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.

The State of Bryzzo: Cubs superstars trending in opposite directions right now

The State of Bryzzo: Cubs superstars trending in opposite directions right now

There is currently no proof to argue against Anthony Rizzo as the greatest leadoff hitter of all time.

In five games atop the Cubs' order, the team is 3-2 while the face of the franchise has hit .409 with a .458 on-base percentage and .909 slugging percentage to go with six runs and eight RBI.

Leading off each of those five games, here are Rizzo's results:

-Homer
-Homer
-Walk
-Single
-Double

The Cubs have scored seven first-inning runs in those five games and are averaging 7.4 runs per contest in that stretch. The hot streak has helped Rizzo raise his season OPS 43 points from .862 to .905.

Rizzo hitting leadoff has also helped rookie Ian Happ get rolling in the No. 2 spot in the lineup. Hitting after Rizzo in five straight games, Happ has a hit in each contest, including three homers, two doubles and six RBI.

Meanwhile, the other half of "Bryzzo" is struggling mightily.

Joe Maddon gave Kris Bryant a complete day off Sunday and did not start him Friday in Pittsburgh. He has struck out in his last five actual at-bats, with a pair of walks worked in there.

Bryant has actually been in a slump for most of June despite clubbing four home runs in the month. He has hit just .208 since the end of May with 15 strikeouts in 15 games and 48 at-bats.

He's basically whiffing once every three at-bats, though he does have 12 walks in June and leads the league with 47 free passes.

Even with the rough stretch, Bryant still has a .919 season OPS and is on pace for 36 homers, 105 runs and 112 walks. His RBI total is suspiciously low (on pace for only 67 on the season), but that may change if he can right the ship while Rizzo is still red-hot atop the order.

Imagine how good this newfangled Cubs lineup would look if both Rizzo and Bryant get going at the same time.

That being said, 2017 has been a year filled with "ifs" that have yet to play out for the reigning World Champs. Plus, Bryant and Rizzo have been the only two constants in the Cubs lineup this year — while hitting mostly second and third, respectively — and yet the team is still only .500 (34-34) in mid-June, proving "Bryzzo" can't do it all by themselves.

Predicting the nicknames Cubs players will wear on new MLB jerseys

Predicting the nicknames Cubs players will wear on new MLB jerseys

Yahoo's Jeff Passan dropped a bomb of sorts Wednesday evening, saying Major League Baseball will actually relax their uniform rules for one weekend in August (25-27).

That's huge because the league has typically been very buttoned-up (pun intended) on teams' uniforms and instead of a very stingy set of guidelines, players will be able to wear jerseys with nicknames on the backs, boast fluorescent-colored shoes or wear a personalized patch to pay tribute to someone instrumental in their development.

The league sent around a memo and is calling the event "Players Weekend," allowing the game's stars to show their personalities on the field. The Cubs will be in Philadelphia taking on the Phillies that weekend. 

The loud-colored shoes and patches are cool and all, but let's be honest: The nicknames will be the best part for fans. (It will also be the best part for MLB as they can easily sell the jerseys and shirseys with the nicknames on it as a way to rake in bonus cash.)

Will somebody use "HE HATE ME" like the XFL star? How many baseball movie references will there be like "Willie Mays Hayes" or "The Rocket"?

Let's try to predict what nicknames the Cubs players will have on their uniforms (working with the current roster since we can't predict the future as awesome as that would be):

Jake Arrieta - "The Body"

Rationale: "Jake the Snake" is kinda lame. Let's say he goes with "The Body" after his nude appearance in ESPN's body issue.

Eddie Butler - "Big Red" 

Rationale: He's got red hair (though he is only 6-foot-2).

Wade Davis - "Beethoven" 

Rationale: The Cubs closer used to listen to Beethoven before games and the quiet, calm veteran is also not exactly a "Hell's Bells" or "Rage Against the Machine" kinda guy.

Brian Duensing - "Duenston Checks In" 

Rationale: After that sweet '90s movie with Jason Alexander.

Carl Edwards Jr. - "String Bean Slinger

Rationale: "CJ" is too easy and lame. "String Bean Slinger" is Edwards' former Twitter handle, so let's throw that on there.

Justin Grimm - "The Grimm Reaper" 

Rationale: I mean, duhhh.

John Lackey - "Blue" 

Rationale: Of the "You're my boy, Blue!" fame in "Old School." Lackey is the oldest player on the Cubs not named Koji, he may have actually written baseball's old-school "unwritten rules" and the Cubs' color is blue.

Jon Lester - "Big Game Jon"

Rationale: He stole it from his buddy Lackey after his reputation as a clutch performer and had an epic 2016 postseason with the Cubs, shutting down the Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS, winning co-NLCS MVP and then coming up huge in relief in Game 7 of the World Series.

Mike Montgomery - "Accidental Closer"

Rationale: Let's be honest, it will probably be "Monty." We just wanted to get a bit more creative with the 6-foot-5 lefty who picked up his first professional save by getting the final out of the World Series.

Hector Rondon - "Carlos Rodon"

Rationale: How many casual fans confuse these two guys based on last name alone?

Pedro Strop - "Full Tilt"

Rationale: Strop never wears his hat straight and draws a ton of completely unwarranted hate because of it. It would be hilarious to draw attention to that fact for three days.

Koji Uehara - "Doc"

Rationale: He's old and he throws slow.

Willson Contreras - "Castaway"

Rationale: It will almost assuredly be "Willy" but that's too easy because we feel like people refer to him more as "Willy" than "Willson" anyways. So we just went with a "WILLSON!!!" reference.

Miguel Montero - "Captain America"

Rationale: Again, it will be "Miggy," but we wanted to pay tribute to Montero's hard work for gaining American citizenship, passing a test he joked most of his teammates couldn't pass (we couldn't either).

Javy Baez - "Bubble Boy"

Rationale: Javy has more flair than almost anybody in baseball and maybe his best moment ever was when he dropped the bubble gum in San Francisco but caught it and pointed at the camera, oozing with swag.

Kris Bryant - "Sparkle"

Rationale: There's no point in even trying to deny his dreamy blue eyes. 

Ian Happ - "Baby Zo"

Rationale: He's the young version of Ben Zobrist, right?

Anthony Rizzo - "THE GREATEST LEADOFF HITTER EVER"

Rationale: In all caps. Has to be in all caps.

Addison Russell - "Addyshack"

Rationale: You know, like Caddyshack?

Ben Zobrist - "Zorilla"

Rationale: Has. To. Be.

Albert Almora Jr. - "Not-so-fat Albert"

Rationale: We're out of creative juices, sorry.

Jason Heyward - "Reign Man"

Rationale: We wanted to have more fun than just "J-Hey" and wanted to pay tribute to the awesome CSN feature on Heyward's legendary Game 7 rain delay meeting.

Jon Jay - "The Sixth Man" or "Sidekick"

Rationale: Joe Maddon has had a lot of money quotes about Jay this season, comparing him to a good sixth man in basketball based on his talent off the bench and the Cubs manager saying he would adopt Jay as a son or a sidekick because he loves the veteran outfielder so much. 

Kyle Schwarber - America's Large Adult Son

Rationale: Don't even try to pretend like you don't get the reference.