While Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo may have gotten off to another slow start to begin the 2019 MLB season, it was only a matter of time before he began to find his groove. That time is now.
Anthony Rizzo was hitting just .159 after the Chicago Cubs concluded a three-game sweep of the Marlins on Apr. 17, but his average has climbed to .228 as he has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games.
More importantly for Rizzo and the Cubs, his power stroke has returned. Rizzo was slugging just .317 on Apr. 17, but has hit three homers and has tallied six additional extra-base hits (five doubles and one triple) since then, and his slugging percentage has risen to .485 in a span of just 13 days.
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The tendency to worry about slow starts from star players is hardly abnormal. Cubs fans feel just as tenuously–if not more anxious–about Kris Bryant than they have about Rizzo, and Red Sox fans were clamoring for the old Mookie Betts when he was practically hitting below the Mendoza Line earlier this month.
But star players rally. Bryant has been hitting the ball hard in each of the past few series, and Betts’ average has already soared to .295. As for Rizzo, patience is always necessary.
Plenty of players struggle in the first month. For Rizzo, it has almost become a staple of his character as a hitter.
Last year, he hit just .149 in April. Rizzo had one of his finest seasons as a pro in 2016, but he hit just .217 in April that season. And for his career, Rizzo is hitting just over .240 in the first month of play.
Clearly, these early season scuffles have not stopped Rizzo from being one of the most productive hitters in baseball. From 2015-18, Rizzo hit .281 with a .893 OPS, and his 137 wRC+ ranked 17th in the MLB during that period according to FanGraphs.
Plenty of other signs point to Rizzo “hitting” his stride. According to FanGraphs, he registered a hard-hit percentage of over 44 percent–by far the highest of his career for April–while his soft contact rate was at just 13.6 percent.
Rizzo hit .260 in April in 2017. But he has registered a higher isolated power number and wRC+ this April than he did that season, so he has still been productive.
Despite going just 1-for-7 in the 15-inning marathon against the Diamondbacks, Rizzo is 6-for-15 in his last three games, with another multi-hit performance against the Mariners on Tuesday night.
Remember that Rizzo was one of the lone bright spots during last year’s second half. He hit .329 after the break and .306 in September.
With Bryant coming around and Javier Baez continuing to be a run-producer behind Rizzo, he should only continue to string together good at-bats as we head into May.