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The Bernstein Brief: Cubs Have Depth, But Losing Kyle Schwarber Hurts

By Dan Bernstein-- senior columnist

(CBS) Sure, they put all kinds of plans in place to weather the inevitable injuries. The flexibility of the Cubs' 2016 roster has been noted for some time, with multiple players who have started at multiple positions and have hit all over the order, with pitchers malleable enough for all kinds of relief roles and spot starts.

But the numbers are stark regarding second-year slugger Kyle Schwarber, and him being out isn't good. Schwarber suffered a knee injury on a nasty collision with center fielder Dexter Fowler in Thursday night's win at Arizona.

The MRI Friday will reveal the damage later, but this is already known -- since Schwarber's June debut last season, the Cubs have averaged 5.5 runs per game with Schwarber in the lineup. Without him?  They've averaged 3.3, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Wading into the individual WAR differentials gets murkier, but Schwarber produced 1.9 fWAR last year in just 273 plate appearances.

Most projection algorithms estimated his 2016 value conservatively, at around three wins. It's possible that the number drop-off is mitigated by the actual performance of his replacements, but it's hard to look at the small sample of that run differential and not be at least a little worried.

It's not Schwarber's fault he got hurt, but this is part of the risk of having to play a catcher or natural designated hitter as an outfielder: Some guys just don't have the same kind of athletic ability, instinct and awareness to do the job at the major league level as safely as others. He may always have a slightly higher degree of injury risk out there, even if this one proves to be as minor as all hope.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score's "Boers and Bernstein Show" in afternoon drive. You can follow him on Twitter  @dan_bernstein and read more of his columns here.

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