Joe Maddon Remains Steadfast: Kyle Schwarber Is Cubs’ Lead-Off Hitter

(CBS) The question was straight to the point, and Cubs manager Joe Maddon didn’t budge.

Is Kyle Schwarber leading off against the Reds on Tuesday night?

“Of course he is,” Maddon said on the Spiegel and Parkins Show on 670 The Score. “And why wouldn’t he be?”

The reasoning for the last part is because Schwarber is hitting .179 with a .313 on-base percentage and .656 OPS in his first season leading off after Dexter Fowler left the Cubs in free agency this past offseason. His woes have led some to call for him to be dropped in the order, an idea that Maddon feistily pushed back at Tuesday — again.

“Let me ask you this: Did you guys watch the games over the weekend in St. Louis?” Maddon said.

Maddon then went on to directly cite four hard-hit balls Schwarber had in a three-game series against the Cardinals that didn’t go for hits. It’s part of Maddon’s belief that he likes how Schwarber is swinging the bat and hitting the ball, even if the desired result isn’t manifesting itself. The advanced metrics back up Maddon’s belief to a large degree, as Schwarber has a hard-luck .224 batting average on balls in play and strikeout and walk rates that are rather similar to the averages in his young career.

“He looks great, actually,” Maddon said. “That’s what I’m talking about, results versus process. He, to me, looks really good at the plate right now.”

“He’s one of our three best hitters, arguably, among him, (Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo). Just because he’s hitting lead-off, for whatever reason, that’s sticking in people’s minds. Again, it’s about process. He’s getting his walks. He has great at-bats, seeing a lot of pitches. And he’s coming up at good times. So eventually, it’s going to pay off for us. I love what he’s doing.”

Maddon went so far as to suggest if he did remove Schwarber from the lead-off spot, he’d drop him to No. 3 and move first baseman Anthony Rizzo up to the first spot. The thought process is he wants his three best hitters batting in the first three slots, with Bryant batting second to break up the lefty-swinging Schwarber and Rizzo.

Maddon also threw in a reference to a Hall of Famer for good measure.

“Everybody’s stuck in what they knew growing up or what their daddy told them, and that’s fine,” Maddon said. “If we had Rickey Henderson, I promise you, he’d be leading off right now. But we don’t have him.

“I’m looking for a guy to get on base often, to come up more often that can do more damage. And that’s exactly who (Schwarber) is.”

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