It’s a phrase many baseball fans have heard over the last few years, even if they don’t have a connection to Indiana University — the school Kyle Schwarber represented for three seasons from 2012-2014 on the collegiate baseball diamond. The term has been used a lot lately, as in the Phillies’ first eight games to start June, Schwarber had four home runs and eight runs batted in while batting .267 and an absurd .767 slugging percentage.
On Friday night, Schwarber launched a walk-off home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers to extend Philadelphia’s win streak to six, the team’s longest of the season.
That long ball was Schwarber’s 17th of the season, which leads the Phillies and ties him for fourth in Major League Baseball with two other players.
The eye test of the stats would tell you that Schwarber is on pace for his third straight All-Star Game following 2022, where he was second in baseball with 46 home runs –– behind American League MVP Aaron Judge, who hit an AL-record 62 dingers.
But that is simply not the case. Over the course of this season, which has now reached the one-third mark, Schwarber has had his fair share of struggles at the plate entering Monday. Hitting just .171 in 228 at-bats, Schwarber has the lowest batting average among Phillies who average 3.1 plate appearances per game played.
His defense isn’t staggering either, which is why his Wins Above Replacement according to Baseball Reference, also known as bWAR, is at -0.8.
Even so, his on-base percentage is over 150 points higher than his batting average, as Schwarber has 48 walks. Schwarber was walked 86 times last year, so if he stays healthy, he should shatter that personal record.
Another statistic that proves Schwarber is still one of the league’s better hitters is his 106 OPS+. OPS+ takes a player's on-base plus slugging percentage and adjusts the number across the entire league, taking into account external factors like ballpark dimensions. One hundred is league average and Schwarber’s 106 is 6% higher than that, proving that batting average can be a misleading statistic.
While a trip to the Midsummer Classic for a third consecutive year looks extremely unlikely for the former two-time First Team All-American with the Hoosiers, Schwarber’s presence from the left side for the Phillies cannot be overlooked. Schwarber has appeared in each of the first 65 games for the two-time World Series champions. Considering the other left-handed power bat in the Phils lineup, Bryce Harper, only has three home runs this season in 124 at-bats, Schwarber has carried the load.
If you judged a book by its cover, Schwarber is having his worst season since his final year with the Chicago Cubs in 2020 — the team that drafted him in 2014 with the fourth overall pick. That still is the highest draft selection in IU baseball history.
But his value to the Phillies, which reached its climax in the 2022 postseason –– when he led the league with six playoff home runs en route to the team’s first World Series appearance since 2009 –– can’t be underestimated. The Phillies have won seven of their last 10 games and are currently just one and a half games out of a playoff spot going into Monday. Though, Philidelphia is still one game under .500 at 32-33.
If the Schwarbombs continue, the Phillies, who were just nearly two games better at 33-31 at this juncture a year ago, could become a threat to make another deep run in October.