Back when Kyle Schwarber was a rookie blasting homers into the Allegheny River, he still had one weakness: high fastballs. That deficiency contributed to a below-average contact rate of 67.4 percent by the end of 2015. Schwarber whiffed at nearly half of the fastballs thrown up in the strike zone during his rookie year.
In particular, the Cubs leadoff man struggled mightily against pitches thrown up and away in the strike zone, whereas pitches in on the hands weren’t problematic. Even a slight improvement against high pitches would, in theory, boost the young outfielder’s offensive value.
So far in the young season, Schwarber appears to be adjusting well to high fastballs. The same high and away pitches aren’t presenting such obstacles to the 24-year-old anymore. In fact, he’s only whiffed once against the 12 pitches thrown in that specific zone. What’s more, he’s halved his whiff rate against pitches up over the strike zone. C’mon, that has to make you smile.
While some might point toward the small sample size, we are quickly approaching the point of stability for whiffs. And so, this is a trend that appears to be real, not flukey.
The improvement has contributed to a 76 percent contact rate, which is within kissing distance of the league average of 77 percent. If Schwarber is able to sustain such a low frequency of whiffs, his current 28 percent strikeout rate is guaranteed to drop over time. Rarely do we see a hitter who possesses the unique skill-set of contact, discipline, and power, but Schwarber could be developing into just that.