Chicago Cubs: Kyle Schwarber’s 2017 season in perspective

Despite criticism, Chicago Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber may very well prove to be a key piece to the postseason puzzle come October.

Remember when the news broke this spring? The Chicago Cubs were ready to insert Kyle Schwarber into the leadoff spot. And ready to do so in his first full big-league season. Fans of Joe Maddon smirked at yet another rejection of conventional baseball wisdom. Critics, meanwhile, hesitantly raised their eyebrows.

Did Maddon’s spite of tradition contribute to Schwarber’s struggles atop the lineup? That’s hard to determine. But those woes persisted to the point he headed to Triple-A Iowa.

The first half of the season was brutal for the young outfielder. He slashed .178/.300/.394 in 68 contests. His second-half, however, features a marked improvement. Since the break, he owns a .250/.337/.588 line. That’s more than serviceable for a rookie with 27 homers.

Since the calendar flipped to September, he’s slashed .294/.351/.588. It’s not just the numbers that should give Cubs fans hope in Schwarber’s future. It’s also also how the numbers have been acquired.

Schwarber’s first-half batting average on balls in-play (BAbip) was a measly .200. This is due largely to Schwarber’s inability to hit through the gaping hole along the third base line. He constantly slapped balls to the offset second baseman in shallow right field.

His second half BAbip jumped up to .313 thanks to a minor league stint focused on Schwarber learning to wait on the ball slightly longer to send it to the opposite side of the field that opponents neglect during his at-bats.

Perhaps the most compelling reason to have faith in Schwarber lies beyond the sabermetric curtain. This is a player who missed an entire season rehabbing a torn ACL. He returned at the end of the October to slash .412/.500/.471 in the biggest series of his life.

When you couple his flashes of greatness with his track record of going toe-to-toe with adversity, there’s no reason not to believe Kyle Schwarber’s 2017 season will ultimately be a blemish on an otherwise respectable MLB resume.