It's Ugly Out There: Almora, Russell, and Schwarber Struggling Through Very Rough Stretches

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It’s Ugly Out There: Almora, Russell, and Schwarber Struggling Through Very Rough Stretches

Chicago Cubs

Yesterday, the Chicago Cubs went 3-30 (.100) against the San Diego Padres, who’ve allowed a .252 batting average against everyone else this season (t-8th worst in MLB). The Cubs also managed just one walk, struck out eight times, and scored one measly run against a team with a collective 4.39 ERA. It was bad.

Now, to be fair, the Cubs are playing without Kris Bryant and are still arguably the top offense in the Nationals League, but that’s the sixth time *since the All-Star break* that this group has scored two or fewer runs in a game. So there’s really no doubt that some guys haven’t been pulling their weight lately.

In particular, it’s been a really rough go for a trio of young bats: Albert Almora Jr., Addison Russell, and Kyle Schwarber.

Offense Since the All-Star Break:

Albert Almora Jr (44 PAs): 16 wRC+
Addison Russell (46 PAs): 40 wRC+
Kyle Schwarber (48 PAs): 55 wRC+

Since the All-Star Break, Albert Almora Jr. has slashed just .190/.209/.238 with just two extra base hits, one walk, and eight strikeouts, in what definitely is his first significant “the league is adjusting back” test. Of course, this didn’t just start. The worst of it may have come since the break, but just about all of Almora’s power has been completely gone for two entire months. Since June 1st, he’s still hitting .292, but he’s got just a .313 OBP and .387 SLG percentage with an ISO under .100. That’s not going to cut it, even for a glove as good as his, and is probably why we’ve seen much more of Ian Happ lately.

Almora’s ugliest (and explanatory) stats since June 1 include a 53.6% ground ball rate, a 17.5% infield fly ball rate, a 24.8% soft-hit rate, and a 27.0% hard-hit rate. Those numbers strongly point to a guy who simply isn’t squaring anything up. Anecdotally, that makes sense, too, as Almora has gotten into a funk of swinging at everything, and making plenty of contact against pitcher’s pitches.

Something will have to change, and hopefully soon, because Almora’s glove in center is a valuable thing, but he can’t start every day when his bat is this bad.

Addison Russell’s numbers since the break might not be as bad, but his power (.047 ISO, .256 SLG) has all but evaporated, too. Since June 21st, he’s launched just nine extra base hits in 136 plate appearances. If it weren’t for the 11 walks (8.1 BB%), his slash line would’ve looked even worse than it is during that stretch: .234/.294/.339.

The power outage in graphic form:

In the first graph, we can see that this entire season – on the whole – has been a huge power disappointment. And in the second graph, we get a slightly more granular look, and it isn’t better. Russell’s peaks this season haven’t been as high as 2017 or 2016, and the troughs in SLG have been almost as bad, while his ISO has been consistently terrible throughout the year.

The power is just not there right now for Russell, and it stings for a guy who launched 21 homers as a 22-year-old in his first full Major League season.

(Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)

And then there’s Kyle Schwarber. Although his 55 wRC+ since the All-Star break is the “best” of the bunch and his overall season-long slash line is still sitting at a solid .242/.364/.471 (119 wRC+), this latest stretch has really been a drag. And that’s, at least in part, due to his 30.2% strikeout rate since May 27th (205 PAs).*

*We could’ve used his 30.2% strikeout rate since May 27th, 31.1% strikeout rate since June 6th, 30.8% strikeout rate since June 24th, 32.4% strikeout rate since July 6th. Pick your fancy.

Although Schwarber is probably always going to strike out at higher levels than most (with that kind of power, it’s okay), the 25% range is where you’d idealy want him to be. But lately, he’s been at or above the 30% mark which just isn’t going to cut it, unless he’s *really* good everywhere else. And while he certainly has the capability to produce like Kris Bryant in 2015 (30.6 K%, 136 wRC+), he hasn’t done that this season (119 wRC+) and especially not lately, as we’ve seen.

When Schwarber is striking out too much, his performance suffers, and the last couple weeks are a dramatic example:

Now, to be sure: I really believe in the offensive potential/output of each of these three players, but right now, they’re slumping. And with Kris Bryant out, I think the Cubs need to consider themselves very lucky that Anthony Rizzo, Javy Baez, Ben Zobrist, and, to an extent, Willson Contreras have decided to turn things way up over the last few weeks.

Without them, and the way this pitching staff has gone, things could’ve been ugly.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami