Chicago Cubs: Top five performances so far this season

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Apr 21, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo (44) is greeted by manager Joe Maddon (R) after Rizzo scored a run against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the third inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Rizzo now a force, leader

At just 25 years old, Chicago Cubs’ first baseman Anthony Rizzo is now the clubhouse leader and a legitimate MVP candidate. No pressure, right?

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If there’s anyone who can handle the weight of a city starved for a World Series title and a fan base whose expectations haven’t been this high in over a decade, it’s Rizzo, who has overcome cancer, early career struggles and more in a still-blossoming big league career.

Two years ago, the biggest critique of Anthony Rizzo was his inability to hit left-handed pitching. He batted just .189/.282/.342 against southpaws, and was regularly benched toward the end of the season in favor of other options. That offseason, he attacked what was regularly called his biggest weakness, and changed the course of his career forever.

Last year, he improved that line to .300/.421/.507 – which was actually better than his slash-line against right-handed pitching. He hit eight of his 32 homers against lefties, and showed that he was willing to shorten his stroke to address this weakness.

In 2015, it’s been much of the same for the MVP candidate, who boasts an unthinkable 1.263 OPS against lefties. His power still comes when he faces right-handers, but it’s clear that what was once considered a glaring hole in his game is no more.

Leading the team with nine home runs and 29 runs batted in, not to mention the 11 doubles or career-high nine stolen bases, Anthony Rizzo is clearly taking his game to a new level, playing for a winner for the first time in his career.

Could the Cubs make the playoffs behind its first MVP since Sammy Sosa back in 1998?

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