Of all of the Chicago Cubs’ struggles this year, Kyle Schwarber’s were the greatest. Schwarber was fresh off of a heroic performance for the Cubs in the 2016 World Series when all of his struggles began. After injuring himself in the second game of the 2016 season, Schwarber didn’t play a single game until Game 1 of the World Series. In-fact, his first hit of the entire season came in Game 1 of the World Series. His return was a huge morale boost for the team, and Schwarber touted a .416 batting average, .500 on-base-percentage, and seven hits for his team in seven games. He instantly became a fan favorite, a Cubs legend, and a champion.
At 24 years of age, it seemed like Kyle Schwarber was just getting started for the Cubs. Fans were hyped for years of monstrous Schwarber home runs and more World Series titles, but something changed. During the first third of the season Schwarber had one of the worst batting averages in all of baseball, pitchers included. He was even demoted to triple-A for a spell, but it didn’t help and he was still terrible. It’s difficult to tell what the problem is with Schwarber. Did he come back from his injury too soon? Is it all in his head, or was he never that talented to begin with? It’s difficult to tell, but it’s hard for Joe Maddon to play a guy in left field that can hardly catch balls and averages a strikeout every three at-bats.
Kyle Schwarber improved as the year went along, ending with a batting average of .211. It’s also clear that the power is there for Schwarber. When he hits home runs, he destroys the ball. For Schwarber it’s just a matter of actually hitting the ball instead of striking out. He will undoubtedly spend the majority of the offseason trying to correct his swing and save his career.
The Cubs, however, have options when addressing the Schwarber situation. They were lucky to have two young players break out last season: Ian Happ and Albert Almora had terrific campaigns and look worthy of starting positions. Both of these players are capable of playing outfield and are talented batters. Neither of them has the raw power of Kyle Schwarber, but Happ has solid power nonetheless and Almora is a great contact hitter. If Schwarber doesn’t shape up at the beginning of the 2018 season, Cubs’ management may look to deal him for bullpen depth.
Theo Epstein has always maintained his belief that Kyle Schwarber will come around, and maybe he will, but if Schwarber doesn’t start producing behind the plate soon, Epstein may be forced to consider other alternatives. It would be a sad day if the Cubs had to trade Schwarber, but if he doesn’t improve, there may not be any other choice. As Cubs fans, lets all hope that this was just a down year for Schwarber; a tiny blip on the radar in an otherwise long, successful career.
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