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Chicago Cubs: Ben Zobrist proving valuable atop Cubs’ lineup

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Apr 16, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs right fielder Ben Zobrist (18) hits a single during the first inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 16, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs right fielder Ben Zobrist (18) hits a single during the first inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /
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Ben Zobrist has proven valuable atop Chicago Cubs lineup, embodying prototypical leadoff qualities, patience with production and setting the tone.

The Chicago Cubs expected Kyle Schwarber to be the primary leadoff man, and while that might still be the case later on this season, Ben Zobrist has thrived in that position for the time being.

As evident by Monday’s performance against the San Diego Padres, Zobrist walked three times, all through the first four innings. His on-base percentage climbed to .361.

Surviving a slow April — he hit .216 for the month — Zo turned it on in May, including a recent surge that culminated in an eight-game hitting streak.

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For the month of May, Zobrist is batting .304, with three home runs, seven RBI, and has a .400 on-base percentage.

Patience is a virtue

One valuable aspect to what Zobrist brings to the Cubs lineup is his patient approach and knack for taking pitches.

While Zobrist has had more opportunities batting fourth for Chicago, he has seen the second-most of his opportunities when leading off. In 34 at-bats, he has a .294 BA, two triples, three home runs, and has walked five times.

A small sample-size but garnering results.

Even with AB ending in outs, Zobrist’s ability to work counts is all part of the leadoff hitters’ responsibility. The rest of the lineup benefits from such intel.

Recently Maddon offered his take on Zobrist leading off for the Cubs on 670 The Score’s Spiegel & Parkins show:

"“Right now, it looks really good. The big part about Zo is he’s so able to work a good at-bat, even if he’s seeing a guy for the first time, of course, that’s going to be a little more difficult. But he knows how to lay off pitches outside the strike zone and force a pitcher over the plate.He’s filling that role well.”"

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While Maddon has said he expects Schwarber to leadoff once again, and sometimes player success is dictated based more on the situation, and not playing every day, so far the strategy to hit Zo first has paid dividends for the Cubs.

Always making the most of the opportunities, it’s nice having a guy like Zobrist in your lineup.

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