Foresight is 2020: Will Kyle Schwarber put it all together after a huge second half?
Hindsight is 20/20, they always say. But as the 2020 Cubs season gets underway, we don’t have the benefit of hindsight — foresight is the only option at the moment. So let’s play a game of 20 questions, tackling the most important topics surrounding this Cubs team entering the campaign.
Next up: Will Kyle Schwarber put it all together after a big second half?
With Kyle Schwarber, Cubs fans have seen the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.
Everyone remembers his comeback in 2016 from an ACL tear in April to hit .412 in the World Series.
They also remember his struggles in 2017 in the leadoff spot and his subsequent demotion to Triple-A Iowa that year.
In a lot of ways, the 2019 season was a microcosm of his career: he struggled in the first half to the tune of a .227/.320/.457 slash line and 100 strikeouts, but bounced back significantly in the second half of the season with 20 home runs and a .280/.366/.631 slash line.
While the Cubs missed out on the playoffs, Schwarber’s strong second half was a major bright spot and that could portend a big 2020 campaign.
“I think it was a positive there, especially with a good second half,” Schwarber said. “Just to be able to know what to keep working on and obviously things to improve on as well. But just having that good, consistent base of the routine and that same thought process.”
Part of that strategy at the plate will have to involve his plate discipline. From 2017 to 2019, Schwarber has seen his strikeout rate (30.9 to 25.6) and chase rate go down (26.3 to 23.7). In the same time frame, he has increased his hard-hit rate on balls from 41.5-percent to 51.2-percent, putting him in the 1-percentile of the league, per MLB statcast.
If Schwarber can continue his improvements in plate discipline and hard-hit rate, 2020 could be the year we see him put it all together.
It’s the least he expects out of himself when he goes to work.
“Consistency’s the name of the game,” Schwarber said.”That’s how it is. The best in this game, you see [Anthony Rizzo], you see a lot of people in this clubhouse. That’s what I expect out of myself — consistency. To be able to do it day in and day out.”
Schwarber has all the tools to put together a strong 2020 season for the Cubs. His exit velocity has increased from 88.9-mph in 2017 to 92.7 last year, when he was in the top 3-percentile of the league. He has the pop to give the Cubs a reliable option in the cleanup spot, protecting Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javy Báez.
The one thing Schwarber needs to do is what he is preaching — consistency. Too often in his career we’ve seen flashes of brilliance mixed with down periods. If he struggles this season, it could spell more difficulties for the Cubs in 2020 as they seek to regain their place at the top of the NL Central.
A big season could propel Schwarber to a big contract in the future, too, as he’s just two years away from free agency, even though he insists he’s not thinking about that.
“Do I look like a guy that thinks about my future? I live day by day, man,” Schwarber joked early in spring training. “I’m just happy I showed up today. This game’s been good to me. I just want to keep giving all my best to this game.
“If I’m here, I would love it. It’s amazing. The best place to play baseball I think in all the major leagues with the field, the fans, the organization, the players. If I’m not, that’s what happens. I’ve had my name thrown around plenty of times. I’ve learned just to live it day by day and keep going out there and giving it your best every day because you’re still playing baseball.”
Either way, 2020 has the potential to be a special season for Schwarber.
As we approach the start of the regular season, read more on our “Foresight is 2020” series:
–Will Nico Hoerner start the year in the majors?
–How does Jason Kipnis fit into the Cubs mix?
–How will second base shake out?
–Will Jeremy Jeffress regain his 2018 dominance?
–Will Craig Kimbrel bounce back with a normal offseason/spring training?
–Who will emerge in Cubs bullpen?
–Can Kyle Schwarber put it all together after a huge second half?
–What role will Steven Souza Jr. have?
-Will somebody grab the everyday center field role?
-Can Willson Contreras maintain his 2019?