Rizzo's two-strike approach among the best

Cubs first baseman shortens up his swing

Rizzo's two-strike approach among the best

ST. LOUIS -- Anthony Rizzo led the Major Leagues in on-base percentage entering Thursday, but what Cubs hitting coach John Mallee is impressed with is the first baseman's approach with two strikes in the count.

The Major League average with two strikes is .180 and the OPS is .500; Rizzo was batting .220 with a .605 OPS heading into Thursday's series finale against the Cardinals. What's he doing?

"He rehearses his two-strike approach in [batting practice], and he does in the cage as well," Mallee said. "We have a term -- it's the 'same pattern, smaller movements.' He does the same thing, but he makes them all shorter so his swing is shorter and he has more time to see the ball. The goal with the shorter movements is contact, and the more contact you make with two strikes, you get the ball in play."

You can physically notice a difference in Rizzo's swing with two strikes -- he doesn't have the high leg kick, will choke up on the bat and has a short swing to the ball. Won't opponents try to adjust?

"It doesn't matter," Mallee said. "They're still trying to get him out in the same way. They're at a disadvantage. It'd be nice if all players had that approach. You look at [Albert] Pujols and Miguel Cabrera, they do it like Rizzo does it, and they're some of the top two-strike hitters in baseball."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.