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Cubs Hitting Struggles: Kyle Schwarber

After the struggles of the Cubs bats in 2020, I wanted to look into each player's individual performance. Can they bounce back? What caused the poor performance? Today, it's Kyle Schwarber. While I love me some Schwarber, he's had some issues at times. In 2020, he put up the worst RC+ of his career. He also put up the worst OPS of his career, nearly .100 below his next worst numbers. It was a struggle.

Let's examine.

Schwarber's walks were right around his career average. Strikeouts were the highest in 3 years, but still within career norms. Outside of the injury shortened tiny sample size 2016, Schwarber's batting average, OBP, and SLG were each career lows. His ISO was by far a career low. His BABIP was a career low. What in the heck happened?

Looking into some of the Statcast numbers, it's a mixed bag when trying to draw conclusions. His exit velocity dropped a little, but was still the second highest number of his career. His hard hit % was down, but still the second best he's ever put up. His launch angle plunged, nearly half of his career average. Also, his barrel % was nearly 2% below career average, the worst figure of his career. Could all of these struggles be because of a slight drop in squared up pitches and a drop in launch angle?

Schwarber's fly ball % was a career low. That could directly explain the launch angle. Schwarber's HR/FB rate was a career high, so it's not like he was hitting weaker fly balls. Perhaps just less of them. With an increased pull % and sharp decline in oppo%, it's clear that Schwarber was struggling to go the other way.

Here's where it gets interesting. Schwarber's swing % is within career norms. His O-swing (swinging at strikes) was up a bit. Z-swing (balls) was down. Contact rates were on the higher end of his career for both balls and strikes. You'd think that means he'd be producing. But he wasn't.

It's a muddled picture for Schwarber's struggles in 2020:

  • Worst offensive season of his career.

  • Struggled to go opposite field.

  • Made same amount of contact while swinging at the same number of pitches.

  • He still hit home runs off the same percentage of fly balls, but hit less fly balls than before

So what's the adjustment? Hit a few more flies? Go opposite field more? It's tough for me to say for certain what it was in Schwarber's approach that led to the poor results. Obviously we'll be hoping for more oppo flies. Perhaps its a mechanical adjustment, or something with his approach. Here's to hoping he can bounce back.


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