“Kyle Schwarber is a powerhouse!” says the Cubs fan after Schwarber’s first season in the bigs.
“Kyle Schwarber strikes out way too much.” says the Cubs fan three seasons into Schwarber’s career.
“Kyle Schwarber needs to be in the lineup everyday!”
“We need to designate Kyle Schwarber for assignment.”
“We need Schwarber back for our playoff run.”
“We don’t need to resign Kyle Schwarber.”
“We should’ve resigned Kyle Schwarber.”
This is a very brief synopsis of Kyle Schwarber’s 6-year stretch with the Chicago Cubs — one plagued with promise, inconsistency, defeat, and hope... in that order. Now, in his first season with the Washington Nationals, Schwarber started the cycle anew, hitting just .189 with a .621 OPS and only three homers through his first 25 games. In the 43 games since, Schwarber has hit .291 with a 1.076 OPS and 21 dingers. Who is this guy? He’s been living two different careers. Forrest Gump would refer to him as a box of chocolates, because on any given day or for any given stretch of games, you never know what you’re going to get. In his career, Schwarber has recorded a 46 at-bat stretch with only three hits, and a different 38 at-bat stretch with zero extra base hits. He’s gone hitless for at least 14 at-bats five times in his career! But he also just hit 15 home runs in 17 games, tying him with Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa for the most ever in a 17-game stretch. Schwarber has also hit nine homers in his last 11 games, tied with Frank Howard (1968) for the most in that span. It’s mind-boggling, and it’s led some baseball fans to wonder if he’s the most inconsistent player in baseball recently. Well, let’s compare his numbers to those of other infamously inconsistent players, shall we?
First, Lucas Duda. The longtime New York Mets first baseman was a constant thorn in the sides of baseball fans in Queens because of his inconsistency. They loved him. They hated him. They loved to hate him. Throughout his career, Duda had 78 20-game spans with an OPS of 1.000 or better. Schwarber has had 48 such streaks. Now, if these players’ inconsistencies were as truly balanced as they seem, they each should have nearly as many streaks with the opposite effect, say an OPS of .580 or less. Duda had 77 20-game spans under that criteria. That’s pretty inconsistent. Schwarber... 46. Okay, so they’re pretty even.
How about another guy? Jay Bruce — yup, another infuriating Mets player. Prior to retiring earlier this year, Bruce was notorious for being an incredible, borderline All-Star hitter every year... in the first half of the season. In the second half of the season, he crumbled quicker than Game of Thrones’ eighth season. In terms of home runs, Bruce’s seven seven best halves were the first halves of 2019, 2017, 2011, 2013, 2009, 2012, and 2016, respectively. Bruce had only three second halves where he recorded more home runs than in the first half: 2008 (6 in the first half, 15 in the second); 2010 (10, 15); and 2018 (3, 6). Schwarber has been much more consistent throughout full seasons. While 2021 has seen him record the most home runs in any half of a season he’s ever played, three of his next five best halves are all after game 81. There’s a point for Schwarber. He’s more consistent than Bruce.
Finally, the creme de la creme of inconsistent ball players: Ryan Raburn, who had three seasons with an OPS+ greater than 120, and three seasons with an OPS+ of 75 or less. Inconsistent as Schwarber has been, he’s never recorded an OPS less than 90 in a full season. While both players have a career .253 batting average, Schwarber’s on-base percentage is 20 points higher and his slugging is 55 points higher. As inconsistent as Schwarber is, he doesn’t even light a candle to Ryan Raburn.
I’ve loved watching Schwarber this season. I pray that he gets invited to the Home Run Derby, because he’s as powerful as ever and he got robbed in 2018. As far as inconsistency goes, Schwarber might be near the top in league history, but right now, he’s the hottest hitter on Earth. I’d rather pitch to Shohei Ohtani than Schwarber at this moment. However, if the latter’s career is any indicator, he’ll come crashing down any moment now. It’ll be a hard fall, but man, until it does... this is an incredible stretch to witness.