Looking to build on their strong start to a 10-game road trip, the Chicago Cubs could ride the offensive consistency of first baseman Anthony Rizzo.
Before we get this show on the road, a brief belated ‘happy birthday’ to Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo. The three-time All-Star turned 30 years old on day one of a critical stretch of games away from Wrigley Field.
Thursday was also noteworthy because Jonathan Lucroy made his Cubs’ debut, collecting three hits in the team’s 12-5 win over the Cincinnati Reds. Hopefully, things continue to look up for the North Siders and they can separate themselves a bit from the likes of St. Louis and Milwaukee.
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Most eyes (and rightfully so) have been on MVP frontrunners Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich. Given the otherworldly numbers these guys put up to this point, a lot of folks, including Cubs fans, may not realize how strong Rizzo’s performance has been – while serving as the heart and soul of the organization.
Rizzo, of course, was one of the first significant moves of the Theo Epstein era, marking a dramatic shift from the Jim Hendry regime. The power-hitting lefty lived up to the hype, emerging as an offense (and defensive) force in Chicago.
Fast forward nearly a decade, Rizzo has earned a pair of Gold Gloves (and a Platinum Glove), a Roberto Clemente Award, a Silver Slugger – and, of course, a World Series championship.
For now, he’s chasing a milestone that few very Cubs first basemen have reached during their playing days.
History in the making
Entering Friday, Rizzo has slugged 21 homers with 72 RBI while slashing .286/.391/.905. He is currently nine home runs and 28 RBI shy of reaching 30/100 for the fourth time in his career. The last being 2017 in which he smacked 32 homers and drove in109; matching his 2016 campaign numbers in those categories.
Rather than going through the entire history of names who manned first base with the Cubs, I narrowed a comparison window down to three individuals – Mark Grace, Derrek Lee and Mr. Cub himself, Ernie Banks.
Grace, who spent 13 years as a Cub, was never a prolific power hitter, but put together a 17-homer, 89 RBI campaign back in 1998. The four-time Gold Glover never reached 20 home runs in his career but remains one of the most beloved members of this franchise.
For his part, Derrek Lee represented a high point for the franchise for some years. He put up some big-time numbers for Chicago, hitting 46 long-balls and driving in 107 runs in 2005 – and then turned in a 35-dinger, 111 RBI season in his last season with the Cubs in 2009 before the team traded him to the Braves in 2010.
Setting the bar in franchise history
Ernie started his career at shortstop but eventually found himself at third and first base later on in his career. He made the majority of his appearances at first for the first time in 1962, which is where we’ll pick up.
In this case, Banks managed to record 30 home runs and 100 RBI (37/104) only once since making the defensive switch and it just so happened to be ’62. Ahead of the swap, Banks had eclipsed 40/100 five times as a shortstop – so, while a lot of his offensive exploits came as a shortstop, you can’t overlook what he did at first, either.
At the end of his illustrious career, Banks tallied 512 long balls and 1,636 RBI in 19 wonderful years as a Cub. If Rizzo manages to keep up this performance and stick with the organization, could he himself have a bronze statue outside Wrigley Field? Very much so.