The Chicago Cubs’ Ben Zobrist has always been a crucial cog on every team he’s been a part of. But much of that was because of his versatility more so than his numbers. Now the 35-year-old second baseman is having a month to remember, and hopefully, the rest of the season will fall in line.
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When Ben Zobrist was signed by the
this offseason, many of us–especiallyJoe Maddon
–knew what the was capable of providing for this team. Upon initially signing, I think most fans assumed he would continue his “super utility” role with the Cubs. But he was penciled in as the everyday second baseman. Once again it looks like Maddon knows how to push all the right buttons.
Since 2009, Zobrist has played in at least 125 games every year. He’s a two-time All-Star, and three times has finished in the top 20 in MVP voting. But never was he really ever handed his “own position” on the field. While he has filled in when the Cubs needed a right fielder, second base has been his. He’s rewarded the Cubs with a .351/.451/.542 slash line, with the .451 on-base good for tops in the National League. And on top of that, he hasn’t committed an error yet this season–although he and Jason Heyward did have a “mix up” that cost Kyle Hendricks his shutout the other day. It didn’t go as an error, but I guarantee Zobrist thinks it should have been.
Maybe Maddon decided at 35 that Zobrist should be playing all over the diamond anymore. Or maybe he felt that he’s put in his “time”, and he had earned an everyday starting spot at one position. Whatever the case, he’s helped fuel the Cubs offense as he and Dexter Fowler (2nd in the NL) have been two of the best at getting on base. When they get on, the opportunities for the rest of the lineup to drive in runs increases exponentially, and the Cubs–after a short stretch of struggle–haven’t missed too many chances.
One of the biggest things this season will be managing time off for players. While there is plenty of youth on this team, veterans like Zobrist, John Lackey and Jon Lester will need time off or fewer innings. Not wearing guys down in the early part of the season so they would be stronger in September and October has always been part of the plan. But how do you take a guy out of the lineup hitting like Zobrist is?
You don’t. You simply wait for him to tell you he needs a day off. On Sunday against the Phillies, Zobrist had an “off day” at the plate. His one good at-bat? A three-run home run. Keep swinging the stick Ben, let Joe know when you need a rest.