Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo has had one of the most up and down seasons of his career so far in 2018. Joe Maddon is great at sensing when he needs rest, and now looks like one of those times.
Around the halfway point of the 2018 MLB season, this year has very much been a slog for Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo. He has struggled through multiple different slumps this season with a few hot streaks mixed in.
July has been maybe the toughest month of the season for Rizzo so far. We all heard plenty about his struggles in March in April, as he batted .149 in the first month of the season with just nine RBI and one home run, which came in the first game of the season.
Rizzo proceeded to get hot in May. He began to look more like the Rizzo we know, batting .303 with seven home runs and 28 RBI to make his stats look much more Rizzo-like. He continued to produce in June, batting .270 with 18 RBI.
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So far in July, though, his numbers are looking a lot more like March and April. He is 4 for his first 27 this month for a .148 batting average and just four RBI in seven games. He has not hit a home run yet this month and has just one extra-base hit in July.
Not cleaning up
Rizzo has primarily hit in the cleanup spot this season, as he has for much of his career. He has made 54 appearances in the fourth spot in the order and 21 in the third spot.
However, despite being the primary cleanup hitter, he has not exactly been cleaning up from the spot. Rizzo currently ranks 10th on the team in FanGraphs WAR at 0.5 for the season, while he has been hitting in the spot generally reserved for one of the best hitters on the team.
His on-base percentage of just .336 ranks behind much of the team, and his .240 batting average and .400 slugging percentage both rank 10th on the team among qualifying hitters.
In need of a rest
In the past, Joe Maddon has been one of the best at sensing when players need a rest. Tuesday night’s contest clearly marks one of those times. He is off to an extremely slow start to the month of July. A game off could do him good—especially after the rough game he had Monday night in San Francisco.
Rizzo made two errors in the bottom of the fifth inning of Monday’s 2-1 loss to the Giants—one of which allowed the tying run to score from first on a missed catch error on a pickoff attempt by Kyle Hendricks. The Cubs went on to lose the game in extra innings despite a stellar start from Hendricks.
Let’s hope a rest could benefit Rizzo by ensuring he does not let his frustration impact him at the plate. The Cubs are in a good spot just a game and a half out of first place. With the All-Star Break coming in less than a week, now would be a great time for a breather. Maddon could give Rizzo a few more games off over the next week to extend a short All-Star Break and get him ready to produce in the second half.
In the past, Rizzo has shown an ability to bounce back with a good stretch after a rest. This time should be no different. A few games off would do him some good—and Maddon clearly recognizes that.