Rizzo Risking Career For A Mere Sixty Games
Chicago First Baseman Has Been A Slow Starter Throughout His Career
He made it back into the lineup for the last exhibition game, as his Chicago Cubs welcomed the Minnesota Twins to Wrigley Field. Anthony Rizzo, however, should have given more thought to participating in what is going to be a blink of an eye baseball season.
As a cancer survivor, the All-Star first baseman is considered a high risk to contract the COVID-19 and therefore eligible to opt out without penalty. He also has a history of back issues, which is why he has been on the sidelines until the last game of Spring Training 2.0.
In addition to the health risks, Rizzo has another reason to reconsider having not opted out of the 2020 season. He is a notoriously slow starter, as evidenced by his April stats for the last three seasons.
Last year he batted just .228 in the first 27 games, all during April. He had been much worse twelve months earlier, hitting just .149 in eighteen games. For April of 2016 Rizzo batted .218, another reason his career average is fifty points higher than what he hits in a typical April.
He is not alone in being a slow starter, since several other All-Stars share that characteristic. Edwin Encarnacion, who will be the DH for the Chicago White Sox in 2020, has an April batting average .063 points lower than that of his overall career.
Third baseman Alex Bregman of the Houston Astros typically hits .260 in April, a sizable drop from his career clip of .293. Teammate Yulli Gurriel has typically suffered a .035 dip in April compared to his career numbers, which could portend a slow start for the defending American League Champions.
While the likelihood of a subpar opening month might not justify sitting out a whole season for Encarnacion and the two Houston stars, it does not apply in the case of Rizzo. His history with cancer puts him at great risk of suffering from COVID-19, a health battle that might end a career that is worth more than sixty games in 2020.
His first at bat in Spring Training might have been a good sign, however, a home run off of Minnesota starter Homer Bailey. Rizzo then followed that blast with an opposite field single in the third, so maybe he will hit like it is August rather than April.