When a fly ball is hit in the direction of Chicago Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber, fans don’t know whether to lean in or look away. That’s because it feels like the probability of something spectacular happening is about the same as something disastrous happening, with little room for a result in between.
Of course, that’s not entirely true. Schwarber has made positive strides since beginning his conversion from catcher to outfielder less than two years ago. But it’s still rarely a smooth ride. In fact, his outfield adventures would best be described as a roller coaster that takes Cubs on a wide-ranging ride of emotions.
The best and worst of Schwarber’s outfield defense was on display during Friday’s 6-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field. With weather conditions that were far less than ideal, Schwarber wowed fans with one spectacular catch early in the game, only to make them gasp in horror with a great effort turned train wreck in the sixth inning.
Focusing on the positive first. Schwarber made a truly sensational play in the third inning, covering 37 feet to rob Milwaukee’s Keon Broxton with a diving backhanded grab.
According to Statcast, Schwarber’s play registered as a four-star catch. That’s based on several factors that are measured, including the time the ball was in the air. Statcast says the time the ball left pitcher Eddie Butler’s right hand to when it was projected to land was just 3.0 seconds. That lowered the catch probability to 26 percent, but Schwarber defied those odds to make his best play of the season.
Yes, even better than his tumbling into the stands catch against the Yankees earlier this month. At least as far as Statcast sees it.
That was definitely one of the highlights of the day for the Cubs. Then the weather really started to become a factor with heavy rains and stronger wind. That eventually led to a one-hour, 59-minute delay in the sixth inning, but right before that Schwarber turned a wind-blown pop up into a double-error that helped Milwaukee put the game away.
Most Cubs fans will tell you they’re just happy Schwarber survived the play. There had to be flashbacks to last April in Arizona, where Schwarber suffered a knee injury that sidelined him until the World Series.
As for manager Joe Maddon, he was adamant that Schwarber wasn’t at fault.
“Don’t blame Schwarber. Please don’t blame Schwarber,” Maddon told the media following the game. “Whatever you do, don’t do that.”
Poor weather conditions were the prime factor here. Third baseman Kris Bryant and shortstop Javier Baez could have done a better job too directing traffic. But once Kyle Schwarber is committed to that play, getting out of the way isn’t the worst option either.
With that in mind, Schwarber still has a way to go before he’ll be completely comfortable in the outfield. Maddon seems determined to keep him there for now, and he’s also determined to keep Schwarber batting leadoff too despite his disappointing .182 batting average. But given Schwarber’s struggles on both sides, one can’t but wonder if those assignments are weighing too heavily on his mind.
More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:
– – – – – – –