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updated: 6/17/2017 9:45 PM

Ostrowski: Rizzo isn't answer for Cubs leadoff man

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  • Chicago Cubs' Anthony Rizzo (44) follows through on an hits an RBI double as New York Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud watches during the third inning of a baseball game Tuesday, June 13, 2017, in New York.

    Chicago Cubs' Anthony Rizzo (44) follows through on an hits an RBI double as New York Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud watches during the third inning of a baseball game Tuesday, June 13, 2017, in New York.

 
By Joe Ostrowski
Special to the Daily Herald

Anthony Rizzo at leadoff? To drive in the pitcher?

Even though Rizzo almost started three straight games with a home run, this isn't the answer and the Cubs know it.

General manager, Jed Hoyer, admitted that to The Mully & Hanley Show on 670 The Score: "It's not a long-term solution, but we do need to find someone that can do that consistently because we want Kris (Bryant), we want Anthony (Rizzo) to come up with guys on base."

The problem is there are only a few players on the roster who are automatically slotted in to play most days and none of them are leadoff hitters.

Joe Maddon has tried seven different guys at the top of the lineup: Kyle Schwarber, Ben Zobrist, Ian Happ, Jon Jay, Rizzo, Javier Baez, and former Cub Matt Szczur. The 2006 and 2011 St Louis Cardinals are the only World Series champion in the last 15 years to try more leadoff men than Maddon has this season.

It's understandable why the defending champs thought Schwarber leading off would work. They witnessed great production as a rookie and in back-to-back playoffs on baseball's biggest stage. Schwarber is also top five in the game with 4.43 pitches per plate appearance to get the opposing starter's pitch count up.

What do you want out of a leadoff man?

Hoyer said, "Having a guy that can leadoff and get on base and sort of set the table for guys like Bryant and Rizzo. It is important and we just haven't gotten that consistent production."

The Cubs' number one hitter has a .216 batting average, last in the National League, and .313 on-base percentage, 24th in MLB.

What's the answer?

Ben Zobrist would be ideal since he's a switch hitter who filled in for Dexter Fowler at leadoff last year, but injuries are piling up for the 36-year old. The veteran was placed on the disabled list with a sore wrist he's been dealing with for three weeks. It was back spasms in April and a stiff neck in spring training.

The answer is a platoon, including a guy that hasn't been given an opportunity at the top of the lineup.

Albert Almora against lefties and Jay against righties. Almora would be the eighth different Cubs leadoff man. He's hitting .386 against southpaws and has a .460 on-base percentage. A .376 OBP over his first two seasons.

Jay has a .414 OBP vs. left handed pitchers and .376 vs right handed pitchers. He's an option to slot in every day, but that would eat into Almora and Happ's needed playing time. Almora and Jay can both play multiple positions.

Why not, Joe? You've already tried 62 different lineups this year. What's one more?

• Joe Ostrowski is a co-host of the "Hit & Run" baseball show from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on WSCR 670-AM The Score with Barry Rozner. Follow him on Twitter@JoeO670.

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