Should Kyle Schwarber really be the Cubs’ DH in the World Series?

The Chicago Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber started off his sophomore season the way no player wants to start any season. In the third game of the season at the Arizona Diamondback’s Chase Field, Schwarber tore his ACL and LCL – both imperative ligaments in the knee – in an outfield collision with centerfielder Dexter Fowler.

The injury caused him to miss the remainder of the regular season and thus far, the Cubs’ entire playoff run to the World Series. You can watch the injury as it happened back in April below:

Yes, it most certainly wasn’t pretty and it was a huge blow to the team. The 23-year-old Schwarber had set the team’s franchise franchise record for postseason home runs during the 2015 postseason. 

A left-handed batter Schwarber has quite a bit of power and still will. The concern comes with him running the bases if he were to hit something other than a home run, which of course is not uncommon in baseball no matter what your name is or what your playing history may be. 

However, the team’s president of of baseball operations, the now infamous curse-breaker Theo Epstein, watched live video of Schwarber, who has played all of two games in the Arizona Fall League, running the bases. He also watched Schwarber during Monday’s workout play prior to officially adding him to the World Series roster Tuesday morning. Here’s Epstein reaction,

“He ran the bases before the game really well, slid, dove back in, went first to third, second to home. He looked really good. He’s running pretty well. He’s saving his hits, apparently, because he keeps hitting the balls at guys.” 

That is another concern, one other than Schwarber reinjuring himself while running the basepaths, his timing when it comes to hitting the ball. Yes, he’s still hitting the ball hard. He hit one off the bat during an AFL game that registered 110 MPH but was hit straight to the opposing team’s second baseman. He hit a similar ball during his second at-bat, albeit it was off of a changeup this time suggesting that his timing is just fine.

It begs the question, is his timing off just a little bit or was second baseman Corey Toups of the Surprise Saguaros just really on his game that day? The answer depends on who you ask. 

Theo Epstein. Getty Images. Schwarber
Theo Epstein. Getty Images.

Epstein said that Schwarber was “saving his hits.” That is something that I happen to agree with. I am often telling the A’s to win but not to score too many runs because they need to “save” them for tomorrow. I get that feeling, that idea. It’s something I understand. Besides, who am I to argue with the man who was in charge when the Red Sox broke their 84-year-old curse winning the World Series in 2004?

Now Epstein’s the man in charge of the Cubs who have already broken a 71-year-old curse in just making it to baseball’s biggest stage.  Should they win, he’ll be the one who helped them break a 108-year-old World Championship drought. 

Still, there are concerns, at least in my opinion. Watching MLB Network this morning Mark DeRosa talked about how coming back from the All-Star break often felt like having been gone for weeks. That sometimes it could take a couple of games to get that timing back with the bat.  

It must not be as easy as it seems to get one’s timing back. What could it feel like to miss the entire six-months of the regular season? It can’t be easy or Major League Baseball would not hold spring training just five months after the end of the World Series, if it were they would just start the regular season in April, instead of having pitchers and catchers report in late February. 

Are the Cubs giving up their DH position, a position that could be taken by Jorge Soler or Chris Coghlan – both of whom had have limited at-bats in the postseason so far this year – to a player more ready or less ready than Soler or Coghlan. It would seem less ready. 

Still, starting the debatably ready Schwarber in what could potentially be four of the seven World Series games could end up being a disaster for a kid coming off of his first major injury or it could be one of the greatest comebacks in recent history. 

He’s played in two games against rookies (going 0-3 in one) and even though Schwarber is practically a rookie himself, he has a lot more experience than the kids he’s played against in the AFL, but not more than the  American League Champion Cleveland Indians. 

Kyle Schwarber. Getty Images.
Kyle Schwarber. Getty Images.

It seems the Cubs are rolling the dice in the most important series they’ve played in in 71 years. Of course just because Schwarber could DH four times, doesn’t mean he will, making his presence on the roster not quite such a big gamble.

What worries me is that he may not be ready and it’s not that he may cost his team a game, it is that re-injuring his ACL, LCL or both could conceivably cut part of next season short. The Cubs will obviously want him on a longer recovery program. It could even cost him what appears to be the budding career of a potential future Hall of Famer. 

So, were the Cubs right to add him to the roster Tuesday morning? That’s something that will be left up to Schwarber knowing his body, his potential over enthusiasm and need to play in the World Series, and if, in fact, he’s really healthy and has had enough at-bats to hit big league pitching. 

Can he do it? I don’t know but we’ll have to wait a few more hours to find out. 

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