Ryan Schimpf collected a pair of walks last night against the Braves, giving him a league-leading 11 on the young season. He’s hitting well south of .200 so far, but he’s still been an effective offensive player because he’s walking like Barry Bonds circa 2003. His slash line—.148/.375/.370—isn’t one you see everyday, but it still works.
And that’s kind of his thing.
He just doesn’t swing the bat. According to the numbers at Baseball Prospectus, Schimpf’s swing rate—simply the percentage of pitches he offers at—is second-lowest in all of baseball at 32.5 percent, trailing only Logan Forsythe‘s 30 percent. Since 2010, the only hitters with a lower swing rate in a season (minimum 400 pitches) than Schimpf’s current mark are Nick Johnson, Brett Gardner, and George Kottaras.
For the most part, Schimpf’s done an excellent job simply waiting out pitchers. In the at-bat referenced above, note that second pitch. That’s a strike, but it’s a pitcher’s pitch, a backdoor slider that catches the outside part of the plate in a fastball count. It’s a hittable pitch, but up 1-0 in the count, it’s probably not what Schimpf is looking for. Rather than swinging at it, he takes it for a strike and lives to see another pitch. Teheran would go on to miss three straight times with fastballs, giving Schimpf first base and starting a two-run rally.
In Schimpf’s other walk, in the sixth inning, it was more of the same:
The third pitch, a high changeup, looked more like a ball than the above image indicates, and the fourth pitch, a fastball, was clearly outside but called for a strike. Either way, Schimpf got the count to 3-2 by swinging just once, and ultimately won the battle when Teheran missed low with a two-seamer.
Schimpf’s a fascinating hitter. Despite his patient ways, pitchers have mostly dealt with him like he’s a true slugger, delivering him a pitch in the strike zone just 42.5 percent of the time. And maybe that’s because he is . . . well, a true slugger. That pitchers have handed him 11 walks already is at least a sign that they respect him as a hitter, and that teams fear his fly ball/power approach. If Schimpf’s able to continue to lay off pitches outsize the zone and hammer some of the ones in it, there’s a shot he’s for real.
If not, he’s something like Kottaras, which really ain’t so bad.