Recent change in Phillies slugger Kyle Schwarber’s offense could be huge

Philadelphia Phillies left fielder Kyle Schwarber (Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports)
Philadelphia Phillies left fielder Kyle Schwarber (Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports) /

A trend that will hopefully continue for Phillies outfielder Kyle Schwarber.

Kyle Schwarber has been one of the biggest Philadelphia Phillies stars this season. Currently with a National League-leading 34 home runs, Schwarber was one of the team’s two named 2022 All-Star — with the other being injured slugger Bryce Harper.

For most of the season, Schwarber’s offense has been largely limited to power. While his “Schwar-bombs” have been huge lifts, it’s been difficult to consider him a regular threat at the plate without a respectable batting average. Schwarber entered the All-Star Game with a .208 batting average and 120 strikeouts — hardly what you’d expect from a player regarded as one of the league’s best in the first half.

In recent games, however, these trends are changing — which would be huge for the Phillies down the stretch. Schwarber slashed .286/.375/.551 in the 13 games before his mild calf strain, producing at least one hit in nine of the contests. This compares to a .201/.306/.494 slash line in his first 96 games.

Not surprisingly, this change has come with more base hits. Seven of his 36 singles this season came in these 13 games — that’s 19 percent of his singles coming in 12 percent of his at-bats. Schwarber also slugged a quarter of his doubles during this stretch, with four trips to second base.

The 2016 World Series champion’s recent ability to hit more singles and doubles gives him a well-rounded game — helping him contribute much more to the Phillies offense.

Emphasizing the importance of ‘small ball’

The Phillies collectively have hit better recently as a team — with a combined batting average of .268 over the last two weeks, entering Sunday. This compared to a season average of .249.

While home runs are certainly part of the equation, an easier way to continue hitting better is through “small ball.” This style of play can create big innings that plate multiple runs and alleviate pressure off the pitchers — especially important in games not started by Aaron Nola or Zack Wheeler.

As the Phillies’ leadoff man, Schwarber collecting more base hits would help get small ball started earlier in the game and improve his overall value. Small ball will be important if the Phillies make the postseason, as runs tend to come at a premium.

Schwarber has also helped the Phillies drive in more runners in scoring position.

During that 13-game span, the eight-year veteran went 3-for-8 (.375 batting average) with runners in scoring position — including going 2-for-5 with two outs.

While a small sample size, it still was an improvement for Schwarber, who went 14-for-66 (.212) with runners in scoring position beforehand. His batting average with runners in scoring position with two outs was just .161.

It’s hard to rely on a star if he needs a home run to drive in runners. Stranding runners can be a frustrating way to lose a game, so taking advantage is crucial to increasing the team’s odds of winning — or at least making a loss less frustrating.

Being a more consistent plate threat would only make Schwarber more dangerous for the opposition.

While Schwarber’s batting average has improved, he’s had fewer home runs.

One detriment to Schwarber’s recent offensive trends has been fewer homers. He hit only three long balls in that 13-game span  — making up 21 percent of his hits, compared to 31 home runs in his first 96 games accounting for 43 percent of his hits.

While fewer home runs are expected if Schwarber is recording more base hits, there is also a downside that his number of runs batted in is decreasing as well (he recorded eight of his 69 RBI during this recent stretch).

While there’s no denying the impact of timely home runs and their importance of putting an instant mark on the scoreboard, more small ball from Schwarber would still be beneficial.

It could help him do more with runners in scoring position and keep big innings going, which could lead to more runs overall. Even if Schwarber hits fewer home runs, an improved batting average would make him more dangerous at the plate by becoming a more consistent threat.

With Jean Segura back following a long injury absence and Harper hopefully returning early next month, the Phillies won’t need a bat who can carry the team with power. Rather, they will need a bat who can contribute to big innings as part of a deep offense.

An improved batting average and hitting with runners in scoring position could make up for fewer home runs. If these recent offensive trends continue for Schwarber, he’ll provide a greater impact for the Phillies down the stretch and in a potential postseason run.

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