After winning 24 of their first 30 games last season, the Chicago Cubs are off to a slower start this time around.
In the new age of sabermetrics, the batting average statistic is becoming more and more irrelevant to people. And while it certainly isn’t meaningless, it isn’t entirely indicative of the type of season a player is having, either.
After completing a four-game home series with the San Francisco Giants, Rizzo’s batting average sits at a meager .244. But it was .226 before the Cubs began that series, so he’s heating up. Batting average aside, when you dig a little bit deeper, you’ll see Rizzo isn’t having such a bad season after all.
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Breaking down the numbers
Rizzo had a career year in 2016, slashing .292/.385/.544 with 32 home runs and 109 RBI, good for a 145 wRC+. In case you didn’t know, that’s pretty good. Kris Bryant may have won the NL MVP last year, but Rizzo was just as much a part of the heart of the Cubs’ offensive prowess.
The longest active roster-tenured player on the team, Rizzo can’t seem to find anything but opponent’s gloves after contact this season.
Rizzo’s slash line this season is .244/.378/.477. Without even looking at any advanced stats, we’re already getting somewhere. Even if the hits aren’t falling, Rizzo is getting on base at a high clip. The league average OBP generally floats around .320, so Rizzo is seeing the ball quite well.
Over the course of his career, Rizzo has a 32.6 hard hit percentage. This year he’s sitting at 30.3 percent, and it’s only the end of May. That’s not too far off from what he’s done his whole career, and there’s still plenty of time for that number to rise. So, solid contact has not been a concern. It’s there.
His career ground ball to fly ball ratio is 0.99; this year it’s 1.03. Nothing much different in that department, either. Rizzo’s career walk percentage is 11 percent and his career strikeout percentage is 17.3 percent. To this point, he’s walking at a rate of 13.2 percent and striking out only 12.7 percent of the time. The left-handed slugger has been one of the most patient hitters on the team the past few seasons, and this season has been no different.
By almost every statistical measure, Rizzo has been highly productive at the plate.
Rizzo is heating up at the plate
Rizzo has raised his batting average from .213 to .244 since the beginning of a nine-game homestand that started on May 16.
He currently leads the Cubs in both home runs and RBI with 11 and 28 respectively. With four home runs and six RBI in his last five games, it’s safe to say Rizzo has been the Cubs’ hottest hitter as of late.
All things considered, you can attribute Rizzo’s low batting average to a bit of bad luck. With a BABIP of .221 and an above-average hard hit rate, you’ve got nothing to worry about in regards to Rizzo’s performance at the plate. Even if his batting average doesn’t look pretty at the end of the season, he’s still likely to eclipse 30 home runs and 100 RBI. All while taking a ton of walks. He’s every bit the offensive force he was last year.