Anthony Rizzo Trade Re-Visited

I told myself I wouldn’t do it.  I ignored the debates as best as possible.  I shied away from joining in on any additional discussions about the results of the Anthony Rizzo trade.  I provided my analysis.  I was done.  But, like a an addiction I can’t quite kick, I’m being drawn back into the discussion.

Tom Waits, a Chicken Friars reader, provided us with this great line and great insight:

I see a lot of people who think Byrnes used a $5 bill to buy a $3 cup of coffee, left the $2 as a tip, and then tossed another single on top of the counter as he walked away.

I love the analogy, but I disagree with it.  I truly think trading Rizzo was the right move, and I think the return was perfectly fine.  Not great, not bad, but fine.  Let me explain.

I wrote yesterday about the importance of pitching when it comes to the Padres.   I hope no one misunderstands that analysis.  Offense is clearly important.  However, it is not as important to the Padres as it is the Yankees, the Phillies, the Reds, the Red Sox, or the Cubs.  Why?  Because the Padres play in Petco Park.  I feel like a broken record talking about Petco, but the fact is, the ballpark is essentially the 26th man for the Padres.  The park contributes almost as much to the Padres’ wins and losses as the players.

That being said, let’s examine some hard numbers.  We’ll start with the Anthony Rizzo/Yonder Alonso comparison.

First, we’ll start with park factor.  Petco’s overall park factor for right-handed batters is 92, 8% below average.  For left-handed batters, the park factor is 90.  Going beyond the overall park factor, the factor for home runs from the left side of the plate is a horrid 59.  That’s 41% below league average.  Keep these numbers in mind as we move forward.

Of the 71 balls Rizzo put in play during the 2011 season, 36 (almost exactly 50%) were flyballs.  Unless the ball is heading out of the park, flyballs are bad in San Diego.  Beyond that, Rizzo had just 13 at-bats in which he hit the ball on a line.  Line drives are especially important while playing at Petco Park.  Finally, Rizzo is almost a dead pull hitter.  He had just 13 at-bats in which he hit the ball to the opposite field (hit being a ball strike, not an actual hit).  Check out his spray chart courtesy of Fox Sports:



Just eleven of the balls struck by Rizzo made it to the left side of the second base bag.  Compare that with 19 to the right side or the “pull side.”

Anthony Rizzo never would have had much opportunity to hit for power playing half his games at Petco Park.  He would have struggled to hit at all.  Right field is where balls go to die.

Now let’s compare this to Yonder Alonso.  Alonso’s ground ball percentage was much higher than Rizzo’s.  Overall, Alosno’s GB% was 47.4% in 2010 and 41.8% in 2011.  His flyball rate was lower than his ground ball rate which should bode well in San Diego.  In 2010, his FB% was 36.8%, and in 2011 it was 35.8%.  Alonso’s line drive percentage has been 20.9% for his career verse 13.4% for Rizzo.  Below is Alonso’s spray chart:



Without even counting the struck balls, Alonso’s spray chart clearly shows a batter who uses all fields.  Alonso had eleven balls hit to right field in 2011.  He had nine balls hit to left field.  This is exactly why the Padres like him better than Rizzo and announced him as number one on the depth chart without even seeing him in Spring Training.

Now that we’ve covered Rizzo, let’s move on to the player the Padres received in return, Andrew Cashner.  Cashner has a fastball that’s been clocked at 100 MPH.  He has the makings of a starter, but could easily be a closer if necessary.  As he develops, the Padres can use him out of the bullpen as a set-up man or a seventh inning guy.  One of the main formulas for the Padres success when they either made the play-offs or had winning seasons during the Petco years was a dominant bullpen.  If the Padres got to the sixth inning with a lead, they could feel pretty comfortable.  The team clearly wants to get back to that method of success.  Cashner will help.

The Padres gave up a highly touted first base prospect in Anthony Rizzo.  Rizzo will likely see a great deal of success in Chicago.  Wrigely plays much better for him.  However, the Padres also gave up a player who swung at pitches outside the strike zone 32.6% of the time, a player who was almost a dead pull hitter from the left side of the plate which is the kiss of death in San Diego, and a player who struck out 30.1% in 2012.

Simply suggesting the Padres did not get enough in return because of Rizzo’s potential overlooks what they did get in return.  The starting pitching staff is set for 2011.  The Padres have additional starters ready to make their debuts in 2012 or 2013.  What they needed was bullpen help.  The offense was upgraded slightly, which may be all they need if they can create a shut-down pitching staff similar to what they had in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2010.

While I do believe Rizzo will become a star in Chicago, it’s important to remember his potential is based on where he plays.  He had very little potential going forward in San Diego.  Andrew Cashner has an incredibly high potential.  Yonder Alonso has the skills necessary to play in Petco Park.  To me, it seems the Padres did their home work when trading for Yonder Alonso, trading away Anthony Rizzo, and bringing in Andrew Cashner.

Tags: Andrew Cashner Anthony Rizzo Cubs Padres Yonder Alonso

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