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Anthony Rizzo And The Best Batting Seasons In Modern Cubs History

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Here's the companion article to the one looking at pitching from earlier today.

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Lester's addition to the Cubs' rotation gives the team a starter who could put up performance we've seen only rarely in club history, as I noted in this article posted earlier Sunday.

What's the comparable list for hitters?

Anthony Rizzo posted 5.1 bWAR in 2014. That ranked 14th among National League hitters, and Rizzo finished 10th in MVP voting. Where does that bWAR figure rate among Cubs seasons in the divisional play era (since 1969)? Here are all the hitters who have had a 5.1 bWAR or better season over the last 45 years:

Rk Player WAR/pos Year Age Tm Lg
1 Sammy Sosa 10.3 2001 32 CHC NL
2 Ryne Sandberg 8.5 1984 24 CHC NL
3 Ryne Sandberg 7.8 1992 32 CHC NL
4 Derrek Lee 7.7 2005 29 CHC NL
5 Ryne Sandberg 7.1 1990 30 CHC NL
6 Ryne Sandberg 7.0 1991 31 CHC NL
7 Rick Wilkins 6.6 1993 26 CHC NL
8 Billy Williams 6.6 1970 32 CHC NL
9 Sammy Sosa 6.4 1998 29 CHC NL
10 Ryne Sandberg 6.1 1989 29 CHC NL
11 Billy Williams 6.1 1972 34 CHC NL
12 Ryne Sandberg 5.8 1985 25 CHC NL
13 Sammy Sosa 5.7 2002 33 CHC NL
14 Sammy Sosa 5.7 2000 31 CHC NL
15 Ron Santo 5.5 1969 29 CHC NL
16 Derrek Lee 5.4 2009 33 CHC NL
17 Sammy Sosa 5.4 1996 27 CHC NL
18 Sammy Sosa 5.3 1995 26 CHC NL
19 Aramis Ramirez 5.2 2007 29 CHC NL
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/4/2015.

That's an even shorter list than the pitching one. Since Sammy Sosa's monster 2001 season, there have been only four Cubs who have put up a 5.1 bWAR or better year: Rizzo in 2014, Derrek Lee (twice, 2005 and 2009) and Aramis Ramirez in 2007.

Further, since WAR figures are somewhat cumulative, Rizzo could have put up a higher bWAR number in 2014 if he hadn't missed more than 20 games with back problems.

As in the pitching list, the batting list is full of Cubs playoff years and other seasons when they've had winning records. Not all of them, of course, and naturally, you need more than one player to have a year like this to be a playoff contender.

Rizzo's entering his prime years at age 25. Many (myself included) expect him to be a potential MVP candidate in 2015. If he can do that, the Cubs just might have a tremendously improved year.