Semien, Schoop, Strikeouts and Second Base

Marcus Semien and Jonathan Schoop have similar strikeout rates. They did *not* get there the same way. Which is good, because otherwise I would have had to link these two just by saying that they sometimes play second base and are young, which is not a great intro. Not saying this intro is A+, but a little bit better than that intro at least. I hope.

Navel gazing aside, it’s sort of fascinating how different players can find their way to a strikeout. The patient one that doesn’t swing much can find his way into bad counts while still making good contact. The free-swinger can hack his way into a strikeout. The slugger that never chokes up can whiff at pitches that scrappier guys would take the other way.

Take Semien and Schoop. Semien has a 30.3% strikeout rate, but a decent 9.3% swinging strike rate (8.7% is average). Schoop has a 28.9% strikeout rate and a horrid 15.1% swSTR%. That whiff rate is good for 17th-worst in the league, right behind Ryan Howard and right ahead of Jonathan Villar.

Their swing metrics are the key to the difference between them. Paradoxically, perhaps, Semien strikes out because he doesn’t swing enough. And Schoop has a better strikeout rate because he’s more aggressive and swings much more often. I’ve written about this in the past with respect to Josh Hamilton (with a mathier response), but let’s put a few numbers together to highlight what I’m talking about.

First, you’ll see Semien’s relevant swing rates. Then you’ll see the average of the 20 players ahead of him and behind him in swinging strike rate. Then you’ll see the league average rates. Then you’ll see Schoop’s rates. Then you’ll see the average of the 40 players around Schoop in swinging strike rate. Basically, you’ll see Semien versus his comps and Schoop versus his.

Name K% ISO AVG SwStr% Swing% O-Swing%
Marcus Semien 30.3% 0.136 0.220 9.3% 40.5% 23.4%
Semien Comps 18.3% 0.161 0.270 8.7% 46.1% 29.1%
League Average 20.6% 0.141 0.250 9.3% 45.7% 28.9%
Jonathan Schoop 28.9% 0.143 0.231 15.1% 56.9% 40.5%
Schoop Comps 26.3% 0.181 0.245 14.5% 50.9% 34.4%

Maybe the table is a little hard to read at first, but let’s talk our way through it because these guys are very different, but they got to their bad strikeout ways by being extreme versions of their comps.

Look at Homo Semiens. Generally, he swings and reaches and makes contact at a league average rate. Generally, that produces a league-average strikeout rate with decent power. But Semien himself doesn’t swing. By not swinging, he’s getting into deeper counts. We can assume from his strikeout rate that he’s making the wrong decision late in counts.

Look at Homo Schoops. He swings a ton, reaches a ton, doesn’t make much contact, but brings a power bat to the table. Schoop himself, though, swings more often than his comps, and reaches more often, and so has an even worse strikeout rate than his powerful compatriots.

We know that swing rate is ‘stable’ by now, but we also know that line in the middle — the league average — is still 50% important to any future considerations we make. So, even though we know that they’ve been extreme when it comes to swinging (and not swinging), we also know that they’re likely to regress to the middle to some extent.

But that doesn’t mean these two were created equal. Given that both of them have a little bit less power than their comps, it’s interesting that Semien, when judged by his comps, will be regressing towards a better batting average than Schoop. Unless Schoop suddenly turns on the power, he’ll find himself showing similar punch as Semien, but with fewer steals and a worse batting average. Schoop might have that sort of long-term power — scouts certainly think so even if his minor league stats don’t necessarily show it — but right now, Semien is a better bet in fantasy.

Jonathan Schoop had more pedigree at one point, as he was awarded top-five status in his organization for three years running and peaked at #82 on Baseball America’s top 100. Marcus Semien was only ranked in the top five in the White Sox organization once, and appeared once on the BA list — at #91 last year. Both are showing extreme strikeout rates backed by extremely different swing metrics. It sure looks like Semien is the one that’s more likely to regress to a better fantasy line, though.

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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They are both on the bubble for demotions aren’t they due to PT concerns?
I thought from previous research here that Semien had a better minor league track record for walking and that Schoop became ultra aggressive in triple A last year but wasn’t as bad previously. Are they better served continuing to adjust here or back to the farm for extra seasoning?

Eno Sarris

I think they’ll stick. The Orioles really don’t have an above-replacement 2B otherwise, and Schoop survived the Machado return. The White Sox are looking past Gordon Beckham so I think they’ll just hope he can provide some trade value by the end of the year.


Somewhere in the multiple baseball podcasts i’ve listened to or the articles i’ve read, I have heard that that White Sox want to get Semien a full season of ABs in the majors this year.

The fact that they aren’t good enough for the playoffs should help that. I have also heard some talk about him getting a few ABs in the OF depending on how long Eaton is out once Gillespe returns.