Chicago Cubs: Productive in other spots, these two didn’t cut it leading off
With all due respect to the greatest leadoff hitter in history, Anthony Rizzo, none of the hitters who have been with the Cubs the last few years is an answer at the top of the lineup. Rizzo has had the most success there in limited duty, and his career .373 OBP would be great. However, his ability to drive the ball, knock in runs, and hit balls out of the park sort of necessitates him being in the middle of the lineup rather than leading everything off and hitting behind a pitcher.
Ditto for Kris Bryant, who also gets on at an elite rate, with a .385 career OBP. While Bryant has the added speed on the bases you’d like to see from the leadoff spot that Rizzo does not, having him in the two or three slot seems to be the most logical and productive spot for him.
Kyle Schwarber, who has spent significant time over the course of two different seasons in the leadoff spot (2017 and then earlier this year), also has proven to be a bit out-of-place there. While his 2019 encore was decidedly better than his 2017 audition, most of his damage came from slugging from the leadoff spot, not getting on base. In fact, his .304 OBP from leadoff is 20 points lower than his mark for the season, meaning he was about 30-40 points lower than usual from that spot.
Jason Heyward also took his turn in the leadoff spot despite not being real keen on it in the past. Based on the results, I’m sure we can all figure out why. Heyward put up an abysmal .252 OBP from the leadoff spot despite his 2019 on base mark of .346 and career .343 OBP. Don’t ask me how something like that is even possible, but it would seem the current Cubs (other than Rizzo) just don’t like being there or there’s a curse at work (and now Rizzo is hurt, for the record).
Ben Zobrist did a nice job out of the leadoff spot at times last year (.371 OBP) and since he’s been back from leave in 2019 (.370), but he’s not under contract in 2020 and he wouldn’t play every day even if the Cubs find a way to bring him back for another year. They need a consistent and productive answer to the leadoff problem.