The New York Yankees are a good baseball team. Contrary to what any rational baseball fan would like to believe, the Yankees currently lead the AL East and are the top 5 MLB in averages, OPS and home runs. They are a great team, and a big part of their attacking prowess in 2022 will be first-back Anthony Rizzo.
The Chicago Cub previously had a tear in 2022. He’s currently leading the Major League in home runs with nine and has scored 0.938 OPS in 107 appearances. I also don’t want to hear any of you complain about his batting average. The .242 average is pretty decent, especially when you’re hitting dingers near one of the 12 bats. Was it the prank of a football field at Yankee Stadium that helped him out? Quite possibly, but he plays well in the park and that’s all that matters.
This is where we start getting into the confusing numbers. Rizzo hit only 0.197 balls in play. Despite that horribly low number, Rizzo still recorded an on-base percentage of 0.355. That’s not normal. It sounds a bit odd, but nothing crazy. But what if I told you that historically MLB has only nine players (including Rizzo) to score a BABIP lower than .200 and still maintain a percentage on a greater than 0.350 basis through at least 100 plate occurrences? In fact, the last time it was done was in 1987 when the 1983 World Series champion Gary Roenicke did so in his first year with the Atlanta Braves.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “So what? Obviously this just means that Rizzo has to walk a lot.” Oh, the opposite, sir! That’s not the case! Rizzo doesn’t draw steps at unusually high speeds. he ranked 70th in MLB in walking rate (10.3%) and it was the third lowest of his career (2021: 9%, 2012: 7.3%). Every other player on the list of nine I talked about earlier recorded the highest walking percentages of their careers (except Charlie Sands who hit the third highest record of his career, but it’s still 21.3 percent).
I know BABIP doesn’t account for home visits, and that’s clearly a factor in this oddity, but it’s not like he’s hit some crazy so far. You would expect Rizzo to hit 13 or 14 by this point or be drawing moves like Yasmani Grandal did last season for these sorts of numbers, but here Rizzo stands firm. He’s still featured with about 15% of the clip. He walked less than ever, and bumped into several Yankee Stadium hosts while collectively documenting one of the rarest (yes, early) seasons in MLB history.
This amazing level will not last. Anyone with a low BABIP will eventually find their way back to normalcy over time. And Rizzo is clearly going to have significant game time this year. As his BABIP goes up, we can also expect to see his on-base percentage go up until one day Rizzo goes from a single snowflake season to another solid season from slugger . Well, it will be fun as long as it lasts.