hitter. Yes, Rizzo is a great two strike hitter, but he also has a great HBP rate because he crowds the plate.
As I mentioned in a previous post about two strike hitting, odds are not in your favor when hitting with two strikes, but Rizz is an anomaly. This year he has done a hell of a job protecting the play, with 46 walks and only 35 strikeouts making him on pace to have his best season yet in terms of OBP. My man must have his little league coaches voice in his head when he gets 0-2, “choke up son, shorten that swing!”
We can’t forget to mention the pair he’s got on him to stand on top of the plate, in the past three seasons hes been hit 73 times. I wouldn’t be caught dead taking a 95 MPH fastball to the funny bone, and Rizz is over here taking it like a man on the reg. He gets on top of the plate not only to take advantage of possibly getting hit, but he also gets himself closer to that away fastball which most hitters struggle with. With these two traits he’s already made his argument to be a lead off man, but there’s more.
The strength of hitters that Rizzo has behind him is ridiculous, (Bryant/ Contreras/ Happ) these are all guys that a pitcher would dread pitching to with a runner on. That being said, pitchers are doing everything in their power to try and not let Rizzo get on base. This is a trait that most ball players are aware of, as baseball tends to have many games within the game itself. The more you can get the opponent to think the better, and leading off with Rizzo is quite the curve ball to throw at the pitcher to start the game. Besides, the notion of having a fast lead off hitter is slowly but surely becoming a fallacy, and I believe this could be somewhat revolutionary. Hopefully Rizzo can continue to lead the Cubs both literally & figuratively into this last stretch of games prior to this All-Star break! Let’s catch these damn Brewers.