After a scorching month of August, Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo is cementing his place amongst the best first baseman in the game today.
When Anthony Rizzo is locked in, he’s one of the best hitters in all of baseball. And we’re not just talking about being one of the deadliest first baseman, either. This guy understands controlling the zone and punishing ‘his’ pitch better than anyone on this Chicago Cubs team – with the possible exception of Ben Zobrist.
After the worst April of his career, we all jumped the gun a bit, losing our minds in worry. After all, he batted just .149 with a .259 OBP in the season’s first month. That’s not a struggle. It’s way past that point.
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But, from there, Rizzo caught fire. He rocketed seven homers in May, batting north of .300. His on-base percentage is yet to fall below .345 in a single month since that dreadful April, where he battled lower back issues that wrought havoc on his swing.
For the Cubs, it comes down to this. When Anthony Rizzo is hot, this team wins. In Chicago victories this year, their unofficial captain carries a .994 OPS. By contrast, in losses, that number plummets all the way down to .620 – hardly what you need from your heart-of-the-order bat.
Depth from top to bottom
"“With Daniel setting the tone at the top, I love the idea that [Javier Baez] stands in the on-deck circle and watches him,” Maddon said. “I love that Rizzo is in the hole and he’s watching. I like that guys are able to see him.”"
With added depth in the lineup, pitching around Rizzo becomes particularly problematic. His corner infield counterpart Kris Bryant returns to the lineup for the first time since June on Saturday, only making matters worse for opposing pitchers.
Imagine what this lineup could look like. Daniel Murphy, followed by the likes of Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo? And it’s not like there’s a drop-off from there, either. You’ve got some combination of Ben Zobrist, David Bote, Willson Contreras, Albert Almora, Kyle Schwarber and Jason Heyward waiting in the wings.
Heating up in August
With the Cubs eyeing a third consecutive NL Central crown, Rizzo kicked things up a notch in August, where the team put together an 18-9 record. He hit .340 and tied his single-month high this year, hitting seven home runs.
Closing the book on the month, he put up a staggering 1.041 OPS. His .612 slugging percentage marked his best of the season – but what’s even more impressive is the fact that, even with all this power, he walked more than he struck out in August.
Like I said, when he’s honed in, he’s one of the best in all of Major League Baseball.
Getting Bryant back this weekend is a tremendous addition to an already potent Chicago Cubs lineup. But make no mistake. This team goes as Anthony Rizzo goes. And if August was any indication, we could be ‘going’ deep this October.