Results tagged ‘ Anthony Rizzo ’
Comparing pitch charts from the first half to the second, pitchers made some big changes when facing Bryan LaHair. (Photo by Stephen Green)
2012 Positions Played: 1B (65%), RF (34%), LF (1%)
2012 Batting (AVG/OBP/SLG): .257/.333/.442 in 375 PA
2012 Wins Above Replacement (Fangraphs): 0.6
2013 Contract Status: Signed (Pre-Arbitration)
Recent Time to First: 4.7s on Aug. 19 (20 on 20-80 scale)
Bryan LaHair has beat the odds a few times over.
He made the majors despite being a 39th-round draft pick (in 2002). He turned the prevailing scouting opinion of him from “Quad-A Player” to potential regular as he approached 4,000 minor league plate appearances. He even was named a 2012 All-Star despite barely clearing rookie eligibility by his 29th birthday.
The 2012 season was a tale of two halves for LaHair, for reasons both in and out of his control. He was one of the NL’s best first basemen in the first half and showed a model approach at the plate that manager Dale Sveum would like to see spread throughout the lineup. Then pitchers adjusted to him, and his playing time was squeezed by the call-up of Anthony Rizzo. But he showed a positive, determined attitude throughout the year and has said he won’t let his big league opportunity go to waste.
Let’s once again leverage PITCHf/x data, as presented by BrooksBaseball.net and Baseball Prospectus, in order to compare how pitchers approached LaHair as the season went along. Baseball Prospectus gives you hundreds of ways to slice up the numbers. Our own figure below shows the change in pitch location versus LaHair, from first half to second. (For example, pitchers threw 13 percent fewer pitches in the low-and-away square of the strike zone in the second half than they did in the first. With pitches up and in, LaHair saw 124 percent more pitches—or more than twice as many. Note: This is based on the rates.)
In the first half, pitchers primarily worked away from LaHair, hoping to prevent him from being able to pull the ball. LaHair was happy to oblige—he went with those pitches and showed an impressive ability to drive them the other way. In fact, four of his first seven home runs (hit by May 3) were hit left of center field. He finished the first half with a .286/.364/.519 slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) in 261 plate appearances and was selected to the All-Star Game.
But as big league pitchers saw more of LaHair, they adjusted. They started pounding fastballs inside on LaHair before going back to the low-outside corner with breaking balls when the pitcher was ahead in the count. This approach turned out to be successful, and LaHair’s struggles were compounded by reduced playing time when the organization’s top prospect Rizzo was called up in late June. He had a .192/.263/.269 slash line in 114 second-half plate appearances.
The question, of course, is figuring out LaHair’s best role on the Cubs going forward. First base clearly has been claimed by Rizzo for years to come. If Brett Jackson takes a hold on center field next year, then Alfonso Soriano and David DeJesus will get the majority of starts in the corners. So that may relegate LaHair to coming off the bench, where he would be one of the top bats to bring in against right-handed relievers. Cost—at least in dollars—isn’t the issue since he only has one and a half years of MLB service time, meaning the team can tender him a contract at or near the league minimum. Instead, a key offseason priority for GM Jed Hoyer will be determining LaHair’s roster value for 2013.
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Since his June 26 call-up to the big leagues, Anthony Rizzo has certainly lived up Cubs fans’ expectations. In just 57 games, his highlights include driving in the game-winning RBI in three of his first five games, hitting a dramatic walk-off home run against the Cardinals and capping an improbable rally last night with a key ninth inning double to tie the game 11-11 with Milwaukee.
Rizzo’s early success with the Cubs made us wonder about the goals he set for himself heading into the season. Vine Line looked back at our Spring Training conversation with the slugging first baseman in which he talked about coming to the Cubs, saying goodbye to the minor leagues and playing at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs team Manager Dale Sveum takes into September is drastically different from the team that broke Spring Training in April. At the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the Cubs dealt away veterans Jeff Baker, Ryan Dempster, Reed Johnson, Paul Maholm and Geovany Soto in favor of high-ceiling minor league talent that could pay off down the road. This month, Vine Line talked to Sveum about the impact those deals have had on the major league club, what he expects out of the team’s recent call-ups and what he’s learned on the job this season.
To read the full interview, pick up the September issue of Vine Line, on sale soon at Chicago-area retailers. Or subscribe to Vine Line, the official magazine of the Chicago Cubs, for just $29.95.
Santo’s induction? Rizzo’s walk-off? Kerry’s farewell? Even though this season has been a struggle in the standings, there’s been no shortage of memorable Cubs highlights. Which events from the 2012 season made you stand up and take notice? This month, Vine Line is letting you decide on the best of 2012. Cast your vote and see the results in the October issue.
Slugging first baseman Anthony Rizzo leads the Cubs into Cincinnati this weekend to start a four-game set with the NL Central-leading Reds. Rizzo has been playing so well since his call-up in late July, it made us wonder how his early career stacks up with that of 2010 NL MVP and Reds first baseman Joey Votto. We compared Rizzo’s first 43 games with a Cubs to Votto’s first 43 games as a member of the Reds.
Cubs fans hope first baseman Anthony Rizzo will one day fuel the North Siders to a World Series title. While that’s unlikely to happen this season, it’s difficult to ignore the sizzling run the team has been on since Manager Dale Sveum inserted the prized prospect into the third spot of the batting order on June 26. The Cubs are 11-4 since Rizzo’s call-up, having won four straight three-game series and splitting a four-game set with the equally hot Braves.
During this stretch, the pitching has been as good as it’s been all season. Couple that with some timely hitting, and things are starting to click. Vine Line examined why the last 15 games have been such a successful stretch for the Cubs.
Offensive Resurgence: Alfonso Soriano is known as a streaky hitter, but he seems to be finding a more consistent groove. The veteran has hit .286 with three homers, three doubles and nine RBI since Rizzo’s call-up. Geovany Soto, who currently owns only a .189 batting average, has hit .257 with a homer and a pair of doubles in that time. And if you look at the team’s averages over the last month, Reed Johnson and Jeff Baker’s numbers continuously appear at the top. They might not play every day, but they have definitely made the most of their opportunities. Johnson is hitting .440 in his last 25 at-bats, while Baker has hit .318 during the hot stretch.
Starting Pitching: Though Jeff Samardzija has struggled, the rest of the rotation has been the real difference maker for the team during the hot streak. Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Paul Maholm and Travis Wood have gone a combined 9-1 over the last 15 games. In 62.1 innings, the quartet has surrendered a combined 11 earned runs (five of them coming in Garza’s July 5 start vs. Atlanta) and recorded a 1.59 ERA. The group has 46 strikeouts, or 6.67 K/9, while keeping the walks to a minimum (2.46 BB/9).
Anthony Rizzo: It all started with the phenom’s call-up. In his first game, he went 2-for-4 with a double and what would prove to be the game-winning RBI. He’s hit .356/.377/.627 in 61 plate appearances since. His altered stance has rewarded him with four homers, 10 RBI and just six strikeouts. While he’s crushing righties to the tune of a .429 average, the lefty is also hitting a respectable .250 against southpaws with a pair of homers. Many feared Rizzo woudln’t be able to hit lefties at the major league level. To say that Rizzo is carrying the team isn’t totally accurate, but he might very well have been the spark the Cubs were looking for.