The Rundown: Kris Bryant’s a Goshdarn Cyborg, Kyle Schwarber’s a Flippin’ K-borg

“The good thing about me is I never really have to try to hit it in the air, it just kinda happens,” Kris Bryant said after the game with his trademark aw-shucks candor. “You know, hopefully I can continue doing that and it’s just a matter of time.”

Bryant also told field reporter Jesse Rogers that the most talked-about pinkie finger in baseball wasn’t much of an issue. Rather, the “struggling” slugger said his recent lack of power was more a matter of him being on top of the ball too much. But when people see that he’d only hit one home run and a total of seven extra-base hits in 88 plate appearances since injuring the diminutive digit on his left hand, they worried that the longball was long gone.

Hearing Bryant refer to the finger as “brutal” didn’t help things, though that was more about the need to get treatment every day just to get ready for the game. Whatever the training staff was doing seemed to be working, though, as KB was hitting .346/.398/.474 with a .373 wOBA and 129 wRC+ in those same 88 trips. For the sake of comparison, the league average hitter this year is at .255/.324/.426 with .321 and 96, respectively.

And those stats Bryant posted don’t include Sunday’s 3-for-4 with a double, homer, and walk. So, yeah, I’m thinking the finger is getting better.

While the power numbers aren’t on par with last year’s 39-homer output, many of Bryant’s metrics are actually better than during his MVP campaign. And we could easily make the argument that the same thing boosting some of those stats is what’s dragging others down. Pitchers simply aren’t throwing Bryant as many hittable pitches, hence the nearly 40 percent increase in walk rate with a 14 percent drop in strikeout rate.

Putting it that way doesn’t give the third baseman enough credit, though. Bryant is able to learn and adjust like Deep Blue or [insert newer, better competitive AI here], eventually turning weaknesses into strengths. Busted up pinkie finger sapping his power? He’ll just shorten things up and shoot singles all over the place, using his legs to to take extra bases and score from second on wild pitches. And when pitchers see that and start thinking they can blow fastballs by him, he turns the power stroke back on.

Now he gets 13 games against teams with ERA’s north of 4.50, including seven against a Reds staff that has an MLB-worst 5.20 FIP. Hmm, that could be fun.

Schwarber schwinging and missing

Kyle Schwarber has struck out in his last seven at-bats and has now gone down on strikes in 23 of his last 41 trips to the plate (56.1 percent), which is…yeah. Even if you subscribe to the idea that a strikeout is just like any other out, seeing a K-rate that high is scary. And this isn’t like earlier in the year, when Schwarber was posting good contact numbers and was simply watching too many strikes.

A contact rate of 51.8 percent simply isn’t going to get it done, not when league average is 77.5 percent. The guy just looks completely overmatched out there right now and really needs to find a way to get it together. What’s the solution, though? They’ve already sent him to Iowa once and Joe Maddon has been platooning him to keep him away from lefty pitchers as a protective measure.

I can only suggest again the same thing I have previously this season, which is that Schwarber needs to stop being so patient. While there’s value in seeing pitches, he’s shown that he can’t really get it done when he’s down in the count. Then you see that he’s getting first-pitch strikes nearly 71 percent of the time — at least lately — but that pitchers aren’t otherwise in the zone much more against him than against other hitters.

What I’m saying is that he needs to reverse course a little bit and look for those mistakes early. Pitchers pitch home runs more than hitters hit them, so running into a hanger here or there might offer the confidence boost Schwarber appears to be in dire need of. And as I just mentioned above, the Reds offer a nice opportunity for just that.

More news and notes

  • Bryce Harper landed awkwardly when hitting first base trying to beat out a play Saturday night and it looked awful. I was absolutely certain that we were talking torn ACL, as were all the guys I showed the video of his injury to. Granted, this was after a few hours of an open bar at a wedding reception that included Dogfish Head 90 Minute, so take that for what it’s worth. But I think even soberer minds felt the same, which is why it was such a surprise when the Nats announced that Harper’s injury was merely a bone bruise and that they expect him back this season. Whew.
  • The Astros acquired Tyler Clippard from the White Sox for a PTBNL or cash. I guess after being swept by the Sox to start a five-game losing streak, the ‘Stros wanted to steal back some mojo.
  • Clayton Kershaw threw a second bullpen session Sunday and will pitch a simulated game Wednesday with a hope to return to the rotation by the end of the month.
  • John Baker Day is less than a week away and there are still a few tickets left. Check out details on how you can join in at the event and/or help us raise money for various charities.
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