It was another mixed-bag day for Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo in Sunday's 5-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves at Wrigley Field.
Rizzo doubled in the first inning but struck out twice. His double was his 39th, the most by a Cubs left-handed hitter since Mark Grace had 41 in 2000.
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The 2012 and 2013 seasons have been studies in contrast for the 24-year-old Rizzo. He came up in late June last year and put up a line of .285/.342/.463. He had 15 homers at the big-league level and 48 RBI in 87 games.
This year the line is .231/.323/.418 with 22 homers and 77 RBI. The power and RBI numbers are decent even as the averages have fallen. Rizzo also has walked a respectable 74 times.
The term "regression" has been tossed around a lot, but Cubs manager Dale Sveum was looking at the big picture Sunday.
"I think you have to analyze in a way that we know how the game works and it's his first time ever playing every single day in the big leagues," Sveum said. "It's his first time with the pressure of hitting third every single day for the most part anyway. The 22 homers, (77) RBI for a second-year player isn't the end of the world.
"If you look back when you take a second-year player, would you take 20-something homers and 80 RBI? We've put him in a tough situation being a young player, a second-year player. His defense has been as good as anybody's in the game.
"You analyze the year, and it's not as bad as everybody makes it out to be."
Liking what they've got:
Backup catcher Dioner Navarro may get all of the starts the rest of the way with Welington Castillo heading for arthroscopic knee surgery this week.
Navarro has been a valuable player. He has a line of .303/.363/.504 with 13 homers in 85 games. The Cubs signed him as a free agent last winter, and he can become a free agent again this fall.
Dale Sveum said he'd be happy to have Navarro back next year.
"With what he's done with the big hits and the home runs in a small sample is about as good as you can get from that position," Sveum said. "That's what you want, everything, from a backup catcher.
"Welington's put himself into a position to catch more games next year. The sample will be a lot smaller (for Navarro). You have to have people that give us that depth in case something happens.
"That's always the biggest thing with any role player, to always to understand this is what it is and you have to enjoy that as much as an everyday player enjoys being an everyday player.
"Role players have to understand that and know it and enjoy it as well."