Ryan Schimpf Is Still Hitting Lots of Fly Balls, But Not Like He Used To

An incredible fly-ball rate in 2016 was a reason to love Schimpf in fantasy baseball, but things have come crashing down quickly.

As a 28-year-old rookie for the San Diego Padres in 2016, infielder Ryan Schimpf came out of nowhere to have quite a powerful debut in the big leagues, and did it in a rather unique way.

In just 330 plate appearances, he posted a .217/.336/.533 triple slash off the strength of 20 home runs, 17 doubles and 5 triples. If he qualified for the batting title, his Isolated Power (ISO) of .315 would've been the best mark in baseball. This was all made possible by an insanely-high 64.9% fly-ball rate (which also would've been the highest in baseball) but was aided by an equally high 39.7% hard-hit rate.

He was a great late-round target in season-long drafts but has disappointed thus far by slashing just .109/.292/.273 through 72 plate appearances.

One of the things that made him an attractive fantasy option -- his fly-ball rate -- has actually been his downfall because of his performance in that particular situation.

The Big Difference

When we take a look at what Schimpf has done to this point in 2017, there is one glaring difference -- his quality of contact.

Here's a look at how the frequency in which he hits line drives (LD%), fly balls (FB%), ground balls (GB%) and infield flies (IFFB%) compare between his rookie campaign and this year's slow start.

2016 330 15.5% 19.5% 64.9% 15.0%
2017 72 14.3% 20.0% 65.7% 26.1%

Outside of a spike in infield flies, his batted-ball data looks exactly the same. So, how come his ISO is currently sitting at a much less juicy .164 and his BABIP is .094? Well, he's barely hitting anything hard compared to last season.

Here's a look at his soft-hit rate (Soft%), medium-hit rate (Med%) and hard-hit rate (Hard%) during the same time period as above.

Year PA Soft% Med% Hard%
2016 330 22.4% 37.9% 39.7%
2017 72 31.4% 51.4% 17.1%

That's what we'd call a suboptimal progression, folks. This can also help explain why he's popping the ball up at a much higher frequency.

Last year, he posted a 219 wRC+ on fly balls off the strength of a 1.256 OPS, .682 ISO and a 42.5% hard-hit rate. It shouldn't be surprising that his wRC+ is just 96 at the moment after seeing the .793 OPS, .429 ISO and 17.4% hard-hit rate he's produced so far.

Get More Aggressive?

While Schimpf's 30.6% strikeout rate is pretty much in line with what he did last year (31.8%), a clear shift in plate discipline -- to this point, at least -- has helped his walk rate go from the 12.7% mark it was in 2016 to 20.8%.

Overall, that's a good thing, but he's giving himself fewer opportunities on the pitches he should theoretically be jumping on. Check out his progression with regard to swings on pitches outside the strike zone (O-Swing%) and inside the strike zone (Z-Swing%), along with their corresponding contact rates.

Year PA O-Swing% Z-Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact%
2016 330 25.5% 67.5% 58.0% 81.6%
2017 72 18.2% 57.7% 54.6% 83.5%

His cumulative swing rate has also decreased from 43.3% to 35.2% thus far, while his swinging-strike rate looks better (11.3% in '16, 8.8% in '17). Having such a low chase rate is never a bad thing, but his Z-Swing% has taken the steeper dip out of the two, which is the opposite of what we want happening.

It sounds weird to tell a player with a strikeout rate above 30.0% to get more aggressive, but that's what Schimpf should be doing -- he's handcuffing himself by not attacking strikes at the same levels he was doing in 2016. Until he figures out how to start making hard contact at least close to the level he was doing last year, all the fly balls he's hitting won't get us nearly as intrigued as we were just a few weeks ago.