In what could be a genius move or a definition-of-insanity moment, Cubs manager Joe Maddon is thinking about making Kyle Schwarber his leadoff hitter again.
Schwarber’s exact arrival from Triple-A Iowa is unclear – probably just before or right after the All-Star break – but the Cubs framed that demotion in late June as a temporary move to clear his head and rebuild his confidence for the season’s second half.
“I don’t know where he’s at and what it looks like right now,” Maddon said Wednesday at Wrigley Field. “I’ve thought about it. I honestly don’t know yet. I haven’t decided what I want to do with that yet.”
Maddon has a stubborn belief in his guys and his process, and this is an impossible question to answer anyway: Did batting Schwarber leadoff contribute to the offensive spiral?
After a shocking recovery from major knee surgery and that dramatic World Series comeback last year, Schwarber hit .171 with a .673 OPS and 75 strikeouts in 64 games for an underachieving team across the board.
“It’s a zero concern,” Maddon said. “He would have struggled in the eight-hole. That had nothing to do with where he was hitting in the batting order. I find no connection between his struggle and where he was hitting in the batting order. It was just that he was struggling. Just missing his pitch, fouling it off.
“That had nothing to do with placement in the batting order, because he was not trying to be any kind of a different hitter. He was not trying to accept more walks. He was not trying to do anything differently. It just was a matter that he was not hitting.
“In my mind’s eye, it had nothing to do with it, so I would not be concerned with putting him back there, just depending on what he looks like when he gets back.”
Schwarber’s 10-game reset at Iowa so far looks like this: 11-for-33 with four homers, seven walks and 11 strikeouts. Maddon made Willson Contreras the leadoff guy against Tampa Bay Rays lefty Blake Snell, part of an unconventional rotation that has also included Anthony Rizzo, Jon Jay and Ben Zobrist.
“We don’t have the 40-steal guy,” Maddon said. “We don’t have that kind of speed to put at the top. And we don’t have that kind of speed combined with on-base percentage, so you got to do the next best thing. I prefer your best hitters be at the top.”