Sorting Out The Rizz
As I dipped my toe into this whole Cubs/baseball blogging thing, I guess I have to try and make sense of all these numbers I keep looking up and see how they apply to actual balls being thrown and swung at and caught and the like.
The one I’ve been researching most is Anthony Rizzo’s “struggles”. I put that in quotes, because in some measurements such as wOBA and ISO he’s actually pretty close to where he should be. He’s also slugging .460, which is hardly awful. He’s kind of been Old Adam Dunn-ish, which isn’t a bad thing.
But .180 AVG is kind of hard to ignore. Why is that low? It’s really hard to figure out.
You want to first conclude if he’s swinging at pitches he shouldn’t, or if something has gone wrong with his pitch selection like it has with one Adam Dunn this year. But the numbers so far don’t bare that out, with the caveat that two and a half weeks in a microscopical sample size.
In reality, Rizzo’s discipline has gone up. He’s swinging at a lower percentage of balls outside the zone by about 11% from last year. Overall, he’s swinging at less pitches by about 7%. His contact rates on pitches outside and inside the zone are just about the same, too. So maybe he is looking at more strikes, but not by a huge percentage.
When you look at the kind of contact he’s making, his line-drive rate is almost identical to what it was last year. So when he does make contact, he’s making good contact at the same rate he was last year.
But his K-rate is way up, as he’s on pace to strike out somewhere around 170 times, which would be about 50 more than he was on pace for last year.
Also, his BABIP is an absurdly low .167, and that’s just not going to stay there all year. Even if it went up by 100 points, it would still be low but Rizzo’s OBP would then look pretty remarkable. That’s also deflated by the fact that such a large percentage of Rizzo’s hits have been homers, which get thrown out of BABIP.
The only thing left to conclude is it’s a combination of all these factors. Rizzo is trying to be more selective at the plate, and hence is looking at more strikes and getting behind in the count. But that’s what we want out of him, and is far more likely to lead to more pitches to hit than something bad. Perhaps he’s just collecting a larger percentage of his K’s for the year now, and that will even out with a lower portion of them later in the season.
He’s also been unlucky, as when he’s not sending the ball out of the park it’s being caught an inordinate amount of the time. Encouraging is he’s hitting flyballs more often than last year and less ground balls, and that’s what you want out of a power hitter. Especially when such a large chunk of his flies end up in someone’s nachos.
In the end, it doesn’t appear there’s much to worry about statistically. If there’s something mechanical in his swing I’m not seeing, that could be the problem. But I don’t have as good a scout’s eye as I’m sure some of you do.