April was a rough month for Kyle Schwarber. His April line of .241/.308/.434 is actually not that far off from his career mark of .229/.337/.467. The biggest difference is the walk rate dipping from a 13.3% mark down to 8.8% so far this year. His ISO is down from .238 to .193. I’m not an expert on where stats normalize and what is normal variance, but to my eye, that dip in walk rate is more bothersome than the iso. I feel like with a number of games having been played in really lousy weather so far this year, there can be some noise in power numbers. Obviously, not everyone’s numbers are down, but if some of your well struck balls come in cold, overcast games while someone else’s come in warmer than average games or with the wind blowing out... you get the picture.
So then, it had to be gratifying for Kyle to come up with the big blow in last night’s game. I love the picture at the top of this piece for that reason. Sure, if the Cubs were playing a team like the Pirates, Kyle would be getting plunked in tonight’s game for admiring his home run a little too long. But make no mistake, that was a huge home run. The Cubs had played well against the Mariners but it looked like they might come up short. Until Brandon Brennan allowed two hits, both crushed. First a low line drive off of the bat of Willson Contreras that skipped all of the way to the wall for a double. Then a titanic blast from Schwarber.
This continued an interesting trend that happened for the Cubs in April on the way to a 15-12 month (including March games). The Cubs have produced the following OPS numbers by batting order spot:
Obviously, the pitchers have primarily batted in the ninth spot in the order. But they have actually batted in the eighth spot in the order in four games by my count. Kyle Schwarber batted eighth last night. The Cubs have gotten some of their best production out of the sixth, seventh and eighth spots in the order.
That second spot is trending up as Kris Bryant is really starting to scald the ball even though a good number of those well-struck balls are still finding gloves. If he keeps hitting that way, that’s not going to continue for long.
Game 27, April 30: Cubs 6 at Mariners 5 (15-12)
- Superhero: Kyle Schwarber (.472). Kyle posts the second largest WPA score of the season to date. He had just the one hit, but it turned out to be the game winner. He also had a walk in four plate appearances.
- Hero: Steve Cishek (.217). It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective. Steve recorded the final four outs, working around a lead-off single and then a walk issued to start the ninth inning to notch his first save of the year.
- Sidekick: Anthony Rizzo (.167). Anthony had quite a night for himself. He recorded two hits, including a two-run homer, a walk, a hit by pitch, and a stolen base. Anthony now has a .228/.371/.485 line that is below his career mark of .269/.369/.484, but in an odd way. His on base and slugging are virtually identical to his career numbers. His batting average is being kept down by a .227 BABIP that is almost 60 points below his career mark of .286.
- Billy Goat: Cole Hamels (-.371). Cole will surely be happy to stop seeing former AL West foes for a while. In 18 1⁄3 innings of work against AL teams, he’s allowed 10 runs. In 18⅓ innings against NL teams, he’s allowed only five runs. Last night, Cole was let down a couple of times by his defense (though he was also helped a couple of times). He allowed six hits, three walks and four runs (two earned) in 5⅓ innings of work. He struck out seven and also hit a batter.
- Goat: Javier Baez (-.135). Javy was hitless in five plate appearances and struck out twice. This is the third straight game on the goat side of the ledger for Javy.
- Kid: Brandon Kintzler (-.070). Brandon did an excellent job pitching out of a jam in the sixth. Alas, he went back out for the seventh and allowed a long home run.
WPA Play of the Game: With two outs in the eighth inning, Willson Contreras doubled. That brought Kyle Schwarber to the plate with the Cubs trailing 5-4. Kyle launched one deep into the night sky for a two-run homer. (.517). That is the biggest WPA score of the young season.
*Mariners Play of the Game: Edwin Encarnacion’s lead-off homer off of Brandon Kintzler in the seventh gave the Mariners a 5-4 lead. (.214).
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
(# = returned to minors)
- Javier Baez 6.5
- Willson Contreras 6
- Ben Zobrist 5.5
- Kyle Hendricks/Yu Darvish/Kyle Schwarber -6
- #Carl Edwards Jr. -8
Up Next: The Cubs will look to win a fourth straight while the Mariners attempt to avoid the sweep and a fourth straight loss. The Cubs will send Jon Lester to the mound. Jon has a 1-1 record and a 2.37 ERA over 19 innings on the season. Last time out he suffered a tough luck loss despite only allowing one run on four hits and no walks against the Dodgers. He did face the Mariners in 2016 and was the winner in that one, throwing six shutout innings. The vast majority of the Mariners team has no real experience against Jon. The exceptions are Edwin Encarnacion (52 PA with .799 OPS) and Jay Bruce (27 PA with a .265 OPS).
Marco Gonzalez, a 27-year-old left hander will make the start for the Mariners. He is 5-0 with a 2.80 ERA in 45 innings of work. Last time out, he was the winner with seven shutout innings against the Rangers. It’s been even longer since Gonzalez faced the Cubs, dating back to 2014. Marco has been pretty tough on all hitters as you might imagine, with a .696 OPS allowed to right handed hitters and a .641 to lefties.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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