ST. LOUIS — When the Cubs are firing on all cylinders as a team and an offense, Anthony Rizzo is usually in the middle of that production. But as the team has scuffled, so has their veteran first baseman.
Rizzo has been one of baseball’s most consistent players over the last decade, but he hasn’t looked like himself in a while and has been searching for answers over the last few months.
The Cubs’ first baseman is slashing .239/.337/.419 with 11 homers this season. But since June 16, he’s slashing just .191/.300/.348 with three homers, leading many to the question — what’s going on with Rizzo?
“I feel fine. Body feels fine,” Rizzo said Wednesday. “But you know, just gotta keep grinding. You gotta keep playing baseball. One little hit here. One little hit there. A bloop single could change it all in a second. . . .
“When you get into ruts, you do whatever it takes. There’s a routine that I have and you just keep sticking to that and keep at it.”
Rizzo went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s series finale against the Cardinals, a 3-2 loss.
What has made Rizzo’s 2021 season so odd has not just been the dip in offensive production. Other areas of his game that always have been strengths also are taking a hit.
While Rizzo still ranks at the top of some metrics like Outs Above Average, there have been some lapses with the glove that he would not have made in years past.
Given everything going on —not coming to terms on a contract extension, the trade deadline being a week away and his struggles at the plate along with back issues that have popped up this season — it’s easy to wonder if it all has taken its toll on the Cubs first baseman.
“It’s a valid question,” manager David Ross said. “I see it as like some of it as maybe just trying a little bit [too] hard. When things aren’t going well, I think that’s natural.”
Rizzo has said all the right things when it has come to the team’s struggles, his status and the situation with his contract.
But for any player in a contract year, playing for your future could naturally linger in the mind. Especially when they’re in an offensive rut.
“I think especially these next two weeks, just day-to-day, focus on baseball,” Rizzo said last week. “All the reports and rumors flying from now until then, you could probably put a full scrapbook together and see the roller coaster that. . . .
“So for me in my position, it’s just staying one day at a time and not really worrying about what’s gonna happen. What’s gonna happen is gonna happen and none of us have any control [over] it.”
“Security goes a long way, just from a mental standpoint,” Ross said.
“I think that’s really what it is at the end of the day. He’s the same player that you guys have all seen and that I’ve seen for a long time. It’s just making sure you’re right, mentally and whatever is kind of baked into that.”
Things haven’t felt right with the Cubs’ offense for some time and Rizzo’s funk typifies that.
“Do you feel the frustration? Sure,” Ross said about Rizzo. “I don’t think we talk in frustration. I think we talk in solution terms or process terms to get out of the frustration or out of the struggles. . . . That’s the right mentality when you start to have those positive thoughts in your head, then good things happen.”