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North Side Baseball

Have I Cursed Kyle Schwarber?


On April 17, I wrote an article titled "Kyle Schwarber is Breaking Out."  At the time, Schwarber was hitting .244/.393/.444.  Since then, Schwarber has hit .151/.270/.302 in 100 PA.  Real ground-breaking analysis I'm providing here at NSBB.  You'd be well within your rights to call this Fake News.

There are only two explanations that make sense here: Either Kyle Schwarber was not breaking out or... I've cursed him.  The first explanation is plausible.  It was only a couple weeks into the season.  That's a little early for me to be making such boastful proclamations.  The second explanation is also plausible.

The Kennellys have terrible luck.  It's quite likely that Kyle Schwarber is accursed because of my bad luck rubbing off on him.  I have a friend, Matt, who has amazing luck.  Matt's name was once drawn out at a fundraiser raffle for $10,000 while he was away at a casino winning thousands of other dollars. I'm pretty much the exact opposite of that.

Let's just assume that Schwarber has been blighted by my article.  The thing is, I still think he's going to break out.  I feel safe saying this because you can't kill what's already dead.  Let's split Schwarber's season into three segments:  Pre-cursed Kyle, Bad Kyle, and Unlucky Kyle.

Pre-cursed Kyle had been having a decent season.  That .393 OBP looks really good in retrospect.  The premise of my first article was that Schwarber should have been doing even better, though.  His K% was at 33.9% despite his Contact% being up to 75.8%.  I intimated that his K% would drop significantly if he kept making contact like that.  In fact, it has.  His K% is down to 27.6% for the season.  He's struck out in 24% of his PA since I wrote that article.  His Contact% has even went up since then -- to 77.1% for the season.

To spare me what little dignity I still have, I was correct about the K%.  What I couldn't have foreseen was that Kyle Schwarber would quit hitting like Kyle Schwarber.  This is where Bad Kyle comes into the picture.  After the game on May 1, I posted in the NSBB game thread about a sudden funk (*cough* curse *cough*) Schwarber had went into:

It looks like his funk has been going on since about April 23rd. On the 22nd, he went 0-3, but he walked twice and the two balls he put in play were line drives hit at least 104 mph. He had an .818 OPS after that game.

From April 23 through that May 1 game, Schwarber hit .121/.194/.121.  His Contact% was down a little and his O-Swing% was up a little.  But, it wasn't too bad.  He was still showing pretty good plate discipline.  The problem was with the kind of contact Schwarber was making.  Pre-cursed Kyle (from April 2 through April 22) had a 90.3 mph average exit velocity.  Bad Kyle (from April 23 through May 1) had a 76.3 mph average exit velocity.  Pre-cursed Kyle had an average launch angle of 19.5°.  Bad Kyle had an average launch angle of  6.9°.

Bad Kyle simply wasn't hitting the ball hard enough.  And he wasn't getting it elevated enough.  Since 2015, Kyle Hendricks' average exit velocity, while batting, is 74.2 mph.  When Bad Kyle put the ball in play, he was doing it as Kyle Hendricks would.  The morning after I pointed out Schwarber's funk (that we now know is a curse), Nick Stellini wrote an article about Schwarber at Fangraphs.  Stellini explained what we've just seen.  Kyle wasn't making contact like we'd been accustomed to seeing.  The two main takeaways from that piece are that Schwarber wasn't pulling the pull as much and that he was hitting the ball on the ground more than he had in 2015.

Stellini wasn't privy to the curse, though.  Pre-cursed Kyle only hit groundballs 41.0% of the time -- right in line with his 40.4% GB% in 2015.  Bad Kyle was hitting groundballs 54.5% of the time.  Something happened sometime between May 1 and May 2, though.

It's as if Stellini's article expelled the pestilence I'd beset on Schwarber.  From the day Stellini wrote that article until now, Schwarber has pulled the ball 46.2% of the time.  In 2015, his Pull% was 46.8%.  During that same time frame, he's also hit the ball on the ground 38.5% of the time.  In 2015, his GB% was 40.4%.  Since the pestilence has been eradicated, his average exit velocity is 92.3 mph, a little above his 91.9 mph average exit velocity in 2015.  And his average launch angle since May 2 is 18.8°, which is above his average launch angle of 15.5° in 2015.

Since May 2, Kyle Schwarber has hit the ball like the 2015 version of Kyle Schwarber.  He's hitting it hard.  He's pulling it.  He's hitting it in the air.  His batted-ball profile since that Stellini article is a near-carbon copy of his batted-ball profile from 2015.  Even better, he's hitting the ball like this while still maintaining his improved contact skills.  Since May 2, his Contact% is 80.0%, which is well above the league-average of 77.5%.  He's also showing the improved plate discipline that I previously wrote about Pre-cursed Kyle showing.  Since May 2, his O-Swing% is at 24.7%, which is well below his 30.2% O-Swing% in 2015.

Post-Stellini-article Schwarber is swinging at more pitches in the zone and fewer out of the zone than 2015 Schwarber.  He's making more contact on pitches both in and out of the zone than 2015 Schwarber. Post-Stellini-article Schwarber is walking in 17.1% of his PAs and only striking out in 19.5% of his PAs.  And he's hitting the ball like 2015 Schwarber.  This version of Schwarber should be a very dangerous hitter.

But Post-Stellini-article Schwarber is nothing like 2015 Schwarber.  Since May 2, Schwarber is slashing .147/.293/.412.  Post-Stellini-article Schwarber is actually Unlucky Kyle -- our third of the Three Faces of Kyle.  You see, while Stellini may have vanquished the pestilence I've made Kyle endure, his forces were simply too weak to overcome The Curse.  Unlucky Kyle's .265 ISO confirms that he is, indeed, hitting for more power.  His .125 BABIP, though, suggests that Unlucky Kyle may forever be condemned to a symbiotic association with my tragic self.

Either that or Unlucky Kyle will continue to plug along, and eventually his BABIP will come around, leaving the Cubs with a truly terrifying hitter.  If that doesn't pan out, then maybe I should have my lucky friend, Matt, write these articles for me.

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