Joe Maddon Plans to Continue Platooning Kyle Schwarber…For Now
Kyle Schwarber hasn’t exactly fared well at the plate this season, and the results have been even worse against left-handed pitching. He’s been better of late, posting a 1.107 OPS with a .439 wOBA and 173 OPS when facing southpaws since coming back from AAA. But you can’t really put much stock in results from 14 plate appearances.
Despite those encouraging numbers, Joe Maddon doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to run Schwarber out there against lefty starters too often.
“Given a different situation or different roster, you shoot Kyle out there,” Maddon explained during his weekly Tuesday appearance on 670 The Score’s Spiegel and Parkins Show. “You might see that happen a lot sooner against lefties. But for right now, the way we’re built, it just doesn’t make sense to try to force him into that situation, and we won’t. But eventually, he will get that opportunity.
Schwarber’s absence from Tuesday’s series opener against the Diamondbacks is about more than just a handedness thing, though. Arizona starter Patrick Corbin features a slider that is responsible for 73 of the 112 strikeouts he’s generated this season and Schwarber is hitting .045 (1-for-22) with two walks and nine strikeouts against that pitch.
But even going forward, it’s hard to see how the slugger sees more time against lefties. As Maddon said, the way the Cubs are built sets them up to be able to maximize lineups that take advantage of their incredible depth. Where things really gets interesting, however, is with the addition of lefty-batting catcher Alex Avila, who Maddon confirmed Monday could be used more behind the plate down the stretch to allow Willson Contreras to flex out to left field and remain in the lineup.
Because that’s likely to occur more against right-handed pitching, it could mean seeing Schwarber’s overall time reduced even further. Then again, continued improvement in his production will make War Bear an indispensable part of the lineup and will see him get more time against lefties and righties alike.
There are just so many players who need to get at-bats that Maddon’s job is to try to balance their time based on feel and trends and that day’s matchups. It’s almost like managing a fantasy baseball roster in a six-team league, where you can’t really go wrong, but you’re always leaving lots of talent on the bench. Except in real life, the manager doesn’t see the stats his players would have put up had they been in the lineup.
“I have so much confidence in [Schwarber],” Maddon concluded.
So do I. Now to see if Schwarber can turn his own confidence into the kind of results that turn “eventually” into “perpetually.”