You know the Cubs offseason was even more off-kilter when Anthony Rizzo, perhaps the happiest and jolliest man on the planet, shows up at The Convention spitting fire. He was pissed about the attempts to trade Kris Bryant, he was pissed about the Cubs refusal to even discuss an extension with him, he was pissed that his owner is a billionaire who can’t seem to find the extra millions to keep the team together. And he was right. And seeing as how Rizzo is the unquestioned heart of this team, it will be he is the indicator of whether this team is going on a Fuck You Ricketts World Tour or is simply going to quit on the front office. I’m willing to bet it’s the former, especially with his Splinter David Ross as manager.
Anthony Rizzo 2019
146 games, 613 PA
.390 wOBA, 141 wRC+
11.8 BB%, 14.0 K%
-6.9 Defensive Runs
Amongst the trash of the 2019 Cubs season, it would be easy for most fans to forget that Rizzo had something close to a career year last year. Highest batting-average, highest on-base, third-highest slugging, second-highest wOBA Of course, some of this can be attributed to the baseball made of aliens. It was the slide in homers that cost him some other career-high numbers, but clearly this was another offensively dominant season from the double-cuatro.
YES! YES! YES!: There probably isn’t a bigger given than Rizzo. He’s been metronomic in his production, with only 2018 as anything resembling an outlier and even that was a 126 wRC+ campaign where he was basically undone by an unusual number of fly balls not leaving the yard. Every other year, Rizzo’s wRC+ is between 135-155, a wOBA of .380-.390, and so on. He hits 27-33 homers, and hits somewhere within 10 points either side of .280. You can just write it in.
There really isn’t anything to suggest that Rizzo won’t put that up again, unless you take his greater tendency to go the opposite way last year as a sign he can’t get around on the fastball anymore. But considering he slugged .679 when going the other way, it would make you think it was on purpose and he wasn’t just trying to jerk everything. Rizzo has always had power the other way, and is a supremely smart hitter, so this just seems part of the blueprint. This kind of suggests it was by plan too…
You’re A B+ Player: Rizzo has turned 30, so there is something of a fear that his decline, if not upon us, is right around the corner. Which is probably why the Cubs were a little hesitant to discuss an extension with him, as they might want to see what the next couple years hold for him. Rizzo’s contact numbers slipped just a touch last year, though they were still above league-average. But this is seemingly very nit-picky.
The main problem with Rizzo is health. The past couple of years, Rizzo has missed a handful of games due to back problems. And back problems don’t tend to get better as you get older. That was capped off by injuring his ankle at the end of the season, which he didn’t really have any business playing on in that Cardinals series last year, but he did it because his team needed him. We’re still talking about a player that appeared in 146 games last year, and even 140 games of Rizzo is enough. The Cubs would probably like more flexibility to get him more days off than they have, and maybe between Baez, Bryant, and Contreras they can find a way to do that. The worry is that the back starts to get worse in a hurry.
But when it comes to Rizz, that’s about it.
Dragon Or Fickle?: As stated above, Rizz is basically the surest bet on the Cubs. Bryant has his health issues, and whether he’ll even be allowed to stay, and how he’ll deal with the rumors flying all year. Javy’s wild ways can always swing cold for a month. Contreras and Schwarber have their contact issues. Rizzo doesn’t really have any of these, other than minor health questions. This year, he probably won’t even have to worry about where in the lineup he’ll be, as it looks like Ross is going to put him #2 and leave him there. So a 135-140 wRC+ season with the usual pretty good defense at first, and the unquestioned leadership.
That’s the one thing about Rizz, is that if he is the leader of this team, and everyone would tell you that he is, then the things that slid under Joe Maddon as far as focus and preparation are partly on him. He has to swing the hammer in the clubhouse, along with Lester and one or two others. Ross can only do so much. While Rizz is out there for the media and take the bullets that way, it’s been said he can be a little quiet in the clubhouse. That won’t fly now, if the Cubs are making their prep and focus a focal point of any turnaround. It’s on Rizz to make sure everyone’s on message. Because if he speaks, everyone will listen.