2024 Phillies Player Spotlight: Kyle Schwarber

With the 2024 MLB season bearing down on us. We here at EOP will spotlight a Phillies player every week until the start of the 2024 season. We will highlight their 2023 season, strengths, weaknesses, and 2024 projections. This week we will highlight outfielder/ DH Kyle Schwarber.      

Schwarber banged 47 home runs, scored 108 runs, knocked in 104, drew 104 walks, and struck out 215 times. In baseball history, there has been only one other 40-100-100-100-200 player: Aaron Judge — and he batted .284 for the Yankees as a rookie in 2017. Schwarber hit .197 for the 2023 Phillies.

After the loss of Rhys Hoskins late into Spring Training, the team immediately lost 30 home runs out of the lineup. Schwarber’s’ unorthodox, new-age style of leadoff hitting is very confusing to people new to baseball, but the numbers don’t lie. When he’s in the leadoff spot, the team wins games. As the Schwarbarian goes, the Phillies go.

In the Phillies’ 88 wins that he participated in, the 30-year-old hit 94 points higher (.243 vs. .139), had 17 more home runs, drove in 48 more runs, and had an OPS of .972. He displayed his postseason prowess again hitting 5 home runs against Arizona in the NLCS.

Strengths

Schwarber once again provided elite power for the Phillies as he finished second in the league in home runs for the second consecutive season and seventh in isolated power at .277. In two seasons with the Phillies, Schwarber now has 93 home runs in 315 games.

 For comparison, Jim Thome hit 89 home runs across 302 games from 2003-2004 in his first two seasons in Philadelphia. Ryan Howard hit 80 HRs in 247 games across 2005-2006, winning Rookie of the Year and then MVP.

His leadership, looseness, and motivation were uplifting parts of this season for the team. What he does, not only on the field but off, is worth every penny of his contract and brings a winning culture to Philadelphia.

Schwarber’s season took off once he was moved permanently back to the leadoff position on June 2nd. In the ensuing 104 games, Schwarber clubbed 34 of his home runs with an OPS of .875. The Phillies went 65-41 in those games, good for the fourth-best record in the Majors. Before June 2nd, Schwarber had an OPS of .699 with 13 home runs in 56 games. The Phillies were 25-31 in those games and had the seventh-worst record.

His 11 leadoff home runs were second behind MVP-runner-up Mookie Betts’ 12 for the best in baseball. Schwarber’s .389 OBP as a leadoff hitter in the first inning was fourth among players with 100 PAs reaching those criteria. His .667 SLG was tied for the best among such hitters. Schwarber became particularly good at ambushing the first pitch that he saw of an at-bat, smacking 12 home runs on such occasions.

Schwarber also set a new career high in walks with 126 and was just three short of tying the Phillies franchise record of 129 set by Lenny Dykstra in 1993. Schwarber’s previous career high was 86 BB in 2022. His 17.5 BB% was second in the Majors behind Juan Soto’s 18.6%.

He struggled through the first two rounds of the postseason before launching 5 home runs in the NLCS to give him 11 total postseason home runs with the Phillies. That puts Schwarber in a three-way tie for the most in Phillies history with Jayson Werth and teammate Bryce Harper, with Schwarber and Harper accomplishing the feat in 30 games compared to Werth’s 40.

Weakness

He had his struggles in left field however, attributing to his 0.6 WAR on the year, but he was never really meant to be out there in the first place.

Schwarber has his perks, and he has his downfalls. It’s frustrating watching him strike out a league-leading 215 times, but it’s euphoric when he hits the ball over the wall 47 times a year. It’s frustrating when he watches pitches that seem right over the middle in 2-2 or 3-2 counts, but it’s incredible when he walks 126 times throughout the season, second to only Juan Soto.

We’ve talked about the two good outcomes with Schwarber. Now we must discuss the bad. His 215 strikeouts were the most in the league and set a new franchise record for the most in a single season, surpassing the previous record of 200 set by Schwarber in 2022.

It was the fifth most punchouts in a single season in history from any player, just 8 behind the MLB record of 223 set by Mark Reynolds in 2009. Schwarber’s batting average of .197 was the worst mark among all 134 MLB hitters who qualified for the batting title. His .209 BABIP was second worst behind Pete Alonso (.205).

 He also went from bad to unplayable in the field, as Schwarber’s -21 defensive runs saved, -20.4 defensive WAR, and -19 outs above average were the worst among all position players with at least 100 games played in the field.

Much like all of the Phillies’ other big-name hitters, Schwarber disappeared in Games 6 and 7 of the NLCS. After swatting his 5th HR of the postseason in Game 5, Schwarber would go on to finish the series 1-6 with three walks and three strikeouts. His double in the fifth inning of Game 7 and walk in the 7th looked to be possible rally starters, but ultimately nothing came of them.

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2024 Projection

Schwarber still has two years and $40M remaining on the four-year, $79M deal he signed with the Phillies before 2022. He will be entering his age 31 season in 2024 and is all but assured to still be a member of the Phillies.

Schwarber has shown himself to be one of the Phillies’ best hitters and certainly their best source of consistent power. His struggles with strikeouts and putting the ball in play consistently notwithstanding. Schwarber is a major threat when he is in the lineup and provides good-yet-unorthodox production out of the leadoff spot.

Schwarber’s home runs often get the Phillies going, as 20 of his HRs gave the Phillies the lead while 3 tied the game and one won the game on a walk-off. He is also a well-respected leader in the clubhouse.

However, Schwarber simply cannot play the field anymore. He is permanently locked to designated hitter barring an injury that forces someone else into that spot, like it did for Bryce Harper the last two seasons.

This hampers the Phillies roster some, as in a perfect world they would likely want to rotate the DH spot with Schwarber, Harper, Nick Castellanos, and J.T. Realmuto. Splitting time there to give quasi-rest. But the reality of the situation is that the Phillies’ best lineup is when Schwarber is the DH and a better fielder patrols LF.

The three true outcomes will always define Schwarber. How many home runs does he need to make up for the strikeouts? How many times does he have to walk to make up for hitting below the Mendoza line? It will forever be a balancing act.

Matt Bednarczyk
Matt Bednarczyk

Matt Bednarczyk is your host of Talking Philly Sports With Matty B. He is a proud retired US Army Sergeant First Class, he is also a combat veteran with over 80 months served in Afganistan, and Iraq . Huge Hockey Fan. Matt is a lifelong 4 for 4 Philly sports fan. Born and raised on the Mayfair and Tacony neighborhood lines of Northeast Philly. He brings over 40 years of Philadelphia Sports passion and provides a realistic look at our Major Sports Teams and the most passionate sports fans on the planet. Look for his show live on Edge of Philly Sports.

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