Chicago Cubs: There’s no questioning Anthony Rizzo’s eye at the plate
Last week, a piggybacked off the MLB.com article about each team’s best pure hitter. This week, we’re talking the best batting eye on the Chicago Cubs.
Being your team’s best pure hitter and having the best batting eye kind of go hand-in-hand. If you don’t have a good eye, you’re likely not going to A) do damage on the pitches you need to do damage on or B) know when to lay off, shorten up and just make contact. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to exist in the world of three true outcomes as a a hitter, even in today’s game.
For the Chicago Cubs, it’s long been considered that Anthony Rizzo is the team’s best pure hitter. As capable of moving a runner over by hitting the ball on the ground to the right side as he is of blasting a 400-foot shot off the right field video board, the three-time All-Star has been a true model of consistency during his Cubs career.
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So, we know he’s the team’s best pure hitter. That’s not to discredit guys like Kris Bryant or Kyle Schwarber by any means. It’s just how it is. Where he really separates himself from the pack, though, is with his eye. This, from MLB.com.
"“Rizzo had a 14 percent strikeout rate in ’19, and he led Cubs regulars with an 82 percent contact rate. His 8.2 percent swinging strike rate was also best among Chicago’s lineup fixtures. And, to go one layer deeper, Statcast shows that Rizzo swung and missed at 10.7 percent of the pitches he saw in two-strike counts. For comparison, free-swinging teammate Javier Báez has a 21.7 percent rate.”"
There’s a lot more to having a good eye than walk rate, as the article correctly points out. That’s not to say Rizzo doesn’t draw his fair share of free passes – we all know that to be the case, as he regularly runs his OBP up near the .400 mark. But it’s stepping to the plate, knowing the situation and knowing what pitch he’s looking for that makes him such a well-rounded threat every time he steps in.
Since 2015, Rizzo has accumulated 21.0 WAR, according to Fangraphs – the fourth-highest mark among NL first basemen during that span. He’s done it by becoming an elite defender at first base (remember, he’s got three Gold Gloves and a Platinum Glove to his name) and adapting his game to the point he’s now trusted against left and right-handed pitchers, something that was unfathomable early on in his career.
We may be nearing the end of Rizzo’s tenure on the North Side. The team has one more option over him for 2021, then he’s poised to hit free agency for the first time in his career. No one knows what the market will look like for a first baseman on the wrong side of 30, but his unmatched eye and approach at the plate makes him a good bet to keep doing damage of all kinds for years to come.