Nate Schierholtz Is On Fire

After going one for five with a home run Sunday against his old team, Nate Schierholtz has his seasonal line up to .343/.410/.629. That qualifies as ‘on fire,’ especially for a dude with a .272/.321/.413 career line going into the day. Of course his .400 batting average on balls in play makes much of what he’s doing unsustainable, but maybe there *are* sustainable parts to his start?

Three part-time seasons with the Giants produced years in which he couldn’t quite hit (wRC+ around 82 between 2009 and 2010) but was a good right fielder (+15ish UZR/150). Then he added a little power in 2011 (.152 isolated slugging percentage, up from around .130), and was 11% better than league average with the bat, but his glove returned to earth (-8.2 UZR/150). So when, in 2012, he was basically average in both facets of the game, the team did not hesitate to package him for Hunter Pence. After all, his offense against lefties that year had sunk to a career-low *82% worse than league average* and he probably was nothing more than a platoon guy with a lack of a standout skill.

Giants fans that thought Schierholtz might break out once freed from the shackles of AT&T Park were disappointed — the right fielder suffered a fractured big toe and missed a crucial chance to showcase himself in Philadelphia, accruing only 73 plate appearances and being just about average overall with the Phillies.

The Cubs’ leadership saw a chance to fake a right field situation on the cheap with two good platoon mates, and they signed Scott Hairston for two years and five million, and Schierholtz for the bargain basement one year, $2.25 million. For their efforts, they’ll probably get a couple wins and ten million in value, but that’s for a different blog on this site.

Our readers just want to know what Schierholtz can do if limited to seeing righties.

The easy answer is that he can be average. After all his wRC+ from that side is 99 over 1130 plate appearances. But of course we can unpack that a little more.

If you compare Schierholtz against righties to his overall line, a few things stand out. Against righties, he strikes out less (15.8% vs 19%) and shows more power (.150 vs .106 ISO). Those in OBP leagues would be interested to know that he walks more, too (6.7% vs 4.1%) and has a decent OBP against righties (.322). Though his batting average has been lower (.268 vs .285), his BABIP has been unnaturally high against lefties (.303 vs .342). Even if you factor in the fact that he hits more ground balls against lefties, he’s still fundamentally the same hitter — he’s the same guy after all — so with more chances against lefties, you’d expect that to regress heavily towards the league average.

If you look at overall hitters with a .140-.170 ISO and a 14-18% strikeout rate, you can start to get an idea of full-time comp players out there. Here they are, from 2011-2012, qualified players:

Eric Hosmer 1161 33 131 138 27 7.8% 15.2% 0.149 0.284 0.262 0.319 0.411 97
Jhonny Peralta 1161 34 126 149 1 7.7% 17.2% 0.162 0.300 0.269 0.325 0.431 104
Neil Walker 1192 26 138 152 16 8.5% 18.1% 0.140 0.319 0.276 0.338 0.416 108
Ryan Roberts 1044 31 137 117 28 10.2% 18.2% 0.153 0.271 0.242 0.320 0.395 93

Those look like decent comps, but then you have to remember that Schierholtz is going to platoon. So you have to take a third out. Let’s say you were going to take the best numbers here and make Schierholtz — finally in a decent park for a lefty with power (104 park factor for LHB HR) — a .276 hitter with 17 home run power, you have to lop off a third. Scott Hairston mashes lefties, after all (119 wRC+ v LHP).

Nate Schierholtz is on fire. Maybe he can hit .275 (.330 OBP) with 12+ home runs and help you in your deep league with deep benches and daily lineups. It might not be sexy, but that has value!

With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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9 years ago