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Cubs Mon Jul 30 2012

Cubs Take Series On Rizzo Walk-Off

Cubs_200.pngThe Cubs are 17-10 dating back to June 26th. And the only reason a random Tuesday in a season filled with awfulness to that point is because it was the beginning to what has been a fantastic first month of Anthony Rizzo's career.

Game winning hits are one thing, but nothing compares to the joyous celebration of a walk-off shot, especially against the arch rival Cardinals. It was Rizzo's first...ever. He had never hit a walk off jack in little league, high school, or the minor leagues, which is surprising for someone as talented as he is.

Rizzo has been nothing short of a revelation thus far. He's a core reason the Cubs have played so well the past month. Sure, the they've had dominant starting pitching coupled with a rock solid bullpen to the tune of only 3.98 runs per game allowed during that stretch, but something can be said for having a steady, powerful bat in the middle of the order.

Since his recall from Iowa (where he lit the world on fire with a .342/.405/.696 triple-slash line), Rizzo has abused National League pitching with the same dose of high batting average and power that has become exceedingly rare in the game. If Rizzo would've spent the entire season with the Cubs, there's little doubt he'd rank in the Top 25 in homers. But only eight of those players are hitting over .300 like he is.

He's not expected to (and probably won't) keep his average anywhere near the .333 line it's at right now, but the reason it's that high in the first place is because of his consistency. Rizzo has avoided anything resembling a slump, having just five hitless games with Chicago (none of which came consecutively), while starting at first base and batting third in every contest.

The same can't be said for the other top hitters for the Cubs this season.

Starlin Castro started out hot, but hasn't been able to find consistency since hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo was sent packing. Bryan LaHair's scorching first six weeks were good enough to get the 29-year-old to the All Star game, but he's hit under .230 since the start of June, and is completely worthless against lefties (.068 average and 25 Ks in 44 ABs). And even though Alfonso Soriano has been sending everything over the wall since he changed to a lighter bat, his first six weeks were nearly unbearable with a .590 OPS and no homers.

Throughout the season, I've felt my job is to temper expectations at every turn. The team, overall, is lacking of talent. If the Cubs went on a short burst, a small sample size was the way to convince the masses to stay on track and not get overly ecstatic. Players, no matter their talent level, needed to be given time to show their skills, even if it included stretches of cover-your-eyes play.

But Rizzo feels different. It's hard not to get incredibly excited about a guy hitting this well throughout the season, major leagues or not. He surely can't do it by himself, but it seems like he's a piece to a championship puzzle at some point in the future.

Don't get too excited, but he's the real deal.

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