Anthony Rizzo has had a roller coaster first two months of the season. In April, he hit .273 with nine home runs and a massive 1.067 OPS, helping power the New York Yankees to the best record in baseball. However, since the calendar has turned to May, the Yanks have been winning in spite of Rizzo.
Since May 1, Rizzo has slumped to an absolutely putrid .163 average, .269 on-base percentage and .304 slugging percentage, good for a .573 OPS. Using wRC+ to normalize these numbers for park environment and league-wide offense, Rizzo’s 67 wRC+ was 33% below league average. Compare this to his 202 wRC+ in April (102% better than league average) and the difference in his performance at the plate could not be more striking.
Looking under the hood, it’s clear to see where Rizzo has faltered the last month. His home run power has suddenly evaporated and with it his overall numbers have taken a nose dive.
In April when Rizzo was constantly going deep, some of his underlying stats were artificially inflated by his home run totals — specifically, this three-home run game against Baltimore at Yankee Stadium has accounted for an uncomfortable amount of Rizzo’s total damage on the season.
This also ties in to the other striking split in Rizzo’s 2022 numbers. At home, he has a 183 wRC+, while on the road that number is 72.
Simply put, too much of his production this year has been in short bursts of brilliance at Yankee Stadium in April.
Should Yankees fans be worried about Anthony Rizzo’s slump?
Keeping with this theme, Rizzo has done almost all of his damage this season by pulling the ball. a 231 wRC+ when pulling the ball vs 60 wRC+ to center and a 21 wRC+ going to the opposite field is not exactly a quality all-fields approach. Compare this to last season when Rizzo had a much more balanced profile with a 112 wRC+ to center and an 85 wRC+ to the opposite field, and clearly there’s been a big shift.
This is a worrying trend since it ties in to his value being almost entirely in his ability to pepper the short porch at Yankee Stadium. While nothing is inherently wrong with pulling the ball and trying to hit home runs, for Rizzo it has become the only aspect of his game that’s working for him. In between his home runs, Rizzo has been much more like Joey Gallo than I think any Yankee fan wants to admit.
Now, is Rizzo doomed to be a home run-or-bust hitter, or is he simply slumping? On one hand, Rizzo is a proven hitter who has many seasons of quality performance that speak to his ability to turn things around. But on the other … Rizzo is now 32 years of age and may be selling out for power to compensate for reduced bat speed as he ages. Surely, the Yankees are hoping the latter is not what they signed up for.
Some of his statcast numbers do offer hope of a possible rebound to the Rizzo of old. He’s not striking out at a high clip and has been able to hit the ball as hard as ever with his max exit velocity of 133.3 MPH right in line with his career norms. Additionally, Rizzo’s BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is a woeful .197, which implies he’s gotten unlucky.
It’s also important to note that Rizzo does provide certain qualities besides his bat for the Yankees. He has solidified the first base position defensively in a way not seen in pinstripes since Mark Teixeira. He’s a plus in the clubhouse and, despite being slow footed, is a competent base runner.
He simply needs more consistency at the plate in order to fulfill the asks of the Yankees and their fans.
At a time when the team is shorthanded with key contributors to the lineup like Giancarlo Stanton and Josh Donaldson out, Rizzo really needs to step up and help shoulder some of the load on offense. Lately, it seems as if only Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres have been able to provide consistent quality at-bats.
If the Yankees intend on keeping their lead in the AL East, they will need more than the occasional home run from their first baseman.