Kyle Schwarber leading off has been a point of contention for Phillies fans this year. he certainly does not look or play like the typical leadoff hitter. Usually it would be someone like Jimmy Rollins, who filled that role for the Phillies for over a decade. Schwarber is way more similar to what your typical cleanup hitter would look like. And since the Phillies have the typical leadoff hitter on the team in Trea Turner, it is even more confounding more many Phillies fans. The weird part is, it is working. The Phillies have one of the best record in the league since they moved him to leadoff hitter. And not just that, but Kyle Schwarber is having the best season by a Phillies player ever leading off a game.
That is not hyperbole. Jayson Stark joined The Best Show Ever this week, and he shared the stat. Kyle Schwarber’s OPS leading off the game is 1.041. And he said that before Kyle Schwarber hit another leadoff HR in Wednesdays game. His 10th leadoff HR of the season, a Phillies record. If that OPS holds up, it will be another franchise record. Just ahead of Jimmy Rollins who had an OPS of 1.036 leading off games in his MVP season. No other players in franchise history are within 100 points of those two. But he is also hitting .192. And he cant be having a good season with a batting average that low… right?
Well Jayson Stark got into that as well. And he pointed out that while the BA is awful, a lot of the other stats show he is actually having a very good season.
“There has never been a leadoff hitter like this guy in the history of baseball. That is not all bad. He is hitting .192, but his OPS is still still 21% above league average. He has a chance to lead the league in walks, despite hitting .192. That is another thing that has never happened. Have you noticed he is leading the team in RBIs while hitting .192? Nobody has ever led any team in RBIs while hitting .192.”
It is a very weird season for him. You cant deny that batting average is bad. And his play in the field is somehow worse. But he is good at every other aspect of the game. His on base percentage is now over .340 and rising. He walks more than any one in the sport besides Juan Soto, who has also played 3 more games than Schwarber. And he is one of the best power hitters in the game, currently at 41 on the season.
Jayson Stark continued on, speaking about the weirdness of how it somehow works, and gave some insight into why Rob Thomson has stuck with it.
“When I look at Kyle Schwarber, he sort of sums up the whole team. It is not always pretty, it definitely is not perfect. But somehow it works. The team feeds off of him in a lot of ways. I think Rob Thomson’s philosophy is it is working, nothing is broken, why would I want to fix it.”
Now is he actually the best leadoff hitter in Phillis history just because of the OPS? No. I would say Jimmy Rollins MVP Campaign at the very least was still better. But it does show that Schwarber is having a very good season leading off games. An historically good one, even if it is unorthodox.
You can listen to the full Jayson Stark interview below:
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