Cubs

Breaking down the unbelievable leadoff numbers for Anthony Rizzo

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USA TODAY

Breaking down the unbelievable leadoff numbers for Anthony Rizzo

For Anthony Rizzo, leading off has been just what the doctor ordered.

Rizzo was hitting .149/.259/.189 through the end of April; he had been 1 for his last 18. Then he hit leadoff on May 1, hit a leadoff home run and hit a more Rizzo-like .303/.408/.576 with seven home runs and 28 RBIs in 26 games that month.

Fast-forward to July. Rizzo suffered a four-game stretch where he went 0-for-19. Back to the leadoff spot he went. Let’s take a look at Anthony Rizzo in the No. 1 spot.

The Greatest Leadoff Hitter of All Time

Rizzo has 23 career starts at the leadoff spot. In those games: 

.383/.475/.741 with 16 runs, 7 doubles, 2 triples, 6 home runs, 18 RBIs, 14 walks, 13 strikeouts, 3 HBP

In the 23 plate appearances leading off those games:

.579/.652/1.421 with 4 singles, 2 doubles, 1 triple, 4 home runs, 2 walks and 2 HBP. That's 15 times reaching base, only eight outs.

He reached base to lead off the game in each of his first seven career starts at leadoff (last year June 13-20). He reached base to lead off the game in six straight games from July 14-21.

And he has done more than simply lead off games. Take this weekend doubleheader against the Cardinals for example. He reached base four times in each game!

How often does a Cub do that? Not very often.

Cubs with four times on base in both games of a doubleheader since 1950 (“times on base” refers to hits, walks or hit by pitch):

Player Date Game 1 Game 2
Anthony Rizzo July 21, 2018 Hit, 3 walks 4 hits
Ryne Sandberg Sept. 19, 1992 3 hits, walk 2 hits, 3 walks
Ivan DeJesus July 7, 1979 3 hits, walk Hit, 3 walks
Lou Brock Aug. 11, 1963 2 hits, 2 walks 4 hits

Overall, since Maddon placed Rizzo in the leadoff spot earlier this month (8 games), he has hit .556/.658/.815 with 15 hits, 6 extra-base hits and 8 walks, compared to only 5 strikeouts, and 2 HBP.

In fact, in nine plate appearances leading off games this season (including that leadoff home run on May 1), he has two singles, a double, a triple, a home run, a walk, a hit by pitch and two outs. Will he reach on an error or perhaps catcher’s interference? He certainly has had the variety.

This probably won’t last forever, but it does speak to Joe Maddon’s ability to get the most out of his team. And it encourages one to trust in Rizzo’s track record.

Rizzo leads off tonight against the Diamondbacks. Let’s see what he does next.

Christian Yelich to Yu Darvish on Twitter, 'Nobody needs help facing you'

Christian Yelich to Yu Darvish on Twitter, 'Nobody needs help facing you'

In the wake of the cheating allegations surrounding the Houston Astros, multiple parties have weighed in with their takes on the situation, and this includes Cubs starter Yu Darvish. He stated that this past season, he had noticed "weird behavior" from batters. Bleacher Nation then tweeted out a video showing Darvish stepping off the mound in a matchup against Christian Yelich and the Milwaukee Brewers, stating that he stepped off the mound because Yelich's "eyes move first...I'm not sure what he is trying to do."

Darvish then went on to elaborate that he wasn't trying to accuse the Brewers of stealing signs, rather that he was just stating what he had noticed in terms of batter behavior. Darvish made a minor grammar mistake, saying "your" instead of "you're" and when he responded to try to clarify that, it may have accidentally caused more confusion, as some mistakenly thought he was saying that Yelich indeed was stealing signs, but this was not the case.

That didn't stop Yelich from sounding off on Darvish with quite a harsh response, a response that was so harsh that some were shocked at the nature of it.

MLB free agent Josh Donaldson chimed in, humorously stating that he could definitely  use some help hitting off of Darvish and jokingly asked for what tips Yelich might have. 

Darvish then retweeted a few tweets that illustrated the point he was trying to make. 

Darvish also responded to Donaldson, saying that he doesn't think the third baseman needs any help hitting off of him either. 

At the end of the Darvish seems to be in a good place, and from his Twitter interactions, it is clear that he was not as upset or offended over the situation as Yelich was. 

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How the Cubs can get a Javier Báez deal done now

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USA TODAY

How the Cubs can get a Javier Báez deal done now

With the MLB GM Meetings now over, the Cubs will turn their attention to seeing how their fact-finding mission will influence their offseason makeover of the entire organization.

As Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reported on Friday, the Cubs and Báez’s camp have begun negotiating a long-term contract extension. While many have speculated that Báez could command a massive salary that would rank among the top of MLB in terms of the total value, the Cubs do have some leverage. Báez still has two more years of club control, which should help to suppress the contract’s total value.

Put yourself in Báez’s shoes. If the Cubs offered you a six-year deal, would you do it? If you say yes, you have lifetime security for you and generations of the Báez family. However, you could be leaving money on the table because you would never reach free agency in the prime of your career.

Rejecting an offer of that size means you would have to perform at a level among the best players in all of baseball for two more seasons, and you would have to avoid serious injury as well. Báez plays with a flair and a passion that also puts his body in harm’s way on a daily basis.

Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, 27, is two months older than Báez and the highest paid shortstop in baseball at $20 million per season. He signed a six-year, $120 million contract in 2019, which runs through the 2026 season.

Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor — who was selected No. 8 overall in the 2011 MLB Draft, one spot before Báez — will also be a free agent after the 2021 season. He made $10.55 million in 2019 and is projected to make $16.7 million in 2020.

Báez is projected to make $9.3 million.

So, would Báez accept a deal that would protect him against injury and set him up with lifetime security, knowing that with two more seasons before free agency he would potentially leave significant money on the table?

There could be three elite shortstops on the free agent market after the 2021 season: Báez, Lindor and Trevor Story of the Rockies. This may affect what each guy could make on the open market and what they might be willing to accept in a deal now. 

Add in the fact that there will be a new MLB collective bargaining agreement by the time those three stars hit the market, and there should be some impetus for them to get a deal done now. Multiple MLB front office sources expect Lindor to be dealt before he reaches free agency and some of those same sources believe Story could be traded before then as well.

What about a deal that helps the Cubs achieve payroll flexibility in 2020 and 2021 and locks Báez in long-term?

A former high-ranking MLB executive suggested a deal structure that pays Báez $10 million in 2020, $16 million in 2021, plus six additional years at an average annual value of $23 million. That would bring the total value of the contract to $164 million.

Add in two club options for an additional two seasons at $30 million each and it allows Báez to have the largest contract of all active shortstops in MLB. Total value of the deal: $224 million; guaranteed value of the deal: $164 million.

A deal structured like that gives the Cubs certainty with one of their most talented and marketable players and protects Báez from serious injury for the rest of his career.

Would he sign a deal structured like that? I know I would. There is no greater feeling in the world than long-term financial security. A deal structured like this is a win-win for both sides.

If the Cubs won’t give Báez a deal in this ballpark, then they have to think about moving him now. You can’t allow a player of his magnitude to reach free agency and you absolutely cannot lose him to another team. He is on a potential Hall of Fame track and he is one of the most charismatic players in all of professional sports.

This deal has to get done.

If the Cubs can sign Báez for less than the aforementioned deal, then they should consider themselves very lucky.

Either way, get a deal done. Javy Báez has to be priority No. 1.

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