Schimpf slugs homers amid slump
Diminutive infielder takes Eastern League home run lead
By Jake Seiner / Special to MLB.com
Ryan Schimpf is hitting just .154 over his past seven games, but lucky for him, not all batting averages are created equal.
The Toronto third-base prospect hit a pair of home runs Monday in Double-A New Hampshire's 7-3 win over Portland, lifting his OPS over that seven-game span to .928.
Schimpf is just 4-for-26 in that stretch, but all four hits have been home runs -- an anomaly for which the Eastern League's home run leader has no explanation.
"It's really just weird, to be honest with you," said Schimpf, who has 11 homers on the season. "It's just a weird thing that has happened. I'm not up there trying to do it. Just lucky enough to run into a few."
The longball lunacy isn't the only oddity in that stretch either. Schimpf also mixed in a five-walk, 0-for-0 effort against Portland on May 15. Although the infielder has long boasted strong walk totals, the feat was a first in his five-year pro career.
"I don't really know how that happened," he said.
All of this has come as Schimpf has attempted to break out of a slump that has him batting .188 in May. Beyond the home runs, Schimpf thinks he's made strides correcting some timing issues, which he thought came to fruition Monday when facing Portland knuckleballer Charlie Haeger.
"I'm just out there trying to make sure I get ready on time, nice and easy, and get a good pitch to hit," Schimpf said. "I'm still not where I want to be right now. I was just fortunate enough to get a hold of a couple balls."
In the first inning, Haeger challenged Schimpf with a fastball, and the 5-foot-9 infielder drilled it out to right field.
Schimpf's second homer was a three-run shot in the top of the ninth that extended New Hampshire's lead to the final four-run margin.
As he's tried to scratch out of his recent slump, Schimpf's primary focus has been on his pre-pitch habits. He's had trouble seeing the baseball of late and has been trying to get into a ready, hitting position sooner to correct that.
"I think it's something you always want to focus on, but this year in particular, it's something I really want to focus on," he said. "I've been in a funk with it over the past week or two. Sometimes you'll just not see the ball well and just swing.
"It's something I focused on today, especially in my early work. I'm focused on getting ready to recognize the ball. Sometimes you have a brain fart and you're not thinking of the most important part of hitting, getting ready to see the ball."
The two homers moved him ahead of Jimmy Murphy (10) and Tyler Collins (nine) for the Eastern League home run lead -- an impressive feat for the diminutive infielder who packs just 180 pounds onto his 5-foot-9 frame.
The left-handed hitter popped 22 homers last year and has increased his home run total in each of his pro seasons. The power wasn't really projected for the Louisiana State product when he was drafted, something Schimpf credits to improving his swing and approach.
"I think a lot of that is I've been fortunate enough to be around a lot of good coaches and hitters," he said. "I'm able to pick bits and pieces from each individual.
"Right now, I'm just trying to make sure I keep my timing right. It got kind of messed up there for a little bit and it's always a work in progress. But that's the biggest thing, working on my timing and getting ready."