Chicago Cubs: Anthony Rizzo continues to rake as the leadoff man

(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) /
Chicago Cubs
(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) /

Since moving into the leadoff spot, Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo turned it around offensively, swinging a hot bat while many others struggle.

Despite going just 1-for-4 in the Chicago Cubs 9-0 loss in Kansas City Wednesday night, first baseman Anthony Rizzo has put together an impressive stretch lately at the dish. As many of his teammates struggle to find their footing in the second half, Rizzo is as locked in as ever.

Over the last week, the slugger is 10-for-27 (.370) with a .630 slugging percentage, thanks to two home runs and a double). Having a productive Rizzo in the lineup is huge for this Cubs offense. Kris Bryant still doesn’t appear close to returning to the lineup and, aside from surprising David Bote, no Chicago player is batting north of .286.

Still, baseball is one of those sports where one or two guys performing doesn’t get you wins. Just ask Mike Trout. The Cubs are 11-10 in the second half and cling to a narrow 1 1/2 game lead in the division after Milwaukee won on Wednesday.

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"“There’s so much baseball left,” Rizzo said. “We have to play good from here on out. We have a great series versus the Nationals and the Brewers, it doesn’t mean we’re going where we want to go, and if we lose, it doesn’t mean we’re not going where we want to go. It’s a matter of staying focused, playing one game at a time and staying in that moment.”"

The Cubs enjoy a much-needed off-day on Thursday before welcoming the Washington Nationals into town on Friday for a weekend series. The Nats and first-year skipper Dave Martinez aren’t having the season they’d hoped for, but still feature a roster loaded with quality talent.

As for Rizzo, he still has an outside shot at yet another 30-homer, 100-RBI campaign. He enters the off-day with 17 homers and 74 RBI – solid numbers given he hit just one long ball heading into the month of May.

Time to get more traditional?

The real question at-hand? Should Joe Maddon, a manager known for thinking outside the box, keep his slugging first baseman in the leadoff spot?

On the season, his best numbers have clearly come atop the order. It’s the only spot where he boasts an OPS north of 1.000. Six of his 17 homers and a large boost to his average have come here, as well.

You’d like to think a veteran like Rizzo could slide back into the heart of the order and keep doing what he’s done as a leadoff hitter. But, who replaces him as the table setter? At this point, you’d have to go with someone like Ben Zobrist, who isn’t a regular presence at this point. He might play every other day, but you need a stable presence in the leadoff spot.

Lester has struggled and rebounded before. dark. Next

Time will tell which way Maddon goes, but one thing is undebatable. Anthony Rizzo is locked in and, at least right now, is shouldering a monstrous portion of the team’s offensive load in the second half.