The Hangover: Attack Of The Schimpf

Ryan Schimpf hit a game-winning home run on Wednesday night, and then added another one last night:

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
ISO: .234

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
Ryan Schimpf 18.5 32.1 .197 .086
Chris Davis 13.3 33.7 .194 .390

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%
Ryan Schimpf 15.8 18.4 65.8 24.0
Chris Davis 29.5 34.1 36.4 0.0

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.

You are encouraged to comment using an exisitng Twitter, Facebook, or Google account. Upvote comments you find helpful, and only downvote comments that do not belong. The downvote is not a 'disagree' button.

  • Pat

    Schimpf is an interesting guy, but simply pointing out the similarities between his TTO numbers and other more successful hitters ignores a crucial difference: Schimpf was a 28 year old rookie, and is having these struggles in his sophomore season at 29. Yes, he’s otherwise similar in high TTO rates, but Davis had shown power at 22, & 23, as well as leading the league with 53 HR at 27. Gallo has been a top prospect for years, has consistently shown exceptional power throughout his minor league career (Schimpf never did), and is now producing fairly well at 23. It’s significant that these players showed the ability to hit at the MLB level, and reproduce their success, at a much earlier age than Schimpf. Sure, it’s early in the season and he may work out of this. Yes, it may be just an early season, small sample fluke of BABIP, but it’s also quite likely he simply doesn’t have the talent to be successful at the MLB level on a consistent basis. I don’t think anyone would suggest he has a lot of margin for error given his low contact rate and inability to hit LH pitchers. Frankly, I’m not a believer. I fully expect him to regress from his level of last season, and consider it highly unlikely he’ll ever be an everyday player, at an average level, in MLB.

    • ballybunion

      When you look at Schimpf’s at bats per homer since he was 24, the rate seems to be getting better. in 2012 it was 21.45 AB/HR, in 2013 it was 19.21, in 2014 it was 16.54, in 2015 it was 16.0, in 2016 in the minors it was 11.07, in the majors it was 13.8, and so far in 2017 it’s 11.33.

      At his current rates as a full timer with 550 ABs, he’d be a 80-85 run, 25-30 homer, 85-90 RBI hitter hitting about .220/.330/.450. That’s not bad for a team trying not to look obvious to get the #1 draft pick next year (wink, wink).

      • Pat

        Yeah, and at 24 he finally made it to AA, then repeated it at 25, and spent the next two years playing AA, again and again, and in AAA. As to those numbers you’re throwing out there, we’ll see where he ends up if they’re willing to run him out there for another 200 AB s.

      • ballybunion

        Well, I didn’t say he was getting good, I said he was getting better – at home run frequency. What do you mean “IF” they run him out there another 200 ABs? Of course they will! Preller not only wants that #1, he thinks he can get something in trade! If Schimpf can get his average up to .230 and OBP up to .340, A.J. might be right.

      • Pat

        I mean if. They’ve already called up Spangenberg.

    • Just in fairness to Schimpf, if you look at last year’s TTO numbers compared to Davis, as well, he actually looks better. Of course, you’re right on your overall point. I’m not necessarily comparing him to Davis, or saying he should be as good as Davis going forward or anything. Just that it’s interesting how close they are in those categories, and what separates the two, this year anyway, is a crazy big gap in BABiP, created in part by Schimpf’s own ball-in-play profile.

      I still think Schimpf’s more interesting than you’re giving him credit for, though. He had some huge power numbers in the minors, and even though he was very old for his leagues, he’s been able to carry that power into the majors to some degree. He’s also walked at a high rate and kept his strikeout numbers reasonable. Despite this year’s batting average struggles, he still has a career 120 wRC+ in the bigs.

      • Pat

        I guess I just don’t find him interesting because I don’t believe he will continue to produce at an acceptable level. He’s also 29, plays a decent third base, and doesn’t inspire on the basepaths. To me he’s simply odd, not interesting, not at all unlike so many marginal and lesser players the Padres have run out there in the past. Personally I’d rather watch Spangenberg, at least he has some upside, some possibility of improvement. Schimpf is what he is, and will likely get worse, not better.

      • I just wanted to wait for another Schimpf home run to respond to this 🙂

        Anyway, I don’t know, I’m still buying in. He’s now up to a league-average level of hitting despite a .156 batting average. If some hits start falling in, he’s going to be a legit offensive weapon again. It’s less a Spangenberg vs. Schimpf thing, and more that I just want a longer look at Schimpf.

      • Pat

        LOL! Well now I can respond after an 0-4 with 4 K’s 🙂

        Sure, it’s not a Schimpf or Spangenberg issue, solely, and I think we’ll all get a longer look at him still. So we can enjoy the HR, and marvel at the TTO ratio. DES likes his D so far, so that’s nice.