The first half of the Cubs season was largely defined by underperformance by hitters not named Anthony Rizzo, Javier Báez, Willson Contreras, Jason Heyward, or Kris Bryant. A lineup with all five of those players clicking is one that you’d expect to be consistently productive, but a lack of depth outside of that core group has led to frustrating and familiar struggles.
By and large, that lack of production matches what peripherals would suggest. Albert Almora Jr., Daniel Descalso, and others are unfortunately getting the results they deserve based on what batted-ball data and other underlying stats tell us.
As the headline of this piece suggests, though, Kyle Schwarber‘s stat line may not be indicative of his actual production. Schwarber’s season to this point has largely been defined by streakiness, but would you believe me if I told you that he’s actually putting up his best season yet according to xwOBA?
His .354 xwOBA — that’s expected weighted on-base average, a number based on how what a player’s contact should produce — would be the best of his career, narrowly edging 2015’s .353 mark. But his actual wOBA of .323 would be the worst of his career. So what’s going on?
Well, what’s going on is that the slugging left fielder is smashing the ball and finding too many gloves. Schwarber currently sits in the top 2% of hitters across baseball in both exit velocity (93.1 mph, 10th in MLB) and hard-hit percentage (52.4, 7th) and his 14.6 degree launch angle is right around his career average. Based on those numbers, he should be producing much better results.
Schwarber’s batting average and slugging percentage of .224 and .451 are both notably off from expected marks of .244 and .483, respectively. This isn’t a process issue, it’s a results issue. Extreme shifts employed against him certainly contribute to some of that discrepancy and approach changes may have meddled with his performance as well.
But generally, it’s fair to expect that good processes will lead to good results. That hasn’t necessarily been the case for Schwarber, so if asked to bet on which underperforming Cubs hitter was most likely to turn it around, I’d push in all of my chips into the middle on him in the second half.