Anthony Rizzo Has Been Even Better Than You Think
There’s no debating who’s been the Cubs’ early offensive MVP.
It’s Anthony Rizzo.
Pick a category, and you’ll invariably find Rizzo at or near the top cluster of the league, across the board. He’s been an absolute run-producing machine, and he’s been doing it with contact, power, patience and more.
Like that overplayed, inescapable pop ditty goes, don’t believe me, just watch:
The conversation on Rizzo starts with that preposterous .470 OBP, which isn’t just in Joey Votto territory, but on par with Votto’s 2012 season, when he posted a career-best .474 OBP. Those are video game numbers.
Fueling Rizzo’s league-leading OBP has been a potent, balanced combination of contact and patience. His .336 average is miles ahead of the .286 rate he put up in 2014, which had been the highest of his young, ascending career.
Then there’s that 13.2 percent walk rate, continuing a trend of yearly improvement:
This is a hitter who, after a few brutal stretches early in his career, has started to put it all together at the plate: he’s laying off pitches he doesn’t like and connecting on the ones that he does.
What’s incredible is that we haven’t even touched on Rizzo’s power yet. Think about that. The centerpiece of the guy’s prospect profile had always been raw, natural power, the kind that produces screaming line drives and looping moonshots alike. And it hasn’t even been discussed yet.
So, let’s look at it:
That’ll work, right? Rizzo has significantly improved his patience and contact, and instead of conversely seeing a dip in power, the usual trade-off, his isolated power rating is actually up from the .240 mark he posted a year ago.
Stitch together the contact, patience and power, all of which have been high-quality through six weeks of the season, and you end up with that monstrous .456 wOBA. You have the composite of an elite, complete hitter.
What about batted-ball rates, though? Isn’t it still that time of year where a lot of numbers are inflated by luck?
Sure. To an extent, luck probably has been in the equation with Rizzo this year. Here’s the thing, though: if anything, it’s actually been bad luck.
Through a month and a half, Rizzo has hit line drives at a rate of 27.7 percent, well above league average. That should translate, roughly, to a BABIP of around .380. Rizzo, however, has posted a BABIP of just .344.
What that means is there’s a decent chance that not enough of his line drives this year have fallen for hits. Some of it could be attributable to defensive shifting, but at the very least, it’s clear that there hasn’t been any helium in Rizzo’s prodigious 2015 numbers thus far.
Now, in that context, let’s revisit the OBP leaderboard, where Rizzo sits only slightly ahead of the Cards’ Matt Holliday, who is sporting a .460 OBP.
Here’s the deal with that: while Rizzo’s offensive output has been entirely helium-free, Holliday’s has been just the opposite. Holliday has posted a line-drive rate of 20.2 percent this year, completely out of whack with his .420 BABIP.
In fact, compare the difference, and the gap between Holliday’s middling LD% and sky-high BABIP is the second-widest in all of baseball. What that means is Holliday has been beyond unsustainably lucky, and that stripping out luck would very likely put Rizzo ever more firmly atop that on-base leaderboard.
Lastly, let’s shine a light on a couple of quirky categories. First, and awesomely, Rizzo has stolen seven bases so far (12th in the league), because his manager is a madman. He’s also been hit by a pitch 11 times already (11 times!), which easily leads the league and contributes not only to that OBP but to the more-complete offensive portrait, wOBA.
So, through six weeks of the 2015 season, this has been a hitter who has produced high-quality contact, patience, power, baserunning and plate coverage, with the peripherals indicating that, if anything, he’s probably been slightly unlucky.
Hail Anthony Rizzo, complete hitter and king of OBP.