We are all very excited to see the videos of Kyle Schwarber. I mean he has trimmed down tremendously, he is busting his rear to get in the best playing shape of his life. He has changed his diet and appears to be making better overall health decisions. Fair or unfair, watching these videos is giving us all the desire to project certain expectations on him.
A slimmed down, healthy, more athletic Kyle Schwarber! That must mean 40 homers!
Fans and media alike had called for a huge season out of Kyle since 2016. Ideas of a Cubs lineup, that stacked, and they get a full season of Kyle. Fans would say, “he is a professional hitter.” “The guy just knows how to hit.” “He is capable of doing it all at the plate.” I suppose hitting a baseball on top of the video board, then becoming the organization’s all-time leader in postseason home runs didn’t relax anyone’s expectations.
After a knee injury limited Kyle to just five at-bats in the 2016 season, his return for the World Series had us all jumping right back on that Herculean bandwagon. At the Cubs Convention last year, it seemed all but decided that Kyle would be the team’s leadoff hitter. To this point, Kyle had only 276 MLB plate appearances and 621 more in the minors.
We as fans as quick to immediately project the highest potential possibility for players. Schwarber was no different. We saw the amazing power, we saw the work ethic, we saw the (limited) body of work. But he only had about a third of a season under his belt – and we projected a top-five type of production out of Kyle.
Perhaps ignorance kept us excited about the offensive production he should put up. We saw his raw talent and called him the next Babe Ruth. We didn’t take into account he hadn’t even had 1,000 (combined MLB and MiLB) plate appearances under his belt. We didn’t realize he didn’t have a full offseason to work on baseball related things. Instead, he spent that time rehabbing his knee.
True baseball offseason
When a player has an injury that takes them out the whole year (I know he returned for the playoffs) they really miss two seasons. 2016 should have been a season of growth for Kyle, but his knee injury cost him six months of going through the daily grind. This is important for young players to go through, that 162 game grind trains their body, and potentially more importantly, their mind. Kyle did go through a tough grind, through physical training and getting his knee strong enough for that World Series appearance. This still isn’t day-to-day baseball, it isn’t traveling, it isn’t becoming familiar with opposing pitchers, it isn’t making personal adjustments.
But they lose that offseason too. They lose the chance to compile a list of opportunities to improve upon. They lose the routine. When a player goes down to a season-ending injury I’m always reminded of something Brian Urlacher said once. At the beginning of the second season after missing a year to injury, Urlacher mentioned that he should be back to normal since he had a full offseason to devote to football and not rehabbing.
Kyle has had a full offseason to work on baseball related things. Watching the training videos, seeing those pictures during the Winter Meetings – that is what should make you excited. Seeing that Kyle has had three months to work on his craft. Knowing that Kyle has been training to become a better outfielder daily. Knowing that Kyle not only is getting healthier but doing so with improving his game at the core of what he’s doing.
“I’ve lost quite a few pounds,” Kyle said. “All of this stuff is only beneficial. I think it not only will help me with my speed, the basepaths, getting out of the box, and quickness of the hands – everything like that.”
Remember the change Kyle was able to make when he was demoted to Triple-A? Now imagine what he might be able to work on, tweak, adjust in a full offseason. You really should be excited about Kyle Schwarber’s 2018 season.
I feel like I am often the leader of the Kyle Schwarber fan club. I love Kris Bryant, I love Anthony Rizzo, but I *LOVE* Kyle Schwarber. There is something about his attitude, the way he goes about the game, almost treating baseball like a linebacker treats a quarterback. His intensity, his story, everything about him just hits the mark with me, as a fan.
Now the sucker punch. We should temper our expectations. I am not saying to not be excited about Kyle (I literally just told you to be excited). What I am saying is, we shouldn’t put numbers on him until we know exactly what he will be.
Can Kyle lift 40 or more baseballs into the seats in 2018? Sure, I guess, maybe. But we don’t know if he will get 600 plate appearances. Of Kyle’s 486 plate appearances, only 20% came against left-handed pitchers. Will 2018 be the year where Kyle sees a consistent look against lefties? It is that split, it is health, and it is the question of actual 162-game production Kyle can bring to the ballclub. He has said all the right things, has done all the right things, but if he isn’t producing against certain pitchers, shows limitations in the field, or shows that 2017 was more of the norm than the outlier – well predictions get tossed out the window.
Baseball-Reference believes that Kyle would get even fewer at-bats in 2018 than he did in 2017. They do expect an improvement, they do expect him to cut down on his strikeouts.
But B-R also expects there to be a dip in his power numbers. But DepthCharts (hosted on FanGraphs) buys into a Schwarber bump year. They predict a .241/.339/.485 slash with a .825 OPS.
I have found that a lot of these prediction systems tend to underpredict, but I think this is a good reference point for what we can expect. If I were to adjust anything, I would put his average in the .255 range. Then I would probably bump his OBP around the .355 range. Slugging I think is about correct. I do think Kyle will end up hitting 30 home runs again, probably finishing in the 32 range.
Would you be happy with a .255/.355/.485 32 HR line from Kyle? I know I would. This would give him a .840 OPS, and is an undeniable improvement over 2017.
What are your expectations of Kyle in 2018? Will this be a bounce-back year? Will he be that slugger we all assumed he would be? Our goal is to build a community, and we really encourage your thoughts and comments.