Exactly one week before last night’s frustrating loss to the Cleveland Indians, Brett looked closely at how one popular defensive metric – UZR/150 – pegged Kyle Schwarber as the best defender … in all of baseball.
And even as he hedged his words – clearly, Schwarber isn’t the best defender in baseball – Brett made sure to express how impressive this really is:
Look, I think Schwarber has improved some in the outfield, and I also think his arm is legitimately excellent. But I think we can all agree that having him as the top defensive outfielder in the game – let alone overall player – is a bit like the metrics saying I’m the best hitter in MLB against 100+ MPH fastballs. It, uh, doesn’t really square.
That said, you’d much rather the numbers looked like this than some other direction. UZR/150 is Ultimate Zone Rating prorated out over 150 games. Since we’re so early in the year, you’re looking at a pretty significant extrapolation. But hey, even just by UZR (the actual runs he’s been worth on defense), Schwarber lands 8th. So clearly, UZR loves what he’s done in left field this year.
Well, since then, Schwarber’s UZR/150 has dropped from 28.1 to 21.0, which is still fourth best in baseball (heh), but clearly things are evening out a bit. In all likelihood, he’s a perfectly fine defender – perhaps even average to above-average by the end of the season – just not an elite one.
But again, when I say that, I mean *overall.* Because there is a chance that his arm truly is elite, and it was on full display during the very first play of the game last night:
Tell them who your left fielder is. pic.twitter.com/eC3uMlrIaF
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 24, 2018
After making a super-smooth sliding stop ranging to his right out in left field, Schwarber popped up and made a strong, accurate throw to get a speedy (but greedy!) Francisco Lindor at second base. Amazing play.
And although the total package on that one was impressive, it’s Kyle Schwarber’s arm that continues to stand out. As of today, Schwarber’s 4 outfield assists are tied for sixth most in baseball (with notoriously strong throwers like Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig) and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that continue.
Even the advanced defensive metrics like rARM (outfield arms runs saved above average) is tied for second place with some extremely notable outfield defenders:
- Josh Reddick: 4
- Jason Heyward: 3
- Lorenzo Cain: 3
- Kole Calhoun: 3
- Kyle Schwarber: 3
- Andrew Benintendi: 3
No one else has an rARM score of 3 or higher.
So while we may be waiting for the overall advanced defensive metrics to even out a bit, I’m not sure we should expect his the arm ratings to drop. Based solely on what we see with our eyes, we know Schwarber’s got a cannon, and it’s not going anywhere.