With the Toronto Blue Jays clinging to playoff aspirations by their fingernails, and desperation growing with each passing game, the cries of fans and casual observers have reached a fever pitch – where is Davis Schneider!?
Almost a month ago, the mustachioed Schneider burst onto the scene for the Jays, famously hitting a home run in his first career at-bat, on his way to an MLB record nine hits and two home runs in his first three games, leading Brandon Belt to affectionately dub him “Babe” Schneider.
And yet, since that point, Schneider has only made it into in six games, starting five and appearing as a pinch hitter in another.
How is this possible?
Though he’s come down from the lofty heights of his debut, Schneider is still slashing an eye-popping .367/.472/1.172, with four extra base hits (three homers and one double) across 35 plate appearances. More than that, nearly every time he has played, he’s found himself in the middle of the key moments of the game.
In the first three games of his career, Schneider’s record setting performance carried the Jays to an unexpected (and perhaps season-saving) sweep of the Red Sox at Fenway.
On José Bautista’s Level of Excellence induction day, in front of a packed house and various luminaries in attendance for the celebration, Schneider completed the comeback from a 4-1 deficit with an RBI double in the 6th, before giving his team a chance to win with a walk in the 8th inning of a tie game, only for Kirk and Biggio to follow with strikeouts, and the Jays to fall 5-4 in the 9th.
Then, on August 19 in Cincinnati, Schneider hit the game winning home run against the Reds in a 4-3 victory.
In other words, Schneider has started eight games, and has been a game-changing force in five of them. Despite this, his game winner against Cincinnati was, as of this writing, the last time he touched the field.
Schneider’s omission from the lineup gets even more inexplicable when you consider who has been chosen ahead of him. Yes, Bo Bichette’s three-week absence due to injury skewed things a bit, but the numbers are still shocking to look at.
Since Schneider was called up on August 4th, Santiago Espinal has started the same number of games as him (8), batting .192 with a .276 OBP and one extra base hit in 29 plate appearances during this time. Meanwhile, Cavan Biggio has started 12 games, and though he’s had his moments, has hit .238 with a .333 OBP and two extra base hits across 48 plate appearances.
It’s not as if the players chosen ahead of Schneider have been tearing the cover off the ball, or, for that matter, even performing like average Major League hitters. So why not throw Schneider out there and see what he can do?
Really though, it’s about more than just the players Schneider might replace. It is now late August, and even as the front office continues to insist that their analytics say things will eventually change, the Jays remain mired in a season-long stretch of underperformance at the plate – 17th in the league in runs scored, and bottom ten in batting average, OBP, and OPS with runners in scoring position.
If the lineup was humming along, Schneider’s omission from it might not be a topic of debate. But this is a team which time and time again cannot find anyone to come up with a big hit, a lineup desperate for a spark.
And that’s perhaps the strongest argument for playing Davis Schneider more, a reason which goes beyond the box score, into the realm of intangibles.
A few days ago, as Bo Bichette returned from injury, he told Sportsnet,
“We need to be fearless. I don't think any team accomplishes anything special by not being fearless, so I think we just need to be fearless. Go out there, play our game, be aggressive and get after it.”
Anyone who’s watched the team play will know what he means. Game after game, at-bat after at-bat, Blue Jays hitters seem tentative, almost dejected, at the plate, repeatedly watching meatballs down the middle and taking half-hearted swings which seem designed to gently stroke the ball to the opposite field.
Davis Schneider, on the other hand, the 28th round pick who’s had to scratch and claw for every opportunity, is nothing if not “fearless,” a grip-it-and-rip-it type of hitter who seems content to follow the Roberto Clemente approach to hitting – if you get four at bats, take 12 hard swings and see what happens.
It’s tough to say that a 24-year-old with nine games of big league experience can be a team leader, particularly on a Blue Jays squad with its fair share of seasoned veterans. But right now, Schneider’s approach seems to be exactly what the lineup needs – go up there, get a pitch to hit, and let it fly.
The fact is, the season is hanging in the balance, and Davis Schneider needs to do more than just sit on the bench.
It’s time to see what the Babe can do!
Should the Jays give Davis Schneider more run? And if so, who should he replace? Moreover, can his approach at the plate show an underperforming lineup the way? Let me know on the platform formerly known as Twitter – @WriteFieldDeep.