It’s one thing to have more home runs than singles if you’re Mark McGwire circa 1998 or Barry Bonds in 2001.
But when you’re journeyman third baseman Ryan Schimpf and have more home runs than singles in two major league seasons, with a .195 career batting average, it’s not ideal. And that’s not lost on the newest Brave, who came from Tampa Bay in a Monday trade for cash.
“Yeah, I don’t think you want to be all or nothing,” said Schimpf, who’s been the epitome of that in his brief major league career spanning parts of two seasons with the Padres, posting a solid .809 OPS, but doing it while going 86-for-441 with 34 home runs, 69 walks and 175 strikeouts.
He went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts in his Braves debut Thursday against the Astros and is 0-for-17 with one walk and 11 strikeouts this spring including five games with the Rays.
So far, all or nothing indeed.
After hitting .217 with five triples, 20 homers, 51 RBIs, a .336 OBP and .533 slugging percentage for an .869 OPS in 330 plate appearances for San Diego in 2016, Schimpf saw his numbers dip to a .158/.284/.424 slash line last season for a .709 OPS in 197 plate appearances, with 26 hits including two triples and 14 homers.
“Last year was just too inconsistent,” said the soon-to-be 30-year-old, who has 34 homers and 28 singles as a major leaguer. “I did some things that didn’t help me out, so for me it was just too inconsistent. Had a hole in my swing that was maybe in and out of the (strike) zone. Yeah, I mean I like hitting home runs, but definitely would like to do a lot better than I did last year.”
In 1998, McGwire hit .299 with 70 homers, 61 singles and a 1.222 OPS. In 2001, Bonds hit .328 with 73 homers, 49 singles and 1.379 OPS.
Those were otherworldly and, ahem, perhaps assisted performances by all-time sluggers.
But generally speaking, a hitter having as many homers as singles is not a sign of balanced production. Schimpf’s whiffing tendencies limited his chances with the Padres, after seven seasons in the Toronto Blue Jays organization through 2015 without a major league call-up.
Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos was Toronto’s GM when Schimpf was in the Blue Jays system.
“Yeah, we definitely spent a lot of time together in Toronto,” Schimpf said. “And (new Braves catching coach) Sal Fasano was my first full-season manager in low-A, and a couple of guys in the training staff I’m familiar with from Toronto and then San Diego. So yeah, it’s definitely good to come into an organization where you know a good bit of the staff. So we’re excited to work together again.”
The Padres traded Schimpf to Tampa Bay in December for infielder Deion Tansel, and the Rays designated him for assignment when they needed a roster spot last weekend, then traded him to the Braves a couple of days later.
“A little unexpected, but that’s part of baseball,” he said. “It’s been a busy couple of weeks, training over there and then packing up and coming over here. But it’s exciting, Definitely very happy to be over here and looking forward to the opportunity.
“We’re really excited to be in Atlanta. It’s definitely a great organization, a great opportunity. We’re really, really pumped to be here.”
The Braves will give him a chance to compete for the third-base job, but Johan Camargo is the clear front-runner at the position and a bench job is probably the best hope for Schimpf. Because he has not used all his minor-league options, the Braves can send him to Triple-A to start the season and have him available if they have a need during the season.
Braves manager Brian Snitker said he’ll give Schimpf an opportunity to show what he can do. After having him DH in Thursday’s game, he plans to start Schimpf at third base Friday night against the Yankees.
Schmpf said he made some adjustments to his swing and approach during the offseason in an effort to become a more balanced hitter like he was in his Blue Jays minor league years. He has a .245 career average and .345 OBP with 147 homers in parts of nine minor league seasons, including four seasons with at least 20 homers.
“Nothing crazy, didn’t re-invent the wheel with me,” he said of his offseason work. “Just try to get (the bat) more in the zone. I did some things last year that were getting me in and out of the zone too much. So just kind of go back to some of the things I did years ago when I was more consistent. Really just try to figure out how to get in the zone and not try to create lift or hit the ball on the ground, but just that middle ground of being in the zone as long as possible.”