Two weeks ago, the Washington Nationals were a black hole. Fast forward to the present, and they’re winners of 10 of their last 12 games. The impetus for Washington’s recent surge? That would be the power barrage put on display by left fielder Kyle Schwarber.
Brought in on a one-year, $10 million deal, Schwarber was expected to add a power jolt to the middle of the Nationals’ offense. While he was doing as such in spots over the first two months of the regular season, the bulk of his damage has ironically come in the leadoff hole.
Kyle Schwarber has been NSFW of late
Schwarber has been historic at the plate of late. He has totaled nine home runs over the Nationals’ last six contests. Furthermore, he has hit 13 home runs over their last 14 games, setting an MLB record for a leadoff hitter.
According to Statcast, the left-handed hitter entered Friday in the top one percent of MLB in maximum exit velocity (116.6 mph), the top three percent in barrel percentage (17.6 percent) and the top nine percent in hard-hit percentage (51.6 percent).
Schwarber is providing manager Dave Martinez with a substantial run producer in an unlikely manner; Schwarber has typically hit in the middle of an MLB order based on his power inclinations.
Given his stellar form in the leadoff spot and Trea Turner and Juan Soto batting behind him, opposing teams are unable to pitch around the slugging Schwarber. They’re forced to face him head-on, where he has been homering at an eccentric level and quietly walking at a reasonable rate.
Schwarber is as hot as any hitter in the sport. He’s essentially averaging one home run per game over the last two weeks.
Kyle Schwarber is carrying the Washington Nationals’ lacking offensive attack
Kyle Schwarber’s power run and gradual uptick in production in general is giving the Nationals another much-needed offensive difference-maker. Outside of Turner, who’s hitting .314, Martinez has had minimal forces in his everyday order this season.
While an advanced hitter, Soto is batting just .273 this season. Josh Harrison has somewhat faded after a superb start. Josh Bell has been more productive as the season progresses but still underwhelming on the whole. Starlin Castro has been up and down. Victor Robles continues to struggle to get on base.
This is a talented offense from top to bottom but one that has been unproductive for its billing. Schwarber is the one beginning to play into his career tendencies — and then some. With Washington hitting its stride in booming fashion, it gives those in their order who are struggling some leeway to get into a groove.
Still not halfway through the regular season, Soto has the time to get back to being an MVP-caliber hitter. Bell has the time to become more impactful in the batter’s box. One figures Harrison or Castro get on a hot streak at some point this season.
There’s upside for this offense to collectively improve as the weather gets warmer. They shouldn’t be 28th in the big leagues in runs.
National League East gives the Washington Nationals reason for hope
From a record standpoint, the NL East has been the worst division in MLB this season, as the New York Mets (39-32) are merely four games ahead of the second-place Nationals (36-37).
On the other hand, one could argue that the NL East being so measly from a win-loss standpoint is a result of tight competition; the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and Miami Marlins also entered the season with some sort of positive outlook.
This competition gives the Nationals the chance to win the NL East if they continue to win games at a positive clip. With their last six wins coming against divisional opponents, the Nationals are putting themselves in the playoff mix. If such play continues, they can get in the NL Wild Card mix in the scenario other teams in their division such as the Braves right the ship.
The starting rotation has been better of late with youngsters Erick Fedde and Joe Ross appearing to find themselves, Max Scherzer getting healthy and Patrick Corbin providing more length. It’s a matter of their offense driving in the runners they’re putting on base.
The Nationals’ offense has gone as far as its leadoff hitter cranks baseballs, and that’s 400-plus feet into the stands. Kyle Schwarber is bringing the Washington Nationals back to life.