Locked-in Schwarber flashing positive signs for Phils

April 6th, 2024

WASHINGTON -- won’t make too much about anything that happens in seven games.

He has played baseball too long to do that.

But a good start is a good start, especially for somebody who historically is a slow starter. Schwarber contributed to three of the Phillies’ four runs in Friday night’s 4-0 victory over the Nationals at Nationals Park. He hit a two-out, two-run single to right field against left-handed starter Patrick Corbin in the second inning to make it 3-0. Schwarber later worked a leadoff walk against Corbin and scored in the seventh.

Schwarber is batting .286 with an .855 OPS to start the season. He has batted a career .218 with a .751 OPS in March and April, which is 80 points below his career OPS (.831).

“It’s April,” Schwarber said. “I’ve just got to be able to continue to go. I’ve always viewed myself as a better hitter than obviously a .200 or sub-.200 guy. That’s what I view myself as. I don’t enjoy looking at a number that says .190-something. It’s not enjoyable.”

Schwarber batted .197 with 47 home runs, 104 RBIs and an .817 OPS last season. He slashed .207/.333/.489 with 93 home runs in his first two seasons with the Phillies. Before he got to Philly, he batted .266 with 32 homers, 71 RBIs and a .928 OPS with the Nationals and Red Sox in 2021.

He thinks that’s more him.

Maybe it will be him this year.

“You’re seeing good signs now, but I’ve just got to keep up the work and see what happens throughout the course of a year,” Schwarber said. “A year is such a long time, but it’s nice to see early results.”

In the season’s first week, Schwarber is hitting the ball to all fields. He is also hitting lefties.

“I’m happier with the consistency,” Schwarber said. “Since Spring Training, I’ve been trying to get to that spot. That was kind of the goal. Get to the spot where you want to be and just be consistent with it.”

And what is that spot exactly?

“It’s where I’m putting myself in a position to hit,” he said. “I feel like if I can put myself in a good position when I’m at the plate that I’m going to give myself a better chance to put the ball in play. If it’s to the middle of the field, if it’s to the pull side, if it’s to the opposite field -- I think just being able to focus on the good habits in the cage and all the work in [batting practice], and then have that mindset throughout your at-bats in the game that can put you in a pretty good spot.”

Schwarber entered 2024 feeling healthier than he has felt in a while. He had a right knee issue last year that bothered him, although he rarely acknowledged it. But he seems to be moving better. It helps that he is the team’s primary designated hitter, which keeps him off his feet.

“I will tell you guys that it didn’t affect me last year in terms of hitting,” Schwarber said. “There are other things.”

Like running.

“That was the big hazard,” he said. “It wasn’t about me getting into my swing and using my legs in that way. … That’s not an excuse for anything. Obviously, being healthier, it can put you into a little better mindset going into a game.”

Schwarber’s start has created some fun with small sample sizes. For example, he is batting .438 (7-for-16) against lefties. He batted .188 (39-for-27) against them last year.

So, in seven games, he has nearly 20% as many hits against lefties as he did in 162 games last season.

“Left, right, it really doesn’t matter,” Schwarber said. “There’s two different mindsets whenever you face a lefty vs. whenever you face a righty -- for me at least. I view them as two different approaches. It’s great right now. The approach is going great against left-handed pitching, being able to put the ball in play and the barrel on the ball, working counts and things like that.”

Schwarber also has four hits to the opposite field and straightaway center. He had 45 a year ago.

He wanted to use the entire field more frequently this year. He pulled a career-high 52.5% of balls in play last year, compared to 41.6% from 2015-22.

He’s at 40% this year.

He is doing it all in frigid conditions.

“Wait until the summer,” said Aaron Nola, who pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings. “He’s going to be a really, really good hitter.”