Last fall, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo went viral on the internet after he revealed that he broke out of a postseason slump with the help of a borrowed bat from teammate Matt Szczur. But at the time, Rizzo didn't give the full story.
I pulled Rizzo aside on the eve of the World Series, just after he had finished his media day obligations at Progressive Field, in which yet again Rizzo led people to believe that his bat and Szczur’s were similar, except for the incredible luck Szczur’s bat brought him. Rizzo made a confession to me, but only after he made me promise it was off the record until the World Series was over. I agreed. Szczur’s bat was significantly smaller than his own: one inch shorter and two ounces lighter. Rizzo switched bats not for luck, but as a concession to losing strength and bat speed.
“It allowed me to free up my hands and not have to use my body,” he said. “Because at the end of the year I was so beat, I guess. In the beginning of the playoffs I was missing fastballs. I kept asking myself, why? My swing is good. It could be psychological, but I think not. But I think taking the extra inch off and lightening my bat, I started to get to those pitches again.”
Rizzo knew that because of the way he struggled early in the playoffs, scouting reports on him would say that his bat was slow and that he could be beaten with fastballs. Meanwhile, with Szczur’s bat, he actually was much quicker to the ball. It was a secret he enjoyed for the final 10 postseason games, during which he hit .432.