Cubs slug past White Sox in spring matchup

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Cubs slug past White Sox in spring matchup

Thursday, March 24, 2011
CSNChicago.comAssociated Press
MESA, Ariz. (AP) The Chicago Cubs and the White Sox both took steps toward completing their Opening Day rosters on Thursday.The Cubs cut four infielders and an outfielder. Rookie Darwin Barney has made the club as an infielder and possible starting second baseman, as well as veteran non-roster man Reed Johnson.The White Sox named rookie Brent Morel their starting third baseman and reaffirmed that Phil Humber would be their fifth starter.Barney had a big day, hitting a two-run triple and a single in the Cubs' 8-7 victory over their crosstown rivals. He also had a hand in turning two double plays."It's good to know that Phase 1 is done," said Barney, who played in 30 games for the Cubs last year. "The job's done. I worked my (butt) off. I'm breaking with the Chicago Cubs. It's pretty amazing. Now the focus is on the team. It's on winning."The Cubs opened camp with a platoon at second of Jeff Baker and Blake DeWitt. However, DeWitt has struggled this spring, batting .167, and will now take grounders at third base in addition to second in preparation for a possible backup role at both spots."He's struggled," said manager Mike Quade. "But we're going to be patient with him. He's 25 years old. He's a .260 lifetime big-league hitter. We're going to expect him to get a lot better. I've asked him to play nothing but second base. We will change that a little bit. We're going to continue his work at second. We're going to ask him to take some balls at third and look at it as that being a possibility as well."I've been thrilled to death with the way Baker and Barney have played. We know what Bake accomplished last year against left-handed pitching, and Barney's a young kid who's on the come. It's still a competition. You've still got to perform."The Cubs jumped on Humber for two runs in the first inning and one in the second. Humber (0-2) worked 4 1-3 innings, giving up five hits and seven runs. He also walked four and struck out four."My command today was terrible," Humber said. "Not just the walks, but falling behind guys. It's hard to expect good results when you're walking guys and falling behind like this."White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said he was not disappointed in Humber's performance and that he'd likely start April 6 against the Royals."No, the first inning was a little struggle," Guillen said. "I don't see anybody out there better than what we have. This guy already has the innings."Cubs starting pitcher Matt Garza (1-3) worked five innings, giving up eight hits and three runs. He walked two and struck out four.The Cubs got a fourth-inning solo homer from Alfonso Soriano, his third of the spring. The White Sox got homers from Omar Vizquel (No. 2), Alexei Ramirez (No. 4) and Donny Lucy (No. 1).Notes:
The Cubs optioned OF Fernando Perez to Class AAA Iowa. They also assigned non-roster infielders Matt Camp, Scott Moore, Augie Ojeda and Bobby Scales to their minor-league complex. ... White Sox OF Juan Pierre fouled a ball off his right shin in his third plate appearance and left the game after finishing the at-bat. The White Sox said the move was precautionary and that Pierre's injury is not serious.
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CubsTalk Podcast: Reacting to Kyle Schwarber's demotion and Mike Montgomery on his evolution

CubsTalk Podcast: Reacting to Kyle Schwarber's demotion and Mike Montgomery on his evolution

Tony Andracki, Scott Changnon and Jeff Nelson react in real time to the breaking news that Kyle Schwarber was demoted to the minor leagues. Plus, the trio play around with expansion drafts and who the most indispensable players on the Cubs are.

[RELATED - Inside the numbers on Schwarber's season-long struggles]

Patrick Mooney also goes 1-on-1 with Cubs swingman southpaw Mike Montgomery about the lanky lefty’s role and how he got here.

Check out the entire Podcast here.

Inside the Numbers: Kyle Schwarber's season-long struggle

Inside the Numbers: Kyle Schwarber's season-long struggle

The struggle is real for Kyle Schwarber.

The Cubs demoted their slumping slugger Thursday morning, sending Schwarber to Triple-A Iowa at the same time they put Jason Heyward on the disabled list. 

Let's break down the numbers behind Schwarber's season-long struggles:

.171 

Schwarber's batting average, which was the lowest among qualified hitters in Major League Baseball by a whopping 17 points (Alex Gordon — .188).

In the new age of baseball, batting average has become almost completely useless in telling the story of a hitter's value, especially with home runs flying out of the ballpark.

But to put this average in perspective, Bill Bergen — widely considered the worst hitter in baseball history — hit .170 for his entire career, though he also posted a ridiculous .395 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) thanks to a .194 on-base percentage and .201 slugging.

38

In 2016, the lowest batting average for a qualified hitter was .209 by Danny Espinosa of the Washington Nationals.

That means Schwarber would've needed to raise his batting average 38 points just to meet Espinosa's mark from last season.

The last qualified player to hit below .200 in a season was Baltimore's Chris Davis in 2014 with a .196 average (but he also had a .704 OPS).

17

Like we said, baseball is a different game nowadays and batting average doesn't tell the whole story.

Despite his MLB-low average, Schwarber actually had only the 17th-lowest OPS in the game, ahead of guys like Albert Pujols, Tim Anderson, Carlos Gonzalez, Rougned Odor and Dansby Swanson. Fellow Cub Addison Russell is one point higher with a .674 OPS.

Schwarber helped his own case by posting a .295 on-base percentage (124 points above his batting average) and .378 slugging. 

13.8 

That's Schwarber's walk rate, drawing a free pass in 13.8 percent of his plate appearances. That's the exact same rate as Anthony Rizzo, who has a .393 on-base percentage. 

Only Kris Bryant is higher among Cubs regulars (15.7 percent) and Schwarber's walk percentage is tied for the 20th-best rate in the majors, ahead of Miguel Cabrera (13.2 percent) and Dexter Fowler (12.1 percent).

189

Schwarber was on pace to strike out 189 times over the course of a 162-game season. That would've come in as the fourth-highest whiff total of 2016, behind Davis (219), Chris Carter (206) and Mike Napoli (194).

But Schwarber has always been a big strikeout guy, whiffing 28.6 percent of the time in his career. That rate is at 28.7 percent in 2017. 

In 2015, Schwrber struck out 28.2 percent of the time and still posted an 842 OPS, so it's not like he can't be successful with this whiff rate.

-7/-7.7

The first number (-7 percent) is the increase in soft contact percentage from Schwarber's 2015 season (15.4 percent) to this year (22.4 percent). The second number (-7.7 percent) is the decrease in hard-hit contact from 39.7 percent in 2015 to 32 percent this year.

So Schwarber is simply not hitting the ball as hard overall this year, even though he's making contact at essentially the same rate.

.849

That's Schwarber's OPS in June, spanning 46 at-bats. He's only hitting .196 in the month, but he has a .327 OBP and .522 SLG thanks to four homers, three doubles and nine walks. 

The decent start to the month has helped raise Schwarber's season OPS from .627 to .673, but it was really the month of May that did America's Large Adult Son in: .120/.232/.337 in 83 May at-bats, good for a .569 OPS.

1.056 

In the first 12 games of June, Schwarber posted a 1.056 OPS thanks to a .250/.368/.688 slash line and four homers. It was that start that helped give Joe Maddon more confidence to move Schwarber around in the order, including hitting third Wednesday behind Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.

But since that hot start to June, Schwarber is only 1-for-14 with a double in five games (four starts), sinking his season OPS 20 points from .693 to .673.

.104

Schwarber's batting average on balls in play (BABIP) for over a month, from May 10 to June 13. Schwarber racked up 98 plate appearances (84 at-bats) and had 30 strikeouts and six homers (which don't count toward BABIP), so he collected five hits in 48 balls put in play. 

Put another way: Schwarber had three singles in roughly five weeks of play (27 games). That's insanely bad luck, even factoring in the shift teams pull against the left-handed slugger, putting three defenders on the right side of the field.

During that stretch, Schwarber was an extreme three true outcome guy, with half his plate appearances (49) resulting in either a home run, a walk or a strikeout.

Schwarber's season BABIP is .193, a far cry from his .242 career mark. No other Cubs position player has a BABIP under .235 (Zobrist) on the year.

.221/.336/.456

Ending on a positive: This is Schwarber's batting line over the course of his career, including playoffs. That's a .792 OPS, even when factoring in this year's struggles. It also includes 33 HR and 81 RBI.

It also comes over 502 at-bats (590 plate appearances), essentially a full season's worth of action.