Kyle Schwarber enters Saturday’s game against the Nationals with an underwhelming .220 batting average and .316 wOBA, but the underlying numbers suggest Schwarber has been much better.
Despite so-so run-creation numbers, Schwarber has consistently hit pitches harder than most hitters in the league. Indeed, his hard-hit rate has been 1.35–1.75 times higher than league average.
The problem is that Schwarber’s batted balls aren’t falling for hits. In his last 50 plate appearances, his expected wOBA has been hovering near .400, whereas his actual wOBA has remained near the league-average mark. That, folks, is sneakily insane.
Call it misfortune or randomness or something more pejorative, but there’s no denying that Schwarber has deserved more out of such hard contact. He’s also taken bad pitches at an exceptional rate. No Cub has had a better walk rate in his most recent 50 plate appearance stretch than Schwarber’s 24% rate. Even more encouraging is that his outside-the-zone swing rate (23.3%) and contact rate (76.8%) are both career bests right now.
No better example of Schwarber’s patience/hard-hit combo than his epic at-bat Friday night in which he went oppo on the 13th pitch by Nats reliever Kyle Barraclough.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 18, 2019
So sign me up for more walks and hard-hit-baseballs from Schwarber. When looking closer at the numbers above, it makes sense for Joe Maddon to try the slugger out in the leadoff role for the time being. And if he continues to work plate appearances like he has lately, those run-production numbers are going to trend up in a big way.