Kyle Schwarber’s defense has been criticized since his move to left field, especially after he fell flat on his face in the 2015 NLCS in front of the ivy. But have some of those negative assessments been unfair?
The hulking slugger has actually been one of the top left fielders in baseball this year according to UZR/150, as pointed out by Evan Altman in the Cubs Related podcast. With a 12.4 score — 0 is considered average, 5 is decent, 10 is good, and 15 Gold Glove — Schwarber ranks No. 8 in MLB. Granted, his defensive runs saved score is -4, suggesting his UZR might be a fluke.
While UZR/150 takes a long time to stabilize (i.e., rule out 50% of the randomness) and these numbers can’t be leaned on too heavily, it’s still slightly surprising that Schwarber ranks so high. Some might use the resurgent lefty’s score as a reason to not trust UZR, but understanding its limitations and overlaying stats with the eye test allows us to be more objective and realistic.
We can see that Schwarber ranks favorably according to one methodology and slightly below average by another. It’s probably more likely he falls within the average-ish range. And if you’ve watched him play the outfield this year, I think you might agree that he’s actually been better than advertised.