Anthony Rizzo’s 2-R HR off AJ Burnett in the first inning of Monday’s game traveled 445 feet according to hittrackeronline.com. (video here)
It’s one of the longest home runs in the 13-year history of PNC Park, and the longest home run of Rizzo’s career. His previous high was a 432′ blast off the Pirates’ Jared Hughes on Sept. 16, 2012.
Rizzo’s opening day smash is the second longest in the big leagues this season, behind Braves outfielder Justin Upton, who hammered a 460′ shot off Cole Hamels at Turner Field on Monday. (video here)
Meanwhile, three former Cubs have registered some of the longest tape measure shots in PNC Park’s history (which, unfortunately, I was unable to locate an up to date list of the park’s longest home runs as of 2012). To the best of my knowledge, Sammy Sosa remains atop the list with his 484′ smash that landed near the base of the flag poles in deep left-center field on April 12, 2002.
Three months later, Daryl Ward, then playing for Houston, crushed one 479′ on July 6, 2002. It remains the only home run to reach the Allegheny River on the fly.
Matt Stairs, as a member of the Pirates, cleared the right-center field seats with a 461′ blast that rolled into the Allegheny on July 21, 2003.
Below is a chart of Rizzo’s home run against Burnett on Monday.
Anthony Rizzo’s strong performance in the World Baseball Classic eased my concerns he might suffer a sophomore slump in 2013.
It’s not that I expect Rizzo to struggle. He was poised and focused from the moment he arrived in late June last summer. And nothing about his 15 HRs, 48 RBI or .285/.342/.463 slash line in 87 games suggest the numbers are phony.
But sophomore slumps do happen: Jerome Walton, Geovany Soto, Randy Wells, et al.
So when Rizzo decided to join team Italy in favor of training with the Cubs this spring (and which the Cubs gave Rizzo their blessing to do so), I wasn’t sold the tourney was in his best interest while entering his first full season in the bigs.
Rizzo, however, played well in his 5 WBC games, and most importantly, avoided injury. At the plate he went 4-for-17, including a couple of doubles, scored 4 runs, drove in some clutch RBI (6) and walked 5 times vs. 3 strikeouts.
Rizzo’s 5 walks led the team. His 6 RBI and .409 on-base percentage ranked second-best on the squad. He added Gold Glove defense at first base.
Not to mention, the underdog Italians won their first two games in round 1 defeating Mexico 6-5 and Canada 14-4.
And they nearly won both their games in round 2, but eventually fell in thrilling one-run losses to the Dominican 5-4 and Puerto Rico 4-3.
The experience of learning from different coaches and playing in meaningful games (let’s be honest, that wasn’t happening with Chicago) appears to have left a positive impression on Rizzo. “It was a great experience for him,” said Dale Sveum.
Is it a sign Rizzo’s on track for another standout season? Let’s hope so. He’s the biggest bat in the lineup, aside from Soriano, and that could change in a hurry if Sori is traded or declines in production from last year.
For the Cubs to have even the slightest chance to compete this season they’ll need all their top guns performing up to standards. Rizzo will obviously play a huge part, assuming he can fend off the dreaded sophomore jinx.
Right now I’d put my money down on Rizzo to be just fine this season, and for many seasons to come.
Anthony Rizzo should be in the starting lineup for team Italy’s first game in the World Baseball Classic this afternoon (2pm CST) against Mexico at Salt River Fields in Arizona. Italy next plays Canada tomorrow (3:30pm CST).
On Saturday team Italy, as part of Pool D (Italy, Mexico, Canada & United States), moves to Chase Field in Arizona where the Italians square off against the U.S. at 10pm CST.
Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk spoke with Rizzo following Italy’s 4-3 exhibition loss against the A’s on Tuesday and asked him his thoughts on being introduced as “Anthony RIT-tso” by the P.A. announcer.
“I think I’ll enjoy that this week,” said Rizzo.
The man Rizzo was traded for, Andrew Cashner, is listed as the Padres’ bellwether player for 2013 by Grant Brisbee of SB Nation.
“Just about the best-looking pitcher this side of Strasburg. But it’s almost certainly preferable to be the best-pitching pitcher. To do that, you have to pitch. The same caveat applies to a lot of Padres, but none more than Cashner.”
Carlos Zambrano is still searching for a big-league contract this spring while pitching for Venezuela in the WBC according to Hardball Talk. Meanwhile, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reports Big Z could pitch in Japan or Taiwan if he doesn’t catch on with an MLB team by the end of spring camp.
Zambrano pitched so poorly for the Marlins through 20 starts last season (5-9, 4.54) he was demoted to the bullpen in late June, finishing the season
(7-10, 4.49) with an 88 ERA+.
Barring injury, however, I think Zambrano lands an MLB offer soon enough– even if he’s so-so in the WBC. With so many teams starved for starting pitching, the 31-year-old should become an attractive arm at an affordable price.
Cubs scouts were on hand to watch left-hander Scott Kazmir throw in a B Game with the Indians this week. As Matt Snyder of CBS Sports points out, Kazmir is only 29-years-old.
“Remember, this is a two-time All-Star who led the American League in strikeouts in 2007 when he was only 23. He appeared to have long-lasting ace potential until he fell apart from 2009-11, culminating with a 17.02 ERA in five starts for Triple-A Salt Lake in 2011. His major issue was control, as Kazmir walked 20 hitters in 15 1/3 innings during that short Triple-A stint. The four spring innings this year are far too small a sample to reach any firm conclusion, but the zero walks so far are a great sign.”
I thought the Cubs would give Kazmir a stronger look last offseason considering they had Randy Wells, Andy Sonnastine and Chris Volstad as rotation possibilities. But if Kazmir shows signs of becoming his old self again, there’s certain to be plenty of competition to land his services.
-Alfonso Soriano: .262/.322/.499, .821 OPS.
Say what you will about Sori, but this was his best all-around season with Chicago. Despite a nagging knee injury, Soriano played in 151-games, hit 32 HR and drove in a career-high 108 RBI, leading the club in both categories, with little protection in the lineup.
He may not win the Gold Glove, but his fielding was the best it’s ever been and the guy earned every penny of his contract setting a positive example for the youthful Cubs both on and off the field.
Now it’s a matter of whether or not the Cubs should trade him this offseason? If so, how do the Cubs replace Soriano’s offensive production, or is it best to keep him for another season?
Honorable mentions: Darwin Barney (clutch fielding, leadership), David DeJesus (gamer, leadership), Anthony Rizzo (sparked lineup, solid defense), Shawn Camp (because Sveum says so!).
-Anthony Rizzo 2012: .285/.342/.463, .805 OPS.
After an underwhelming debut with San Diego in 2011 (.141, 1 HR, 9 RBI) Rizzo revamped his swing at Triple-A Iowa to become a legit hitting threat for the Cubs upon his arrival in late June.
In just over half a season (87-games) Rizzo hit 15 HR and drove in 48 RBI. In addition to his power, he also hit for average, against left-handers (4 HR, 17 RBI) and in the clutch with a sparkling .338 average with RISP. He finished second only to Soriano in game-winning RBI and held down the No.3 spot in the order from day one.
All signs indicate Rizzo will be a fixture at first base for years to come, a perennial All Star and a key figure in the Cubs’ rebuilding plans.
Perhaps the only thing more exciting than Rizzo’s improvement from Year 1 to Year 2 is how much better he could become next season.
Honorable mention: Alfonso Soriano 32 HR, career-high 108 RBI, best defensive season of his career.
The thought Anthony Rizzo’s short, compact-swing would keep him out of prolonged slumps has been true thus far. But the rookie entered the series finale at Colorado on Thursday hitless over his last three games (0-for-11)–marking the first time this season he’s gone more than two-games without a hit.
Prior to his mini-slump, however, Rizzo raised his batting average eight-points (.286-.294), increased his on-base percentage 14-points (.333 – .347) and improved his OPS from .786 to .818 during an 18-game stretch from Sept. 3rd through Sept. 22nd.
That run came to an end with an 0-for-4 outing against the Cardinals last Sunday and continued through the first two-games at Colorado.
Rizzo drew a walk in his first at-bat yesterday before laying wood to a solo home run to right field in the top of the third inning–breaking his mini-slump and ending an 0-for-7 skid on the road trip. He finished the day 3-for-5 with 2 RBI, 2 walks and 1 run scored. And just like that, Rizzo’s slump, if we even want to call it one, is oh-vah!
Here’s the really cool part though, Rizzo’s numbers with Chicago through his first 81-games (exactly half a full season) projects out to 29 HR, 24 doubles and 90 RBI. Not as if we needed further proof this kid’s a legit big leaguer with all the makings of a future star.
You can make the case for a handful of players to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award. Anthony Rizzo is one of them, but he’s likely not the winner.
You can’t ignore the positive impact Rizzo’s made in the Cubs’ lineup since his arrival. But his late June callup puts him behind the other front-runners as far as overall numbers are concerned.
I like the Reds’ Todd Frazier to win the award. He’s played four different positions and was clutch filling-in for both an injured Scott Rolen at third base in the season’s first half and then for Joey Votto at first base in the season’s second half.
Frazier has been the glue for Dusty Baker’s lineup, and playing on a division winner certainly helps his cause.
Bryce Harper, Wilin Rosario (COL), Yonder Alonso (SD), Norichika Aoki (MIL) and Jordan Pacheco (COL) also deserve some looks…but in the end, I put my money on Frazier.
HONORING SAMMY: CSN’s Chicago Tribune Live was debating whether the Cubs should honor Sammy Sosa similar to what the organization did for Kerry Wood on Sunday.
We know Sammy took steroids, we know that was part of the game during his era, but does that mean it’s worth celebrating?
Sammy was both a terrific cheat and a terrific player, especially offensively. But, Sosa’s refusal to admit his mistakes during the steroids investigation along with his unceremonious departure from the Cubs doesn’t help his case to be recognized by the organization.
My feeling is the Cubs honored Sosa plenty with the millions upon millions of dollars they paid him while with Chicago. The fact Sosa left the Cubs, and the game, as a disgrace is on him.
I’m not saying a reunion between Sosa and the Cubs should never happen. But this is a two-way street, and right now it’s on Sammy to right the wrongs, not the other way around.
SLEEPLESS IN GREEN BAY: I hope the debacle of an ending to the Monday Night football game in Seattle finally pushes the NFL to strike a deal with its locked out officials.
To have last night’s contest wrongly decided by the replacement refs, during a prime time game, is surely one of the most feared outcomes by the league during this labor dispute.
The replacement officiating has been a disgrace to the league. What more does the NFL need to see after three weeks (not including the pre-season) of botched calls to understand its regular officials are worth paying top dollar?
Don’t blame the scab refs, either. I truly believe these guys are trying to the best of their abilities, although it’s clear they’re largely in over their heads.
Last week I talked about how professional sports leagues should learn from one another. So let this replacement officiating be a lesson for all other pro sports: pay your officials…they’re the best in the business for a reason–and that’s always worth the money.
There’s no question how impactful the Cubs trade for Anthony Rizzo was this offseason.
January 6, 2012: Cubs trade Kyung-Min Na (minors) & Andrew Cashner to Padres for Zach Cates (minors) & Anthony Rizzo.
With just 36 games under his belt, including this evening’s contest at San Diego, it’s evident Theo & Jed knew exactly what kind of super-talented player they were dealing for on January 6, 2012.
Rizzo hasn’t disappointed. In fact, all early indications show the 23-year-old is the long-term fix at first base and the three-hole; and that’s excluding his potential leadership qualities and ability to become the new face of the franchise.
Andrew Cashner, the prized return piece in the deal, is also a very talented player with Rizzo-like potential. But it’s looking more like the soon to be 26-year-old wouldn’t have been of the same value to the Cubs as Rizzo appears to be already.
Injuries, mainly, have held Cashner at bay since the trade. And while all teams are in need of power-arms, there’s something to be said for the Cubs gaining a solid position player to fill an everyday need on both sides of the diamond.
Historically the Cubs and Padres haven’t hooked up on many trades. Rizzo for Cashner is easily the headliner. But here’s a look at some of the other notable trades between the two organizations:
- June 20, 2007: Cubs trade Michael Barrett & cash to Padres for Kyler Burke (minors) & Rob Bowen.
- July 31, 2006: Cubs trade Todd Walker to Padres for Jose Ceda.
- February 12, 1988: Padres trade Rich Gossage & Ray Hayward to Cubs for Mike Brumley & Keith Moreland.
- April 25, 1969: Padres trade Dick Selma to Cubs for Frankie Libran, Joe Niekro & Gary Ross.
Last Monday the Cubs posted its most runs scored in a single game this season defeating the Pirates 14-4 at Wrigley Field.
It’s also the last time the Cubs won a game, and the lack of offense has largely been the deciding factor.
The Cubs have been outscored 38-16 during its seven-game losing streak. Twice they’ve been shutout, twice they’ve scored one single run, and had it not been for Adrian Cardenas, it’s highly likely AJ Burnett no-hits the Cubs last Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the highly touted Brett Jackson has done nothing but reinforce the worry he strikes out too often (he did so 33% of the time in Iowa) by punching out 8 times in 11 at-bats since his callup Sunday. Josh Vitters hasn’t been much better: 1-for-6 with a double and 2 RBI.
Castro and LaHair, as mentioned in yesterday’s post, continue to struggle going a combined 0-for-7 with one walk and one strikeout last night in San Diego. And Anthony Rizzo posted another no-hit night (0-for-4) dropping his average below .300 (.292).
The west coast road trip can’t end soon enough. The Cubs are (8-13) vs. NL West opponents this year, and all eight wins have come at home.
However, it doesn’t get any easier after today’s series finale at San Diego–the red hot Cincinnati Reds come to town for a four-game set.
Maybe a little home cookin’ is just what the Cubs need to get back on track at the plate?