If we look back at any of the wealth of preseason projections and informed fantasy themed predictions on Anthony Rizzo, they all sing a similar refrain: expect an impact hitter.
ZiPS projected the 23-year old Chicago Cubs first baseman to hit .279/.349/.503 (.362 wOBA), with 31 home runs. While the returns on the power numbers have been impressive, Rizzo has seen his K% take a sharp spike upwards to 26.5% in the first month of the 2013 season. The increase in strikeouts and some early contact issues have rendered a .211/.304/.511 (.353 wOBA) in 102 plate appearances.
Sample size? Sample size.
Rizzo alleviated calls for him to be sent to the minors for refining from some of the Cubs faithful by turning in a two home run games versus the Marlins on Friday, and collecting five hits and three walks in the four game set. 102 plate appearances is nothing to get overly concerned about with Rizzo, especially given the gaudy power totals early on, but a glance at some of the other measures available make for some truly bizarre viewing.
Maybe Rizzo has absorbed some of the greatness from Cubs’ assistant hitting coach Rob Deer’s finest seasons. Eight of Rizzo’s 19 hits have been home runs, which leaves him with a .200 BABIP. Anthony Rizzo the 38-year old coming off of hip and shoulder surgery he is not, but his .300 ISO is as equally unsustainable as his low BABIP. What’s perhaps the most confounding in this teeniest of sample sizes are the left-handed hitter’s splits.
Rizzo, who has historically struggled against left handed pitching, currently holds a .310 batting average versus lefties. He’s hitting just .164 versus righties. For his career, Rizzo has hit .220 against left-handers and .247 against right-handers. His numbers versus righties are compounded by an awful showing in 153 plate appearances with the San Diego Padres in 2011.
So what can we glean from Anthony Rizzo’s April performance? Well, probably not all that much. ZiPS still projects him to finish in line with the preseason projections with a slight dip in batting average and OBP (.263/.338/.505) and a bump in home runs (36). Whatever the case, the Cubs have themselves a hitter who’s currently averaging a home run in every 23 at-bats and provides above average defense at first base. He’s worth more to the Cubs in Chicago right now than he is in Iowa.