You can discuss Kyle Schwarber for hours, and it seems like the two sides on him are getting more and more polarized. It’s not that everyone doesn’t love him, because I don’t think you’ll find a Cubs fan that doesn’t. The glow of coming back from a shredded knee to play and hit well in the World Series is going to take a long time to wear off, and is just another story that made last fall so magical. And his personality and let’s face it, the look of him, leads to everyone just having a soft spot for him.
But there are more and more who are starting to wonder if you can ever put a glove on him (and it doesn’t really matter where you put a glove on him). There are more who wonder if he’s ever actually going to hit for average and not just be more jolly Adam Dunn (not that Dunn was a red ass or anything). The crowd grows that’s curious if this isn’t a player that Theo and Jed simply are not seeing correctly.
And yet there probably isn’t one that Cubs fans would have more trepidation in seeing go.
It’s easy to divide Schwarber’s year into before and after he was sent down, but we’ll get into the overall first. And the overall really doesn’t look all that different from his half-season in 2015. The big difference in the batting average of course, but his average over the second half of the year was seven points different than his 2015 campaign. His on-base was in the second half was 20 points lower than his 2015, but his walk and strikeout-rate over the whole season were pretty much exactly where he was then. His slugging over the whole year wasn’t wholly different, and actually his slugging over the same time period as his 2015 covered was miles higher. Could it be that his playoff heroics in 2015 covered what weren’t the gaudy stats we remember?
And yet it doesn’t seem like Schwarber gets is drop in average chalked off, even partially to luck at all. But there’s a 50-point drop in BABIP from 2015 to 2017. Granted, there was a bit of a dip in his line-drive rate, which was never that high, and hard-contact rate. But a drop of a couple points in those categories shouldn’t lead to a 50-point drop in BABIP. Especially when his plate-discipline numbers are almost exactly the same as they were in 2015. He swung at the same amount of pitches, and both in and out of the strike zone. He actually made even more contact this year, mostly because he got to more pitches in the zone than he did in 2015. His swinging-strike rate was actually lower in ’17.
It’s not that simple, of course. Schwarber’s BABIP didn’t just sink simply because of the whims of baseball. Schwarber truly struggled with seeing THE SHIFT. Schwarbs his .243 on grounders this year, which was 40 points lower than he did two years ago. Against any shift, Schwarber hit .257. Two years ago that was .395. He saw it just about as often as he did in his first year as well. And it greatly improved in the second half of this past season.
I think it’s the second half that everyone is going to focus on. Schwarber jumped up his hard-contact rate in the second half. The numbers look good, with a 129 wRC+.
But is it enough? It seems more and more that he simply can’t play in the field. Schwarbs’s defense in left gets magnified because the errors are so glaring, but it’s still left field and really it isn’t all that bad. He fucks up, and usually it’s just a double. No, he’s never going to be plus out there. He’s never going to be average. And you can get away with that.
But still, he’s got to be more than a platoon player, And in a season and a half it hasn’t looked good. Can you throw your weight behind basically a glorified DH who can only play at most three-quarters of the time? I don’t have an answer for that.
The Cubs think that Scwharber is going to be an all-around hitter. All his numbers in the minors suggest he can be, but obviously, that’s the minors. A season and a half in the majors and he hasn’t sniffed a decent batting average. He walks enough to have a great OBP, but does he hit enough line-drives to hit .270 or .280? Hard to think without something of a swing change that he will.
Which leads us to this offseason. Even with that second-half, Schwarber’s value is still based on potential for the most part. At least it will be to half the league. And in that half of a league, how many teams need a DH? The Royals do, but what pitcher do you want in return from there? Will the Jays move Morales aside? Even if they do you’re not getting Stroman or Sanchez in return, so who gives a shit? Maybe the Astros when Carlos Beltran moves along? It’s not that big of a market.
Of the two between Schwarbs and Happ, Schwarbs is the more likely to put up just monster numbers. But as we said yesterday, Happ has the greater potential to do more. Honestly, I just can’t split ’em.