When the Yankees ditched trading for Matt Olson and signed Freddie Freeman, there was some disappointment and frustration in many Yankee-centric circles. Anthony Rizzo was the consolation prize. But his 2022 debut, with nine league-leading home runs, stopped that idea in its tracks. Behind that scorching start is something that should seem simple for a left-handed hitter playing at Yankee Stadium: shooting the ball.
This year, Rizzo is shooting the ball at a career-high 56.2%, well above his 42.1% average. He also associated this with hitting the ground less frequently than normal: 32.3% compared to 39.4% for his career. What’s surprising about this, in a good way, is that he didn’t sacrifice going the other way. It is 21% against 21.9% for his career. He doesn’t hit the ball in the middle as much – 22.6 versus 35.8 – but that hasn’t hurt his production at all.
Let’s take a look at his 2022 spray chart, via Baseball Savant, of course:
All the power is on the right side. And that is reflected in the numbers. Rizzo sports a wOBA .698 to right field, as well as an extremely ridiculous ISO .800 to his traction side. Last year’s numbers were strong – 0.402 and 0.371 – but this year’s are otherworldly. It goes back to that reduced ground ball rate. In 2021, Rizzo’s average launch angle to the right was 8.8. This year it’s 14.1. Both years have the same average exit speed – 91.1 – so the angle change definitely helps boost production.
Logic would dictate that Rizzo would likely do damage to infields, go with them, and shoot them. But that’s not the case, at least when it comes to home runs:
He already has three circuits on this intermediate part of the zone, one more than he had there all last year. In fact, in 2021, Rizzo has only hit four out-of-bounds and out-of-bounds homers. He’ll probably eclipse that soon, don’t you think? This is probably due to Rizzo’s closeness to the plate. He was able to get the cannon on those outside pitches and drive them to the right or center right, with great results. His doubles show an entirely different process, especially compared to 2021, below:
Somehow he didn’t have a double inside the zone, and only one in the low end/out zone. Given its proximity to the plate, that makes sense. What he did with home runs this year – snag them from the outside – he did with doubles last year. This year, his four doubles have all taken place on indoor courts:
Now, that could be noise, but it could also be the result of good bat control on Rizzo’s part, which wouldn’t be a stretch at all.
Whatever the reason, and no matter how reversed it seems to shoot outside courts for homers and inside courts for doubles, Rizzo has had a ton of success shooting the ball so far in 2022. We hear always talk about going up in the middle or opposite field as “a nice punching piece”, but the same can be true for the balls fired. At the start of this season, Anthony Rizzo proves it.