Kyle Schwarber has returned to the “squattier” batting stance he had in college and the minors, and many have noted how much more athletic he looks in the box this spring. After extensive adjustments in 2017 and ’18 yielded mixed results, resurrecting the form that saw him burst onto the scene and set the Cubs’ postseason home run record in 2015 seems like a smart strategy.
Despite all the attention paid to Schwarber’s new/old swing, a couple of refinements to his overall approach may have a bigger impact. With the caveat that this is only spring training and things can change, let’s take a look at the adjustments he’s working on.
The first is a concerted effort to drive the ball to the opposite field. Several of his hits, including a few doubles, have gone to left field. Schwarber has power to spare and has shown the ability to go oppo in the past, but this feels like a more consistent trend.
As Exhibit A, I present this run-scoring single against the Diamondbacks that beat the shift. Watch the commitment to go with the pitch and get the run home.
Exhibit B, another inside-out poke to the open side of the infield to bring home a run.
Kyle Schwarber single scores Kris Bryant for Cubs first run today ⚾️ pic.twitter.com/4gfR1XJ32r
— Cubs Insider (@realcubsinsider) March 14, 2019
This willingness and ability to go away from the shift that has robbed the burly outfielder of so many hits will force defenses to play him more honestly. It may also earn him more pitches he can turn on and drive to places no shift can stop them.
Schwarber has always been a patient batter, but he has kicked it into overdrive so far in the Cactus League. In 35 plate appearances through Friday, he has drawn nine walks while striking out only 10 times. A .514 on base percentage is definitely not sustainable over a full season, but maintaining this approach could transform Schwarber into a true impact bat.
A patient, powerful hitter who drives the ball consistently to the opposite field would be a force in the heart of the Cubs’ lineup. Here’s hoping it’s not just a spring fling for the War Bear.