Chicago Cubs: Just look down the bench to see what Schwarber could become
In Rizzo’s first taste of the Major Leagues in 2011, he slashed .172/.273/.345 with a 88 sOPS+ (you want a number above 100, ideally, to be better than league average against that particular split) in a small sample size of 33 plate appearances against southpaws. In year two, he slashed .208/.243/.356 for a 84 sOPS+ in 107 plate appearances. In his third year in the big leagues, 2013, Rizzo slashed .189/.282/.342 for a 93 sOPS+ in 216 plate appearances.
Notice the jump in number of plate appearances against lefties in that third year. Despite the atrocious numbers, Rizzo figured something out and made some adjustments. In his fourth season after those consistent at-bats against both righties and lefties, Rizzo put up a .300/.421/.507 slash line for a 152 sOPS+ in 171 PA. Would you look at that?
Schwarber’s first three big league seasons against left-handed pitchers (I won’t count 2016 because we all know he got hurt in the first series of the year) looked like this: in 2015, he slashed 143/.213/.268 for a 43 sOPS+ in a minuscule 61 PA. In 2017, he slashed .171/.306/.341 for a 90 sOPS+ in 98 plate appearances. Then last year, he slashed .224/.352/.303 for a 99 sOPS+ against lefties in 91 plate appearances.
In each of their respective first seasons, they were both bad, with Rizzo being better in limited plate appearances. In the next two seasons, however, Schwarber was actually slightly more productive than Rizzo. The main difference, though, is that Schwarber didn’t get twice as many plate appearances to work things out in that third season.
Now, I’m not saying that he indubitably would replicate Rizzo’s absurd growth and change against lefties from 2013 to 2014; but, it’s very possible between Schwarber’s instincts, approach and knowledge coupled with Rizzo’s advice that he could improve dramatically if given the same chance to adjust that his own teammate was given only a few years ago.