It started out as a joke, but I think we can definitively say now that Anthony Rizzo is the GLOAT: Greatest Leadoff hitter Of All Time.
With a home run on the second pitch he saw Tuesday night, Rizzo pushed his on-base streak to a perfect 7-for-7 in when leading off games for the Cubs and he extended his overall hitting streak to 14 games. The round-tripper was his third as a leadoff hitter and put him at 16 total bases in that role, just one shy of the aggregate total (with only one home run) put up by all other Cubs leadoff hitters in 63 plate appearances.
And Rizzo’s doing by being crazy aggressive. Not the most patient hitter by nature — his 3.77 pitches per plate appearance ranks 111th in MLB — Big Tony has been jumping all over early strikes. On the six hits he has collected, the unlikely occupier of the top spot in the order has seen 14 pitches (2.33 P/PA, a 38 percent reduction from his season average). Ah, but what about that walk he took in Pittsburgh?
We can look at that a couple different ways, actually. The first would be to add all seven pitches to the total and say that Rizzo is at 3.00 P/PA as a leadoff hitter (21 pitches). Or we could say that his near home run came on the third pitch of the at-bat and that he’s still only around 2.4 P/PA. Of course, this is all very arbitrary and doesn’t really mean anything, but if you’re sitting there whining about my use of small snippets of data you need to lighten up, Francis.
Rizzo’s most recent home run came on a 1-0 count, as did the first one he hit during this stretch. His other dinger was on the first pitch he saw in the at-bat, same as the double he hit Sunday in Pittsburgh. The aggressiveness, like greed, is good. To wit, Rizzo is slashing .400/.460/1.000 for a 1.460 OPS on a the combination of first pitch and 1-0 counts this season. Small though it is, we might actually be able to take something from this.
Given that he sees about 60 percent first-pitch strikes, Rizzo can sit on a mistake early when the pitcher doesn’t want to get behind. Should that first offering sail wide, Rizzo is in even better position to attack the second pitch. After all, the last thing a pitcher wants is to put a runner on ahead of Kris Bryant. Technically, I guess they’ve succeeded in that three times over the last seven games since Rizzo wasn’t actually on base when the next hitter came up.
And if we’re really picking nits, we could say that they’ve never put Rizzo on immediately ahead of Bryant, who had been either batting third or absent from the lineup in the six games prior to Tuesday.
Either way, this little streak has been a hell of a lot of fun to watch and it’s been great for the Cubs.
I’m not ready to anoint Mike Montgomery as a permanent member of the rotation, but he has looked really good in three starts so far this season. He came out firing last night, spotting the curve and change while using his fastball to great effect. My concern coming into the season was that the lefty couldn’t maintain his performance the second or third time through the order, an issue that certainly didn’t surface Tuesday.
Despite not being fully stretched out, Montgomery looked as strong in the 6th inning as he did early on, touching 94 with the heater and locating it well. It did appear, however, that he’d lost a little faith in the curveball by the end of his night. Some of the usage is obviously dictated by matchups, but the bender wasn’t nearly as sharp and it almost seemed as though Montgomery was cutting it loose and hoping it got near the zone.
The real key for Montgomery was keeping the ball on the ground. He was able to get 12 outs via wormburners and now sits at a 61 percent ground-ball rate on the season. After seeing the other members of the rotation stung by the longball time and again, such a performance from Montgomery was a revelation. He worked quickly, buried the breaking and offspeed stuff, and let the defense do its job behind him.
This start was a good sign for both Montgomery and the Cubs and continued performances like this could really help to solidify the rotation.
More news and notes
- Matt Adams’ performance means the Braves could move Freddie Freeman to third base when he returns
- Freeman’s got at least another month before he’s ready
- Adams could also be moved to left, which worked really well for STL
- The other possibility is that Adams is traded
- Jon Morosi reports that Justin Morneau could be looking for a gig in the second half
- Cody Bellinger (22) and Aaron Judge (24) both homered again yesterday
- The rookies lead MLB in homers
- Bellinger has 68 fewer plate appearances
- Justin Turner had been hitting .399, but an 0-for-4 Tuesday dropped him to .390
- The Cubs are only .5 games out of first now