Kyle Schwarber Fighting Astronomical Whiff Rate Against Secondary Pitches

Kyle Scharber’s early season numbers are weird. Even though he is whiffing less overall due to connecting against fastballs, he’s still getting beat extremely badly by secondary pitches.

Schwarber’s current whiff rate is 25 percent, which is down by five percentage points from last season and currently at the league-average mark. I’d normally be pretty excited to see Schwarber whiffing so much less, but I’m a little puzzled by his inability to hit secondary offerings.

Against fastballs in 2019, you can see that Schwarber basically has less than a 10 percent chance of whiffing inside the strike zone.

But notice how he has greater than a 40% probability of whiffing at offspeed or pitches at the belt and greater than 60% probability at pitches below the knees.

Schwarber’s failure to make contact against breaking and offspeed stuff is way more pronounced this year than last. His probability of whiffing on breaking pitches inside the zone at the belt was less than 10 percent last season, and it was only around 20 percent just below the zone.

Schwarber’s struggle against secondaries may be a matter of early results clouding the stats, but it is definitely a trend worth monitoring. If he can continue to hit fastballs and match his success against secondary pitches from last year…look out, MLB.


Brendan Miller

Brendan Miller is part of the Cubs Related Podcast duo with Corey Freedman. Brendan, who has twice as many Twitter followers as Corey, often writes about baseball analytics and scouting for Cubs Insider.

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  1. He needs to be more aggressive on the first pitch where he kills. Nothing more frustrating than watching him take pitches he should smash to fall behind in the count for the sake of working the count.

  2. Sadly, he’s not going to be at a 25% strikeout rate for long, if his recent trend continues. Over the last 15 days he’s whiffing at a 36% rate, and a whopping 50% over the last week.

  3. These heat maps are really intriguing, but I think it’s important to differentiate breaking balls from offspeed pitches when evaluating Schwarber:

    2018 vs. 2019 Whiff%
    vs. breaking balls: 43.3% –> 48.6% (5.3% higher)
    vs. offspeed: 37.3% –> 20.0%% (17.3% lower)
    vs. fastball: 22.0% –> 16.4% (5.6% lower)

    In the early going, Schwarber has actually improved his offspeed whiff% by 17.3%. His historical trend of damage vs. offspeed hasn’t shown in surface stats yet this year, but that’s mostly a product of how he’s being pitched. He’s seeing fewer offspeed (down to 12.8%), and of those, 71% have been out of the zone. On the few occasions he’s received a drivable offspeed pitch and connected, his avg. exit velocity has been 98.2 mph.

    More to the point, Schwarber is such a threat against fastballs and offspeed that pitchers have increasingly ramped up their breaking ball usage (up to 32.6% from 27.5% last year). So far, it’s been effective, but I think Schwarber will eventually adjust.

  4. Possibly the most overrated and overhyped player…in last 20 years…needs huge turnaround to be better than Adam Dunn.
    His homers are mostly fastballs over middle of plate..waist high or a tad higher.
    Aka pitcher mistakes.
    His great fielding gains…seriously?

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