The New York Yankees are a good baseball team. Contrary to what any rational baseball fan wants to believe, the Yankees are currently leading the AL East and are top-5 in MLB in average, OPS, and home runs. They are a great team, and a big part of their offensive prowess in 2022 has been first baseman Anthony Rizzo.
The former Chicago Cub has been on a tear in 2022. He’s currently tied for the Major League lead in home runs with nine and has recorded a .938 OPS through 107 plate appearances. I don’t want to hear any of you complain about his batting average either. A .242 average is quite suitable, especially when you’re hitting dingers in nearly one-out-of-every-12 at-bats. Is that joke of a ballpark in Yankee Stadium helping him out? Absolutely, but he’s playing in the park well and that’s all that matters.
Here’s where we start getting into the head-scratching numbers though. Rizzo is hitting just .197 on balls in play. Despite that horrendously low figure, Rizzo has still recorded an on-base percentage of .355. That’s not normal. It may sound kind of odd, but nothing insane. But what if I told you though that in the history of MLB there have only been nine players (including Rizzo) to record a BABIP lower than .200 and still maintain an on-base percentage greater than .350 through at least 100 plate appearances? In fact, the last time it was done was in 1987 when 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? Clearly this just means Rizzo takes a lot of walks.” Oh, contraire, mon ami! Tis’ not the case! Rizzo isn’t drawing walks at an abnormally high rate. He ranks 70th in MLB in walk rate (10.3 percent) and that’s the third-lowest mark of his career (2021: 9 percent, 2012: 7.3 percent). Every other player on that list of nine I was talking about earlier recorded the highest walk rates of their careers (except for Charlie Sands who recorded the third-highest of his career, but it was still a 21.3 percent mark).
I know BABIP doesn’t take home runs into account, and that’s obviously a factor in this oddity, but it’s not like he’s hit an insane number of dingers thus far. You would expect Rizzo to have hit 13 or 14 to this point or to be drawing walks like Yasmani Grandal did last season for these types of numbers, yet here Rizzo stands. He’s still striking out at around a 15 percent clip. He’s drawing fewer walks than ever before, and hitting a couple Yankee Stadium homers all while putting together one of the rarest seasons (yes, it’s early) in MLB history.
This level of awesome won’t last. Anyone with a BABIP that low will eventually find their way back to normalcy over time. And Rizzo is obviously going to see considerable playing time this year. As his BABIP increases, we can also expect to see his on-base percentage increase until one day, Rizzo will transform from a unique snowflake season into just another solid season from the slugger. Well, it’ll be fun while it lasts.