The Philadelphia Phillies have not had an ideal start to their 2023 season, currently sitting 3 games below .500 and already 8 games back in the NL East. There are a lot of things to point to that have contributed to the rough beginning to a year with such high expectations, but one factor that certainly can’t be ignored is the bite of the injury bug. The Phillies lost Rhys Hoskins for the season in Spring Training, Darick Hall for an extended period of time just a couple series into the year, a couple relievers here and there with minor injuries, and Ranger Suarez is just getting set to make his first start of the season following a forearm strain. The biggest injury questions of the year, though, have come when considering Bryce Harper’s return from Tommy John surgery and how to handle it. Well, Harper returned to the Phillies’ lineup just about a week ago, so let’s take a look at his performance so far since coming back.

Now, of course, it’s a small sample size as Bryce Harper has only played in 5 games for the Phils, but it’s already been a solid start for the former MVP. Through those 5 games and 19 at bats, Harper is slashing .368/.444/.579 and has homered once. Unfortunately that solo shot is also his only RBI through 5 games, but that lies more on his teammates at the top of the order (see: Schwarber, Kyle) than on Harper. He’s scored 6 times personally, though, which by my math says he’s averaging more than a run scored a game. That’s what we call making an impact (not to mention his perfect fielding percentage).

The results haven’t exactly followed for the Phillies in the win-loss column yet, and Harper won’t keep up this pace all season long, but it’s an encouraging start for a player who struggled when returning from thumb surgery at the end of the 2022 season. Harper missed 2 months after being hit in the hand by a pitch from Blake Snell, and when he returned in late August, there were 35 games remaining in the regular season. Harper ended up batting .227 over that stretch, homering only 3 times and failing to do much of anything to help the Phillies push for the postseason. Yes, I know, he put together one of the great postseasons in baseball history after that stretch, so I’m not complaining about last year at all. I’m just saying that it’s not a given that Bryce Harper is the dominant hitter we expect him to be all season long. There might still be bumps in the road, but after 1 week, there’s nothing to say that Harper rushed back or isn’t ready to contribute to a team that could desperately use it. Sooner or later, if he keeps swinging it like this, the Phils will start feeling the effects in the standings.


6 Reasons You Are Wrong To Be Mad about Schwarber Leading Off

I was driving into work today and heard my coworkers in the morning angry about something. Namely, the fact that with Bryce Harper back in the lineup, Kyle Schwarber is leading off again. They are not alone in that complaint. All last season, and ever since that first lineup with Harper this year came out, people have complained that Schwarber of all people would lead off. He should be hitting 4th they say. Traditionally the best power hitter hits 4th. And you want a speedy guy to lead off. If you are reading this, you probably agree with them. It is by far the most popular belief among Phillies fans.

But you are all wrong. The people talking on Twitter, the people calling into the station to moan about it, and my coworkers on The John Kincade Show. All dead wrong. I don’t want to call you all out on it. I love Bob, Pat, Jamie, and Connor. My fellow member of The Best Show Ever Ricky Bo was part of that conversation too. And of course, I love all our great listeners. I dont want you to be wrong, but you are.

Batting Kyle Schwarber leadoff, or at the very least second behind Turner, makes a ton of sense. And if you give me a few moments of your time, I can explain why. I will also combat the counterarguments as best as I can.

Here are 6 reasons why, you should not be angry that Kyle Scwarber is back in the lead-off spot:

  • It Gets Your Most Dangerous Hitter More At Bats

    The guy who leads off will also end up with the most at-bats on his team. That is just a fact. If it’s the 9th inning, and the leadoff guy makes the last out, he got 1 at bat more than every other hitter on his team. The further down the lineup you go, the fewer at-bats you get. On the surface, it may feel like the difference there could be negligible, but it can make a big difference.

    Kyle Scwarber led off in the most games last season. He ended up 2nd in plate appearances with 669. Only Rhys Hoskins had more with 671, and that’s because Rhys hit 2nd in most games, and played 1 more game. After those two only Alec Bohm had more than 600, but he had just 631. Though all of that could be swayed by injuries and rest time. So let’s instead look at plate appearances per game.

    The difference between Kyle at leadoff and Rhys hitting 2nd was negligible, with Kyle getting 4.32 plate appearances per game, and Rhys 4.31. A difference of about 1-2 plate appearances over the full season. Harper hitting 3rd was 4.30, which is also not too far off. But it takes a dip once you get to the cleanup spot. Nick Castellanos averaged 4.1 per game. Which over a full season, comes to 30 fewer at-bats.

    It’s not the biggest difference. But you want the guys who make the biggest impact being at the top of the lineup. And you could argue Schwarber is the biggest impact bat in the lineup. Those extra 30 at-bats are 2 more Homerusn given Schwarber’s pace. If not him, it is Harper or Turner. And frankly Id be fine with any of them leading off. As long as those 3 guys are 1-2-3, I would be fine. But Harper wants to hit 3rd, so you let him. And after that, they prefer to split up the lefties.

    But while you may not like Schwarber leading off the game, you won’t be complaining when the 9th hitter walks to bring up Kyle Scwarber as the tying run with two outs in the 9th.

  • Whole Leading off an Inning Thing Stops Mattering After first inning.

    A lot of the talk about wanting a speedy guy to get on to start the inning leaves out the fact the leadoff hitter does not lead off every inning. In fact, after the first inning, they may never lead off an inning again. If a couple of guys get on, he may be the third guy up the next time he comes to the plate. There is some merit to starting off the game hot with someone getting on base and in. But that same logic could also apply to starting the game off with an HR.

    Either way, it stops mattering after inning 1. Because for all you know, Trea Turner could be leading off the inning 4 when the lineup first turns over. The fact that he is leading off the inning really only matters in inning 1. Otherwise, you don’t know who will be leading off every subsequent injury.

  • Phillies 7,8, and 9 hitters do get on base for him

    Another complaint from the anti-Schwarber leading off crowd, he will not have anyone on base for him when he hits his home runs. That is true if he leads off the first inning with a  home run. But otherwise, he will have Alec Bohm, Brandon Marsh, and for now Edmundo Sosa ahead of him. Those 3 are currently 1st, 3rd, and 5th in on-base % on their team. He will have people on base in front of him plenty in every inning except the first.

    In fact, while he has been hitting 3rd recently, and you all got your way with Stott and Turner ahead of him, all of his home runs have been solo shots. Turner has been struggling, so that could have changed as he heats up. But even when he is clicking, he has never been an on-base guy. He hits for a high average and is elite on the basepaths. But if the guy behind you is hitting home runs it doesn’t matter how fast you are anyway.

  • Bryson Stott Has Struggled as a Leadoff Hitter

    Stott was red hot to start the season. So Phillies tried to ride the hot hand and move him up. They liked his taking a lot of pitches, and they liked how much he got on base. But since he moved up there, he has not stayed hot. As a leadoff hitter, his slash line is .261/.301/.375/.670. I don’t care how many pitches you see. That is not good enough to lead off. Schwarbers Batting average might be low. But at least you get pop and walks with him.

    And even if he picks it back up, he is not the impact bat you want near the top of their lineup. At least not yet. He does not have much pop, even when it comes to extra-base hits. he is a very good very promising hitter. But not the guy you want getting the most at-bats. Or even the guy you want setting the tone for you in games if we are going with that argument.

    I could get behind Turner leading off. But Stott is absolutely not a leadoff hitter yet. Maybe one day. But right now he should be further down the lineup.

  • Would he block Trea Turner on the bases?

    There is one thing I heard that made some sense to me against Schwarber leading off. That if he gets on base ahead of Turner, he would block Turner’s speed on the basepaths. Credit to Ray Dunne for first saying it to me.

    My issue, Turner wasn’t stealing much this season when he was leading off. Or even hitting 2nd behind Stott. he is still trying to get going in fairness to him, and like I have said, if Turner is hot, I’m okay with Turner leading off, and Schwarber hitting 2nd. Im more so against this idea that Schwarber just has it hit 4th because he is a power hitter. And if the Phillies want to split the lefties up, then it makes more sense to put Turner between them.

    Also, it’s not like Schwarber will always be on base ahead of him. He hits a lot of home runs if you recall. If Schwarber hits  HR, then Turner singles, steals a base, and Harper hits a single or double to drive him in, that’s 2 runs. There could be occasional times that having Schwarber on base limits Turner’s ability to steal a base, or even stretch something into a double. But I still think there are more positives to having Schwarber up there than not.

  • The did it all last year, and it worked

    It would be one thing if this was a new idea, and we were unsure of how it would work. But he led off all of last year. And the Phillies’ offense mostly played well. &th in runs in the league, and that is with Harper missing half of the year. Schwarber was a very big part of that, in the leadoff spot. Scwarber was leading off when they upset the Cardinals and Braves, and then beat the Padres.

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