Kyle Schwarber Locked In As Cubs' Leadoff Man

"It's as good as I've seen him ― ever," Cubs manager Joe Maddon says.

Chris Emma
June 09, 2019 - 10:23 pm

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- The Cubs have been looking for a steady leadoff man ever since Dexter Fowler departed after the 2016 World Series championship season. Finally, they seem to have found that kind of catalyst in Kyle Schwarber.

In the Cubs' 5-1 win against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field on Sunday evening, Schwarber posted went 2-for-3 with a walk to help his team complete a three-game sweep. Since being placed into the Cubs' leadoff spot on May 16, Schwarber has an .871 OPS in 23 games.

Manager Joe Maddon believed Schwarber was the team's best fit atop the lineup because of his ability to work a count and draw walks in addition to slugging the ball. Schwarber has exceeded Maddon's expectations.

"It's as good as I've seen him -- ever," Maddon said. "I think I've seen him really good when he first came up here (as a rookie in 2015). In the World Series (in 2016), he was outstanding. But this, if we could put this moment in a time capsule, heads up."

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Does Schwarber agree with Maddon?

"I don't know," Schwarber replied. "I'm just going out there and playing. That's all I want to do. Just keep trying to put in quality at-bats."

Schwarber's steady approach at the top is the difference between the present and 2017, when he hit .190 as the Cubs' leadoff man and .211 on the season. He was trying to fill the void of Fowler, the Cubs' leadoff man in 2015 and 2016, and those plans of Maddon crumbled. 

That 2017 season hit rock bottom for Schwarber when he was demoted to Triple-A Iowa late that June amid career-worst struggles.

"They're a little bit of difference circumstances," Schwarber said. "A little bit more of experience there, just kind of taking away the leadoff hitter name or role, whatever it is, and just go out there and take my at-bats."

Schwarber has also enjoyed recent success after some scuffles in May, when he hit .196 while continuing to adapt with a new, crouched batting stance, one designed to hit toward the opposite field and beat shifts. It wasn't coming naturally.

Now, Schwarber is riding a seven-game hitting streak and connecting with his pitches. He owns a slash line of .239/.344/.463 with a weighted on-base percentage of .337 and weighted-runs-created-plus of 109.

For the Cubs, it means their lineup is set well with Schwarber batting first ahead of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez. 

"Right now, he's absolutely locked in at the plate," Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks after earning the win Sunday. "Being a leadoff guy like that for us is huge. Setting the table, driving in runs, he's really doing everything. It's fun to watch."

Schwarber is taking this success in stride, crediting the work he has put in while downplaying his place in the lineup. Maddon and the Cubs simply want him to work a deep at-bat, wait for the pitch he can hit and trust that swing will bring results.

Schwarber has been just what Cubs needed leading the lineup.

"When I'm out there, I'm just trying to help the team win that day," Schwarber said. "Everyone is playing really well right now. We're just trying to keep it rolling."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.