Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

anthony rizzo on base smile helmetIt is no secret that Anthony Rizzo is off to an amazing start in 2015. The Cubs’ big first baseman has patiently hit his way to a .313/.458/.530 slash line, featuring a 175 wRC+ and .428 wOBA. While I would have guessed that it was possible for Rizzo to outdo his MVP-caliber 2014 season, I would not have said it was probable, but here we are (sample size warning, of course).

Although Anthony Rizzo’s traditional results have, of course, been overwhelming, his approach at the plate has gotten even better than I think we could have reasonably expected. Through 107 PAs, Rizzo has a 14.0 BB% and just a 13.1 K%. Moreover, he has gotten on base in all but two(!) of the Cubs 23 games so far.

Unlike early on last season, though, Rizzo is receiving plenty of attention and praise for his effort. Most recently, Matt Trueblood took a smile-inducing look at the ongoing rise of Cubs’ first baseman, Anthony Rizzo over at Baseball Prospectus.

According to Trueblood, in an era where the aging curve may be skewing younger than ever, it’s encouraging to witness a superstar begin to blossom as he enters his traditional prime years (25-30), thanks to hard work, openness to change, and a mature approach at the plate.

Using graphs and charts, Trueblood examines how and why Rizzo has become one of the scariest hitters to face in the MLB, and the returns are heartening. Without spoiling too much, given that it’s premium content, I’ll share some of the highlights.

Despite only a few home runs so far in 2015, pitchers are throwing around Rizzo more than nearly all hitters in the MLB, leading to an increased number of walks. While many of Rizzo’s walks are situational, most are due to Rizzo’s high frequency of pitches seen out of the zone and his impressive reluctance to swing at those pitches.

Additionally, Rizzo has a uniquely high contact rate (86.7%) for a slugger. That rate is some six percentage points higher than his 2014 rate, and could be the first step to an even scarier Anthony Rizzo – one that hits for an elite average, in addition to power and patience.

While we are all impressed that Rizzo’s has gotten off to such a hot start in 2015, how he has done it has become all the more intriguing. There is a lot more discussed in Trueblood’s article than I shared here, so if you want to take a deeper dive, check it out at Baseball Prospectus; I imagine this article will be just one of many praising Anthony Rizzo this year.

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