Ryan Schimpf hit a game-winning home run on Wednesday night, and then added another one last night:
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) April 28, 2017
I was trying to think of a creative way to explain why Schimpf, despite hitting .125 on the season, deserves a much longer look, but it really boils down to two simple numbers:
Walk Rate: 18.5 percent
Schimpf’s still walking a ton and he’s hitting for power. He’s also striking out a lot, but his 32.1 percent K-rate shouldn’t make him unplayable. So far this year, two really solid hitters, Chris Davis and Joey Gallo, are striking out at a similar rate, and a number of fringier guys are around that level. Last year, Davis, Chris Carter, and Mike Napoli all posted wRC+’s above 100 while whiffing at least 30 percent of the time, and they did it in Schimpf-ian fashion, with walks and power.
In fact, the Davis comparison is really interesting. Here are the peripherals in 2017:
|Player||Walk %||Strikeout %||ISO||BABiP|
Holy BABiP, Batman!
Schimpf is the same, or better, until you get to that final category, cursed BABiP. As a result, Davis looks like a good-hitting first baseman (.264/.361/.458, 132 wRC+) and Schimpf (.125/.284/.359, 80 wRC+) is barely clinging to a starting gig.
Why the BABiP difference? Pure luck, for one, but also because Schimpf is an even more extreme hitter than Davis:
|Player||LD %||GB %||FB %||IFFB%|
Sure, Schimpf’s run into some bad luck and Davis has caught some good fortune, but part of that crazy .300 gap in BABiP from otherwise similar players is Schimpf’s 65.8 percent fly ball rate. And of that 65.8 percent, 24 percent of those balls have been popped up on the infield, where they almost always go to die. In fact, Schimpf ranks second in all of the majors in fly ball percentage (behind Trevor Story) and 10th in IFFB%. Getting even more granular, he ranks fourth in balls in play with a launch angle of 30 degrees or higher. That’s a recipe for dingers . . . and outs, lots of ’em.
What makes Schimpf’s BABiP even more prone to fluctuation is the rarity in which he puts the ball in play. He’s walking and striking out at a 50 percent clip, and remember, home runs don’t count as balls in play either. With so few balls hit into the field of play, there’s more of a chance for an outlier BABiP, in part due just to small sample size.
Now, over a full season, Schimp would never record a BABiP under .100 (he wouldn’t be allowed to, for one). But under .200? It’s possible, maybe even likely to occur once or twice, over a career, given his low volume of balls in play and the percentage of them that are hit skyward. Shoot, even last year, when Schimpf was Roy Hobbs 2.0, he only posted a .260 BABiP.
Point is, Schimpf has flaws, and this iteration of him is a lock for a low average. But there’s still a valuable player here, too, batting average be damned. Schimpf does some things really well, and if he can just stay locked in for a week or two, suddenly his overall numbers will start to show it.