Dynasty Baseball

Anthony Rizzo’s May Was A Mirage

Anthony Rizzo is not back. Well, he’s kind of back, but not in the way you think. Is he running hot right now? Sure is, but his batted ball profile from May is anything but typical for the big fella and the things that happened will not persist.

For starters, Rizzo’s May was the least amount he’s ever struck out in a month since at least 2015, and maybe forever. But that’s not the point; the point is that the things that happened that made his May look fantastic are masking the darkness that still lurks in his batted ball profile.

Exhibit A: his inability to pull the ball in the air since last All-Star break has been well documented, by me. I’ll re-share, in case you missed it.

 

Anthony Rizzo Batted Ball Profile Launch Angles Pull%

He’s making his way back to pulling the ball more, but it’s not at that elite level that allowed him to homer 20 times before the All-Star break last year.

Let’s take a deep dive into the Rizzo batted ball profile. If you haven’t seen me break down a batted ball profile yet, you can check out my primer here or here.

Rizzo Batted Ball Profile Launch Angle Exit Velocity

There are a few things that stick out like a sore thumb in Rizzo’s May. First of all, he’s still not hitting the ball 95+ mph very frequently (strongly correlated to Barrels). I can tell that because the boxes in his 95+ MPH batted ball events table were light blue during May. Secondly, he hit ~10% fewer balls on the ground during May. This is good, but it’s very different from the batted ball profile we’ve seen from him for the past 2+ years. Perhaps he’s making an adjustment and it’s allowing him to lift the ball more frequently, but we’re not going to know that until we see a larger sample size. Lastly, he homered on two balls hit above 40 degrees. That’s happened exactly three times in his last full three seasons. His expected wOBA on those balls was ~.000, yet the two homers allowed him to log a .286 wOBA on those air balls. Lastly, other than the HR/FB spike generated in the pull field and above 40°, we didn’t see anything positive on all the balls he hit in the air during May.

Rizzo Air Balls

Rizzo posted a .100 wOBA on balls to centerfield and a .363 wOBA to the opposite field. This is against career averages of .519 and .461 respectively. I stand by the fact that something still doesn’t feel right with Rizzo’s power since All-Star break last year (despite the 7 home runs in May). It was fluky for me. Now, I realize he’s still running hot to start June- he basically hasn’t hit a groundball yet this month. If Rizzo is attempting an approach change to put more balls in the air and try to pull the ball more, but without the requisite exit velocity behind those balls, I think he’ll continue to scuffle from an AVG perspective and from a HR/ISO/SLG/TB perspective in the months where he doesn’t catch some good luck or can’t pull the ball as much.

For me, this Rizzo hot streak provides an opportunity to sell high and perhaps bring more value back in trade than if you would have done so earlier in the year. Or, if you wait later in the year to see if he can get back to being the old Rizzo from pre-2017 All-Star break. Perhaps he’s making some adjustments to add more contact to his game that we hadn’t seen for three out of the last 4 months. As Rizzo starts to age and slow down against LHP in particular he might begin to look a lot more like Jay Bruce than Anthony Rizzo. I’m a seller.

The Author

Jim Melichar

Jim Melichar

Born and raised in southern Wisconsin - a tragically supportive Brewers fan. You can find my nerdy baseball data projects on Twitter @Melicharts.

8 Comments

  1. kelder
    June 7, 2018 at 8:28 am

    You must be a Brewer fan to look for flaws in a highly consistent asset. Seems like you are cherry picking here.

    • June 7, 2018 at 8:58 am

      True story about being a Brewer fan, but I just look for truth in data. I don’t think using 5 months of batted ball data to show Rizzo can’t pull the ball consistently for power is cherry picking. I’m enjoying watching his hot streak right now as a baseball fan and this question came to me from a leaguemate who owns Rizzo and wanted to know what was going on, so I turned it into an article.

      Most of what Rizzo is pulling this year is on the ground. His ground ball spray distribution is 80/12/8. With a 3 year average BABIP of .175/.320/.467 this type of distribution will kill his batting average as he hits into the shift. He’s gotta be able to elevate to the pull side and he’s just not doing that and hasn’t been since June 2017. Do with that info what you will. He’s still a fantastic hitter who puts a ton of balls into play. If his K-rate ever collapsed he’d be in much more trouble.

      One thing is for certain, I’m not saying he can’t change and get back to where he was, and I’ll be the first to note it when he does.

      • kelder
        June 7, 2018 at 11:36 am

        I’m kinda worried about him long term with that back injury. I think it’s a deal for him this year. Also, that darn shift is annoying.

  2. Chud
    June 7, 2018 at 8:36 am

    Good stuff Jim! I currently have Rizzo & Goldy in a dynasty and would like to deal one of them. Who would you suggest holding? Would you rather have Rendon over either of them?

    • June 7, 2018 at 8:52 am

      I’d hold Rizzo and move Goldschmidt. Rendon and Rizzo have nearly identical batted ball profiles since last year with the exception that Rendon is still pulling the ball for power. With the amount of balls Rendon puts into play and his low strikeout rate, I think he’s a more balanced asset. He’s been a bit unlucky on ground ball BABIP to open the year (100 points off his normal GB BABIP).

  3. […] TheDynastyGuru.com explains why Anthony Rizzo‘s May was a mirage. […]

  4. Nuke Laloosh
    June 8, 2018 at 12:16 am

    Last week I flipped Rizzo and Kingham for Gleyber and Soroka in a keep 15. I feel like 1b isn’t nearly as deep as it used to be but I still have Abreu.

  5. Jackson
    June 11, 2018 at 2:37 am

    Good stuff. These inside the numbers articles explaining the underlying reasons for a slump or a hot streak are so much better than —– oh, being told to pick up a guy because he’s been hot lately. We all know who’s been hot lately. Although I don’t have Rizzo on any of my teams I’ll know to be cautious if offered. Side note: It looks like his 2B eligibility will go away.

Previous post

Monthly Prospect Update: Pitchers, May 2018

Next post

The Dynasty Dilemma of Julio Urias