Catching Up With Ryan Schimpf

In his debut season last year, Ryan Schimpf enjoyed one of the most extreme set of underlying skills I have ever observed. He posted the second highest fly ball rate over a single season since 2002, the first year we have data for. He also hit a ton of pop-ups and few line drives. Oh, and he struck out over 30% of the time and walked at a double digit clip. He was a man of extremes.

So what does Schimpf have in store for us as an encore? More of the same, of course, with a surprising wrinkle! Let’s just begin with a collection of his current metrics and where he ranks among qualified hitters (out of 190):

Ryan Schimpf, Extreme Season 2.0
Metric Value Rank (out of 190)
BABIP 0.094 190
LD% 14.3% 162
GB% 20.0% 189
FB% 65.7% 2
IFFB% 26.1% 11
IFFB 6 5
Soft% 31.4% 8
Hard% 17.1% 184
BB% 20.8% 4
K% 30.6% 17
O-Swing% 18.2% 186
Z-Swing% 57.7% 178
Swing% 35.2% 187
All metrics sorted from highest to lowest, not best to worst

Wowzers, have you ever seen a player either near the top or the bottom of virtually every single offensive metric leaderboard?! A .094 BABIP is just hilariously bad. But seriously, when 14.6% of your batted balls are automatic outs (pop-ups) and about half are fly balls which sport a .121 league average BABIP, it’s difficult to get those batted balls to drop in for hits. Obviously, there has to be some semblance of poor fortune here, as no Major League hitter is this bad, but if anyone deserves to be at the bottom of the BABIP leaderboard, it’s undoubtedly Schimpf.

So that batted ball distribution, it’s remarkably similar to last year’s. Any projection system would have taken last season’s distribution and heavily regressed it toward the league average. My own Pod Projections called for an 18% LD%, 28% GB%, and 54% FB%, but that’s still rather extreme even with a dropoff of 10% from last season’s fly ball rate. But instead, Schimpf is just continuing on from what he did last season, but hitting even more pop-ups. That’s quite problematic for a guy who will inherently endure BABIP issues.

He already ranks fifth in baseball in pop-ups, despite striking out over 30% of the time, meaning he likely isn’t even putting the ball in play for the opportunity to pop it up as often as the hitters ranked ahead of him.

In the intro, I teased of one key difference between this year’s Schimpf and last year’s. What I loved about him, and why I boldly predicted that he would outhomer Bryce Harper, is that not only did he hit a slew of fly balls, but he hit them hard and with serious thump. He posted a 39.7% Hard%, a 24.1% xHR/FB rate, and ranked 10th in Barrels per Batted Ball Event (Brls/BBE) among those with at least 100 BBEs.

This year, all that power has seemingly disappeared from his bat, as his Hard% has plummeted to just 17.1%, ranking a lowly 184th, while his Soft% has skyrocketed to 31.4%, ranking eighth. It’s rather bizarre, as literally every other metric is fairly in line with his performance last year, but the power has yet to be unleashed.

In three true outcomes spirit, he ranks fourth in walk rate and 17th in strikeout rate, though perhaps surprisingly (it sure surprised me), he actually makes pretty good contact when he does swing. His SwStk% is just 8.8%, well below the 10.4% league average. The when he does swing is key here, though, as it’s something he’s simply not doing very frequently. He ranks near the bottom in O-Swing%, which is actually a seriously good thing, but he also ranked near the bottom in Z-Swing%. If it’s a strike, you should probably swing at it Ryan! Otherwise you’re just going to get called out on strikes…a lot.

So his overall Swing% ranks almost last in baseball, which is super for his walk rate, not so much for his strikeout rate. He’s one of those guys who strikes out often not because of an inability to make contact, but because of his ultra passiveness at the plate.

I don’t know where his power went and I’m tempted to just call this a small sample fluke. Nothing else in his skill set hints at an explanation. Unfortunately, when his batted ball profile is so anti-BABIP and he’s not hitting for power, his playing time is suddenly at risk. Since I’ve never seen such an extreme skill set like his, it’s anyone’s guess what the rest of the season is going to look like.

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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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What kind of BABIP do you expect from him going forward? Perhaps .250? I can’t imagine anything lower than .240 being sustainable, even for Schimpf. I’m just wondering how low it can go exactly.