The two home runs Anthony Rizzo launched Tuesday night equaled the number of round-trippers he’d hit over a span of 204 plate appearances from June 16 to August 15. Yikes, just two homers in two months. But Rizzo had also hit a pair of dingers in the four games prior to Tuesday, signaling that the lights are indeed coming back on after that prolonged power outage.
No one could really point to anything Rizzo was doing differently, especially since most of his other offensive numbers were at or above his career marks. Joe Maddon explained that something was simply off with the slugger’s mechanics, which was obvious from the results, and that it was something that had to work itself out.
And while it’s a little too easy to chalk it up to a fluke and say that things were bound to turn around, that’s a lot of what it came down to.
“You’re always fighting your mechanics,” Rizzo told Sahadev Sharma ($). “Just one of those things where you gotta keep playing. I know I can hit the baseball good, I know can play at a high level — I am playing at a high level. It’s just the power will come and when it does, it’ll all click.”
There are all manner of statistics we could look to in order to illustrate what Rizzo has done and is doing, but nothing is more obvious than his launch angle. Just look at how it continued to tail off through July before absolutely spiking here in August.
There may be a little chicken-and-egg thing going on here, since we don’t know whether a conscious effort to get the ball into the air resulted in the increase or just squaring up a few more pitches meant more homers. Judging from Rizzo’s steadily decreasing hard-hit percentage and exit velo, plus what has been only a very modest increase in barrel percentage in August, there’s nothing in his batted-ball profile to suggest the sharp increase shown above.
Maybe it really is just a matter of having things break the right way. Or maybe, even though Rizzo and Maddon have suggested there was nothing mental about it, getting that homer in Philly — his first in nearly three weeks — brought a measure of relief.
Then there was his no-doubter in Williamsport that banged off the scoreboard in left-center. That had to have felt good after a day spend cardboard-sledding down the hill at the Little League World Series. Regardless of the public commentary, there’s a lot to be said for having a get-right hit or two.
“You just stay the course, you know?” Rizzo said after Tuesday’s win. “It’s a long season. And that’s what you lean on. If you start pressing to do things in this game, it usually hurts you. I’ve done it before. I’ve done it this year. I do it every year. It just does no good, so you just keep playing and know that it’ll turn.”
Funny how a few homers can turn things around. Where just a few days ago people were wondering what was wrong with Rizzo, they’re now looking at his stat line and wondering if he can set some career highs.