After a dreadfully slow start to the year, Chicago Cubs slugger Anthony Rizzo is firing on all cylinders as the offense starts to live up to its potential.
I’m not a betting man. But if I were, I’d place solid money on Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo hitting the 30-homer, 100-RBI plateau for a fourth-straight season.
In each of the last two years, Rizzo put up 32 home runs and 109 RBI. Not bad given he’s also an elite defender at first base and the undisputed leader in the clubhouse. Really, he’s the whole package – and anyone who suggests otherwise is a fool.
But, despite his unnatural consistency over the last half-decade or so, those wonderfully unappreciative Cubs fans out there were crying ‘doom’ early in the season. And, make no mistake, Rizzo couldn’t put a ball into open space on the field if his life had depended on it – literally nothing was falling for him.
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In March and April, he posted an unthinkably low .448 OPS. That’s pretty awful. No, that’s downright atrocious. And he knew it. On more than one occasion, you saw him visibly frustrated on the diamond. But, low and behold, the calendar flipped to May and he flipped the switch and cranked it up to 10.
In May, Rizzo drove in 28 runs in 26 games, adding seven homers for good measure. Oh, and he more than doubled his OPS – coming in at .984 for the month. He drew 18 walks, while only striking out 10 times in the entire month.
From really good to really, really good
Then, he decided that wasn’t quite enough. And he took it up another notch in the first week of June. In five games, Rizzo is hitting .389 with an 1.117 OPS – leading the Cubs to within one game of first place entering play Thursday afternoon. As Rizzo goes, so goes his team.
His latest blast, which opened the Cubs’ half of the second in Wednesday’s win over Philadelphia, carried special significance. As Carrie Muskat pointed out, he became the first left-handed hitter to homer off likely All-Star Aaron Nola – and just the second Cubs player to hit 40 RBI this year.
Including Rizzo, the Cubs now have eight players with an on-base percentage north of .350 on the year. As analysis shifts away from batting average more and more, this team’s ability to get itself into hitter’s counts grows even more critical.
And no one does it better than Rizzo.
He’s put the team on his back and led the way, picking up slack whenever he could in the last five weeks. But if the first week of June is any indication, he may just be getting started. That, my friends, is how the Cubs head toward a third-straight National League Central crown.
With a healthy, productive Anthony Rizzo leading the charge.