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Talking Cubs Baseball Since 2003



February 2017



Schwarber Versus Recent Leadoff Men

Written by , Posted in General

Its pretty clear that barring an injury, Schwarber will be the leadoff man to start the season. He certainly is not what you would traditionally think of as a leadoff hitter. He is a slugger who smashes extra base hits, is not a burner on the bases (although he is a better base runner than you might think) and strikes out a fair amount. Schwarber’s skill set is very different from almost every leadoff hitter the Cubs have thrown out there in recent memory. That being said the results may actually compare favorably to recent Cubs leadoff hitters. Below is a list of the Cubs leadoff hitters from opening day the past 10 seasons, lets see how Schwarber’s projected stats compare to them.

2017 Steamer Projections for Kyle Schwarber-  .264/.353/.490  27 HR  6 SB

Past 10 Opening Day Leadoff Hitters-

2007- Alfonso Soriano-  .299/.337/.560  33 HR  19 SB

2008- Ryan Theriot-  .307/.387/.359  1 HR  22 SB

2009- Alfonso Soriano- .241/.303/.423  20 HR  9 SB

2010- Ryant Theriot- .270/.321/.312  2 HR  20 SB

2011- Kosuke Fukudome- .262/.342/.370  8 HR  4 SB

2012- David Dejesus- .263/.350/.403  9 HR  7 SB

2013- David Dejesus- .251/.327/.402  8 HR  5 SB

2014- Emilio Bonifacio- .259/.305/.345  3 HR  26 SB

2015- Dexter Fowler- .250/.346/.411  17 HR  20 SB

2016- Dexter Fowler- .276/.393/.447  13 HR  13 SB

So when you compare Schwarber’s projections to those numbers you see that the only seasons that his OBP would be lower than is 16′ Fowler and 08′ Theriot which were both on playoff teams. Even his batting average is not out of line with the rest of the players on the list. He will likely get on base at an above average clip and will be protected by Bryant and Rizzo. The other thing to consider is that Maddon has expressed interest in hitting the pitcher 8th and the rotation of Almora and Jon Jay in the 9 hole. So there will be plenty of opportunities where Schwarber will essentially be hitting second which is where he hit in the World Series. Still the biggest benefit of Schwarber hitting leadoff is that he is great at working the count and seeing lots of pitchers. That will prove invaluable to the guys hitting behind him as they will know what to expect from the pitcher. It will certainly be a change from Dexter Fowler who was the definition of a leadoff hitter but since the Cubs do not have that type of player, Maddon is taking the correct course and trying to creatively address the situation. This is likely to be one of the best Cubs offenses in recent memory and I can’t wait to watch them play. What do you think? Post your thoughts below.



  • Brad Lyerla

    I forgot how productive Soriano was in ’07. Schwarber could be that kind of lead off man, but even better.

  • Adam Peters

    Schwarber led off a couple innings in the World Series that became great rallies. The 10th inning of Game 7 comes to mind, of course.

    As i said in my last article, Dexter Fowler wasn’t a Rickey Henderson type, get on first then steal second and third type of leadoff man. Don’t get me wrong, he was great, but the Cubs are more of a get on first and someone behind you will hit a home run kind of offense. Schwarbs has a great eye. I think he’ll do very well hitting in front of Bryant.

    The Cubs have three 30+ HR guys 1-3 and a bunch of 20 HR guys after them. What pitcher wants to have to face that right out of the gate?

    • theguz7

      I’m not worried about Schwarbs’ speed as the obstacle–as Joe keeps trying to point out (the posn has changed, etc.). Far more concerned about inefficiency when he repeatedly comes up with no one on.

      Schwarbs no doubt did great things in the Series, hitting .412. But he only drove in 2 R in his 4 G. Woulda been nice if someone was on when he hit the ringing 2B off Kluber in G1, e.g. He batted in the heart of the order that G, and it happens, but why WILFULLY take runners OFF BASE for this premier slugger?

      For that matter, Bryant had no business batting 2, ditto Zo 4; esp given Zo’s identical OBP to Bryant and Rizzo, the dude hitting .270 with 18 HR and 75 RBI shoulda been the quintessential table setter. Joe changed the lineup when Fowler was out (with bad result), then forgot to re-adjust when Fowler returned.

      Know how many times Bryant hit cleanup last yr? Yep: O. A lil open-mindedness don’t hurt.

  • Doc Raker

    Schwarbs 2017 projection is way off- these projection people need to pay attention. Schwarbs will hit 83 jacks in 2017 making his slash line way different than the projection above.

  • theguz7

    Please don’t fall for Joe’s story batting the P 8th to get more runners on for Schwarbs; last yr, Cub leadoff batters came up 67% of the time with no one on, but in ’15, it was worse–Fowler came up 68% of the time with bases empty–despite P batting 8th.

    There will be much emptiness for Schwarbs and, with that, pronounced shifts.

    This move will hurt him and the team.

    • Brad Lyerla

      Who would you lead off? What would your line up look like?

      • theguz7

        Obvious skill set is Zo, but he has repeatedly failed at leadoff in his life (.330 OBP/.700 OPS)–but he would definitely be my # 2.

        If Joe wants Schwarber, why not consider Contreras–who had the better BA, OBP, SP, OPS, K-rate, and K:BB rate over Schwarber in each’s rookie yr, over a near identical PA sample? I also feel Contreras has more speed than Schwarbs, tho not sure.

        If Joe simply wants to get his “best hitter” up the most, that’s either Bryant or Rizzo–and Bryant comes with outstanding speed and baserunning.

        I still would hate the inefficiency of sending Bryant up with the bases empty 68% of the time–I hated it badly enough seeing him at #2 last yr.

        So what to do? I would put Baez or Russell there.

        Before everyone jumps on the free swinging ways or low OBP, a few things:

        1) both struck out only as often last yr as Fowler in each of his 2 seasons;

        2) both these guys have spent their careers at the bottom of the order, where teams were free to work them outside the zone with impunity–imagine them with Bryzzo and Schwarber protecting them;

        3) both guys show marked improvement in both K-rate and OBP in each’s brief career; Russell’s .330 OBP last yr paled to Fowler’s .393–but was real close to the .346 Fowler put up in ’15;

        4) Baez is a 25/25 guy waiting to happen–plz forget Jon Jay, move Heyward to CF, and let Zo and Baez play almost every day.

        My order: Baez, Zo, Rizz, Bryant, Schwarbs, Contreras, Russ, Heyward, P.

      • Absolutely spot on guz. You could literally watch Javy’s plate discipline morph last season.. leadoff is a situation that you can teach.

        That’s a monster lineup.

      • theguz7

        Thx J…and speaking of J, not sure why there is not more talk of Heyward batting 8/9–at least until he shows some life, and at least until he is out-OPSing anyone else on the team.

        I know it’s only ST, but we also have a 176-G stat sample to go off from last yr; in NO MONTH was Heyward even a league-average OPSer, and he spent 6 outta 7 months more than 100 pts below that average.

        Last yr, Heyward hit about .150 in ST, and everyone poo-pooed it, instead of seeing he was in major trouble. This yr, of course it’s early, but 0/5 with 2 K against no-name talent has me more than a bit skeptical of a turnaround.

        L/R/L stuff be damned; batting your worst hitter last has been a no-brainer for 140 yrs or so.

      • JTBarrett16

        It’s a modern-day Murderer’s Row

      • theguz7


      • Yep, I could embrace either as the lead off. But, I also trust that the Cubs decision makers are not idiots. So if they have reason to want to try Schwarber there, I’ll go with it.

      • theguz7

        I’m not as confident as you. I’ll certainly give Theo the A he deserves, while recognizing his failures, and that he’s not perfect.

        Ditto Joe–except he gets a B+ due to a dangerous arrogance I don’t see in Theo.

      • I’ll lose confidence if it’s a complete failure and they continue it. But pretending I know more than they do about their hitters would be dangerously arrogant as well. Well, not dangerously arrogant, since I can’t affect change. But arrogant nonetheless. There is a reason I’m not the coach. (But thankfully they all use VFTB as their primary source of info so they’ll get all our advice.)

      • Eddie Von White

        It’s just a matter of time until they adhere to theguz’ advice.

      • theguz7

        Worry not about the arrogance, Lizzie. Have you ever criticized a president? I’m guessing u haven’t held the office, don’t have the background (yet), and whatever Pres we’re talking about probably had more info than u on any topic warranting your critique.

        I hope “Well he’s the Pres…” never stops your critique.

        I hope u get my point; still, it’s humorous how many consider it shocking blasphemy to second-guess a mgr or any sports exec, for that matter.

        Sports is a helluva lot less fun if we take the de facto “we’ll, they’re there for a reason” path.

        Keep Joe on his toes…and save democracy in the process.

      • cap’n realist

        I like Contreras and Zobrist FAR better than Schwarber. Schwarber needs baserunners to add to his production, and despite reports to the contrary, he’s a slow baserunner. The Cubs don’t need 83 solo homeruns. Zobrist is a switch hitter, and is cerebral enough to make the adjustment to batting leadoff….put him there and LEAVE him there for a month or three.

        The mechanics of Heywards swing look better, but he still looks like shit. No way to sugar coat it.

      • theguz7

        0/8, 2 K vs unknown, sometimes-non-MLB Ps is shitty?

        At least he also got caught stealing–badly.

      • You are right! (Though I will admit to sometimes thinking I do have more background and more knowledge than certain presidents on many topics but this is just a recent development.)

        I don’t think it’s blasphemy to second guess a manager. Heck we criticized Maddon’s bullpen management until we were all blue in our respective faces back in November and that was when the WS win was very fresh and we were still all in a state of euphoria. I think I’d be more inclined to complain about this particular decision if I really felt there was a more obvious choice. I think nearly everyone mentioned has his merits at leadoff, and they all have drawbacks too. So maybe that’s it.

        Regardless, excellent discussion, and great points.

      • Goes without saying that Raker would embrace Schwarber. Leadoff or wherever.

      • JTBarrett16

        Raker: Hey Schwarber, I’m Raker D from KB. I think you’re going to hit 83 HRs this year
        Schwarber: I met a guy named CAPS who said I’m going to hit 104 HRs

      • Adam Peters

        Baez completely abandoned the disciplined approach in the WS when he got moved up in the order, after having great success in the first 2 rounds batting lower. Not to be a Richard, but the idea of him leading off is more than a little ridiculous.

        And besides, Russell and certainly Baez have damn near as much power as Schwarber does. How is putting either of them leading off any different than Schwarber doing it other than neither of them having Scharb’s eye or plate discpline?

        Additionally your whole argument seems to stem from the outdated idea that you should have a prototypical “leadoff hitter”, then the 2 hitter is a guy who can really handle the bat and will sacrifice the leadoff guy over, and then your best hitter bats third… The modern approach is based on the fact that for each slot dropped in the batting order the guy hitting there will have 15-20 fewer ABs/season. So therefore you want your better hitters hitting higher in the order.

      • I think you want to maximize meaningful at-bats for your best hitters. Running up Schwarbs (who has maaaaad more power than Russel and Javy) an extra 20 times after a pitcher and Heyward swing their purses doesn’t make a ton of sense either.

      • JTBarrett16

        I want my leadoff hitter to be a high OBP guy and someone who works the count. I could care less about his speed. I want my 2 hitter to be someone who is a high contact hitter, good at handling the bat, knows when to take a pitch to allow a stolen base (if the leadoff hitter runs), and is good at putting the ball in play. Even if he makes an out, he’s making a productive out (not always a sac bunt)

      • theguz7

        You just described Zo to a T as your #2…pass the memo on to Joe.

      • theguz7

        So Fowler was a better hitter than Bryant and Rizzo each of past 2 yrs?

      • theguz7

        I heard much of Baez’ struggles in the WS–“moved up in order”; “trying to kill everything”; “Hispanic”…

        Fact is, baseball players go hot, they go cold. Baez was exactly as cold as Rizzo was the first 7 or so G of the post season. Rizzo got hot, just in time. Bryant, too, went thru some awful spells.

        No one did anything except cheer when Baez was the only posn player who bothered to show up vs SF, not when he took home the NLCS Co-MVP just moments before the WS started.

        Bottom line is he is already the best SB threat on the team, has dramatically improved his K-rate in 2 yrs, and will automatically get far greater pitches to hit if Rizzo, Bryant, and Schwarbs bat behind him (instead of being sandwiched between Heyward and a P).

      • Adam Peters

        Nobody is saying Baez is a bad player. And I know nobody criticized him for being Hispanic. (WTF?) But what happened in the World Series was not him being in a slump. He abandoned the disciplined approach that had been so successful for him in the first two rounds of the playoffs and he starting swinging for the fences on every pitch like the old Javy. And as a result he struck out a lot, just like the old Javy.

      • JTBarrett16

        Agreed 100% that Baez went back to 2014 Javy in the World Series. His at-bat before the Arrieta HR in game 3 of the Giants series stood out to me and made me think he was turning a corner. Count was 0-2, he battled back to run it full, before getting a base hit.

  • Dejesus christ those were some dark times.

    • theguz7

      “DeJesus Christ”– just in time for Ash Wednesday.

  • Doug S.

    What a contrast in Soriano’s 2007/2009 numbers. I recall Dejesus as being pretty good leading off for us, we had some bigger problems those years. I’ve posted this before, but I’m not a buyer of Schwarbs leading off. Be interesting to see how that goes.

    • Eddie Von White

      I recall Dejesus had a pretty big smile on his face all the time.

      • Doug S.

        If you’ve seen his wife you’ll know why.

      • Eddie Von White

        I have and I do.

      • cap’n realist

        Eddie Von Covet

      • Eddie Von White

        Actually, my wife is prettier than his – for real. I smile a lot too.

      • cap’n realist

        Sounds like a Bryan Adams song….

      • Eddie Von White

        I think you could find it if you look long enough. Bryan must have written one like that.

      • Brhyan Ahdams

      • cap’n realist

        Von Ahdams

  • Doc Raker

    The only leadoff info we have is Schwarbs will lead off in game 1 of the season. Maddon will mix it up hence we have a 7.5 over under on how many different lead off hitters the Cubs will have in 2017.

    I like seeing your best hitters get more AB’s, late in the game when you pinch hit for the pitcher Schwarbs is standing in the on deck circle with 83 projected jacks in 2017. BooYaa