More Sports:

December 06, 2022

Now that the Phillies have Trea Turner, Kyle Schwarber can stop leading off

It's an age old debate in the age old sport of baseball. How much does the batting order matter?

For the 2022 Phillies it mattered a great deal. Using an unconventional lineup to make it all the way to the World Series, the Phils had the most unconventional of leadoff hitters — the NL home run champ Kyle Schwarber.

Schwarber hit .218 during the regular season, with an on base rate of .323 thanks mostly to his 86 walks — the sixth most of any hitter. He also struck out 200 times — the most of any hitter. Having a three true outcome guy hitting first is an unusual choice.

But those aren't the metrics the Phillies liked about him in the 1-hole (where he hit 123 times). It was his patience at the plate.

Schwarber saw 4.31 pitcher per at bat in 2022, the second most of any hitter. Drawing pitches early adds up, and it was a strategy that did them well in the postseason as he, Rhys Hoskins and Bryson Stott helped the Phillies routinely get through a starter early and often as they won the NL pennant.

The 29-year-old was an interesting choice to start off games as he did deliver a spark pretty frequently. Of his 45 home runs, 26 of them came to lead off an inning and seven led off the game. Add to that his other extra base knocks atop the order and the Phillies saw him collect 34 extra base hits with nobody on base. How many RBI opportunities did Rob Thomson squander?

That's a question with no real answer, but the truth of the matter is the team really had no other choice in 2022. They do have a choice in 2023 — and it's the right choice. They need to lead off their new $300 million man Trea Turner.

Turner has nearly twice as much experience leading off in his career — which has roughly been exactly the same length as Schwarber's. He draws fewer walks, but he hit 39 doubles last season and has a career batting average of .302. He has great speed and 230 career stolen bases. He can help set the table and he can be a more conventional choice to start things off.

Here's a look at each player's stats leading off — every category except for the last one is from the 2022 regular season:

 TurnerSchwarberMLB avg
OBP.343.323 .320
Stolen bases271016
G's hitting 1st472248

Perhaps more importantly, the move allows Schwarber to use his elite power to drive in more runs. Schwarber hit 46 home runs last season, but generated just 94 RBI. By contrast, Turner had 21 homers but had more RBI in 2022, with 100. He led off 23 times last year with the Dodgers and hit .337 with a .371 on base percentage last season in those games.

Ironically, both of these hitters were together with the Nationals in 2021. Turner led off in Washington 43 times, while Schwarber did 21 times. He was most often seen hitting 4th in that lineup, for what it's worth, before both guys were traded before the 2021 trade deadline.

There really shouldn't be a question. Turner should lead off, and the rest of the order should go, every night (when healthy), as follows:

  1. Trea Turner, SS
  2. J.T. Realmuto, C
  3. Bryce Harper, RF
  4. Kyle Schwarber, DH
  5. Nick Castellanos, LF
  6. Rhys Hoskins, 1B
  7. Bryson Stott, 2B
  8. Alec Bohm, 3B
  9. Brandon Marsh, CF

• Harper will miss a few months after getting Tommy John surgery, and in his absence they'll be able to move Realmuto into the 3-hole where he hit in the World Series fairly successfully.

• Schwarber in the cleanup spot is a match made in heaven. He can continue to draw pitches and to get on base for the deep lineup behind him. But he can also hit 45-plus homers and will have runners on base ahead of him a lot more often.

• Hoskins saw more pitches last season than all but two hitters in Major League Baseball. I went back and forth on where to place him, and decided that even though he was effective in stints hitting second, the Phillies would want to have Realmuto as high as possible with the Harper and Schwarber placements above.

• Bohm hit well last season but he's best placed between Stott and Marsh who each hit left-handed.

The Phillies have their leadoff hitter. They have a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop and they have yet another All-Star caliber hitter in their impressive lineup.

The offense should be more or less set. Let's see what Dave Dombrowski and company elect to do to upgrade the pitching staff next.

Follow Evan on Twitter: @evan_macy

Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports