Unfortunately, Rizzo was not getting enough of those chances.
From 2012-14, the Cubs’ slugging first baseman made only 707 plate appearances in which he had runners on base. Eighty-three players in baseball had more plate appearances with runners on than Rizzo. Forty-three players had at least 100 more plate appearances with runners on.
And yet, Rizzo’s .366 wOBA — which ranked 30th among the 161 qualifiers in that stretch of years — were seemingly wasted because of the lack of traffic on the basepaths in front of him.
It has taken a few years, but Rizzo’s good fortune in having runners on ahead of him is starting to change slightly.
In 2014, Rizzo stepped to the plate with runners on in 242 of his 616 plate appearances, or roughly 38 percent.
Entering Saturday’s game against the Nationals, that number jumped to 44 percent — or 104 of 236 PA.
An increase of six percentage points doesn’t seem significant, but it is when you consider Rizzo is slashing .377/.519/.662/1.182 with runners on this season.
Could batting the pitcher eighth be part of the reason Rizzo is getting more opportunities with runners on base? Perhaps.
It is interesting to note that Addison Russell, who has 142 plate appearances out of the nine spot, has been driven in five times by Rizzo, who entered Friday with 31 RBI.
Russell is third on the list of players driven in by Rizzo behind Dexter Fowler (13) and himself (11).
Obviously, putting players with better on-base percentages in front of Rizzo has helped matters. But seeing Russell pop up as the third most driven in Cub by Rizzo is a bit of an eye-opener.
Last year, the two teammates Rizzo drove in the most (other than himself) were the two players who had the most plate appearances in the lead-off spot — Emilio Bonifacio (12 times) and Chris Coghlan (10).
If Rizzo and the batters who hit in front of him can keep their current pace, the offense that has struggled at times this season could still have enough upside to push across some more runs and steal some more ballgames moving forward.