After rocketing onto the scene in mid-2015, missing almost all of 2016 after knee surgery, coming back for a miraculous World Series appearance, and struggling through the first-half of 2017, Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber has one message for his new hitting coach: “I don’t suck.”
That was apparently the first thing Schwarber told his new hitting coach, Chili Davis.
Recently, we discussed the idea that Schwarber and Jason Heyward were Davis’ biggest, most important projects this year, and it sounds like Davis agrees. But he also thinks Schwarber is setting himself up for success even before they started working together.
“His focus has changed,” Davis said via Vinnie Duber of NBC Sports Chicago. “I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he’s worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus.”
It’s early and they certainly have a lot to address, but Davis seems to believe that Schwarber’s biggest problem last season was his desire to turn into a certain type of hitter, that is a slugger: “I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn’t say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.”
It’s interesting to see Davis pick up on that so quickly, because that’s generally something we’ve heard from the Cubs and others outside of the organization. Based on his walk rate, strikeout rate, power numbers, and overall slash line, of course, it’s something we can see with our eyes, too. But it makes some sense, right?
I mean, think about it: if you’re a guy like Schwarber – someone who’s capable of hitting 30 home runs in fewer than 500 plate appearances during a season largely considered to be disappointing offensively – it’s hard not to fall into a three true-outcome pattern – and that’s without mentioning the juiced balls and fly ball revolution.
But Schwarber can be so much more than that. In fact, I remember some scouting and analytics back at the end of the 2015 season that suggested Schwarber had a chance to be the Cubs’ best overall hitter (and that was after Kris Bryant had completed his Rookie of the Year campaign, and after Anthony Rizzo was Anthony Rizzo), and I’m not sure that’s out the window yet. Schwarber has the power to match anyone on the team, but he’s also got a naturally excellent hit tool – he just has to show it.
Importantly, Davis, Schwarber, and, I’m willing to bet, Joe Maddon, all believe Schwarber can show it, and soon. So hopefully, Schwarber can kick the season off on the right foot, stay healthy, and become the sure-fire, everyday starter. He can show Davis that, indeed, he does not suck.