Kyle Schwarber's wild splits are bucking the trend

The Phillies slugger has been noticeably better against left-handed pitching this season — completely opposite of his career numbers and the rest of the league.
Philadelphia Phillies designated hitter Kyle Schwarber
Philadelphia Phillies designated hitter Kyle Schwarber / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

Philadelphia Phillies designated hitter Kyle Schwarber is one of the most feared power hitters in the history of Major League Baseball. With 257 career home runs, hitting one every 14 at-bats, he is always a threat to launch one into the seats.

However, his batting average has always left much to be desired. He’s a career .227 hitter and even hit below .200 in 2023, ending the season at .197. All of that to say, the 31-year-old has struggled to get hits on a consistent basis and is certainly vulnerable at the plate.

One way that most teams plan to limit the damage of big, powerful left-handed hitters is to counter them with left-handed pitching. In 2024, across the entire league, left-handed hitters are slashing .234/.302/.355 against left-handed pitchers.

That's considerably lower than right-handed hitters, who slash .251/.318/.407 against those same lefties. In previous years, that trend has been the same for Kyle Schwarber. In 2023, he hit .201/.351/.497 against right-handers and .188/.328/.430 against left-handers.

Similarly, in 2022, he hit .232/.334/.566 against righties and just .193/.301/.386 against lefties. It's clear that Schwarber historically sees right-handed pitchers better and has much more quality at-bats.

But in 2024, Schwarber is doing things differently.

Kyle Schwarber's wild splits are bucking the trend

The lefty designated hitter put in the work this year and there has been a major shift. So far, Schwarber is outpacing his historical statistics and bucking the lefty/righty trends that we’ve seen over his nine-year career.

Against right-handed pitching, he's slashing a lowly .170/.308/.326 with an OPS of .634. But against left-handers, those numbers jump significantly to .320/.426/.476 with an OPS of .902.

Those aren’t just blips in the radar at this point either. It is 65 games into the season and he has logged 169 plate appearances against righties and 122 plate appearances against lefties. These numbers are directly related to Schwarber putting in the work to get better at a part of his game that has historically been subpar.

Schwarber batting leadoff has always been a debated topic, but there's no arguing that his .357 on-base percentage and NL-leading 47 walks are one of the major reasons why the Phillies sit atop the league standings so far in 2024.

He has also been able to limit his strikeouts against lefties to just 32 in 122 plate appearances while still hitting five home runs. It’s been an impressive turnaround for Schwarber and it will be interesting to see if it continues to the end of the season.  

Manager Rob Thomson has noticed the difference too, according to Nathan Ackerman of Phillies Nation.

"I think it's his approach," Thomson said on May 29, per Ackerman. "All year long he's been talking about cutting down on strikeouts and staying on the baseball. I think that helps him against left-handed pitching."

Schwarber has also improved on the bases

Another big change in Schwarber this season is his speed. He's noticeably thinner and moving much quicker on the base paths.

He already has four stolen bases, which is a career-high with the exception of his one outlier 10-steal season in 2022. Other than 2022, his next highest total was also four in 2018 in 137 games.

Looking deeper into his base running statistics, Schwarber has an Extra Bases Taken percentage of 39 percent which is the highest since a shortened 2020 season and his first year with Chicago in 2015.

All of these changes that Schwarber worked toward are paying big dividends for the Phillies. The more Schwarber is able to hit against left-handed pitching and get on base, the better off the team will be. It's no coincidence that as Schwarber has made these improvements, the team is playing their best baseball.