Kyle Schwarber is back at it again, mashing homers in the postseason just like he’s done since setting the Cubs’ record as a rookie in 2015. His five homers in that postseason run were more than any other player had hit in club history, and his six total playoff dingers are still tied for the franchise lead. With two more for the Phillies in Tuesday’s blowout win over the Diamondbacks, Schwarber is tied for seventh all-time with 18 playoff dingers.
And he’s done it in just 237 plate appearances, far fewer than anyone else near him on the list save for Nelson Cruz (230). The only other left-handed batter with as many postseason homers as Schwarber is Reggie Jackson, and Mr. October needed 318 PAs to get there.
Home runs carry added importance in the postseason because rallies are at a premium due to tougher pitching. By and large, teams that out-homer their opponents have a much higher chance of success when the lights are brightest. Then you factor in the importance of scoring in 1st inning, which gives the visitors a nearly 57% chance to win and boosts the home team’s odds to more than 70%.
Schwarber led off Monday’s game with a home run on the first pitch he saw from Zac Gallen, giving the slugger an all-time record with four leadoff dingers in the postseason. That’s the kind of stuff that can make you forget about his .197 batting average in the regular season and the measly .218 mark he had last year. All those big flies can also make it hard to forget how the Cubs have gone into each of the last few winters desperately seeking power.
Yeah, I know I said this wasn’t about the decision to non-tender Schwarber three years ago, but still. His 125 homers since the start of the ’21 season are third in MLB and, though his 6.9 fWAR is merely nice, he’s 23rd in MLB with a 6.10 win probability added (WPA) in the same span. To put that in perspective, the Cubs have gotten a total of 1.85 WPA from five total seasons of Ian Happ and Seiya Suzuki. The Cubs’ top WPA performers in each of the last three seasons (Cody Bellinger – 2.46; Patrick Wisdom 1.17; Happ – 0.49) have combined for roughly two-thirds of Schwarber’s individual impact.
What’s more, Schwarber ranks 61st out of 4,540 batters in MLB postseason history with 1.04 WPA. Like many of his Phillies teammates, some of whom were or maybe should have been Cubs, Schwarber just seems to relish the limelight. So even though his particular style of production means you’re going to have to deal with some serious valleys, the peaks end up being well worth it.
Now, would you prefer a guy who blasts 40+ dongs while still batting at least .250 for the year? Sure. But if we opt for the actual rather than the hypothetical, it’s impossible to deny that Schwarber has been a very valuable player over the last few seasons. It helps that he’s spent most of that time on playoff contenders that have built rosters capable of mitigating his shortcomings.
All I know is that it’s been fun to watch Schwarber and Nick Castellanos and Bryce Harper blast away once again in the postseason. It’ll be more fun if the Cubs can figure out a way to put together a roster that allows us to root for them rather than falling back on secondary and tertiary options.