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Don’t Expect Kyle Schwarber to Stop Hitting Leadoff Soon and Other Bullets

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Cubs News

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Can I just do normal Bullets today now?

  • Batting order is one of those things that, while it does matter, never matters in reality as much as it seems to in our minds. I’ve read studies that indicate an optimized batting order can net you upwards of 8 to 10 runs in a given season (which is about one extra win), suggesting that it definitely matters, but is not critical. And even within that, by far the most important thing is that you generally have your best batters up near the top (getting the most at bats), and your worst batters down low.
  • Against that backdrop, and considering the roster, I’ve been on board with Kyle Schwarber as the team’s leadoff hitter since day one. Sure, I probably would have been swapping Ben Zobrist up there against some lefties a little more than Joe Maddon has, but I’m not complaining. I hear and see the complaining, though, as Schwarber’s struggles and slumping deepens, I see the frustrating everywhere about a square, linebacker-shaped peg being banged into a Dexter Fowler-shaped hole. For me, I’m still on board, and I think the fretting has more to do with Schwarber’s overall struggles (and the realization of just how good Fowler was at his job the last two years) than about where he hits. So long as he, himself, is not struggling mentally with it, then I have no issue, especially when you consider that he hits first in the game just once, and then he’s typically hitting after a position player in the 9-spot for the rest of the game. So what’s the difference?
  • … OK, but I will toss one crumb to those who are opposed: so far, in his game lead-off plate appearances, Schwarber is hitting just .208/.345/.250. Decent OBP there, but you don’t *just* want Kyle Schwarber getting on base, even to lead off. You want him hitting for extra bases, which is the one thing he’s definitely not doing so far when leading off the game. It’s only 29 plate appearances, though, so how much can we really take from that? Were this a 29-PA stretch in the middle of a season, we would barely even notice.

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  • All of that is to set up the news part of this: despite Jon Jay leading off yesterday and Kyle Schwarber filling Anthony Rizzo’s number three spot, Joe Maddon is inclined to continue with Schwarber as his leadoff man (ESPN). In fact, questions about that setup sparked a strong response from Maddon: “I fail to understand the reasoning behind the question. I really do.” Maddon went on to point out that sometimes he puts guys who are struggling in the leadoff spot to shake them up a bit (though you could make the argument that dropping Schwarber could have the same effect), and he doesn’t see a connection between Schwarber’s spot in the order and his struggles. (My guess is still that the struggles are mostly the product of the usual adjustment period you see for young players.)
(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
  • What with the site breaking, we didn’t have a chance to mention: for now, Jeimer Candelario is staying on the big league roster, as Dylan Floro headed back to Iowa. With Eddie Butler on the way tomorrow, though, the Cubs will have to make another 25-man roster move. They currently have nine in the bullpen, which is probably where Butler’s spot will come from (unless the Cubs want to go with a three-man bench, one of whom might be a hurting Addison Russell). Best guess? Felix Pena heads back to Iowa tomorrow.
  • Willson Contreras is really struggling at the plate, but it’s worth remembering just how much developing he’s trying to do behind it. Read up on all that Contreras is working on here at CSN, and understand that this is often why catcher’s develop a little later with the bat. Yes, Contreras was all universe in AA, AAA, and the big leagues in 2015 and 2016, but there was always going to be an adjustment period from big league pitchers – and now that adjustment period is taking place at the same time as Contreras is trying to adjust to being a big league catcher, handling a staff he hasn’t known for years, and game-planning every day.

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  • Addison Russell is dealing with shoulder soreness, and will hopefully be available – and productive – as soon as tomorrow.
  • The Dodgers have lost outfielder Andrew Toles for the year with an ACL injury.
  • Over at TYL, Luis has your morning Bullets, including one writer’s bold prediction that Mitch Trubisky actually starts more than Mike Glennon in 2017.
  • Mother’s Day is this weekend, and if you’re in a rush to get something, Amazon has a Mother’s Day shop.
  • Or you could get her baseball stuff: the MLB Shop just kicked off a two-day sale, up to 50% off on some stuff, and a bunch of Cubs gear flipped on sale (including the gold jerseys, FYI).

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Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation.