anthony rizzo hittingAnthony Rizzo congratulated his starting pitcher, Jason Hammel, last night on his first NL win ( The only problem? It was Hammel’s 29th NL win, including 27 with the Rockies and one with the Cubs. Last week. In a game played by Rizzo. This has been an exception to the I-won’t-mention-pitcher-W-L-record rule, as it was a humorous story.

And since Rizzo just got the business, let’s give him some love: dude has been on freaking fire for the last four games. His OPS has climbed from .544 on April 4 to .991 today. His .439 wOBA is 25th best in baseball, and his .459 OBP is 17th best.

Rizzo’s had at least two hits in his last four games, and two of those were started by lefties. Indeed, Rizzo’s line against lefties this year is .389/.389/.444, which is fan-freaking-tastic, especially considering his struggles against lefties last year. The sample size is tiny, but it’s interesting to note that Rizzo has almost as many plate appearances against lefties this year (18) as righties (19). That won’t hold over the course of a season, so, even if Rizzo regresses some against lefties (he will), his overall performance could remain way up there.

Also great on Rizzo: he seems to be going the other way quite a bit, which would be an encouraging sign as he increasingly faces dramatic shifts that will necessarily cut down on his BABIP if he stays pull heavy. It’s early, but check out this spray chart from Texas Leaguers on Rizzo’s batted balls:

Look at all the balls to the left! You still see the heavy smattering of ground ball outs to the right side, which will probably always be part of his game. But the volume of balls going the other way is absolutely staggering.

Compare it to last year’s chart …

As you can see, although there are still plenty of hits to the left side of the field, the vast majority are on the pull-side. We’ll see if this holds over the course of a season, but the early returns certainly look nice. Although you don’t want Rizzo exclusively going the other way (as you can see in last year’s chart, he’s got quite a bit more pull-side power than opposite-field power, which is pretty much true for every player ever), spreading the ball around is going to lead to more production overall.

Good stuff so far, Mr. Rizzo.

  • jh03

    Every time I see his spray chart from last year I love looking at that one outlier wayyyyyyy out there in RF. What a shot.

    • Fishin Phil

      Yeah, that one looks like it landed in the lake.

    • Brett

      Pretty sure that was the opening day blast.

      • Jason P

        No, I think it was against the Rangers at home last April. The opening day blast was like 430 feet; that one was like 480.

      • Jason P

        I could be wrong, of course.

  • Jon

    *423 BABIP

    • gocatsgo2003

      You really never can just be happy about a good early-season performance, can you?

      • Jon

        I’m loving it so far. Just proving the supplemental anecdote.

        • Jon


    • JulioZuleta

      *BABIP numbers don’t translate perfectly when a guy is purposely hitting against a shift, which Rizzo appears to be doing.

      • Brett

        It’s also kind of beside the point when you’re talking about 8 games. The point is, he has succeeded so far at the right things. That’s always nice.

        • TK

          So true. None of stats are worth anything at this point. They need time to accumulate more data and correct themselves. Gotta go by the old fashioned sniff test at this point . . . and so far Rizzo is smelling like Roses.

    • Kyle

      Can’t be, he’s just a naturally low BABIP hitter /lastyearsarguments

      • blars82

        You put your hand upon my hip, BABIP BABIP BABIP.

        • terencemann

          I’m ok being happy with opening week success. I think it’s ok to be happy with a good start and just watch the games and see what happens. If we’re always worried about what the numbers are going to be at the end of the season, then we might as well just go into hibernation for 6 months.

          • Jon

            How come so many people can’t be happy then with Junior Lake has done so far this season, rather than focusing on “the other shoe dropping”

            • Fishin Phil

              I would be happy with Junior Lake as well, but I don’t want to appear too happy. Guy could get tagged with a stupid nickname doing that….

            • TK

              Because a lot of people see Rizzo as a future all-star. They don’t hear similar projections for Lake. We MUST have all-stars at every position! If he ain’t an all-star, he’s trash. Its unrealistic/uneducated fans who are caught up in fantasy baseball and will settle for no less than a Javy Baez at every position. They fail to see the rare value that Lake very well could provide. They just see that he’s never gonna hit 30 HR.

  • MightyBear

    He and Castro are locked in right now. Even their outs are hit hard and they’re both seeing a lot of pitches. Rizzo has walked quite a bit this year already. SSS but the approaches have been dynamite.

    After the last 4 games, they’re probably off Billy Mueller’s ass now. On to something else.

    • TK

      Now if knucklehead would stop breaking up them and Boni with guys like Ruggiano (et al), we might actually find that this team could actually be moderately competitive.

  • candyland07

    We all hope that Rizzo will continue to be successful against left handed pitching . If the Cubs are to be successful or Whatever this front office defines as successful. Rizzo needs to continue to hit lefties . In the last two games he has done great ! and guess what, the Cubs were competitive and the game were entertaining .


  • CubFan Paul

    “he seems to be going the other way quite a bit”

    Toldya so?

  • bazfan1234

    You also have to give credit where credit is due. RR, coaching staff, and the front office deserve some for emphasizing in the spring that Rizzo face plenty of LHP.

    • TK

      Now if they’d do the same with Lake and Olt vs RHP, and they’re successful, we could have the beginnings of a very competitive TEAM that, with (hopefully) Baez, Alcantara, and Bryant next year, could make a legit run for a playoff spot (wild card at least).

  • Featherstone

    I assume the extreme shift that Rizzo has been facing is based on the spray charts of his 1.5 years in the majors + time in the minors. If he starts hitting a lot more balls the other way, is there ever a point where he starts seeing a more neutral defensive alignment or will he always face the shift because he hits so many grounders to his pull side?

  • terencemann

    Just thought I’d point out ESPN makes it easy to see pitchers per PA. Right now Lake is actually pretty close to Rizzo but seeing Trumbo pretty high up on the list just reminds me how early we are in the season.

  • Darth Ivy

    This is awesome! Keeping the small sample size in mind, it’s really nice to see Rizzo improving on his biggest weakness from last year. If he’s gonna take that next step foward, this is what it has to look like.

    And Castro’s homers, noice.

  • Diggs

    Having Bonifacio getting on base in front of Rizzo so much has probably helped as well.

    • Brett

      For sure.

      • Luke

        I’m not so sure. Looking at the spray chart, Rizzo doesn’t have any hits on grounders to the right side this season. Last year the lack of people on base when Rizzo was up meant that the first and second baseman did not have to account for runners but could position themselves just based on Rizzo, and he had a terrible time getting singles through the right side of the infield in part as a result.

        If the Cubs keep getting hitters on ahead of Rizzo I think he will have much more success than last season getting balls through the larger holes on the right side, but from the spray chart that doesn’t appear to have happened yet.

        • davidalanu

          Might be seeing more fastballs though?

          BTW, thanks to whoever referred to Bonifacio as “Boner-Face” last week. I can’t quit thinking that every time he comes to bat now.

        • TK

          Its not just about squeezing grounders thru Rt side. Its also about pitching from the stretch, pitcher worrying about Boni, Castro, etc…, altering pitch selection from what it would be with nobody on. Of course have runners on in benefiting him!

  • MattM

    I really like Rizzo and his swing! In my opinion this has been one of the best trades Theo has had so far.

    I’m also glad to have the statistical information you guys provide because knowing the outlying causes for some of his low numbers last year makes it understandable.

    I bet he has a .375 OBP .280 BA and 32 hrs before the season is over….

  • Travis

    Rizzo is hot. Everything is coming up Starlin. I’m loving the opportunities to be optimistic this year!

  • bnile1

    Posted this on another thread, but it looks like it may belong here instead.

    Has anyone else noticed that Barney is taking some walks this year? He’s currenlty got 5 walks to 2 SO, His OBP is 421 over 100 points higher than his career 294 or his career high 313. At his current pace he would set a new carreer high in walks(36) after just over 100 ab. Small sample size and all that, but my point is that the problem for Barney is not that he wasn’t a slugger, the issue has been that his OBP has been too low to be a regular. If his OBP can be over 350, then with his deffense, he suddenly becomes a solid regular

    • ari gold

      He’s batting in the 8th spot, so he’s getting pitched around to get to the pitcher

      • C. Steadman

        Last year he had a 285 OBP in the 8th spot(370 PA) so that’s still a good OBP for him regardless of who’s hitting behind him.

      • bnile1

        Q the money ball scene:

        Beane- “He gets on base, do I give a damn how?, Pete?”
        Pete- “No”

        Same thing with When. every time he walks he allows the pitcher to bunt, or end the inning so that the lead off guy can start the next inning. the only time he shouldn’t be looking to walk is if there’s a runner on and 2 outs in the first 5 innings(6 or later, a pinch hitter is an option if the scoring opportuinty is that good). Either way, if this a real trend, barney’s stock is on the rise.

        • ssckelley

          That was my favorite scene of the movie.

          Yes, I noticed in spring training that Barney was taking balls and getting on base via a walk. If he can make that part of his game it is a huge asset and this is why I think Barney should be batting 2nd. He is taking more pitches and still makes a lot of contact.

  • woody

    Travis Wood has to be pissed. I’m beginning to have my doubts about Schlitter too. Grimm seems to be the one with the right stuff. Better he had pitched the 7th inning. Russell is washed up plain and simple. How many more games we have to piss away until Happy realizes that?

    • TK

      I was screaming it for all to hear (on the OTHER Cubs MB) since the winter of ’11/’12 (and on this MB since the start of last season) . . . TRADE Russell NOW and get max value, or we’ll regret it. Most people discounted me as nuts. Most people fail to see the big picture and consider how the reality of the present manifests itself in the future.

      Even if he does correct himself sometime soon, most teams are gonna be leery of trading much of value for him now bc the seed has been planted that he’s breaking down due to overuse. We will never get much for him now. So we held onto him all this time to lose 90+ games per season, as if 1 non-closer reliever has much overall impact on a team.

      I think at this point its best to just keep him until he’s total toast. He’ll be of more value to us to be pitching in a couple years than he would be in a trade.

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