There has never been a season like Schwarber’s (literally)

September 20th, 2023

Buck Showalter, whose Mets are about to play a four-game series against this weekend at Citizens Bank Park, was looking at Schwarber’s numbers early on Tuesday afternoon.

“He’s gonna score 100 runs again, same as he did last year,” Showalter said. “About to have 100 RBIs. Two-hundred strikeouts. Might not have a .200 batting average. Hundred and twenty walks.”

Buck paused.

“There’s never been a stat line like this in the history of baseball,” he said.

He’s right. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, with Schwarber’s next RBI, he will be the first player in baseball history to score 100 runs, knock in that many, hit more than 40 homers, strike out 200 times and still have a batting average south of .200 (.198 through Tuesday night). It makes Schwarber as great a show at the plate as anybody in the sport this season. He can’t run after he hits the ball the way Ronald Acuña Jr. has. Nobody can. But he is a handful, every single time he steps into the box.

And guess what? Even with that batting average -- even with the times he either strikes out or walks around all those dingers and the ball doesn’t go over the fence because it’s not even in play -- he is among the most dangerous hitters in the league. And you can only imagine where the Phillies would be without him this season, a season in which Bryce Harper has played only 117 games.

In addition to everything else Schwarber has done, he has also, in Buck Showalter’s language, “posted up.” Through Tuesday night, the Phillies had played 151 games. Schwarber had appeared in 150 of them. There isn’t a leadoff hitter quite like him anywhere.

The only comparable stat line to what Schwarber is doing in Philly is Aaron Judge’s from 2017. Judge hit 52 homers for the Yankees, scored 128, knocked in 114 and walked 127 times. But his batting average at the end of that season was .284, a cool 86 points more than what Schwarber is hitting right now. If his average does finish under .200, he will be the first player ever to have an average like that and also have 45 or more home runs, though his .345 OBP is comfortably above the league average of .320.

“What we’ve done in baseball now,” Showalter said, “is take the shame out of the strikeout.”

Buck ought to know, because his first baseman, Pete Alonso, also has 45 homers and 112 RBIs and a batting average of .221. The Polar Bear, though, has walked only 64 times, against 136 strikeouts, and has 87 runs. Again: Nobody has ever filled out a stat line in the unique way that Schwarber has this season. And he is still only 30 years old.

He tried to slug the Red Sox into the 2021 World Series before they regrettably let him walk away after that season. He tried to help slug the Phillies to the title last year against the Astros before they finally lost the World Series in six games. And always remember that after tearing the ACL and LCL in his left knee in April 2016 when he was still with the Cubs, injuries that had people certain he was lost for the season, he came back to play five games in the Fall Classic and hit .412 as the Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years. He is one of those guys whom really good teams follow around.

On Monday night, all Schwarber did against the Braves was hit one 483 feet that even had Ryan Howard -- an ex-Phillie who knows a thing or two about home runs and who happened to be at the game -- staring at it with wonder. Here is what the Phillies starter, Zack Wheeler, said about that one:

"He’s pretty consistent with [his power] obviously. It’s not just cheap shots usually. It’s pretty long balls. Yeah, that one went on top of the Chop House, I think. … Pretty cool.”

He often hits balls like that one out of sight. Now he is at 45, chasing 50. He is six feet tall, listed at 229 pounds and built like a beer keg. In a year when Acuña has shown the dazzling array of power and speed that he has, when Mookie Betts has done the same thing for the Dodgers, Schwarber will likely not get much love from MVP voters for the National League. But he ought to. He has been that much of a force for the Phillies, that important to their season and will once again make them something to watch when they get to October.

You can pitch to him, obviously, if he strikes out as often as he does. Or you can pitch around him, as pitchers have so often have. But he is willing to wait through all of that to hit another to make another one of those swings. Nobody like him. Never a season quite like his.