Anthony Rizzo is the heart of the Chicago Cubs. He’s a classic lefty power hitter. He’s a three time All Star. He’s won two Gold Gloves at first. But he’s so much more than a great defender and a power bat. Today’s day of Cubsmas is devoted to the Cubs’ captain who does everything, including six stolen bases in 2018.
Since MLB’s video archivists aren’t as fascinated with Anthony Rizzo: Gazelle as I am this post will be devoted to more than just those stolen bases, but in the interest of kicking things off topically, here’s Rizzo stealing second against the White Sox in May [VIDEO].
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Anthony Rizzo is that we don’t talk about him more often. He consistently puts up above average numbers and he’s consistently one of, but not the most valuable player on the team. He’s always in the league MVP conversation, but never wins. The closest he’s come to an MVP was fourth in overall voting in both 2015 and 2016. However since he hit his stride in 2014 these are the numbers Rizzo has put up for the Cubs:
That’s just sort of who Rizzo is: a consistent and above average presence at the plate and at first base. Rizzo is “sneaky great” as this write up on his potential Hall of Fame case makes clear:
Rizzo being a Hall of Famer is not something talked about often. The reasons for that are those outlined above, culminating in his “sneaky greatness.” Were he a player shattering records and redefining greatness like Mike Trout or Clayton Kershaw, his path to the Hall would be a no-brainer. But the left-handed slugger isn’t a no-brainer candidate, and his career will need to remain on its current trajectory for him to see Cooperstown. It can and should happen though, and when looking at his present numbers there’s ample evidence as to why he should be Hall-bound.
WAR is a great indicator of someone’s odds of making the Hall of Fame. Across the three widely used WAR platforms, Rizzo has accumulated a career 28.8 bWAR, 28.4 WARP, and 25.3 fWAR. Presently Rizzo already has more WAR, in any platform, than a couple of first basemen in the Hall. If Rizzo continues his current production for another five years he’s looking at a career WAR somewhere in the 55 to 65 range. That would place him in the Hall of Fame first baseman grouping of Hank Greenberg, Johnny Mize, Jake Beckley, Bill Terry, and George Sisler.
So today let’s take a closer look at some of the things that make Rizzo “sneaky great.”
The Bunt Defense
Bill Ripken had a nice breakdown of his value to the Cubs at the end of 2017 [VIDEO]:
That piece includes a few shots of the bunt defense, which by itself is one of my favorite ways the Cubs deploy their talent. The key to that defense, however, is Anthony Rizzo. He is agile enough at first to make it work and it’s come up big in some key moments. I mean, look at this outstanding double play [VIDEO].
Anthony Rizzo is not afraid to take on a different role in order to benefit the team. In 2017 Rizzo made a case for himself as the Greatest Leadoff Hitter of All Time, but who can forget his outstanding pitching debut in 2018 [VIDEO]?
Rizzo as a team player shows up in more than his willingness to play whatever role the Cubs need him to play. Take, for example, this moment with Pedro Strop. The Cubs were up one run and had two down in the ninth. Strop had just hit David Freese, and Rizzo was having none of it:
Or what about the time he had taken just one too many quick throws from Willson Contreras [VIDEO].
It’s not an exaggeration to say he’s the Cubs biggest cheerleader [VIDEO]:
His two strike approach
Rizzo is not an easy out and one of my favorite things about him is his two strike approach. In a time where everyone is all about launch angle and dingers, Rizzo is looking to make contact with two strikes [VIDEO]:
That discipline not only helps Rizzo, it sets a good example for younger players like Ian Happ. Who had this to say about Rizzo’s approach in 2017:
“Rizzo has more walks than strikeouts (almost) in an era when guys are pushing physical limits that you’ve never seen before,” Happ said in an interview with Matt Spiegel and Danny Parkins on 670 The Score on Wednesday. “That’s incredible.
“What do you have? 0.4 seconds to react? 0.2 to make a decision? Two-tenths of a second to make a decision! And then you have to hit a round ball with a round bat. That’s not easy. I don’t think so.”
Happ has made a point to study Rizzo’s at-bats carefully.
You didn’t really think I’d get through an ode to Anthony Rizzo without some video of the long ball, did you? Of course not. The thing about Rizzo home runs is that there are a lot of them. However, it’s not just the home runs. He hits storybook shots, like this accidental home run off his knee against the Mets [VIDEO]:
Or another of my favorites from this year, a walkoff moonshot to right in his 1,000th MLB game [VIDEO].
Anthony Rizzo is a very special player and I look forward to him manning first base at Wrigley Field for a long time.
On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me: six Rizzo steals (and so much more), five comeback wins, four postseason appearances in a row, three epic relief appearances, two walkoff grand slams, and a Javy MVP candidate.