There’s been a phrase that’s become commonplace among those in and around baseball in recent years. That is the idea that there are “three true outcomes” to a plate appearance. Namely, a walk, a home run, or a strikeout. With the rise in the average velocity of pitches thrown and the emphasis on launch angle in today’s game, more and more players are falling into this category. One such player is Kyle Schwarber and his season for the Phillies has been the epitome of three true outcomes.
Let’s look at the usual numbers
Schwarber’s traditional batting line is not impressive. As of May 12th, Schwarber’s line sits at .185/.285/.417. He’s striking out at an extremely high rate at over 31%. His walk rate isn’t terrible (11.4%) but it’s not high enough to offset his extremely low batting average.
Two of the three outcomes
Now, let’s look at the less traditional numbers. Despite Schwarber’s high K rate, he’s actually been one of the best hitters in baseball at not chasing pitches outside of the zone. Schwarber has only swung at 20% of the pitches he’s seen that are out of the strike zone. That means he’s had a good eye but he’s not quite making contact with hittable pitches. And that would be demonstrated by his total swing and miss percentage of 28%.
So, Schwarber has seen the ball well but has been getting squeezed by umpires or is missing the hittable pitches he does get.
The Third and Most Important outcome
We’ve covered two of the three outcomes. Now let’s talk about the biggest one. Despite Schwarber’s poor overall numbers, he has 7 home runs and 11 total extra base hits. That puts him in an 11-way tie for the fourth most home runs in the Majors and with the fourth most XBH on the Phillies. Schwarber has just 20 total hits on the season. That means that over half of his hits have been for extra bases. In fact, Schwarber has just two more singles (9) than he does home runs.
However, his expected batting average is just .204, meaning he hasn’t had a ton of tough luck outs where he hits a line drive right at someone for example.
So, what does this all mean?
Essentially, Schwarber isn’t putting the ball in play a whole lot. Of his 123 plate appearances, 53 of them have ended in a walk or a strikeout. That’s 43% of the time that Schwarber steps to the plate he does not hit the ball into the field of play. On the flip side, when he does put it in play, it’s going for extra bases or out of the yard. Simply put, Schwarber’s biggest problem has been putting the bat on the ball consistently.
Schwarber’s three true outcome percentage is roughly 49%. That’s practically half of his plate appearances ending in either a home run, a walk, or a strikeout. If we include extra base hits, that number jumps to 52%. This is just the type of hitter he is, and it isn’t likely to change. However, if he is going to contribute on a more consistent basis to the Phillies offense, Schwarber will have to rearrange the percentages so there’s more of the good ones (home runs, XBHs, walks) than the bad one (strikeouts).