CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Premium Article On the Beat: Cardinal ... (07/25)
<< Previous Column
BP Unfiltered: The Hal... (07/23)
Next Column >>
BP Unfiltered: Meals M... (07/27)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Divide and Conquer, NL... (07/26)

July 26, 2011

BP Unfiltered

Is Rizzo The New Choi?

by R.J. Anderson

Buster Olney tweeted this nugget over the weekend:

Rival evaluator on Anthony Rizzo:"My concern(for SD) is that he is Hee-Seop Choi. Any fastball that starts with a '9' is a problem for him."

Quotes like these are used to spice up rumors and reports because they work well. On the surface, this is an interesting comparison, one with potentially huge ramifications, but dig a little deeper and a degree of skepticism rises to the top. Whenever an anonymous source s quoted, you have to consider the endgame for that person. With the term “rival evaluator” being used here, it could very well mean a front office type within a National League West organization—and those fellow would like nothing more than to devalue the Padres assets.

Rizzo’s struggles in the majors this season (a .143/.282/.265 line in 117 plate appearances) only help to validate the possible truthfulness of the claim. The amount of advance scouting information available to major league pitchers trumps that available to minor leaguers, therefore it is possible that word spread fast about Rizzo’s struggles, and thus pitchers swarmed him with 90-plus mile per hour fastballs whenever they could.  Thanks to Mike Fast and PITCHf/x data, some questions about Rizzo’s performance against 90-plus mile per hour fastballs can be gathered and presented in a timely manner.

Before getting to the data, I feel that I must apply the usual caveats. This is a small sample size and shouldn’t be used to evaluate Rizzo’s true ability to hit fastballs of any speed. Consider this simply an evaluation on what Rizzo did while he was in the majors—a fact check of sorts—and nothing more. Because it’s difficult to justify attributing credit for a walk or strikeout to one pitch, instead, the focus will be on batting average, slugging percentage, and peripheral stats that display Rizzo’s ability to make contact and recognize balls from strikes.

Type

Fastball 90+ mph

Fastball <90 mph

Number

186

73

BABIP

.158

.400

SLGBIP

.263

.800

Ball%

41%

34%

Called strike%

13%

16%

Foul%

19%

23%

In play%

10%

14%

Swinging strike%

16%

12%

Do note that the batting average and slugging percentage components are for the balls put into play only—hence why it’s BABIP and not straight-up BA. Rizzo made less contact with faster heaters, but also took more of them for balls. These numbers are meaningless without comparing them to a baseline, so here are the league-average totals for the 2011 season:

Type

Fastball 90+ mph

Fastball <90 mph

Number

170,860

75,855

BABIP

.323

.332

SLGBIP

.493

.531

Ball%

36%

36%

Called strike%

18%

22%

Foul%

19%

16%

In play%

19%

20%

Swinging strike%

8%

6%

It appears that Rizzo did swing and miss more often than the league-average rate, and did lack the success on 90-plus mile per hour fastballs that the rest of the league has (when they put the ball into play), but the sample size is too small to draw any conclusions. Even if you go back to the scouting reports about Rizzo, the most damning thing about his swing is this:

The Bad: Rizzo's power came at a cost, as he became frequently pull-conscious and saw his strikeout rate go up significantly. One scout who has seen Rizzo throughout his career put it best by saying, “I've seen him hit for average, and I've seen him it for power, but I am left wondering if he can do both.”

This was the analysis at Sox Prospects:

Swing: Rizzo uncoils from an open stance that he closes down upon the pitch’s approach to home plate. While his swing is long, it is quick through the strike zone and to the point of contact. Rizzo’s swing is free and easy as he generates what seems like effortless plus batspeed. With a path through the zone on an upward plane, he produces excellent lift that he has been honing since entering the Red Sox organization.

And this from Baseball America:

Scouting Report: Rizzo generates plus power with strength and leverage. He drives the ball well to the opposite field and last season began pulling pitches for home runs. With his willingness to use the entire field and his patience, he should hit for a solid average and draw some walks, though he needs to refine his two-strike approach.

And Keith Law:

At the plate, Rizzo has a simple, easy stroke that generates mostly line drives, although he's showing more ability to stay back and drive the ball out to right.

And Jonathan Mayo:

He's exactly what you want from a first baseman, with plenty of power from his left-handed bat. There is some swing-and-miss to his game, but he should continue to improve his plate discipline

There doesn’t appear to be anyone who honed in on a potential flaw in his swing while Rizzo was a prospect. The numbers do bear that he had some troubles while in the majors, but it is a small sample size and he is just 21-years-old. Choi, by comparison, didn’t have Prospectus looking for answers until he was 25. Maybe all of the prospect analysts and all of the Padres scouts and evaluators missed something with Rizzo so easily spottable by a rival evaluator, or maybe, and more likely, it’s just too early to be jumping to conclusions.

Big thanks to Mike Fast and Marc Normandin for research assistance

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

Related Content:  Mike Rizzo

11 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Premium Article On the Beat: Cardinal ... (07/25)
<< Previous Column
BP Unfiltered: The Hal... (07/23)
Next Column >>
BP Unfiltered: Meals M... (07/27)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Divide and Conquer, NL... (07/26)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Don't Forget the Vets
Fantasy Article Fantasy Team Preview: San Francisco Giants
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: Pitching at a Premium
Premium Article Skewed Left: Padres Can't Play It Safe
Premium Article Moonshot: In Search of Pedro Cerrano
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Padres Add Myers
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: What the Rays and Nati...

MORE FROM JULY 26, 2011
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Angel in the Infield
Premium Article The BP Broadside: The Mariners are Simultane...
Divide and Conquer, NL West: Bochy Wins the ...
Premium Article Divide and Conquer, NL Central: Easy Picking...
Fantasy Article Value Picks: Second, Short, and Catcher for ...

MORE BY R.J. ANDERSON
2011-07-29 - Transaction Analysis: A Pocketful of Pence U...
2011-07-28 - Premium Article Transaction Analysis: The Next-Best Option
2011-07-27 - Transaction Analysis: The Rasmus-Jackson Shu...
2011-07-26 - BP Unfiltered: Is Rizzo The New Choi?
2011-07-26 - Transaction Analysis Blog: Reds Trade Gomes,...
2011-07-20 - Transaction Analysis Blog: The Betemit Trade...
2011-07-19 - Painting the Black: Fragile in Florida?
More...

MORE BP UNFILTERED
2011-08-06 - BP Unfiltered: Where No Counsell Is, the Peo...
2011-07-28 - BP Unfiltered: The Best First Hits
2011-07-27 - BP Unfiltered: Meals Money
2011-07-26 - BP Unfiltered: Is Rizzo The New Choi?
2011-07-23 - BP Unfiltered: The Hallworthy Alomar and Bly...
2011-07-22 - BP Unfiltered: Get a Job in Baseball Working...
2011-07-19 - BP Unfiltered: PECOTA, Pitcher WARP, and PAD...
More...

INCOMING ARTICLE LINKS
2014-02-19 - Painting the Black: Cash/Rizz Everything Aro...
2013-05-13 - Premium Article Transaction Analysis: The Cubs Keep Rizzo