Amid the success of so many of his positional teammates here in the early going, Anthony Rizzo has struggled mightily. At least, that’s what the number say.
The star first baseman and perennial top 10 MVP type is hitting just .146/.281/.208, which is 51% worse than league average. Just 10 big league regulars currently have a worst wRC+ than Rizzo’s 49. SOUND THE ALARMS!
… well, maybe. It’s certainly possible that something is wrong. Perhaps the back injury that put him on the disabled list was bothering him for a long time before he sat down, and is still lingering. In that event, yes, I’d be concerned about his production to date.
But absent an injury like that, I have no worries whatsoever that Rizzo will rebound and produce like he always does, given that he’s one of the most consistently solid hitters in baseball (in the last four seasons, his final wOBA has lived entirely within a 17-point range). Moreover, I’m not so sure that a lot of what we’re seeing hasn’t included a ton of bad luck in a very small sample.
- First things first, Rizzo has had just 57 plate appearances this year, owing in part to missing time with his back injury. His teammates are approaching 100 PAs already. A single 5 for 5 day could turn Rizzo’s horrible slash line into a perfectly solid one.
- Rizzo’s walk rate is low for him (7.0%) and his strike rate is high (19.3%), but neither is so completely out of whack that it definitely signals a deeper issue.
- Rizzo’s BABIP (.167) and ISO (.063) are absurdly low, but his hard contact rate is fine, and his soft contact rate is actually lower than it usually is. In other words, his terrible production so far doesn’t immediately appear to be tied to making crummy contact.
- Statcast agrees with that – very strongly:
Per Statcast, Anthony Rizzo has the fifth largest gap between his actual production and what you'd *expect* him to be producing based on the quality of his contact. In other words: it's a tiny sample, and dude's been extremely unlucky. pic.twitter.com/jvpCZkI2d1
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) April 24, 2018
Expected rates are far from perfect, but they can at least provide a general sense in situations like this. And the general sense right now is that, based on his contact, Rizzo is basically being Rizzo. His batted balls have simply found gloves. And when you’re talking about only 37 balls in play, it’s not hard for a few hard luck liners and great defensive plays to completely skew the numbers.