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
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.
The Padres lost to the Freddie Freemans 5–4 yesterday, but Austin Hedges went 2-for-3 with a walk, a double, and a two-run go-ahead home run in the eighth inning.
That’s a big-league dinger, an opposite field shot off a 98 mile-per-hour outside fastball.
The thing about Hedges’ game is that because it’s so defense-oriented, home runs like the one above are just gravy. Hedges is already considered one of the best defensive catchers in baseball, a reputation he earned in the minor leagues as a sort of generational backstop, proficient in all areas of his craft, from receiving to blocking to controlling the running game to game calling.
I didn’t get a chance to catch any of yesterday’s game in real time, so last night I queued up MLB.tv’s condensed game feature instead. Here are some random observations from 16 minutes and 25 seconds of footage.
The first inning
The opening action of the condensed game is Bartolo Colon striking out Travis Jankowski on an 0-2 fastball, which leads us to two points . . .
. . . Holy cow, Bartolo Colon is almost 44 years old. The funny thing is, Colon isn’t just a novelty act. He’s led the league in walk rate for two years running, he strikes out six guys per nine, and he’s posted an ERA+ of 105 since he turned 40. Colon, in his forties, is the very definition of a league-average innings eater (no, he does not actually eat the innings).
He also does it almost exclusively with the fastball. According to Brooks Baseball, 72 of his 85 pitches yesterday were either two- or four-seam fastballs, with 10 sliders and three changeups mixed in for good measure. That’s Colon’s MO, as he throws some version of the heater 80-plus percent of the time.
This pitch to Jankowski is like the perfect two-strike fastball, off the plate outside but enticing enough to induce a halfhearted hack. It’s a purpose pitch, with the purpose of getting someone out.
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.
In his first at-bat against Julio Teheran, Schimpf didn’t swing at a single pitch.
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.
I’ll admit it, a lot of the time I spend thinking about sports is dedicated to absolutely silly stuff.
Where does Tim Tebow‘s throwing arm rank among all United States citizens? (I think it’s in the millions.) What position would Gonzaga basketball player Przemek Karnowski play if his school had football? (Right tackle.) Who would be better at the other player’s sport, Mookie Betts or Steph Curry? (Betts.)
Today’s silly topic: If you had to start a franchise (or a fantasy team), are you taking Manuel Margot or Byron Buxton?
This would have been pretty clear cut a year or two ago, but it’s closer now. Let’s run through some different categories.
This space will mostly be used to discuss the previous day’s game, in some form or fashion, yes. Sometimes, however, we’ll diverge and talk about something else. (That silly Joel Sherman NY Post article was a strong contender, for example.) Today it’s Fernando Tatis Jr., a favorite prospect of this particular writer.
As I received the twitter notification from Phillip (@advancedstats23), the internet’s foremost collector of Tatis Jr. footage, I knew what I was in for.
The camera operator didn’t, apparently.
In the first inning of Saturday night’s game, Madison Bumgarner started Manuel Margot with two inside fastballs, both of them good pitcher’s pitches, just off the plate. In a perfect world, for Bumgarner, they either clip the inside corner or induce weak contact. Margot, like a sage veteran, held off on both of them. Here’s their location, via Brooks Baseball:
That’s a Joey Votto-like eye. Okay, we won’t get carried away. But there wasn’t a whole lot Margot could have done with either pitch, so it was smart to lay off, to at least wait for something more juicy. Now, up 2-0, he gets his pitch. It’s another four-seam fastball—the third straight one he’d encountered—out over the plate and about belt high. It’s not the meatiest 2-0 meatball, but given the situation, ahead in the count and expecting more heat, it’s a good pitch for Margot to jump on. He makes solid contact and sends a hard ground ball past Brandon Crawford at short.
What turns a relatively harmless single into a more damaging lead-off double is Margot’s hustle. Sure, he’s got speed to spare, but this is the very definition of a hustle double. Check out how far center fielder Denard Span is from the ball when we first get eyes on him:
Seven or eight years ago, in what would be the final game of my not-so-illustrious junior college baseball career, I faced a very sloooow pitcher. Even by the standards of the small town community college circuit, this dude, a big left hander, was abnormally slow.
I’d never hit an outside-the-park home run, believe it or not, although I’d come close two times that year, both against soft-tossing lefties. Watching his 70-something mile an hour heaters from the on-deck circle, I was salivating. With a short porch in left field, I’d made up my mind: I was going to try to hit a home run, and I was just about sure I was going to do it.
In three at-bats against the guy, I barely hit the ball out of the infield, grounding out twice to the left side and flying weakly into right field. He was, somehow, too slow, his otherwise juicy pitches turned effective because they traveled so far below the speed of the ones I’d grown familiar with. (Also, I wasn’t a very good hitter.)
Lesson No. 1: Never try to hit a home run. Lesson No. 2: Never underestimate the challenge of a slow fastball.
The Hangover is a place to discuss a storyline or two from the previous day’s game.
Somewhere in the middle of another Opening Day mess, a hero emerged:
It took Miguel Diaz four years to get out of the rookie ball levels of the Milwaukee Brewers farm system, not necessarily a rarity for a young, international arm. Diaz finally reached the lower rung of Single-A ball last season, putting together an all-around fine season for a 21-year-old: 94 2/3 innings, 91 strikeouts, 29 walks, 7 home runs, a 3.71 ERA.
The likely plan, before the Padres got involved, probably involved Diaz reporting back to Low-A Wisconsin or High-A Carolina this spring and then, someday, Double-A Biloxi. If everything went smoothly at each stop—injuries were dodged, performance improved—Diaz would have had a shot at Triple-A, and maybe the majors, at some point in 2018. But everyone would be taking it one day at a time—er, one pitch at a time—in the relative anonymity of the minor leagues, dreams of The Show just ever-present background noise on long bus rides.