Rizzo, Castro at heart of much improved Cubs defense


When a team sits in last place, you’re always looking for the silver lining in the season. While some things might be a matter of perception, the Cubs improved defensive play is clear in the numbers.

Over the past two seasons, the Cubs have found themselves near the bottom of the pack statistically. And both of those seasons included two great years from Darwin Barney, one being a Gold Glove winning season in 2012. But countless misplays, many by the young Starlin Castro left the Cubs in a terrible position. Castro has worked hard to improve his game, and it shows. After leading the league in errors in both seasons, he has cut them almost in half. And he owes much of it to his first baseman Anthony Rizzo.

"“I have worked hard to get better,” Castro said in late July. “The player we have at first base saves us all a lot of errors.” h/t Bruce Levine, CBSChicago.com More from Chicago Cubs NewsCubs need to walk the walk this winter after talking the talkAlec Mills shocked Cubs fans, baseball world with 2020 no-hitterCubs: After season of adjustments, Seiya Suzuki primed for monster 2023Projecting the 2023 Cubs Opening Day lineupCubs: 2022 season a ‘success,’ according to Tom Ricketts"

Rizzo was very likely in the Gold Glove conversation last season, but those discussions aren’t released, only the winner. There’s no reason to believe that he won’t be in the talks again with the season he’s put together this year. Entering play on Sunday, Rizzo led all major league first baseman in chances, (1200) assists, (102 ) and putouts (1089 ). He was also ranked fourth in double plays contributing to 94 twin-killings on defense.

All these numbers go along with several highlight reel catches Rizzo has made, and even with his nine errors, five more than Dodgers Adrian Gonzalez, Rizzo should be in the hunt for postseason gold.

This year, the Cubs are currently in third in the National League with a .986 fielding percentage. Over the last 22 games, it’s a .993. In that span they’re 11-9, which is the timeframe that young Javier Baez has been part of the team.

One thing is clear, the combination of the effort put in by the coaches, and maybe the eagerness of the younger players coming in has sparked a defensive rejuvenation in Chicago. Just another sign of improvement, even if it’s hard to see this season.