A couple bits of background to this, in case you haven’t seen them previously:
- Rumors were rampant early in the offseason that Kyle Schwarber was a guy the Cubs might trade this offseason.
- Schwarber was statistically among the least “clutch” players in the history of baseball last year.
To the extent there would ever be a relationship between those two things – or simply as a matter of pragmatism – I appreciated this quote from GM Jed Hoyer to NBCS Chicago: “A guy that made his mark being incredible in the postseason for two years, then struggling in big spots. It’s not like a guy that’s shrinking from the spotlight. I think he struggled in those situations this year. Hopefully it’s just a random thing that happened and he’ll get back to where he has been.”
It’s a good point. You wouldn’t expect a guy like Schwarber to just flat out lose the ability to stay productive in big moments in the regular season when his gigantic cojones were on display on one of the biggest stages in sports history.
Moreover, given just how EXTREMELY unclutch Schwarber was (his -62 wRC+ in high leverage moments “led” the league by 57(!) points), it almost necessarily screams fluke. Sure, maybe something weird got between his ears in those moments last year, but we’re still talking about just 56 plate appearances. That’s what, 13 games worth of plate appearances, frequently against match-up relievers? No doubt, Schwarber’s numbers in those spots across the board were utterly abysmal (it wasn’t bad luck), but it’s so small that you just can’t draw any conclusions whatsoever from it. (He was also down in high-leverage spots in 2017, but at a much more “normal” level of down, a 65 wRC+.)
Also, the line between “high” leverage and “medium” leverage is not always perfect, and the dude was a rock star in medium leverage spots last year: .284/.395/.555, 144 wRC+.
It’s a big ole TBD on whether something has happened that has made Schwarber tighten up in the biggest of spots, causing his performance to suffer, and whether teams would shy away from inquiring with the Cubs on him because of it. I tend to doubt both of those things, but it’s something – like his late-season back issue – to keep on the radar heading into 2019, and to keep in mind when musing on Cubs roster construction.