What Kyle Schwarber is doing is unbelievable. I know the broadcasters and sideline reporters are saying that over and over again, but I don’t think the casual baseball fan really understands how out-of-this-world insane it is that Schwarber is not only playing, but is a serious contender for World Series MVP through the first two games.
Let’s run the tape back. On April 7th, Schwarber collided in Dexter Fowler in the outfield and tore his ACL. As we all know, a torn ACL is normally a death sentence for a season. There were some people joking or saying in a hopeful jest that Schwarber would be able to return for the World Series, but the reality of it was that Schwarber wouldn’t be back on the field in a Cubs uniform until 2017. In fact, at one point this year there was a thought that Schwarber wouldn’t be in a Cubs uniform again.
In July of this year, with the Cubs looking to make moves to solidify their bullpen, they were approached by the Yankees who inquired a deal that would have sent Andrew Miller to the Cubs, but in exchange, the Yankees wanted Schwarber. The Cubs wouldn’t do it and so far, it was the right call.
But now fast forward to last week. The murmurs started that maybe Schwarber could be used as a DH in the World Series. He did get some hacks in the Arizona Fall League and didn’t look bad. Reports said he was out in front of a few off speed pitches, but also had the exit velocity of 110 on one of his hits so it was safe to assume that while maybe he wasn’t in “mid-season” form, he was in some kind of season form.
That’s what so crazy about this. Schwarber started playing with the Cubs AFL team on October 22nd. That’s less than a week ago. October 22nd was the first time he had seen live pitching since April 7th. That’s SIX goddamn months that Schwarber went without seeing a live pitch. The MLB off-season is about six months, but they get an entire month before the season to get their swing and timing back off of live pitchers. Schwarber had three days.
It all seemed to happen so fast. It was like one day they said “Hey Schwarber might be able to play in the World Series” and then the next day he was slotted in the five spot at DH. When the game finally started, despite his limited reps, Schwarber ripped a double off the wall off of Corey Kluber who looked as good as he had all season and became the first player ever to collect their first hit of the season in the World Series. Then he followed it up the next night with a 2-3 performance including to RBI.
It’s really not just the actual hitting that’s been so impressive either. He has a nice swing and if he was just getting hits you could maybe say that the adrenaline was helping him out some. However the quality of his at-bats have been outstanding. The one at-bat in particular that really stands out was the walk he had against Andrew Miller in game one.
We all know that Miller is one of (if not) the toughest lefties in the game. Schwarber laid off hard slider after hard slider and fouled off pitches until he he eventually won the at-bat with a walk. Miller’s slider is so nasty and has been particularly hard to hit for left handed hitters all season long. The pitch Miller made was a good one. It definitely started in the zone and broke out of the zone. He was hoping to get Schwarber to chase, but he didn’t. He tracked it all the way in. In the AFL during those three days, Schwarber tracked 1.300 pitches off a pitching machine to help him recognize breaking pitches. I’m sure that helped a little, but I can guarantee you that there wasn’t one pitching machine that could emulate Andrew Miller’s side-winding delivery or even the devastating break.
Maybe he didn’t actually track that ball. Maybe the pitch froze him and he just didn’t swing and got lucky. Maybe he sprayed antler spray on his knee. Maybe he’s an alien. I don’t know. But what I do know is whatever it is, he is the most important part of the Cubs lineup right now and with them going back to Wrigley, without a DH, they need to make a huge decision that could affect the outcome of the World Series. Do you play Schwarber, who when healthy is a shitty outfielder, or do you use him as a pinch hitter? Schwarber is playing like magic right now so in my opinion, you have to ride that wave and hope the magic continues defensively.
It’s already been an unbelievable story for Kyle Schwarber and the Cubs this series. I said it in my World Series preview blog: Kyle Schwarber knows one speed: mash. And that’s what this enormous hitting machine needs to keep doing for his team.
PS – How much does it suck for Ben Zobrist? He’s hitting like .750 with 3 doubles and everybody is talking about Schwarber.