Star of the Game – Anthony Rizzo – .321 (WPA)
BREAKING NEWS – The Cubs have a win streak. Last night a win meant the first streak of the season. Nevermind that it comes at the hands of the Marlins. A streak is a streak.
Watching the game yesterday, I came away with two main talking points. If you’ve read my recaps before, you know that I don’t really focus on retelling you what happened in the game. You have eyes and can watch the game yourself. You don’t need me to repeat it back to you. Instead, I try to look for topics to discuss.
A Glimplse of what Rizzo can be – He’s been criticized a great deal this year for the somewhat cold start. At times he’s looked confused at the plate and has struck out more than you’d like to see, but last night we caught a look at the potential that he has. Coming into the game, Rizzo was just 1-for-19 and fresh off an 0-for-4 with three strikeouts on Thursday. He more than made up for that lack of success with a pair of two run bombs to singlehandedly provide all the offense that would be needed in the game.
I’m not going to sit here and say that I know Rizzo is going to be a hall of fame caliber player in his career. No one can project that. What this is important is to set realistic expectations for this season as his first full season in the Majors, and those can’t be for him to win the MVP. We need need to see improvement and progression. There are a few things I’m looking for from Rizzo. If I can see improvement in these areas, I’ll continue to be encouraged an excited about the future.
First is his strikeout rate. We saw in 2011, when he was in the Padres system, a strikeout rate of 21.5% in AAA and 30.1% for the big league club. Last year those numbers hovered around 17% between ML and Iowa combined. For Rizzo, and for any player in general, that’s a huge step forward. This year it’s not gone as well, but if he can get that strikeout rate around 15%, I’ll be thrilled as the development we’ve seen from him in the short time he’s been here.
Second is his walk rate. I want him at or above 10% in this area. By decreasing the strike outs and increasing the walks, it shows that the plate discipline is growing. That should help that power continue to translate to run production. I don’t expect him to be an on base machine like a Joey Votto, but if we can see him just make pitchers work a little harder I’ll be happy.
Third is the power. You might say that third should be the batting average, which I’ll admit is low at this point (.200), but if you look at his BABIP you’ll see that the balls just aren’t finding the holes right now. His BABIP is at .176. That’s going to improve and we’ll see the average increase. I say that third is power because this team doesn’t have a lot of it. Rizzo is projected to be a middle of the order bat and with that needs to come power production. Last season we saw a combined 38 home runs between AAA and ML. It’s tough to just put that as his bench mark since half of those homers came against minor league pitchers, but I think it’s reasonable to expect 30+. That’s what I am setting as the expectation.
Scott Feldman looked much better – His first few outings have been less than desireable and it was looking like his starting rotation spot might be in jepopardy when (and if) Matt Garza returns. Last night he looked really good, with good movement and bite on his pitches. It’s an encouraging sign. He’s not going to be a guy that overpowers you with strikeouts. He’s a guy that tends to throw strikes and wins by pitching to contact. It’s not ideal, but last night it got the job done.
After each game I’m assigned to recap, we take a look at the success of the home plate umpire. Last night’s man in blue was Joe Wolf, who had less than a stellar night making judgement calls behind the plate and came in with a correct call rate around 77%. That’s really below average. Let’s take a look at the heat maps that tell the story.
What you’ll see in this first map is that Wolf was all over the place with his strike zone. It was wide. However, the next graphs give you a little bit better picture as we see that it was primarily wide to the righties.
As a result, we see a correct call rate for the night that was less than stellar. Not a good night for the man in blue behind the plate.