Exit Interviews – Kyle Schwarber
G PA HR R RBI SB BB% K% ISO
69 273 16 52 43 3 13.2 % 28.2 % .241
BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ BsR Off Def WAR
.293 . 246 .355 .487 .364 131 2.5 12.5 -3.4 1.9
I’m going to be generous and toss Kyle Schwarber in after the catchers, because I’m in a good mood for once. I know, I can’t believe it either. He’ll be listed there before next season too, because we know that the Cubs are going to toss him back there at least a handful of times. Whether he’s actually a catcher or not we’ll debate for years. And the funny thing is, if he proves he can actually be an average major league catcher, it’ll only be a few years before we’re all screeching for him to be moved out from behind the plate to preserve his legs and maintain that bat. Just like Joe Mauer and Buster Posey. Ah, the circle of life.
Looking back on Schwarber’s 2015, I think what jumps out at me is a line-drive rate of only 17%. That just can’t be, can it? Because I was in Cleveland the night he made his debut (for real), and it was immediately clear how hard he hit the ball. This was a kind who was knocking over second basemen with ground balls. Now, his hard-contact rate on FanGraphs is 39.7, which would be top-15 in the league and that sounds more to the point. Perhaps his hard contact just has more of an arc and thus gets categorized as fly balls more than it does line drives. Whatever, it makes a loud noise and goes a long way.
Let’s get the main debate about Schwarber out of the way, and now that most of the emotion has been removed from it. How soon Cubs fans forget, because it was only a couple years ago that Alfonso Soriano was able to become an average left fielder when he had a coaching staff that actually bothered to work with him. And Fonsy in his mid-30s is at least comparable to the athlete that Schwarber is in his early 20s, wherever on that scale you’d put either (I’m going to guess low). So if it has to work out that Schwarbs stays in left field, he can certainly not have balls clanking off his admittedly hardened skull on a regular basis.
The bat there’s not much to pretend about. Schwarber killed the ball, though had some trouble with lefties. I think it’s also worth noting that Schwarber took a .293 BABIP, which is a little lower than league average. But he seems like the type who will probably carry a higher BABIP than average as things move on here, simply because of how hard he hits the ball (though if he’s regularly hitting it out of the park, then maybe his BABIP will stay pretty low). Then again, 24.2% of his fly balls aren’t going to leave the park (if they do, that’s Trout/Harper territory).
The .143 average against lefties is a little worrying, because you’d like to play Schwarber every day. But we’re talking about 61 Pas here, and his last two homers in the postseason came off lefties. For what it’s worth, Schwarber murdered lefties just as much in the minors as he did righties, so the potential is obviously there.
As for his catching skills… well, there’s a long way to travel to be kind. I doubt his framing is ever going to be a plus, and the throwing mechanics need some work. But the latter can be worked on, and the list of catchers who have improved there is a long one. As for calling games and handling pitchers… isn’t that what David Ross is here for? Isn’t he Pai Mei to Schwarber’s Beatrix? That’s what they tell me.
After his glaring errors in Games 3 and 4 against the Mets, there have been some calls from the unwashed and illiterate that Schwarber should be traded to the American League because he’s basically a DH. These people should have their circulation checked. You find a place for this bat. He’s 22. This isn’t as hard as people are making it.