Kyle freakin’ Schwarber.
The Cubs talented-but-struggling, young-but-experienced left fielder went through an extensive and deep slump at the beginning of this season. You know the story and the numbers, I won’t rehash that here.
But since he’s returned from a mind-clearing stint at Triple-A Iowa, Schwarber’s been an entirely different player at the plate. By the eye test and the stat line, Kyle Schwarber is once again producing at the levels we always knew he could.
And that sure includes this monster shot home run last night against the Cardinals:
Plenty of height and PLENTY of distance. pic.twitter.com/bjxg5lA3Gn
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 24, 2017
That home run was Schwarber’s 15th of the season – which is tied for the 75th most in baseball, because juiced baseball and such. Of course, just eight players ahead of him have hit that many long balls in fewer plate appearances than Schwarber’s 304 this season.
And in case you can’t tell by the video, that ball was absolutely smoked. While it traveled just 400 feet, Statcast tracked the exit velocity at a solid 110.0 MPH. That’s a home run, baby.
Schwarber’s season slash line still leaves much to be desired: .181/.299/.404. But his 13.5% walk rate and .223 ISO are both really great. And, of course, his .203 BABIP is entirely unsustainable, especially considering how hard he hits the ball on average.
But you know we’re not gonna leave it at that. Nah, Schwarber’s been hitting the ball great lately, so we’re gonna take a closer look, and show him some love.
Since all the way back on June 7, Schwarber’s slash line is .227/.326/.547, which is good for a 122 wRC+. In case you forgot, that means that he’s been roughly 22% better than the league average hitter for over a month. But we can shorten up and get something even better, tied specifically to his reset.
Since returning from Triple-A Iowa on July 6, Schwarber’s slash line improves ever so slightly to .237/.326/.553 with a 124 wRC+ over 43 plate appearances. He’s also still walking at a well-above average pace (11.6%) and striking out less than he has for his career (27.9%).
So what’s driving Schwarber’s resurgence? Well, as you can probably guess from his walk and strikeout rates, it’s not really a matter of plate discipline. Schwarber’s numbers there have mostly stayed consistent this season and don’t seem to be the original root of his problems or reason for excitement. Instead, it’s his batted ball data.
When comparing the pre-demotion numbers to the data since he’s been recalled, you’ll notice that Schwarber is getting a lot less soft contact and more medium and hard contact. That, alone, can probably explain most of his bounce back, given the correlation between exit velocity and overall offensive productivity.
To be sure, Schwarber’s hitting the ball on the ground a bit more often now than he was at the beginning of the season too, BUT he’s increased his line drive rate from 12.3% to 19.2% – which is a significant jump. If he continues to hit the ball as hard as he has, while getting just a bit more elevation, watch out, because he’ll be one terrifying batter at the plate.