The recent struggles of Yankees‘ starting first baseman Anthony Rizzo have become a focal point of the season’s narrative. The 33-year-old veteran infielder commenced the season in stellar form, boasting a .283 batting average with a .374 OBP in April. His superb performance continued into May with a .327 batting average and a .382 OBP, but the wheels started to come off in June.
Rizzo’s Performance Plummets in June and July
In June, Rizzo’s batting average plummeted to .173 with a .311 OBP. His downward trajectory continued into July, hitting a mere .163 with a .234 OBP, which included a five-strikeout performance against the Baltimore Orioles.
“I’m not playing well,” Rizzo admitted. “It’s incredibly frustrating on a personal level. As a teammate, you want to do everything you can to contribute to the team’s success.”
Currently, Rizzo’s season statistics are a .244 batting average, a .329 OBP, and a .381 slugging percentage. With 12 home runs and 41 RBIs, he also has the highest strikeout rate of his career at 23% and a 100 wRC+. For the first time in his career, Rizzo is considered an average offensive player, which severely undermines his value and turns him into more of a liability than an asset.
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Assessing the Causes: A Task for Hitting Coach Sean Casey
Identifying whether Rizzo’s issues are mental or fundamental falls to hitting coach Sean Casey. Unfortunately, Casey has yet to pull Rizzo out of his slump, as evidenced by the veteran’s lackluster performance against the Orioles.
Rizzo, whose productivity has been sorely missed since May, admits, “At some point, I would say it is mechanically [based]. I’m just not putting myself in the best position to swing my best swing.”
The Trade Dilemma: Is it Time for the Yankees to Move on from Rizzo?
Given Rizzo’s ongoing difficulties, the Yankees may need to consider trading him before the deadline and offload the remaining $20 million on his salary for the 2024 season. However, this decision may not sit well with the team as Rizzo and Aaron Judge share a close bond.
A drop-off of Rizzo’s magnitude is unusual and could potentially be due to an undisclosed injury affecting his fundamentals. He laments, “It’s frustrating because there are pitches I’m swinging at or taking. I walk back, unable to comprehend how I’m missing that pitch.”
Ultimately, the Yankees need to make a decision on Rizzo’s future with the team. This could involve moving him down the batting order or offloading his salary before the Tuesday afternoon deadline. With most of their expensive veterans failing to perform up to their price tag, the Yankees face some major decisions in the coming days.