Fastballs have become a problem for Davis Schneider (again)

Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas Hall
1 month ago
Though Davis Schneider has been a leading offensive force for the Toronto Blue Jays this season, his bat has gone ice-cold over the last few weeks as pitchers have adjusted to the club’s primary leadoff hitter.
The 25-year-old had been hitting .255/.361/.475 with a 140 wRC+ on the year following a three-RBI performance against the Chicago White Sox on May 28. But since then, his offensive production has suffered quite a hit, as his wRC+ has dropped nearly 30 points over his last 12 games, falling to 112 in his first full major league campaign.
Schneider is going through it at the plate right now. He is 6-for-his-last-46 (.130) with only two extra-base hits (one home run) and four RBIs, accounting for a dreadful 21 wRC+. To go along with those woes, his swing decisions have also taken a step back, as he owns 13 strikeouts to just three walks in this 12-game span.
These struggles have also seen Schneider’s hard-contact output evaporate, considering he only has three barrels over his previous 34 batted ball events and carries a 26.5-per-cent hard-hit rate. That’s a pretty significant decline for someone with a 90th percentile barrel rate (14.2 per cent) this season.
Granted, we’re dealing with a limited sample size of fewer than 50 at-bats. So you probably don’t need to reach for the panic button yet. At the same time, it’s fair to wonder what’s changed over the last two weeks. How are pitchers attacking Schneider differently compared to earlier in the season?
Well, it all starts with the old No. 1 — the fastball.
Everybody and their neighbour are aware of Schneider’s weakness versus high heaters. So, naturally, opposing hurlers have started throwing him more this month, especially since he owns a .234 AVG and .411 SLG against those offerings in 2024 — including a -3 run value versus four-seamers, the lowest figure of any pitch he’s faced.
The game plan is simple against Schneider — overwhelm him with fastballs until he proves otherwise. As a result, he has faced 143 heaters since this hitting skid began on May 29, and only three other big-league hitters have endured more: Gunnar Henderson (146), Yandy Diaz (147) and Ryan McMahon (150).
As you probably already guessed, Schneider’s results against four-seamers, sinkers and cutters have nosedived recently, as evidenced by his .115/.226/.231 slash line, 33.3-per-cent hard-hit rate and -3 run value. But, of course, this isn’t his first rodeo.
Shortly after his historic major league debut, the competition began to adjust to the right-handed-hitting second baseman/left fielder. The book circulated quickly on him, with most of the sport singling out the upper quadrant of the strike zone, hoping to neutralize the hole in his swing path — primarily with four-seamers — due to his 5-foot-9 frame. And, as his near-40-per-cent strikeout rate proved, it worked.
Source: Baseball Savant
To Schneider’s credit, many of those punchouts resulted from human error, a problem he largely didn’t encounter at triple-A, thanks to the ABS system. Nevertheless, with the electronic strike zone not ready for major-league use, he knew he had to adjust to the adjustments made against him.
So, that’s precisely what he did prior to this season.
Needing to minimize his weakness versus high fastballs, Schneider made a few tweaks to his batting stance, standing more upright in the box to generate more contact and fewer swings and misses — which has proven successful thus far.
But, as you can gather from the chart below, another cold zone has emerged.
Source: Baseball Savant
Now that Schneider has mitigated his hole against high-and-inside heaters, pitchers have shifted their attention to the outer quadrant of the strike zone, intending to avoid the middle and inside windows, where he’s done most of his damage.
Source: Baseball Savant
It’s easy to understand why opponents have chosen this route; it has worked repeatedly this season.
Schneider hasn’t been able to cover that quadrant of the plate, as he’s slashed .164/.292/.291 with a .272 wOBA and 35.4-per-cent strikeout rate on outer-third fastballs. And those results have been even worse against high velocity (95 m.p.h. or higher), with his slash line falling to .118/.250/.294 while accompanied by a troubling .253 wOBA and 45-per-cent strikeout rate.
Given Schneider’s 47.3-per-cent career pull rate in the majors, the opposition has become determined to limit the number of fastballs he can turn on and deposit into left field for extra bases. That’s been a successful strategy, to their credit, considering he’s pulled less than 22 per cent of his 32 balls in play versus outer-third heaters on the year.
Now the challenge becomes whether he can adjust to opposing pitchers again. One potential solution might be to hit for a bit more power to the opposite field, as he did during Toronto’s 14th-inning walk-off victory against the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 1, where he crushed a 98.1-m.p.h. four-seamer on the outer half into the visitor’s bullpen for the game-winning blast.
That was the first time Schneider had ever sent a home run the other way. Of the 15 balls that have left the yard in his young big-league career, 14 have been pulled to left field or hit to centre, and perhaps therein lies a solid starting point.
But the Blue Jays must be careful not to alter too much from the righty slugger’s approach. After all, he’s one of the few hitters on this team who consistently creates damage via pulled fly balls, along with Danny Jansen and Daulton Varsho, who, as a lefty, causes havoc from the other batter’s box.
Schneider is at his best when he’s doing just that, but it’s much tougher to pull fastballs when they’re located on the outer third of the plate, as this recent sample size has proven. Going the other way more frequently could help, especially if he can continue to hit them over the fence, though finding a way to pull those outside heaters might be a more viable solution.
Starting his swing a few clicks earlier may be the key that helps with this adjustment, and it could make up for his 23rd-percentile average bat speed (69.8 m.p.h.) that pitchers have exposed as of late, particularly with high-velo fastballs atop the strike zone.
It’s also fair to question whether Schneider would benefit from making these changes while hitting lower in the lineup. The counterpoint to that, of course, is who takes his spot in the top 3 if he’s batting fifth or sixth? Spencer Horwitz could surely lead off, but with Jansen regressing from his earlier hot streak and Varsho likely better suited in the bottom half, you quickly run out of suitable replacements for the No. 2 spot.
Unless someone emerges from the shadows, the best answer might be to let Schneider hit his way out of these struggles while still hitting in front of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette.

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