Breaking Bad: Kyle Schwarber’s Trouble with Slider and Curve Continue

I know you kids won’t remember this, but there was a time when having a baseball cap with a flat brim was considered among the most egregious fashion faux pas you could commit. Yes, more gauche than actually wearing them with the bill to the front. There was even a little doohickey called a “Perfect Curve” that you could use to form your bill just so.

But if I may pull you rudely off the path of our stroll down memory lane, I’d like to talk about someone with an inability to achieve anything close to perfection with the curve. Or the slider, for that matter. And though Kyle Schwarber can’t do anything about the golden sombrero he donned in Wednesday night’s loss, he may want to change the look of his production against breaking balls.

Schwarber stepped to the plate four times Wednesday, and four times he walked away frustrated after a swinging strikeout. Two of those K’s came against curveballs and two came against sliders, with three different pitchers (two right, one left) delivering them.

Schwarber saw only eight total breaking balls, but he swung and missed on five of them. Four of those resulted in strikeouts, with the other serving as the second strike in his final at-bat. He also took two curves for balls and fouled one off, if you were interested.

So while this exceedingly poor performance is not the norm, it’s also far from a secret that Schwarber has had issues with breaking stuff. Just look at the numbers below to see how baffled he’s been by spin.

Stats via Brooks Baseball

I’m not going to sit here and pretend I have an answer for any of this or that I am certain a solution even exists at all. But what I do know is that, unless he’s going to suddenly reverse course and get really good at hitting breaking balls, he’d do well to avoid two-strike counts by sitting dead red and being aggressive early.

Even though that might seem to fly in the face of the patient plate approach for which he’s been praised, putting himself in a position to have to fend off curves and sliders isn’t going to help. That’s even been an issue with looking strikes, which he takes at an inordinately higher rate than league average (roughly 32% compared to 23%). As a former linebacker, he may need to realize that the best defense is a good offense.

Another way to improve the situation is for Joe Maddon to start resting Schwarber more during day games. Over the course of his career, Schwarber’s .808 OPS and 123 wRC+ under the lights are appreciably better than the .751 and 99 he’s posted under the sun. Drilling down a little further reveals that his .511 OPS and 40 wRC+ with two strikes during the day are also much worse than his .586 and 50 marks at night.

Schwarber’s respective daytime numbers sit 44 and 12 points behind league average, while his numbers at night are 42 and 2 points better than his peers. So for whatever reason, he sees breaking stuff better under the lights. In the interest of full disclosure, I did not view the numbers in terms of breaking balls in particular. But since pitchers frequently throw them in two-strike counts, it’s far to apply at least a small measure of correlation.

Again, I’m not sure whether or what impact any of this information could have, even for the casual observer. But if Schwarber wants to be the one who knocks, he’s got to figure out how to do something with breaking stuff in two-strike counts.

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