Despite putting up MVP-worthy numbers this season, Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo is on the outside looking in at a spot on the NL squad in next month’s MLB All-Star Game.
The logic behind such a situation? Well, honestly, there isn’t much logic to talk about. The voting is 100 percent fan-based, so the simple truth is Cubs fans aren’t hitting the polls like those backing the leading vote-getters.
If not for the outstanding work turned in by Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, Goldy would probably be the first in line for this year’s NL MVP honors given he’s batting .338/.463/.643 for the Dbacks.
That’s not even taking into account that he’s tied for the league lead with 48 walks (to go along with only 51 strikeouts), or that he’s already pounded 16 long-balls.
It’s hard to quantify just how much the Arizona first baseman means to his team, but suffice to say that without him, this would be a largely toothless lineup.
As for Gonzalez, who tore out of the gates to open the season, it’s no wonder he is sitting firmly in second behind the Arizona slugger. Entering play Wednesday, the left-handed-swinging first baseman has a .985 OPS – which ranks fourth in the National League.
His power has tapered off of-late (eight of his 11 long-balls came in the month of April), but he’s continued to drive in runs consistently, while heating up again in June. However, his numbers pale in comparison to the Cubs’ Rizzo.
The 25-year-old has a staggering 1.045 OPS (ranks third in the NL), 11 home runs and 35 RBI. All of these numbers are impressive, but nothing too eye-catching. But what has separated Rizzo from others is his ability to adjust while performing consistently at a high level.
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Rizzo, who just two years ago was a downright laughingstock against left-handers, has turned around his entire approach at the dish, now hitting southpaws better than righties (.302/.416/.593 v .425/.558/.625).
He’s shown that he can not only be power threat, but shorten his stroke to reach base more effectively, as evidenced by the fact that he’s drawn 31 walks, striking out just 27 times this season. Granted, his power still comes from his at-bats against right-handers, but he’s shown that he can be valuable to Joe Maddon even when he’s not launching mammoth home runs.
Furthermore, the Cubs are tied for second-place in the National League Central, trailing only the white-hot St. Louis Cardinals in the standings. A large part of the credit for the team’s success lands squarely on the shoulders of Rizzo, who leads the team in essentially every major offensive category.
The broken nature of the voting system is clear; but one thing is for sure. As quickly as Chicago baseball fans criticize the players’ performances (see Jon Lester‘s most recent start), they don’t back the club in the same fashion.
While the system is certainly flawed, it’s time for the fan base to get behind Rizzo and put him where he belongs – in the All-Star Game next month.