We wondered it this past week, as Kyle Schwarber sat against a couple lefties – was it just a matter of the match-ups in those games, or is Schwarber now in a platoon?
Joe Maddon has answered that question, and it’s a platoon. For now.
“If he’s not swinging the bat well against righties, it’s a bad assumption he’s going to do well against lefties,” Maddon told the Tribune. “I’m just putting him in a deeper hole by throwing him out there just based on really bad logic.”
Maddon said that Schwarber will play against everyone once he gets going, but suggested he doesn’t want to see Schwarber’s numbers keep sinking into a deeper hole for fear that it could get in his head, and he’ll start pressing even more (ESPN).
I’ve got mixed feelings on this one.
On the one hand, you don’t want to force a young guy to struggle in particular situations if you don’t think he’s going to get positive development out of it. Further, you don’t want to lose games at the big league level in a competitive season because you’re not fielding the best possible lineup for that day’s game. The Cubs have guys like Javy Baez, Ben Zobrist, Albert Almora, and Ian Happ to accommodate against lefties, too.
On the other hand, I worry about mucking with a guy’s head and rhythm by trying to change up the plan midseason in response to struggles that are at least somewhat driven by hard-luck results. There’s no question that Schwarber has actual issues to work out – his contact rate has started to sag, and he’s hitting too many balls on the ground – but you just want to make sure you’re putting him in a situation to actually work on those things, rather than stew about them.
And has he really been that much worse against lefties? He had a pronounced split in his rookie year, and this year he’s posted a mere 64 wRC+ against lefties. But he’s been at only 80 against righties, and he’s actually walking much more often against lefties than righties. The big differences have been in the strikeout rate (35.7% against lefties, 27.6% against righties) and ISO (.118 against lefties, .190 against righties). Notable? Yes. So pronounced that I’d immediately go to a platoon? Probably not.
But, then, I’m not in the clubhouse working with these guys on a daily basis.
Maddon has shown a penchant for helping younger players through these situations and putting them in a position to succeed. If he believes that giving Schwarber more opportunities against only righties will help him work through this funk, then so be it. I’m willing to buy in and see how it works.
And, hey, at least the in short term, it’s not likely that Schwarber was gonna do much with Alex Wood last night (nobody was), and then there’s Clayton Kershaw looming on Sunday.