The New York Yankees are a good baseball team. Contrary to what any sane baseball fan would like to believe, the Yankees currently lead the AL East and are the top-5 in MLB on average, OPS and home runs. They’re a great team, and a big part of their offensive prowess in 2022 was first baseman Anthony Rizzo.
The former Chicago Cub was on a tear in 2022. He currently leads in the major leagues with nine home runs and has recorded a .938 OPS on 107 plate appearances. I also don’t want anyone to complain about their batting average. A 0.242 average is pretty decent, especially if you’re hitting gizmos in almost one of 12 at-bats. Does this joke about a ballpark at Yankee Stadium help him? Absolutely, but he plays well in the park and that’s all that matters.
However, this is where we start to get into the head-scratching numbers. Rizzo only bats .197 on balls in the game. Despite this horrendously low number, Rizzo still has a base percentage of 0.355. That’s not normal. It may sound a bit strange, but nothing crazy. But what if I told you that in the history of MLB there have only been such nine players (including Rizzo) record a BABIP of less than .200 and still maintain an on-base percentage greater than .350 for at least 100 plate appearances? In fact, it was last done in 1987 when he became the 1983 World Series Champion Gary Ronicke did so in his freshman year with the Atlanta Braves.
Well I know what you’re thinking. “So what? That just means, of course, that Rizzo walks a lot.” Oh, on the contrary, mon ami! That’s not the case! Rizzo doesn’t take walks at an unusually high rate. He’s ranked 70th in the MLB walking speed (10.3 percent) and that is the third lowest value of his career (2021: 9 percent, 2012: 7.3 percent). Every other player on this list of nine I’ve talked about before had the highest walk rates of their careers (with the exception of Charlie Sands who posted the third-highest of his career, but it was still 21.3 percent).
I know BABIP doesn’t account for home runs and that’s obviously a factor in this oddity, but it’s not like he’s hit an insane number of things so far. You’d expect Rizzo to have hit 13 or 14 up to this point, or draw walks like Yasmani Grandal did last season for those kinds of numbers, but here’s Rizzo. He’s still knocking out at about 15 percent clip. He’s recording fewer walks than ever and hitting a few home runs at Yankee Stadium while putting together one of the rarest seasons (yes, it’s early) in MLB history.
This level of awesomeness will not last. Anyone with a BABIP that low will eventually return to normal over time. And Rizzo is obviously set to get some significant playtime this year. As his BABIP increases, we can expect his percentage on base to increase as well, until one day Rizzo transforms from a unique snowflake season into another solid season of the racquet. Well, it’ll be fun while it lasts.