Ostrowski: Schwarber platoon player for Chicago Cubs

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber just hasn't been in the swing of things so far this season as his struggles continue.

    Chicago Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber just hasn't been in the swing of things so far this season as his struggles continue. Associated Press

 
By Joe Ostrowski
Special to the Daily Herald
Updated 5/27/2017 11:01 PM

It's official: Kyle Schwarber is a part-time player. Joe Maddon confirmed this in Los Angeles.

Schwarber actually has been a platoon player for a while. It just has been more noticeable lately since the Cubs have faced a left-handed pitcher every other day since Monday and he has been benched every time.

 

The burly left fielder has been out of the lineup eight times this season. In seven of those games, the Cubs were opposed by a southpaw.

This wasn't always the case. Schwarber started 26 of the first 27 games of the year, the defending champs' everyday left fielder. He even faced six different lefty starters in April, but zero in May.

When Clayton Kershaw pitches Sunday, it will be the fifth time the Cubs have faced a lefty in 10 games. If Schwarber were hitting, he'd be out there.

It's impossible to justify sticking Schwarber in left field every day when he has been hitting below .200 the entire month and his on-base percentage continues to nose dive. The team is so versatile that there are six players on the roster Maddon can play there.

Making Schwarber a platoon player makes sense right now. The slugger is closing in on 500 regular-season plate appearances. When he faces a lefty, his batting average is down about 100 points, slugging percent south more than 200, and on-base plus slugging down better than 300 points. He also strikes out 40 percent of the time.

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The lefty-righty splits aren't as extreme this season because he isn't hitting right handed pitching either.

The strikeouts and bad defense were expected. You can deal with those negatives when a player homers in three straight playoff games, like Schwarber did in 2015. Maddon thinks they don't win the 2016 World Series without Schwarber, even though he was only available as a designated hitter in road games or as a pinch hitter.

The metric Defensive Runs Saved suggests that Schwarber's defense is twice as bad as when he was a rookie. This year he has -6 DRS; in nearly the same amount of innings, it was -3 in 2015.

In a perfect world, the Cubs play Schwarber against lefties and he figures it out like Anthony Rizzo did. The first baseman hit .208 in 2012, .189 in 2013, and .300 in 2014.

But those Cubs didn't have options and weren't fighting for a spot in the playoffs.

At the start of the Cubs' homestand on May 16, Theo Epstein said: "If anyone wants to sell their Kyle Schwarber stock, we're buying. If they want to sell low, we'll buy low."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

It doesn't look like it.

The rotation of players at three positions has become four.

• Joe Ostrowski is a co-host of the "Hit & Run" baseball show from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on WSCR 670-AM The Score with Barry Rozner. Follow him on Twitter@JoeO670.

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