Kyle Schwarber Did a Cool Thing No One Cares About Today

To think, we got to do this just over a week ago, after a Jason Heyward home run. Now we’re in a similar situation. Tuesday night, the Cubs lost a tough one to the Mets, falling behind three games to none in the NLCS. So the Cubs find themselves in the worst position possible, and they’re fully aware of the history, but for whatever it’s worth, Kyle Schwarber just became the Cubs’ all-time leader in postseason dingers, and he got there by going deep against a really outside pitch from Jacob deGrom. It’s not really much consolation. How do you feel about your accomplishment, Kyle Schwarber?

“I’m not really looking at that right now,” Schwarber said.

Right. The last thing Schwarber wants to focus on is a dinger in a loss. The last thing the Cubs overall want to focus on is a dinger in a loss. The last thing Cubs fans want to focus on is a dinger in a loss. But, look. I’m not invested in this. I don’t play for the Cubs, and while I’ve rooted for the Cubs before, they’ve never been my favorite team. I get paid to obsess over stupid little details. So, following: a whole bunch of them. Though the Cubs ultimately lost, Schwarber’s home run was remarkable, and that’s right in my wheelhouse.

It was in the first inning that Schwarber went full-count kablammo:

It’s often hard to tell in real time just where a pitch was located, and it never helps to have the camera off-center. So then you get into the benefits of slow-motion replays and carefully-selected screenshots. Kyle Schwarber hit a home run. This is where the ball was when he hit it:

schwarber-1

Even though you can’t do anything precisely, because of the off-center angle, you can follow an invisible line down and see that ball off the plate away. It was either over the chalk or on the other side of the chalk. Schwarber had to reach out to get the barrel on the ball, and even if you’re not all that familiar with Schwarber’s ordinary swing, you can probably tell that isn’t it. That isn’t the swing of a guy who recently deposited a baseball onto the Budweiser sign. So now we go back to the stuff we covered in the little Heyward post. With the help of Baseball Savant, here are the most outside pitches hit for home runs by lefties in 2015. It’s measured by PITCHf/x, which calculates ball position at the front plane of home plate. You’ll also see a column pulling data from Brooks Baseball, which adjusts pitch locations to try to account for any mis-calibrations. The numbers you see are inches away from the middle of the plate.

Outside Home Runs, Lefties, 2015
Hitter Location (in.) Brooks Location (in.) Date
Kyle Schwarber -19.0 -19.9 10/20/2015
Chris Davis -16.8 -16.3 9/20/2015
Freddie Freeman -15.3 -16.5 7/28/2015
Jason Heyward -15.0 -15.2 10/12/2015
David Ortiz -14.8 -14.4 8/31/2015
Luis Valbuena -14.4 -14.8 4/15/2015
Robinson Cano -13.5 -14.1 7/1/2015
Chris Davis -13.4 -14.7 9/4/2015
SOURCE: Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball

By the raw numbers, Schwarber’s home run came against the most outside pitch, by a gap of just over two inches. By the adjusted numbers, Schwarber’s home run came against the most outside pitch, by a gap of a little over three inches. So we can say, pretty conclusively, Schwarber just hit the most outside home run by a lefty on the year. These numbers, of course, only have to do with the baseball, and they don’t take into account batter stance, as some guys stand closer than others. Here are, in order, screenshots of the Davis, Freeman, and Heyward home runs:

davis-homer

freeman-homer

heyward-homer

One of the things that struck me about the Heyward home run was that he was somewhere around the middle of the box. So I don’t know if that pitch was further away from Heyward’s person. Schwarber’s back foot was toward the middle, but then he stepped in. I’m just going to stick with the things I know. What I know are the PITCHf/x coordinates.

So Schwarber is the leader, for 2015. What if we open it up to the whole PITCHf/x era, stretching back to 2008? Now Schwarber is the runner-up, behind only a teammate.

Outside Home Runs, Lefties, 2008 – 2015
Hitter Location (in.) Brooks Location (in.) Date
Anthony Rizzo -20.5 -21.2 6/23/2014
Kyle Schwarber -19.0 -19.9 10/20/2015
Colby Rasmus -18.2 -16.7 8/9/2013
Jay Bruce -17.7 -17.3 7/18/2008
Ryan Howard -17.6 -15.9 8/28/2009
Shin-Soo Choo -17.2 -16.9 8/5/2012
Carlos Pena -17.1 -18.1 7/18/2011
SOURCE: Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball

By the numbers, only Anthony Rizzo has hit a sillier pitch. It was a very silly pitch indeed, from Alfredo Simon in June 2014. It was also thrown and hit in Wrigley Field. As you know, Rizzo stands very close to the plate, and he is a large individual, so he’s pretty damn well able to cover the area away off the plate if he likes. The moment of contact:

rizzo-homer

It was a terrible pitch — the kind of pitch you know is bad right out of the hand. But it was also so far outside Simon could’ve and should’ve felt like it was just a waste pitch. But then Rizzo went and got it, and if you just look at his body position, you wouldn’t think that pitch is so far outside, because Rizzo looks comfortable. That speaks to his length, and that speaks to his home-plate proximity.

Anyway, that’s Rizzo being weird. This is about Schwarber, and there’s no shame in coming in second when you’re looking at a span of eight years. How did Schwarber extend himself far enough to drive that deGrom pitch out? It required a mid-at-bat adjustment, in response to the way Schwarber was being pitched. Here’s the whole plate appearance:

schwarber-degrom

Everything was away, except pitch No. 6, but pitch No. 6 was a changeup that was supposed to be away. Here’s Schwarber watching pitch No. 3, a fastball up and away:

schwarber-early

Look at Schwarber’s feet. He is ever so slightly open. This is what’s normal, for him. This is how he usually looks. But Schwarber read the way he was being pitched. He realized deGrom wanted to work him outside, so, now look at Schwarber watching pitch No. 5 of what would be a seven-pitch plate appearance:

schwarber-middle-fifth

Schwarber closed himself off. After four pitches of a slightly open step, Schwarber stepped closer toward the plate. He did it again for pitch No. 6, and here’s a shot of Schwarber preparing to swing at pitch No. 7, which he knocked out:

schwarber-late

Closed again. Schwarber understood he’d be pitched away, so he started stepping in that direction, to give himself a better chance of driving a pitch away instead of flailing or hitting it off the end of the bat. Schwarber didn’t want to pull off the ball, so he focused away and he focused on left-center field. The Mets pitched him like he expected, and Schwarber cashed in. It’s a very subtle thing, but also a good example of why it’s important to pitch inside from time to time, even if it’s not where you want to target — when the pitcher is predictable, hitters will adjust to that. I don’t know who on the Mets should’ve noticed Schwarber’s feet, but he wasn’t very well positioned for a full-count fastball over the inner half. That’s the risk Schwarber took, but he took it figuring the Mets wouldn’t challenge him in.

It was a bright spot on a dark day. The next time Schwarber came up, the first two pitches were down and in.

None of this helps the Cubs very much. With or without the Schwarber home run, they would’ve lost, and it was a devastating game to lose. But, at least, the series isn’t over yet. Nor is the Cubs’ window, not by a long shot. In part because Kyle Schwarber is a brilliant young power hitter, with a good sense of how he gets attacked. Even if Schwarber’s approach didn’t make everything better on Tuesday, it’s only going to pay off a hell of a lot more often down the road.





Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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Brett W
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Brett W

Now do an analysis of the ball that clanged off his glove.

tz
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tz

Bat = young Greg Luzinski

Glove = young Greg Luzinski

Ben
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Ben

Greg “The Bull” Luzinski. One of the best baseball nicknames of my lifetime.

tz
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tz

One of my first favorite players. Schwarber’s hitting resume reminded me of Lance Berkman when he first came up. But one look at him in left field, looking like a linebacker trying baseball as a second sport, and my lasting impression is The Bull 2.0.