Kyle Schwarber’s Second-Half Turnaround Makes Him Lock to Remain with Cubs

With full understanding that I’m tempting fate with that title, I can see no reasonable path to a trade involving Kyle Schwarber. The most obvious obstacles are his position and historical performance, since it’s not exactly difficult to find a power-hitting corner outfielder whose glove is just okay at best. That means his value to the Cubs is greater than what they could hope to get back for him, particularly after his second-half adjustments.

Rather than rehash everything in detail, I’ll direct you to the link above in which Schwarber’s improvements are laid out more thoroughly. The nutshell version is that he finally balanced things out after yet another ill-advised leadoff experiment and began improving his plate approach while using all fields. That in turn improved his BABIP and helped him overcome the high percentage of shifts he faces.

As a result of those adjustments, Schwarber was the Cubs’ most valuable hitter in the second half (2.1 fWAR) and found himself among the top 20 in MLB in wRC+ (151). And though Nicholas Castellanos (2.0 fWAR) was more valuable by one-tenth of a game since being traded to Chicago, Schwarber’s 163 wRC+ since the start of August was nine points higher than his corner outfield partner and ranked ninth in MLB.

Over the course of the season’s final month, Schwarber’s 177 wRC+ and 1.2 fWAR both ranked 10th in MLB, easily outstripping any of his teammates. Interestingly enough, Ian Happ (155, 0.9) was second on the team in those categories in September. Kris Bryant (148, 0.7) was third, for what it’s worth.

Though Schwarber’s numerous detractors will say his steadily improving performance is indicative of nothing more than excelling under decreased pressure as the season wore on, it’s pretty obvious that he found a groove. Whether he can maintain that is certainly up for debate, so you’ll be forgiven if you believe his big numbers were a fluke. Since the peripheral metrics all support the notion that this is sustainable, however, I have faith that this is truly who Schwarber is.

Or, rather, that it’s who Schwarber is capable of being for long stretches that are punctuated by less pronounced lulls moving forward. More than his oppo power, being both willing and able to create all manner of contact the other way, even deep in counts, is a harbinger of good things to come. The upside of that is a September trend that extrapolates to 6.9 fWAR over 600 plate appearances. Nice.

Even going with the more conservative baseline of his second half as a whole, we’re talking 5.1 fWAR over a full season. That kind of production would have put him the top 20 overall this season and it’s almost certainly greater than what the Cubs would be able to get back in return. As such, it’s a near lock that Schwarber won’t be moved this winter.

Thank you for your time, I look forward to moderating the Facebook comments about how bad he is.

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