What's wrong with Schwarber? Maybe less than you think

Bad luck and shift-induced changes might be behind Kyle Schwarber's poor statistics. Jimmy Simmons/Icon Sportwire

Kyle Schwarber’s demotion from the Chicago Cubs to the minor leagues might prompt one to wonder what’s wrong with him. There appear to be two very obvious answers.

Possibility No. 1: He is just unlucky

Could it just be bad luck? Schwarber has a .193 batting average on balls in play, last among 162 qualified hitters. His struggles all seem to be batting-average related.

Consider these facts:

• He has a higher slugging percentage than Victor Martínez and Carlos González.

• He has a higher on-base percentage than Trea Turner and Manny Machado.

• His at-bat per home run rate is the same as Carlos Correa’s and better than Nolan Arenado’s.

His peripherals this season look similar to those from the previous two seasons, as the chart indicates.

Possibility No. 2: The shift is hurting him

Schwarber is in the top 15 in hitters facing a defensive shift. He’s batting .207 on ground balls and short line drives against the shift (he hit .426 on those balls against the shift in 2015-16).

His efforts to combat the shift have changed his batted-ball profile. The results (all including playoffs):

• He’s trying to go the other way more often: 27 percent of his balls in play are hit to the opposite field (23 percent the previous two years).

• He’s hitting fewer line drives: 14 percent of his balls in play are line drives (19 percent the previous two years).

• He’s not hitting the ball as hard: 16 percent of his balls in play are hit hard (19 percent the previous two years).

• His average exit velocity is 87.3 mph this season (92.0 the previous two years).