Last season, Kyle Schwarber played 821.0 defensive innings across the Cubs outfield, including 101 starts and 110 appearances overall. And during all that time, he recorded seven outfield assists, which was actually tied for 24th overall – not bad. He had a decent arm.
So far this season, Schwarber has barely half as many starts (52), appearances (55), and total innings (432.2) in the Cubs outfield, and yet he’s already matched his 2017 total with seven outfield assists.
The latest was last night against the Cardinals:
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) June 18, 2018
I was back from my wedding festivities in time to see this one live and as soon as I saw Harrison Bader turn the corner and head for second, I just chuckled. I knew he was dead to rights. Schwarber’s got an absolute CANNON out there, and has dramatically improved his quickness in cutting these balls off. Thus, he has been throwing people out just like that all season.
Sure, it took a replay review to settle things, but even if it had gone the other way, what Schwarber did would have been no less impressive.
Let’s really think about this pace for a second: Schwarber was among the top 25 in outfield assists last season with the same amount he has before we even hit July! That’s nuts. Even if you still don’t think he’s got as much range, instincts, or raw glove skills as anyone else out there in left, these assists have very real, very tangible value, and he’s not lucking into this many of them.
Outfield Assist Leaderboard:
- Mitch Haniger: 8
- Kyle Schwarber: 7
- Lorenzo Cain: 7
- Kole Calhoun: 7
- Trey Mancini: 7
No one else has seven assists yet this season, and just eight other outfielders have even six! It seems the strong, accurate arm that made Kyle Schwarber a potentially solid catcher behind the plate has translated quite smoothly to the outfield, where he’s putting guys away like groceries. (Is this already saying? Or did I just make that up? Because I like it.)
Indeed, even the advanced stats love him, for what that’s worth in a half-season. His 3.8 ARM score (the amount of runs above average an outfielder saves with their arm by preventing runners from advancing) ranks fourth best in baseball and his 5 rARM score (which evaluates an outfielder’s throwing arm based on how often runners advance on base hits and are thrown out trying to take extra bases) is tied for first with Aaron Judge.
And that’s not all: his 7 Defensive Runs Saved ranks 13th among all outfielders and 20th among all players, while his 4.8 Ultimate Zone Rating ranks 5th among outfielders and 8th among everyone else.
Advanced defensive metrics are not to be taken as gospel halfway through one season and we more or less know – with the exception of his arm – that Schwarber’s not one of the best defenders at any position in baseball, but still … none of this is bad news. In fact, I think it’s pretty easy to see that even the most optimistic among us probably sold Kyle Schwarber short on defense. He’s been really good out there, and that’s just in addition to his 122 wRC+.
Maybe this shouldn’t be much of a surprise:
Kyle Schwarber has already been worth more WAR this season (1.8 fWAR) than he was worth in all of 2017 (1.6).
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) June 18, 2018