The New York Yankees are a good baseball team. Contrary to what any rational baseball fan would like to believe, the Yankees currently lead the American League East and are in the top five in MLB in average, OPS and home runs. They’re 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 roll in 2022. He is currently tied for the major league lead in home runs with nine and has posted a .938 OPS in 107 plate appearances. I also don’t want to hear any of you complain about his batting average. A .242 average is pretty adequate, especially when you’re hitting home runs almost one in 12 at-bats. Is that joke about a ballpark at Yankee Stadium helping you? Absolutely, but he’s playing well at the park and that’s all that matters.
However, this is where we start to get into the head-scratching numbers. Rizzo is hitting just .197 on balls in play. Despite that terrifyingly low number, Rizzo has still posted a .355 on-base percentage. That’s not normal. It may sound a bit strange, but nothing crazy. But what if I told you that in the history of the MLB there has only been nine players (including Rizzo) to post a BABIP below .200 and still maintain an on-base percentage above .350 in at least 100 plate appearances? In fact, the last time it was done was in 1987 when the 1983 World Series champion gary roenicke he did it 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, on the contrary, mon ami! Not the case! Rizzo isn’t drawing walks at an abnormally high rate. 70 in the 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 talked about earlier posted the highest walk rates of their careers (except for charlie sands who posted 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 weirdness, but it’s not like I’ve hit an unbelievable number of home runs so far. One would expect Rizzo to have hit 13 or 14 to this point or that he’s walking like Yasmani Grandal did last season for these kinds of numbers, but here’s Rizzo. He still strikes out at a rate of about 15 percent. He’s drawing fewer walks than ever before and hitting a pair of home runs at Yankee Stadium as he puts together one of the weirdest seasons (yes, it’s early) in MLB history.
This level of awesome will not last. Anyone with a BABIP that low will eventually find their way back to normal over time. And Rizzo will obviously see some considerable playing time this year. As he increases his BABIP, we can also expect to see his on-base percentage increase until one day, Rizzo transforms from a one-time snowflake season into another solid slugger season. Well, it’ll be fun while it lasts.