Examining Kyle Schwarber’s Recent Success At The Dish

In his last 67 trips to the plate, Kyle Schwarber is hitting a robust .288/.373/.712 with 6 HR and 19 RBIs. His 19 runs driven in are the most by any Cubs hitter during that time and constitute 23 percent of the team’s 67 RBIs. He’s made great improvements across the board during the second half:

1st half2nd half
AVG.227.250
OBP.320.341
SLG.457.632
wRC+96142
PA353173
HR1816
RBI4338
fWAR0.41.2

Since returning from the All-Star Break, Schwarber has produced three times as many wins above replacement (1.2 vs 0.4) in half as many plate appearances (173 vs 353). He is also about to match his home run total from the first half. He’s gone from creating runs at a level 4 percent below the league average, to generating runs at a mark 42 percent above the league average.

Schwarber has lowered his strikeout rate by quite a bit, while still maintaining a high walk rate, which a big reason for his uptick in performance.

According to FanGraphs, Kyle Schwarber has been hitting fly balls at a higher frequency (41.0 percent –> 48.6 percent) at the expense of line drives (20.5 percent –> 15.7 percent) during the second half of the season. More fly balls has subsequently led to more home runs (19.6 PA/HR –> 10.8 PA/HR).

He’s done so through attempting to hit the ball at a higher launch angle…

  • Beginning of the season – 7/7: 14.5 degrees
  • 7/12 – 9/7: 16.2 degrees

In terms of mechanical changes at the plate, there appears to be a couple of minor adjustments Schwarber has made…

June (Baseball Savant)
August (Baseball Savant)

Before the pitcher starts his motion, Schwarber’s hands are much closer to his front side. His bat is tilted at a significantly lower angle than in the past (in the August stance, his bat does not even extend above his helmet). Additionally, it seems as though Schwarber is standing in a more upright position (less bending of the knees). Sometimes, the little things can make a big difference.

Another primary reason why Schwarber is swinging a hot bat is that pitchers have (presumably) finally picked up on his ability to feast on the first pitch.

Hitters w/ the most first pitch homers this season

12 Jeff McNeil

12 Jorge Soler

10 KYLE SCHWARBER

10 Max Kepler

10 Franmil Reyes

In the first half, Schwarber saw a first pitch strike almost 60 percent of the time, 207th highest among 305 hitters to register at least 150 plate appearances (32.1 percentile). Since the break, he’s seeing first pitch strikes less than half the time. That ranks as the 4th lowest percentage in the majors out of 178 hitters (97.8 percentile). The only batters to see first pitch strikes at a lower rate than Schwarber (48.6 percent) are Brett Gardner (48.4 percent), Dan Vogelbach (46.5 percent), and Christian Yelich (46.3 percent). This makes a drastically greater impact than you’d initially think.

When batting ahead in the count, Schwarber is hitting .258/.464/.616 with 16 home runs in 220 plate appearances.

On the other hand, when batting behind in the count, he’s hitting .191/.202/.287 with 1 home run in 119 plate appearances.

In fact, Schwarber has as many home runs when batting behind in the count this season (1) as Troy Tulowitzki does!

League Average PA/HR

Behind in the countAhead in the count
40.324.0

Kyle Schwarber PA/HR

Behind in the countAhead in the count
11913.75

Schwarber HR Breakdown

Behind in the countCount evenFirst pitchAhead in the count
171016

If teams continue to be weary of throwing a first pitch strike to Schwarber, I fully expect Kyle to mash his way to 40 homers this season.

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