Awaited In Valhalla – The Ivy Drip’s 2016 Player Previews: The War Bear

Sort of continues with our Mad Max theme. Never let it be said I don’t say on point, Tip.

Kyle Schwarber is kind of the inverse of our previous preview, Addison Russell. Schwarbs came up hitting, never really stopped, and then they just had to figure out a place to stick him with a glove where he wasn’t a huge danger to himself or fans and nothing would get set on fire. They kinda did so, and the mystery with Schwarber this year is how often he’ll shuffle between catcher and left.

With Bryant, Schwarber does come with some fear of sophomore slump. The Cubs can survive one of them doing so. If both do, then it’ll get more stressful (though hardly will be a failure). Let’s dive in!

Kyle Schwarber’s 2015

273 PA/16 HR/43 RBI/13.2 BB%/28.2 K%/.241 ISO/.293 BABIP/.246 AVG/.355 OBP/.487 SLG/.364 wOBA/131 wRC+/1.9 WAR

Worth two wins and he barely played a third of the season. Obviously that kind of production over a full season would lead to a pretty silly number. When discussing The War Bear, the question is really what could lead him to fall off those numbers, other than the wear and tear of a full major league season. But Schwarbs has at least done the time of it, playing through October. Now it’s just dealing with the quality over six months.

Clearly the first thing to jump out is that Schwarber probably shouldn’t play against lefties. He hit them to the tune of .143 last year, and struck out in nearly half of his ABs against them. That’s what we call “bad” in the old country. Schwarber couldn’t lay off breaking balls from southpaws off the plate or fastballs above his hands. Seeing as how they’re going to struggle to get Soler at-bats anyway, this is probably the route.

But that does provide something of a conundrum. If Schwarber can’t catch on days a lefty is pitching, that means the also kinda struggles-against-lefties Miguel Montero is going to have to. David Ross is a general sucking sound against anyone, so that’s not an option. Montero at least didn’t strikeout any more against them and got on base at a fair percentage, so it’s not like you’re creating a hole in the lineup that way.

The second thing to watch is how Schwarber deals with how pitchers will adjust to him. As the season went along last year, Schwarbs saw the percentage of breaking pitches thrown to him rise from 13% in June to nearly 30% in September. He hit .221 in August in .201 in September, before going off in the playoffs. It’s probably not that good of an idea to use the small test tube of playoff baseball to assume anything. Though no one will decline if he does that again, of course. On curveballs over the season Schwarber whiffed on nearly 60% of the swings he took. He hit .121 against curves and slugged .212. So it’s pretty clear what he’s going to see. A little alarmingly, those numbers are .130 each when the hammer comes from a righty. There really isn’t another pitch that he couldn’t prove he could handle, so again the attack plan from pitchers who have a yakker in the arsenal is pretty clear.

So there’s the plan, and it’s up to War Bear to prove he can handle it. If he does, and pitchers have to go back to harder stuff, then it’s going to look like an Antonio Banderas Christmas around Wrigley (Let’s Play….).

The other question is where does the glove go. We already know the plan. He’ll catch Jason Hammel and basically Jason Hammel only. I wouldn’t be surprised if he catches Hendricks once in a while, though Hendricks needs a framer and he’s not that yet. Lackey is too likely to knife him during a mound meeting. Will he kill anyone in left? No, I don’t think so and it’s not like Chris Coghlan was Baryshnikov out there last year anyway. Schwarber is certainly going to outhit whatever uh-oh’s he provides in the field.

Previous Player Previews
Addison Russell

David Ross

Hector Rondon

Anthony Rizzo

Clayton Richard

Neil Ramirez

Miguel Montero

Jon Lester

Jason Heyward

Kyle Hendricks

Jason Hammel

Justin Grimm

Dexter Fowler

Trevor Cahill

Kris Bryant

Javy Baez

Jake Arrieta

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