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Anthony Rizzo picked a really crummy time and place to obliterate AAA pitching.

The tidal wave of excitement surrounding Rizzo’s promotion is the product of many things, most of which have absolutely nothing to do with how reasonable minds believe he’ll perform this year at the big league level.

Rizzo was brought to the Cubs, essentially, in exchange for a very popular former first-round pick, Andrew Cashner. He was the first major acquisition by the new braintrust of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, and his arrival was even more heralded since they were the guys who’d drafted him in the first place. Indeed, Hoyer had already acquired Rizzo once before. Clearly they loved this kid, and we loved them, so Rizzo was massively hyped before he’d even played a game for the Iowa Cubs.

You pile on top of that his absurdly good performance at AAA this year, the big team’s crappy season, and the long wait for the Rizzo promotion, and you’ve got a cauldron bubbling full of unreasonable expectations, ponderous hopes, and eye of newt.

I guess what I’m trying to say: pull it back, baby.

Even if Rizzo comes up and dominates, the 2012 Cubs are still going to lose a ton of games, and will, at times, be hard to watch. Rizzo’s arrival won’t change that. I’ll spare you the drama in saying things like “he’s not a savior,” because I suspect you’re smart enough to know that this season is beyond saving. But you’re going to have to remind yourself of this concept each time the Cubs lose a 10-2 clunker, and Rizzo goes 0 for 4.

Further, we have to keep in mind that Rizzo, right now, is just a prospect. He probably won’t come up and dominate.

Rizzo is a legitimately awesome prospect, but the history books are littered with legitimately awesome prospects who never reached their full potential in the big leagues (those books grew by scores in the Internet era). Even everyone’s greatest (realistic) hopes are realized, Rizzo will become a multiple-time All-Star, not a multiple-time MVP. If you told me today that Rizzo would put up a .280/.350/.525 line over the next eight years with the Cubs, I’d take it. He could do a little better, he could do a little worse, but that’s probably where you’re best served setting your hopes.

But you can, of course, be excited about Rizzo’s arrival. He is, indeed, one of the more exciting prospects to show up on the big club in a while, and sports fandom is about enjoying your team. It’s totally fair to enjoy “Anthony Rizzo Day.” (RizzOMG!)

And he really has obliterated AAA pitching. In 69 games this year at AAA Iowa, he was hitting .345/.408/.702 with 23 homers, 18 doubles, and 62 RBI. In 93 games at AAA last year, he hit .331/.404/.652 with 26 homers, 34 doubles, and 101 RBI. Combine those raw numbers, and you get 162 games at AAA, during which Rizzo hit 49 homers, 42 doubles, and drove in 163, all while OPSing over 1.050. Those aren’t just good numbers for a minor leaguer, good numbers for a first baseman, or good numbers for the PCL. They’re just flat out, ridiculously good numbers.

Did I mention that he was just 21 and 22 when he was doing that? That made him one of the youngest players in the league he was destroying. (I’m told he’s pretty slick with the glove, too.)

On that basis, the hype and expectations are deserved. Still, adjustment to the big leagues takes time, and he isn’t going to carry this team on his own this or any future year.

It will be fun to watch his progress, so long as you appropriately guard your expectations. The season is long, and Rizzo is young. He could immediately blow up and kill it the first week. Or, he could struggle, and look overmatched. In either case, you’ll have to remind yourself of the small sample size, and of the progress arc of a 22-year-old prospect.

I hope he reminds himself of that fact, too, as he’s swarmed by the media, or as he strikes out on an Aroldis Chapman fastball.

Keep your heart safe by remembering that Rizzo’s best years may yet be far ahead of him, and we’re still just watching him develop. Here’s hoping his development tracks that of the Cubs, and that his best years align with theirs.

  • TWC

    Huh.  Rizzo’s batting 3rd tonight.  I’m stoked that they’re throwing him right into the thick of it, not trying to protect him in the 7th or 8th spot for a few week.

    • MichiganGoat

      I thought they might try to put him at 4th around LaHair or Soriano, he should get good pitches in that spot.

      • rcleven

        Depends on what Castro does in front of him. Kind of thinking he will be getting a steady diet of being pitched low and away to start. If he goes with the pitch he will be ok.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          I think that it will depend much more on what sort of pitches beat Rizzo in AAA.  If he hit low and away pitches well, then they won’t go there.  They probably will try to beat him the way that they try to beat all other batters these days: strikes in places the guy does not hit the ball well.

          • rcleven

            Should have plenty of data on him by now. Most successful pitchers like to stay down(mid thigh to knees) then move in out up down from there. Most pitcher will also stay away to try to take away the full power of the pull power hitter. Sorri is the exception to rule because he is a bad ball hitter.
            Actually I have always thought the best way to pitch Sorri is start him out low and away out of the strike zone and finish him off high and inside taking his wrist out of play. Verlander was very successful with that approach and gave him fits.

            • Drew7

              “Most successful pitchers like to stay down(mid thigh to knees) then move in out up down from there. Most pitcher will also stay away to try to take away the full power of the pull power hitter.”

              Don’t take this the wrong way, because you are right…

              The reason Verlander could do that to Sori (and just about every other hitter on earth) is because he knows this, and has the ability to execute it. What is true at every level, but especially in MLB: It is very difficult to consistantly hit your spots as a pitcher.

              • rcleven

                I just thought it odd because I don’t see too many pitchers go at Sorri’s hands where I see a big hole in his swing.Every body always attacks with the low and away change or breaking ball as finishing pitches.

                • hansman1982

                  most likely because if they miss, odds are the ball will be in the dirt. If you miss with an up and in fastball it will become a 460′ pitch…

                • Drew7

                  This could be my eyes failing me, but I feel like Sori turns on an inside fastball as well as he ever has, with his weakness being terrible pitch recognition (which explains the breaking pitch low and away).

  • Curt

    rizzo is just the 1st step albeit an important one to the Epstein/hoyer regime if he does well it buys them more patience from the fans,and gets the re-build off to a good start.

  • notcubbiewubbie

    maybe we can bring back cuckoobird quade for a night and bat him eighth like they did to tyler colvin. oh i must have had a senior moment, jim hendry isn’t in charge.

  • Sully

    Hope everything is alright with the family Brett. By chance, will you be at the game this Saturday against the Astos? I’ll be there in the left field bleachers. Gonna be at Yak-Zees around 10:30 am for lunch and brews.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Unfortunately I won’t be back until mid-July.

      • djriz

        Mid July! Isn’t that when Jorge Soler debuts?

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          I’d hope so.

  • oswego chris

    Brett…when you say “retroactively save the Titanic” do you mean with a Time Machine thus wiping away the fact that it happened, or being able to save it with the rest of us all consciously aware of the fact that he can do it?…because if it’s the first one, its gonna screw a bunch of stuff up…it’s going to cost James Cameron a ton of money, and he will probably never get the greenlight to make Avatar, that means less jobs, all Titanic themed museum exhibits will not exsist, costing more jobs and more money, no Titanic musical in the late 90’s, we wouldn’t have that horrible Celine Dion song(oh wait, that’s good)…simply put, I think for the good of mankind the Titanic should remain sunk

    FYI…a fun(and sad) fact about the Titanic…Did you know that there were some first class pets that made it off of the Titanic? and unlike in the movie there would be NO WAY the 3rd class people would have been able to mingle with the 1st class people…

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      This made me smile.

    • Patrick W.

      Well, it clearly can’t be the former, because if he was capable of saving the Titanic, and succeeded in doing it, there would be no Titanic disaster for him to avert by traveling back in time. That is, we would never know about it.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        What Titanic disaster? You mean that cruise-liner that hit that iceberg, but somehow hovered the rest of the way to the States? I’m sure it was a little scary for those folks, but I’d hardly call it a disaster.

        • bacboris

          Brett, Im not saying that Rizzo has to be the one to Retroactively Save the Titanic. But if not him, who?

  • Leroy K.

    I watch the games, here in the UK on http://www.vipbox.tv I don’t know if it will work for anyone in the states but it does for me here. That’s how I’m watching the game. GO CUBS and Lets go Rizzonator!!!!

    • Ralph

      Nice! Thanks Leroy! I’m in the Midwest U.S. and its working fine… I believe I’m listening to Ron Darling… but it works! He’s talking trash about Scott Maine… so okay.

  • Leroy K.

    Sad fact. I am actually a Titanic historian. Know everything about the ship. There, I have outnerded myself.

    • oswego chris

      cool! so were my fun facts correct?…didn’t know we had a Titanic historian on the board…good thing I didn’t say anythig about Jack Dawson and Rose being real…

      • Leroy K.

        Yes you are absolutely right. There were some pets that made it, including John Jacob Astor’s dog Kitty. There were big bars (fences) up in between the decks so that no one could “mingle.” There was actually a J Dawson on the ship, but he was an engineer and not a 3rd class passenger. (yet, guess who’s grave sight has a bunch of flowers on it). And Edwin, the old woman wasn’t real, however the actress was the only one alive that would have been alive when the real ship went down. She passed a few years back though. There are no Titanic Survivors anymore. The last one, Milvina Dean passed away in 07. She was a baby on the ship, and passed along stories that were told to her by her mother.

        • Leroy K.

          oh yeah, and one woman died because she went back to her room to get her dog, by the time she got the dog the water had risen to high, and the boats were all gone. She was found in the water clutching her frozen dog. (Sad)

        • Brady

          Who names their dog Kitty? What the hell.

          • Leroy K.

            The richest (at the time) man in the world. LOL. I have no clue. haha.

    • Edwin

      So that old woman..she was just a big liar, right?

  • HawkClone

    YES! Rizzo batting 3rd tonight!

  • Mrp

    Oh WCIU, how I hate thee.

  • MightyBear

    I believe Rizzo will be fine regardless of the hype. I remember when Sandberg came up and everyone was going crazy about this kid we got from Philadelphia. He then proceeded to go 0 for 25 or some ridiculous shit. He then got a hit and settled in, played Sandberg defense the rest of the way and still batted 270 and got screwed in the rookie of the year voting. Rizzo will be just fine.

  • mudge

    batting third, right on. if it doesn’t work out, i’m going to hang myself again.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Again. Ha.

  • Steve

    We have some very clever members indeed.

    Priceless comments….keep em coming.

  • Cubs Dude

    Where the hell is Soler?? I was excited to see a legit pic of that guy, instead of that generic pic Brett puts up all the time. We spend 30 mill. on that dude, and he becomes bigfoot again?? Kind of a buzzkill. Typical Thed… Hide everything, prospects in all..

    • http://bleachernation loyal100more

      i agree with this cubs dude….how bout some new pics of soler? bleacher nation the challange has been made… lets see if we can beat brett to the punch!

    • LWeb23

      The signing still isn’t completely official, if I am correct. I wouldn’t expect anything new as far as pictures or video (or anything) until his signing is officially announced by the team (which I also assume will have to be before the International Signing Deadline of July 2, when the new CBA begins). Who knows, maybe the signing will call for a press conference featuring Soler.

  • http://bleachernation loyal100more

    ill take a hefty slump up front if rizzo can settle in and contribute the way sandberg did career wise. wasnt sandberg MVP his second year in the league and took the cubs to the NLCS with ron cey and rick sutcliff?

  • Cub Gone Wild

    If we package Barney with Garza or Dempster will the Cubs bring up Junior Lake to play 2B? Supposedly the Rangers are interested in both.

    • Kyle

      No. Junior Lake is not ready to hit major-league pitching, and asking him to do so would likely stunt his development as a player. He also has not played 2b since 2009 in A-ball.

      If Barney were traded, Cardenas would be my guess to get the job as a temporary fill-in.

  • Cub Gone Wild

    I would like to see Junior Lake at 2B for the rest of the season. Bring him up from AA like we did Castro. He is hitting pretty good down their. He is a better athlete than Barney and if we are going to be cellar dwellers then why not.

    • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

      He’s not ready.
      He’s not on the 40 man.
      2B is a waste of his arm.
      He’s not good defensively.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        He is on the 40 man.  The Cubs added him to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.

  • Cub Gone Wild

    Thanks Luke… Do we have anybody at AAA besides Cardenas that can play second? Someone with potential to be a good defender like Barney? If not then I don’t want to see Barney go. He is a good 2B and matches up well with Castro.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Triple A, no.  Amezaga might be the best option, and he’s AAAA fill in at best.

      Double A, maybe.  The jury is still out on Logan Watkins, but there is reason to think he can be Barney-esque.  He needs more time, though, since’s he’s never seen Triple A.

      If Watkins is the answer, then the Cubs would be getting a defensive upgrade who is more of a high OBP / get on base and run type of player than Barney is.

      • Beer Baron

        Are you saying Watkins is (or at least projects to be) a better defensive 2nd baseman than Barney? Because that is saying something considering Barney is currently 3rd in the majors in defensive WAR (for whatever that is worth).

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          dWAR ain’t worth much.

          But yes, I think Watkins can be a better second baseman than Barney.

          • Kyle

            That’s *really* high praise of Watkins’ defense. Out of curiosity, what are you basing it on? dWAR may be a bad stat, but Barney’s defense is universally considered to be plus-plus as far as I know.

            If Watkins’ defense was considered that good, I’d have to think he’d be a much higher-regarded prospect than he is. Top-100 type.

    • Beer Baron

      There is always Blake DeWitt. Who is essentially the same player as Cardenas, but good enough for this team this year. But I agree, not Lake until next July at the soonest. If you absolutely have to promote a prospect, I’d take Vitters before Lake and put Valbuena in the mix at 2nd (and only if I had to) .

      • Drew7

        If Lake continues to produce, I see no reason not to give him a sept call-up

        • rcleven

          Am I correct that the Sept. Roster can be expanded to 60?

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            40. Basically, everyone on the 40-man roster can come up to the bigs if you want.

  • Cub Gone Wild

    I stayed away from those other blogs who post things without references all season. Went and looked at one today and I got depressed about losing Barney in a trade. I don’t want to trade him. He is a real good ball player IMO. I think he will get better as a hitter every year for a while.

  • mak

    I think, for the right price (actually getting some potential SP’s) you can trade Barney because Watkins, Valbuena and Cardenas can probably give you decent enough numbers. Barney has been valuable this year, but we’d be selling high on him (in my opinoin). Wiliken and Hendry stocked the system with up the middle guys and I’d expect guys like DeVoss, Alacantara, Silva to be in the picture by 2014 (the accepted “date of contention” around here).

  • Cub Gone Wild

    Okay… I just don’t want to see us go through second baseman like a 12 pack when we already have a decent one. I like the Vitters at 3B and the college of second baseman in Dewitt, Valbuena and Cardenas for the rest of this year if Barney helps us bring back a nice return. I need to check this Watkins kid out. Is there any video of him both defense and hitting?

  • terry

    crap the game is wciu. i dont get that channel. does anybody? lol anyone know any other channel it might be on?

    • Mrp

      Nope, of course it isn’t on anywhere else. We have to watch the White Sox or reruns of How I Met Your Mother. You would think WGN would have a clause for these WCIU games that they could yank any that were huge games (you know, like this one). Kind of like how NBC gets the flex schedule for Sunday Night Football games.

  • die hard

    OK if Rizzo is not as good as that kid on Nationals, as long as he is better than what Cubs have now is all that matters…..

  • Kevin

    Ripzo.

  • Ralph

    Does anybody know if Rizzo got that ball from his first hit? They called it an error for the first minute or so. I would imagine that they did round it up for him, but listening on the radio does not allow me to make these obsessive observations.

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