Joe Maddon's reasoning behind moving Kyle Schwarber to ninth in batting order

Joe Maddon's reasoning behind moving Kyle Schwarber to ninth in batting order

Two weeks ago, Joe Maddon put the Kyle Schwarber batting leadoff experiment on hold. 

The Cubs manager has been trying to get the 24-year-old slugger to hit out of his slump. On Saturday, Maddon moved Schwarber to a new spot in the order: last. 

The change comes a day after Maddon hit Schwarber seventh in Friday’s series opener against the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field, which he didn’t like at all.

“If you could replay every pitch that was thrown to him yesterday, I hated it,” said Maddon. “(I) saw it from the side. They were taking advantage of the hole hitter and the pitcher behind him. He did not benefit from a wide strike zone. I hated it.”

After Friday’s game, Maddon said he called Schwarber — who went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts — to explain his decision to bat him ninth.

“He’s in essence another leadoff hitter,” said Maddon. “The other part is he gets one less at-bat possibly while he’s working through this whole thing. I did it before with Addison (Russell) to try to get Addison better pitches, but I did not like that look at all.

“I thought I put him in a really bad situation by hitting him seventh yesterday, how good he is, his reputation, and with the other team’s able to do vs. him based on just his spot in the batting order, I hated it.”

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Schwarber is batting .165/.286/.341 in 2017 with eight home runs and 19 RBI this season.

When Maddon had the phone conversation with Schwarber, he said the left fielder handled it “beautifully.” 

“He understood,” said Maddon. “It’s just one time through and for me it is in essence it’s like he’s hitting leadoff again in front of (Ian) Happ and then (Kris Bryant), etc. So we’re still getting that kind of flavor out of him. 

“But I do believe he should benefit and see a better pitch and if he doesn’t then just take your walk and set it up for 1-2-3, which he will do.”

Javy Baez should be the frontrunner for NL MVP heading into the All-Star Break

Javy Baez should be the frontrunner for NL MVP heading into the All-Star Break

If the season ended today, Javy Baez may be your National League MVP.

Of course, the season isn't ending today, only the first half of the 2018 campaign is.

He flashed his skills again over the weekend — scoring the game-winning run Friday, posting a 5-RBI game Saturday and then drove in the Cubs' first run in their 7-4 victory Sunday to close out a sweep of the Padres.

Entering the All-Star Break, Baez should be the frontrunner for Most Valuable Player.

For starters, he's the best player on the best team in the league.

Thanks to a recent hot surge by the Cubs and an ugly weekend for the Brewers (who have lost 6 straight), Baez and Co. will go into the break with the best record in the NL. 

Baez, meanwhile, leads the Cubs in WAR and nearly every offensive category — OPS, slugging percentage, homers, RBI, runs scored, doubles, triples, total bases, stolen bases and hits.

And that's not even saying anything about his glovework at any position on the infield or dynamic baserunning.

He's on pace to become the first Cubs player to drive in 125 runs since Sammy Sosa in 2001.

Baez also is on track for a 30-30 season — something only Sosa accomplished in a Cubs uniform in 1993 and 1995. 

El Mago will enjoy his week in the Home Run Derby and as the NL's starting second baseman in the All-Star Game, but those shouldn't be the end of his accolades this year if he can find a way to keep this pace up in the second half.

What other NL candidate would be a better choice for the MVP right now?

Baez is tied for the league lead in RBI. Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar is just behind Baez with 70 RBI, but he also has 70 fewer at-bats than the Cubs star due to a platoon to begin the year. 

Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett are also having great years, but the Reds are nowhere close to a playoff spot. 

Nolan Arenado, Freddie Freeman and Paul Goldschmidt are also having very good seasons on teams that are currently in the playoff hunt, but how do you deny the best player on the league's best team?

After all, where would the Cubs be without Baez this season? 

Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have battled through injuries and bouts of ineffectiveness, the pitching staff has had all kinds of consistency/health woes and Willson Contreras has yet to find his power stroke at the plate.

At the very least, "El Mago" has been the most important player on the North Side of Chicago during the first 3.5 months of 2018.

Nico Hoerner makes great catch in first game with South Bend

Nico Hoerner makes great catch in first game with South Bend

Cubs first-round pick Nico Hoerner made his debut with the Class-A South Bend Cubs, and he did not disappoint.

The 23-year old shortstop showed off impressive hops during an acrobatic grab in the topf of the second inning in his first game with the South Bend Cubs. Hoerner will surely be an exciting defensive prospect with ability like this.

As far as offense goes, through four at-bats at South Bend, Hoerner is batting .500, and this comes after he hit .318 with a home run and two RBI through seven games with the Eugene Emeralds, the Cubs Class A short-season affiliate.

Here is to hoping we continue to see big-time plays from Hoerner.