Now is not the time for Chicago Cubs fans to give up on Kyle Schwarber fixing his offensive woes. On Saturday against the St. Louis Cardinals, he showed exactly why.
Chicago Cubs skipper Joe Maddon told CSNChicago he’s “tried everything” to get the 24-year-old’s bat to heat up since tending his leadoff experiment with the slugger.
Some analysts claim the only answer left is to send him to the minors. However, if a guy is struggling to hit good pitching, I don’t understand how facing mediocre-at-best pitching will help him.
If your retort says something about confidence, consider the mental blow he’s enduring just by arriving in Iowa. Secondly, how much confidence in Schwarber is the organization showing at that point?
Sure, Chicago’s offense is still dangerous without Schwarber. Especially with the emergence of Ian Happ. I get that. But, it’s twice as deep and lethal with War-Bear in the lineup. That’s why he must continue to get in the box and take his hacks. Moreover, Cubs fans must be patient with this process if they want to see their team repeating as champions this fall.
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Cracking the code
Maddon’s experiment with Schwarber as a leadoff hitter was downright painful to watch at times. He slashed .200/.373/.688 with six home runs and 17 RBI at the top of the order, and is 6-for-32 leading off games.
The Cubs’ skipper slowly dropped Schwarber in the lineup, culminating in a seven-slot appearance on Friday night in the series opener against the St. Louis Cardinals.
He told reporters after the 3-2 victory that he put Schwarber in a really tough spot by hitting him seventh because it allowed the Red Birds to take advantage of the hole-hitter in front of him and the pitcher hitting behind him.
On Saturday, Chicago’s skipper seemingly cracked the code by hitting Schwarber last.
Entering Saturday’s contest, Schwarber had never recorded a hit when batting ninth. However, he went 1-for-3 in the game and recorded his first career grand slam on a go-ahead strike in the seventh inning.
Now, his .333 average is the highest of any slot Schwarber’s batted in this year. So, what makes this move so important to Schwarber’s success? (Yes, it’s a one-game sample size).
Why it works
Hitting Schwarber ninth utilizes both his ability to get on base and drive in runs without necessitating that he accomplish either with his bat.
In an optimized lineup (where the pitcher hits eighth), the nine-hole batter is essentially another leadoff hitter with their only job being to get on base by any means necessary. Currently, Schwarber has the team’s fourth-highest walk rate (13 percent), and the fifth-highest RBI total(23). Plus, the young lefty will get one less at-bat per game while he’s struggling.
Opposing pitchers will also be more willing to attack Schwarber to avoid seeing the Happ-Kris Bryant–Anthony Rizzo trio which follows. Maddon used this same technique to cultivate shortstop Addison Russell’s offensive game when he earned an every day role.
The juice is worth the wait
The Cubs’ catcher-turned-outfielder has a knack for making big-time plays in big-time situations.
Schwarber is Chicago’s all-time leader in postseason home runs and has the club’s all-time highest career post season OPS at 1.176.
In career 14 playoff games, he slashed .364/.727/1.176 with eight runs scored, seven walks and 10 RBI.
Don’t forget he also hit .412 with a double and two RBI in the 2016 World Series after missing the entire regular and postseason with a massive knee injury.
2017 has been brutal for the Cubs’ young slugger – to say the least. Even so, there is still plenty of time for Schwarber to get on the right foot offensively. He’s not going anywhere, quietly.