Sunday, April 10, 2016

Tyler White & Mike Schemer

Any decent Astros fan would have known about the first base battle that went on over Spring Training, where Tyler White handsomely beat out Jon Singleton and A.J. Reed for the starting first baseman's job.  Despite not starting on opening day (that honour when to Marwin Gonz├ílez), White still managed two plate appearances, lacing a single and being drilled on the hand.

Since then, White has gone on a tear.  In his first official start - the following day at Yankee Stadium - White went 2-4 with a double.  The next two days - Game 3 against the Yankees and Game 1 against Brewers - White posted near-identical lines: 3-4, HR, K, with 4 RBI against he Yankees and a double and 3 RBI against the Brewers.

If you happen to be adding up at home, White has gone 9-13 through his first four games.  That is, according to the Root Sports TV telecast, only the second time in history that a hitter has managed 9 hits during his first 4 games.  The only other man in history to do that is Mike Schemer, who played for the 1945 NY Giants.

Schemer was a left-handed hitting first baseman who was born in Baltimore.  He was called up in early-August 1945, to make his major-league debut.  Prior to that, he was playing in AA Jersey City, where he had posted a .323/.380/.454 line.  The starting first baseman on the Giants that year was Phil Weintraub, who had the incredible distinction of once having 11 RBI's in one game.  Wikipedia records that Weintraub missed the cycle by a single that day - he had two doubles, a triple and a home run.

Anyhow, Weintraub was a decent outfielder (career .295/.398/.440) who made his debut in 1933, but spent five years in the minor leagues (1938-1943) around the time of WWII.  When he returned to the majors in 1944, he started at first base for the NY Giants.  He played his last game on August 5, 1945 - I cannot find why that was the case, but the August 5 date was a double header.  Weintraub was hitting .272/.389/.417 at the time.

Mike Schemer was called up, and on August 8, he got the start and made his ML debut against the Cardinals.  Schemer went 2-4 that day on a 3-0 loss.  The next three games were also against the Cardinals, and he went 2-3 with a walk, 3-4, and 2-4 with a walk, a double, and an RBI - the first of his career.  Schemer's fifth major league game was less successful - he went 0-3 with a strikeout.

Returning to 2016, Tyler White went 1-1, 2-4 with a double, 3-4 with a home run, and 3-4 with a home run and a double.  And, in his fifth game (today), White followed that up with a 1-2 effort, including a walk and a home run.  That puts White at 10-15 in his major league career, which bests Schemers' 9-16 effort in his first five games.

I doubt anyone has managed a 10-15 start to their ML career, so perhaps Tyler White is setting records at the moment.  No rational human being expects White to continue as this torrid pace, but keeping it going for another couple of games would certainly make history.  I have said before on this site that the one thing that impresses me about White is his ability to make hard contact with two strikes.  He also seems to lack of an obvious weakness in the strike zone.  Those factors, along with his increase in power that he has exhibited over Spring Training and early in the season, raise the possibility of a very solid rookie year for the 33rd-round draft pick.

White has already separated himself from Mike Schemer by virtue of the fifth game they have both played.  Where he will want to further separate himself is in how their careers progressed.  Schemer played out the 1945 season, getting 114 plate appearances, and recording a .333/.368/.407 triple-slash.  He walked six times and struck out once, managing 3 doubles, one triple, and one home run.  Schemer returned the minors to start the 1946 season, then recorded a lone major-league plate appearance (April 24 against the Boston Braves) where he reached on an error in the ninth inning.  That was the last plate appearance he recorded in the major leagues.  Schemer ended his career in the Florida International League in 1948 at the age of 30.  He died in 1983 at the age of 65.

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