One month ago, on August 17, Anthony Rizzo was hitting a whopping .250/.433/.500 with a 157 wRC+. For a Cubs offense that was hurting without the contributions of Kris Bryant and Javy Báez, it was great to know that Rizzo was always gonna Rizzo.
Of course, over the next month, through Wednesday’s Cubs game, Rizzo hit just .200/.271/.343 with a 54 wRC+. His season numbers now peg him as a merely league-average hitter in 2020. What happened to Rizzo always gonna Rizzo?
But the thing is, that *is* Rizzo doing what he does. We’ve seen him go through long slumps before, and he’s always been one of the Cubs’ streakiest hitters. It’s weird to say for a guy whose final results are absurdly consistent, but this is just what he does. And if you don’t see anything in the peripherals that terrifies you, then you can just presume he’ll get it back eventually.
So, even as he was going through this abysmal stretch of results, I didn’t really worry. For one thing, he doesn’t LOOK bad up there like the other struggling stars have. For another thing, he’s still taking walks, he’s not striking out, his power didn’t totally evaporate, and the biggest culprit has been a .198 BABIP that doesn’t look at all justified by his contact. I mean, off the top of my head I can think of five to 10 smashes in the last few weeks that’ve found gloves.
Adding to that, on the year, Rizzo has been one of the most unlucky hitters by the expected metrics at Statcast. The difference between his expected batting average (based on contact quality) and his actual batting average is a whopping 56 points, 12th highest in baseball. He’s also off by 32 points in expected slugging. Take it together, and his expected wOBA is 46 points higher than his actual wOBA, the 37th most unlucky hitter in baseball.
None of that stuff has been the case for Bryant or Báez, unfortunately.
Throw in what David Ross told The Athletic about Rizzo, and it’s pretty clear why he doesn’t get our oh-no-I’m-concerned! attention in the same way the other guys have: “He carries it a different way than other guys,” Ross said, “so it’s easier to trust that he’s going to come out of it. You know he’s not the guy that’s going to break a lot of things or snap in the dugout or let it affect his defense or how he carries himself with the group. He grinds.”
So, now we just hope that Rizzo’s recent success the last few games is a sign of the results balancing themselves out, and one of his crazy hot streaks is kicking off.