I’m not saying Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo is the undisputed best at his position, but MLB Network somehow believes Max Muncy outranks him.
At this point in the offseason, I’m getting the itch. You know what I’m talking about. A burning desire to hear the crack of the bat, the pop of the mitt and the sound of 40,000+ Chicago Cubs faithful on their feet at Wrigley Field.
But for now, I’m stuck trying to figure out how MLB Network came up with one of the most outlandish claims of the entire offseason. Max Muncy is a more valuable first baseman than Anthony Rizzo.
That’s right. I didn’t believe it at first, but the network’s infamous ‘Shredder’ put together its annual rankings of first basemen – and ranked Rizzo fifth, trailing Paul Goldschmidt, Freddie Freeman, Joey Votto and, you guessed it, Muncy.
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Even mentioning Muncy, a guy who has one 30-plus homer season under his belt, and just 233 big league games under his belt in the same breath as those other four guys is nothing short of an embarrassment. Sure, he helped the Los Angeles Dodgers reach a second consecutive World Series – but this is his first significant showing.
He belted 35 long balls and put up a 4.2 WAR campaign (per Baseball Reference) – finishing the year with a team-leading .973 OPS. He played more than a dozen games at three different positions (which, to me means he’s more of a utility guy than a first baseman, but what do I know). So, yes, he was valuable to Los Angeles and put up some monster numbers. But he doesn’t belong in the same conversation as the Cubs’ unofficial captain.
Despite a tepid start to the season, Rizzo finished the year with more than 100 runs batted in, making him the first Chicago Cubs left-handed hitter to ever accomplish such a feat. He got on base at a .376 clip – marking the fifth-straight season he’s gotten on at such a rate.
When the offense needed a spark, the slugging first baseman stepped into the leadoff spot flawlessly, working counts and punishing pitchers who felt like dropping in a get-ahead fastball to open a game. And he did all this while giving Chicago Gold Glove-caliber defense at first base.
You can’t make the case that Max Muncy is a more valuable first baseman than Anthony Rizzo. Not with any real knowledge of the game. By some measures, he put up a better 2018 season, but you can’t head into 2019 evaluating these guys on one season.
Anthony Rizzo is the face of a franchise – an untouchable if you will. Max Muncy? What a joke.