Chicago Cubs: I like Kyle Schwarber, but fans’ reactions are insane
By Paul Seifert
When the Chicago Cubs non-tendered Kyle Schwarber, I was surprised, shocked, even – a bit sad. Then he went to the Washington Nationals and did exactly what he’s always done – erased a slow start by putting up huge numbers courtesy of an insane hot streak.
What’s not to like about Schwarber? He’s a nice kid, always friendly with the fans, a good clubhouse guy and a decent baseball player. Not to mention the owner of some remarkable feats of Cubs baseball lore.
He smashed his way into Cubs fans’ hearts in 2015 when he hit five home runs in the 2015 postseason. He didn’t do that against scrub bullpen pitching either. Four of those five were off Gerrit Cole, Michael Wacha, Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom.
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Then in 2016 he blows out a knee on April 7, then comes back in the World Series six months later as the Cubs DH and does this. He didn’t just hit, he stole a base! Then, after a 17-minute rain delay, he got the leadoff hit in that fateful 10th inning of Game 7.
As Brad Pitt remarked in Moneyball, “How can you not be romantic about baseball?” Certainly it’s impossible with a story like that.
Lately a lot fans have been second-guessing that move in the offseason by the Cubs front office to just let Schwarber walk. That second guessing reached fever pitch when he hit 16 homers in 18 games, only the third player to do so.
So now, fans here in DC are going crazy. But that’s Schwarber. He hits home runs and fans love it.
Chicago Cubs: Has he become what we thought he would?
But let’s just tap the brakes here folks, because a more reasoned look reveals that Kyle Schwarber is, in the end, still Kyle Schwarber. He hasn’t morphed in to some superhuman offensive machine.
For 2021, the former first-rounder is slashing .253/340/.570 with a .910 OPS. Some new found hitting prowess? Nope, in 2019 he posted a .250/.339/.531 slash and .871 OPS. He’s 2019 Kyle with a bit more slug, thanks to those 16 homers in 18 games.
Let’s dig a little deeper. His 2019 WAR was 2.6, currently it’s 2.2; his K% in 2019 was 25.6%, it’s currently 29.0%; his BB% in 2019 was 11.5%, it’s currently, 10.2%.
Digging a little deeper we find that his hard hit percentage, 50.9% in 2019 is 52% in 2021. His exit velo and launch angle are down slightly from 2019, and he is barreling up more balls. What has improved is he hits more pitches in the strike zone than in 2019.
So, but for the 16 home runs in 18 games, which is superhuman performance, is 2021 Schwarber better than our 2019 Schwarber? No, not by much. And what about our current left fielder? Sure. But even 2019 Joc Pederson is better than 2021 Joc Pederson.
So while all the fans’ anger is understandable, it is a bit, well, fanatical. In the end Kyle Schwarber is who he is, a power-hitting left fielder who doesn’t walk much and strikes out a lot. But, yes, it’s more fun to be romantic about baseball.