The Chicago Cubs obviously have gotten off to a torrid start during the opening months of the 2016 season. Taking nothing away from their success, the team could have been even better with a healthy Kyle Schwarber.
The Chicago Cubs are off to a fast start in the 2016 season, going 39-15 in just over two months this season. Despite owning the best record in the MLB as is, the team actually had the potential to be even better this season.
Obviously, the fact that the best team in baseball could possibly be better is a bit far-fetched. After all, being 24 games over .500 on June 4th is no easy accomplishment, so the Cubs deserve a lot of credit for what they have done. However, one player could have made the team even better, and that’s Kyle Schwarber.
Before tearing his ACL during the opening week of the season, Schwarber was expected to catch at least once a week, playing every day in outfield otherwise. Despite the fact that he is a natural catcher, Schwarber’s bat simply is too potent to not be in the lineup every day.
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To put things into perspective, Schwarber’s 2015 statistics were flat-out ridiculous. In just 69 games, he hit .246 with 16 home runs and 43 RBI. Putting that pace on a 162 game scale, Schwarber would have hit 30+ home runs, had he played a full season.
Obviously, it’s pretty unlikely that Schwarber’s pace would have translated perfectly this season to match exactly. However, it does seem pretty likely that he would have hit more home runs in 2016, had he been healthy.
So what exactly does all of this mean? To simply put it, losing Schwarber took a power lefty bat from the starting lineup, one that had the potential to lead all Cubs’ players in home runs. Not only did the Cubs lose that sort of production, but what they gained as a replacement has been sub-par this season, to say the least.
I am a big believer in Jorge Soler, but he has been rather disappointing in 2016 as one of the Cubs’ main left fielders. In 48 games played, Soler has hit .216 with just five home runs and 13 RBI, numbers that do not reflect the skill he has with a bat.
One positive note about Soler is that his numbers have been trending upwards as of late. Over the last 15 games, he has played, Soler has hit .308 with three home runs and seven RBI, all while constantly being in and out of the lineup.
Without a doubt, Soler’s struggles could be attributed to the inconsistent playing time he has had, something Schwarber would not have had to deal with (barring his own potential struggles). For that reason alone, having Soler in his spot has taken away from the team in a sense.
Essentially, having a struggling Soler (before his recent success) in the lineup opposed to Schwarber could be the difference between 20 home runs from Soler this year and 30 potentially from Schwarber. This is all hypothetical, but it’s hard to not think about what could have been.
All in all, Soler had faced a tough situation in regards to his playing time this year, but the way to get more at-bats is to produce when given an opportunity. While it’s hard to go off of an assumption, one has to wonder what the Cubs record would have looked like if they had Schwarber for a full season, not less than half of one.