Kyle Schwarber Is the Best Defensive Player in Baseball

Yes, you read that right. Kyle Schwarber is the best defensive player in baseball. Not the best left-handed-hitting left fielder for the Cubs. Not the best left fielder in the NL. Not the best outfielder in MLB. The. Best. Defensive. Player. In. Baseball.

According to UZR/150, which quantifies how many runs above or below average a fielder is per 150 games, Schwarber’s 28.1 rating is the highest score in MLB. To put that in perspective, that means Schwarber is basically as good a defender as Jose Iglesias (17.1) and Francisco Lindor (11.1)…combined.

Suck on that, haterz!

Okay, so this is not at all an accurate portrayal of Schwarber’s true defensive value and should not be used as the basis of any major theses. It is, however, a very positive sign and should not be discounted out of hand. To wit, Schwarber’s 3.6 UZR ranks eighth in MLB, his 2.5 arm score ranks sixth, and his 2.4 DEF score (per FanGraphs) ranks 31st.

Defensive metrics take a long time to normalize and it’ll take a while before we get reliable numbers, but even the most skeptical observer has to admit that Schwarber is earning higher marks on the eye test this season. That goes back to his svelte new figure and intense offseason work on being more agile and explosive. He also appears to be more comfortable in the field, getting better reads and taking better angles on balls hit his way.

When combined with his resurgent offensive production, Schwarber has already produced 1.2 fWAR this season. That’s only 0.4 shy of his total from last year, and he’s done it in 72 percent fewer plate appearances. We’ve said for a while that all Schwarber really needed to do for the bat to make him worthwhile was play mediocre defense. Well, now we’re seeing what can happen if he plays above-average defense.

Some of you may want to hold out for further evidence, and I get that. But I’ve seen enough to feel pretty good about what Schwarber is doing both at the plate and in the field. So good, in fact, that I’m going to host a big bonfire at my place to celebrate. We’re going to use “Schwarber is an AL player” takes as kindling and we’ll be grilling up several murders of crows to eat.

Mmmmmmm-mmmmmmm, good.

Ed. note: I must reluctantly give credit to Tommy Meyers for inspiring this post.

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