We need to talk about Anthony Rizzo. (But maybe not for the reasons you think. Put a pin in that, we’ll come back to it.) For essentially one month now Anthony Rizzo has been awful in pretty much every way possible.
Since April 29th, he’s posted an 83 wRC+ over 111 plate appearances. If you’re Ozzie Smith or Bob Boone an 83 wRC+ is tenable, but if you’re a first baseman that’s not going to work. For further perspective, DJ LeMahieu, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and Aaron Hicks are the only Yankees regulars who’ve been worse in the batter’s box than Rizzo since April 29th – IKF and Hicks play premium defensive positions and DJ has been very good at two spots so they’re still providing value even when they’re not hitting.
Rizzo is a first baseman. First basemen provide very little value to a team in the field (even very good ones) because essentially their job description is to pick up ground balls and catch throws from teammates. The problem is that Rizzo hasn’t been particularly good with the glove either and that’s me being very kind descriptively. His Defensive Runs Above Average (or below in this case) of -3.5 since April 29th is the worst on the Yankees, and it hasn’t just been a bad stretch. As I noted on Twitter the other day, his DRAA, dWAR, and Outs Above Average on the 2022 season put him in the worst defensive first basemen in baseball discussion. (In fact, over the entire season, Rizzo ranks 390th out of 397 MLB players in DRAA across all positions.)
If you’re not hitting well, and you’re not fielding well, the only way you can provide value is by being a good baserunner. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that Anthony has been a train wreck on the basepaths as well. His -0.7 Base Running Runs is the second-worst on the Yanks since April 29th.
When all aspects of baseball are weighed, valued, and tallied – which is what WAR does and is why I love WAR – Anthony Rizzo has been the worst player on the Yankees for a month. Specifically, over the past month, Joey Gallo and IKF have provided zero value, while Hicks’ and Rizzo’s presence in the lineup has actually hurt the team to the tune of -0.2 and -0.3 WAR respectively.
Fascinatingly, if you listen to Yankees broadcasts and Yankees social media you would never know it.
Let’s be clear about something before you start typing nasty comments to me: I like Anthony Rizzo and I think he’s a good player. When the season started I had him pegged for about a three-win season and despite the torrid first three weeks of 2022 and the cold stretch since he’s on pace for about three WAR. (Which is to say a good player, when the long roller coaster of a 162 games season is completed.) And no, since someone always asks in response to me simply pointing out facts about Rizzo, I don’t want Luke Voit back.
However, I do think this says more about us fans than it does about players. Yankees fans adoration of Rizzo gives me flashbacks to the Didi years in the sense that Didi was an absolute monster for about six weeks but was a below-average player over the rest of his Yankees tenure – but Yankees fans and media treated him as if he were Lou Gehrig as a shortstop. Rizzo is neither the savage that scalded baseballs to the tune of a 215 wRC+ over the season’s first three weeks nor is he the garbage player that’s been in the lineup since.
Now I always get to my point, even if I don’t take the interstate to get there. It’s cool to have favorite players – we all have idiosyncrasies, preferences, and favorites. But when one of your favorites is playing like crap, it’s OK to say so – or at the very least, don’t get your pinstriped panties in a bunch when someone else points it out*. Putting the stick down and taking a break from beating the usual piñatas that are some Yankees players is not only OK, but it’s a good thing.
(*I swear, traffic increased on my blog and social media pages tenfold when I would simply say Didi wasn’t a particularly good player. Yankees Universe acted like I kicked their dog.)
On a positive note, now that I’ve pointed this out, Rizzo will now go 14 for his next 38 with five home runs. You’re welcome.
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