Chicago Cubs: Ian Happ, Kyle Schwarber provide more than you think

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Chicago Cubs
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Chicago Cubs: Schwarber proving to be another OBP machine

Which brings me back to Kyle Schwarber. To say fans have never been capable of setting realistic expectations for this guy is putting it mildly. He burst onto the scene in 2015, gave us a sampling of his light-tower power in October and then pulled off a miraculous recovery from a brutal knee injury to help the Cubs win their first World Series in over a century the very next year.

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No pressure, right?

After utterly failing as the team’s leadoff hitter in 2017, Schwarber came back in 2018 after dropping a ton of weight in the offseason ready to prove himself. And, to a degree, he did so, appearing in a career-high 137 games, hitting 26 long-balls and driving in a career-high 61 runs.

But what’s the one number everyone focuses on? His batting average, which clocked in at a disappointing .238. But to pull a page from Moneyball, I have to ask:

He gets on base a lot. Do I care if it’s a walk or a hit? – I do not.

Schwarber got on base at a .356 clip last season – a mark that trailed just Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist and Kris Bryant – the latter of whom appeared in just 102 games due to injury. Aside from a few points on his average and 20 points worth of slugging (which I anticipate makes its return under new hitting coach Anthony Iapoce) – he put up darn-near the same numbers that left us all salivating in his rookie campaign.

But instead of celebrating what he accomplished last year, fans are seemingly hellbent on trashing him at every turn. The guy hasn’t even got 350 big league games under his belt, but we’re writing him off.

Cubs have lots of questions in the bullpen. dark. Next

So in an offseason where the Chicago Cubs have repeatedly insisted that offensive improvements will likely come from within, let’s understand that Theo Epstein has every reason to believe that will be the case. Throwing money at problems doesn’t always end well – and if you don’t agree with that, have you complained about Jason Heyward, Yu Darvish or Tyler Chatwood lately?

That’s what I thought.