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Schwarber still praises ‘the art of catching’

Former Tennessee Smokies catcher Kyle Schwarber, now a Cubs outfielder, came out of Indiana University (photo by Mike Morrow)

Chicago Cubs left fielder and former Tennessee Smokies star Kyle Schwarber is not a big fan of a robot calling balls and strikes.

Baseball is weighing the idea of letting technology develop an electronic strike zone, which would take the human decision-making out of balls and strikes.

Schwarber came up as a catcher. He recently told 670 The Score radio in Chicago he has mixed feelings and that such a move could take the art out of being a good catcher.

Schwarber starred in Class AA (photo by Mike Morrow)

“Being a catcher, there’s times where you … where you catch a pitch just off the outside (corner), you get to that ball, you stick it really well, they give you that strike,” he said. “I feel like the art of catching will go away there.

“I think catching is an art. You have to be able to read pitches, get under them, get around them, things like that. But then once, if that computer strike zone comes in, that’s going to go away. A catcher can just sit on a chair back there and just catch it wherever it’s at.

“On the other side, being a hitter, there’s pros and cons too. You take a pitch, catcher doesn’t catch it well — ball. You’re like, ‘OK, sweet.’ There’s times when, like I said, the catcher is going to catch it really well and you’re going to get screwed.”

Schwarber’s opinion counts for a lot lately, because he’s tearing up spring training, batting .438 through nine games. He is also getting attention for drawing a lot of walks.

Steve Greenberg, writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, said, “Who needs Bryce Harper when you already have Schwarber?”

But Greenberg quickly caught himself, writing, “Whoa – that came out too fast.”

Greenberg notes Schwarber’s ability to draw walks, pointing out the fact Schwarber led the Cubs in walks with 78 last season. He points out if Schwarber could draw 100 walks he could become the second Cubs player since Derrick Lee in 2007 to have an on-base percentage of .400 or better. The only other Cub to do that is another former Tennessee Smokies player, Kris Bryant, who made it to .409 in 2017. Bryant won the MVP award that year.

Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune also recently took note of Schwarber’s 41-point improvement last year in on-base percentage compared to the year before (from .315 to .356) and his 27-point improvement in batting average (from .211 to .238) and said Schwarber decided to go back to an old batting stance.

“I’m going to go back to being simple,” Schwarber told Gonzales. “Squat, put the foot down and go hit.

“That’s actually how I used to hit,” he said. “I used to be very squatty, way more squatty than (now). I was like that in high school through college and somewhat through the minor leagues. It’s transformed to where I stood up more and more.”

Sounds like you can’t take the squat out of a former catcher.

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