Anthony Rizzo has turned things around in a big way.
After slumping through last season, finishing the 2013 campaign with a .233 batting average and only 80 RBIs, Rizzo is on a tear through the first half of 2014. In 74 games, the first baseman is hitting .284 with 17 homers and is having one of the best seasons of any player at his position, earning him All-Star candidacy.
But how has he done it? What's the difference between 2013 and 2014?
CSN baseball analyst Steve Stone has been studying — and facing — hitters for a long time, and he's noticed the key to Rizzo's turnaround.
"I think with him it was a question of pride," Stone said on Wednesday's episode of SportsTalk Live. "Knowing how easily he was retired by left-handers, he decided to make an adjustment, and that adjustment is pretty easy. Any time you're having problems with a breaking ball away, if you keep that front shoulder in — in his case the right shoulder — stay closed longer, you're going to be able to hit it. I think that's what he's done. I think it was a mechanical adjustment. I think keeping the front shoulder in keeps him closed longer. You can get to the pitch away, you're not pulling off everything. And so it's a testament to hard working on his part, the fact that he is hitting left-handers this year. He's got 17 home runs, I think he's hitting just about everybody.
"It appears, at least for the time being, to be the left-handed run producer the Cubs have been searching for for a long time. ... Most of their talent in the minor leagues is right-handed, and although (Kyle) Schwarber's a left-hander and he's hitting the ball very well at this point, obviously he's still a long way away yet. So they're still looking for a couple of left-handed difference-makers, and I think they've got a keeper in Rizzo."
Check out more of Stone's thoughts on the Cubs — including homer-happy prospect Kris Bryant — in the video above.