Kyle Schwarber’s NL-Leading Pitches Per PA Not Just Due to Small Sample

The hulking, ACL-reconstruction-timeline-defying Kyle Schwarber looks more like a middle -of-the-order hitter than a protoypical leadoff hitter. Yet he ranks tops in the league for most pitchers per plate appearance (PPA).

In 30 plate appearances, Schwarber has seen an average of. 4.6 pitches, tied for first in the National League with Matt Carpenter (min 25 PA).

Schwarber is working counts like Dexter Fowler did in 2016. The smiling former Cubs center fielder saw 4.4 PPA while wearing blue last year, good for second in the NL behind Jason Werth (4.6 PPA). At this point, Schwarber is on par to finish in the same territory as Dex.

Woah, Brendan, slam the breaks. It’s only the second week of April.

Despite entering the second week of the MLB season, small sample size doesn’t apply for PPA. This particular statistic stabilizes in under 40 PA or roughly 6-8 games.

Stabilization is the point at which statisticians attribute a number to a player’s talent rather than randomness. Specifically, the point at which number-crunchers consider a smaple size as adequate is when 50 percent of the statistic is due to the player himself. This means that there is still some flukiness involved for PPA stabilization, however, since the other 50 percent is due to reasons outside Schwarber’s talent.

Plus, while we might be able to project future performance based on stabilization points, hitters and pitchers naturally change. Thus, we can interpret Schwarber’s impressive PPA as reliable, yet still susceptible to change if pitchers start to attack him differently.

The Cubs’ starting left fielder is projected to produce 24 percent more runs than an average hitter. In doing so, he might also wear down pitchers in the process, giving Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and the guys behind in the batting order a better chance to hit fatigued pitchers.

See how well this could work?

Ed. note: As of Tuesday morning, Schwarber’s PPA is 4.56, tied with Trevor Story atop the NL board. But he did draw three walks in the home opener.

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