Chicago Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber has earned the chance to start every game as the 2019 regular season winds down.
Seeing the same starting lineup each game isn’t something Chicago Cubs fans are accustomed to. This season alone, Joe Maddon has rolled out 121 different starting orders, in part due to injuries, subpar performances and transactions made as the season has rolled on.
In the current age of analytics, the consistency of inconsistent lineups makes sense. Outside of the superstars that play every game — Kris Bryant, Javier Báez, Anthony Rizzo, etc. — it’s wise for managers to choose their lineups based on that day’s matchup.
At this point in the 2019 season, this is still true — to an extent. If the Cubs face a tough-lefty starting pitcher down the stretch, not starting someone like Jason Heyward — hitting .174/.286/.312 his last 30 games — would be wise.
There’s room to go against this trend, though. For the Cubs, that means starting Kyle Schwarber in left field every game the rest of the way.
On a team full of big names, Schwarber has flown under the radar post-All-Star break. Since Aug. 2, the 26-year-old is slashing .294/.394/.694 (1.088 OPS), hitting nine home runs with 23 RBIs. Schwarber holds a stellar 172 wRC+ over that stretch, too.
Entering 2019, some of the criticism directed at Schwarber had to do with how he fared vs. left-handed pitching. Last season, he slashed .224/.352/.303 (.654 OPS) vs. southpaws, hitting just one home run against them all season.
Although Schwarber isn’t tearing the cover off the ball against lefties this season, his numbers have improved. Just five of his 33 home runs have come against lefties, but he holds a more respectable .775 OPS — largely due to his .455 slugging percentage.
So, since Schwarber can hold his own against lefties, is there anyone more worthy of holding down left field rather than him? Perhaps when Albert Almora Jr. starts in center, which moves Jason Heyward to right and Nick Castellanos to left, sitting Schwarber is defendable.
But Almora has struggled at the plate for most of the season, and while the Cubs get an upgrade defensively with him in the lineup, they lose something offensively.
Ian Happ is another leftfield option, but he can pick up starts in center and second base. He’s a better defender than Schwarber, but while the latter may never win a Gold Glove, his defense has improved through the years where he is no longer a liability in the outfield.
As long as Schwarber is hitting the way he is, he’s the best option in left field. Considering how the Chicago Cubs offense can be feast or famine at times, they need him in the starting lineup as much as possible right now.