Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo isn’t going to win an MVP this year. But he might someday, considering he has shown a knack for being great at the plate and in the field, as well as a penchant for big hits.
Rizzo’s first-inning home run Tuesday was big in that it gave the Cubs a comfortable lead early. Mathematically speaking, it was the most valuable hit of the game. Based on historical win probabilities, it increased the Cubs' chances of winning by 20 percent.
Those are the type of hits Rizzo has been getting this season. He leads the major leagues in the advanced stat Win Probability Added, which measures every plate appearance by a player based on how much it helped or harmed his team’s chance to win.
Big hits net lots of win probability points. Outs in key spots cost hitters. Rizzo’s home run when it was 0-0 was much more significant than his hit that made it 8-0 in the seventh.
What are Rizzo’s biggest hits?
The signature game for Rizzo, in terms of adding value, was May 23 against the Diamondbacks. His first hit was a three-run double that put the Cubs ahead in the fifth inning. His second was a three-run home run that gave the Cubs a 9-6 lead (and win) in the ninth inning.
Another notable hit was a three-run home run July 30 against the Brewers and lefty reliever Will Smith, which turned a 2-0 eighth-inning deficit into a 3-2 lead (and 5-2 win). That came in the first game of a four-game sweep.
Rizzo is hitting .349 in 86 at-bats with the score within two runs in the seventh inning or later. He is 10-for-17 with runners in scoring position under those parameters, which indicates he has been fantastic in the highest of high-leverage situations.
Maybe not the best fit but in the discussion
Bryce Harper figures to be the favorite to win NL MVP honors this year, as his overall numbers overwhelm the rest of the field in a pitching-strong year.
After Harper, there isn’t a clearcut challenger. Paul Goldschmidt and Joey Votto both have fantastic stats, but they play for non-contenders. Zack Greinke has had a tremendous season pitching for the Dodgers, but he’s on a team in which the starting rotation includes another formidable pitcher in Clayton Kershaw.
Rizzo rates best in baseball in the Win Probability stat, and he holds up well in Wins Above Replacement (which combines his offensive numbers and nine defensive runs saved). He entered Tuesday tied for fifth with Buster Posey. But it’s a long way from Rizzo (5.8 WAR) to Harper (8.8).