Is it a little too early in the season to be anointing this young combo as the best in all of baseball? Sure, but after what we’ve seen in the time since Kris Bryant joined the Cubs there’s little to suggest that we can’t at least start having the discussion.
Anthony Rizzo really busted out last season, emerging as one of the best all-around first basemen in the majors. His ability to catch up to the heater defied what some scouts had said about him earlier in his career and his ability to hit through the shift by going oppo or even bunting defied what opposing managers thought about him.
An imposing physical presence, Rizzo uses every bit of his 6-3, 240 lb frame when he steps into the box and crowds the plate until it almost disappears, just like Mr. Mertle used to do. It’s no surprise that he’s already been hit 6 times in 18 games, but pitchers are throwing away from him plenty as well. Rizzo has taken 13 walks so far, only 2 of which were intentional.
And in those rare instances when pitchers actually give him something to hit, Rizzo is making the most of it. His .344 average is a testament to both a patient approach and an ability to get to borderline pitches, as he showed in the 5th inning of Monday night’s game when he reached out and shot a Vance Worley offering into center for an RBI single.
Between wearing pitches, hitting them, and watching them pass out of the zone, Rizzo has compiled an MLB-best .494 OBP thus far. That’s, um, really good. The dude is getting on base nearly half the time he comes up to bat, which is incredibly good news for the guy batting behind him in the lineup.
After an inglorious start, all Kris Bryant has done is live up to the hype. In fact, and this might be the biggest stretch I’ve made yet, he may be exceeding it. Don’t agree? After 3 strikeouts in his debut, Bryant has only whiffed 6 times in the 9 games since. His batting average is up to .351 after another 2 hits on Monday and he’s also walked 8 times. Oh, and his OBP? Just a paltry .478 (which would be 3rd in baseball if he had enough appearances to qualify).
Pitchers are already treating the rookie like a 10-year vet, as he’s got all the markings of a professional hitter. When Bryant came to the plate in the 5th following that nice piece of hitting by Rizzo, he got down 1-2 on 3 Worley fastballs and then was able to sit on a slider and loft it into shallow center for an easy base knock.
These two guys serve as an incredibly potent left-right combo at the top of the Cubs’ order, but right now they’ve been content to toss sharp jabs. Known for their prodigious power, the pair of sluggers has put up only 2 home runs (both by Rizzo) and a total of 10 extra-base hits (4 doubles each). That right there should be the real scary aspect for NL pitchers.
Because the power is there and it’s coming. Right now it’s almost like a great fighter who spends the early rounds of a match just softening his opponent up with body shots, all the while measuring and timing the haymaker. And when Rizzo and Bryant start dropping those bombs…lights out.
There are plenty of other potent pairs throughout the majors, but none that can match the combination of youth and potential of the Cubs corner men. At this point, the only knock against them that I can come up with is Rizzo’s choice of walk-up music. But hey, if Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch keeps his RizzOPS over 1.000, I’m all for it.
It’s gonna be a really fun summer in Chicago, my frents, and these two are going to be the life of the party.