Why Kyle Schwarber Was Sent To Triple-A
The world champs announced Thursday they are sending one of the most highly regarded young hitters in the game down to Triple-A, as he goes through what can only be deemed as a majorly disappointing 2017.
In 64 games (261 plate appearances) Schwarber had a slash line of .171/.295/.378 with a weighted on base average (wOBA) of .298 and a weighted runs created (wRC+) of 78.
Yes, he has 12 home runs, continuing to show the incredible power that made him one of the Cubs' few untouchable young stars.
But he has only has 16 singles and 10 doubles to go along with those dozen dingers, leading to a batting average and on-base percentage that are currently unacceptable. And when you combine his expectedly substandard defensive metrics, his fWAR of -0.1 ranks 42nd out of 47 outfielders with at least 250 plate appearances.
A deeper look at his peripherals show a player who hasn't been chasing any more pitches out of the strike zone, but rather, a hitter who is making more contact with bad pitches, which has led to weak contact.
Schwarber has swung at 28.2% of pitches outside the strike zone, about the same as in 2015 when it was 30.2%. He's also swinging at the same number of pitches in the zone, 65.8% this year as opposed to 66.4% in 2015. However, he is making contact with 63.7% of pitches outside the zone this year, compared to 57.6% in 2015, which has led to a greater number of softly-hit balls in 2017, 22.4% to 15.4% two years ago. He also has a smaller percentage of harder-hit balls this year, 32.0%, compared to 39.7% in 2015.
It's important to remember that, despite the Schwarber homer barrage we saw in the 2015 and 2016 playoffs (five bombs in 2015, and a .412/.500/.471 in the World Series against the Cleveland Indians), he's still just a 24-year-old in his first full season in the Majors.
If Schwarber is going to get himself right, he must reduce his strikeout rate, which is a too-high 28.7%. (That's the same as he had in 2015, but with a larger sample size.) His walk rate of 13.8% is slightly higher than his 13.2% in 2015, but if he's going to have more success, that K-rate must come down.
There's little doubt that Schwarber will be back, and it's likely he'll be the hitter everyone expected. But for the next little while, the coronation of Schwarber as baseball's next great hitter will have to wait.