Tomase: Schwarber’s wild ejection reminds Red Sox what they’re missing originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Kyle Schwarber’s ejection on Sunday went viral because the normally unflappable slugger melted down after a night of sustained incompetence from home plate umpire Angel Hernandez.
With the Phillies trailing the Brewers 1-0 in the ninth, Schwarber took a Josh Hader fastball clearly off the outside corner for what should’ve been ball four. Hernandez instead rung him up.
Schwarber slammed his bat, slammed his helmet, and then conducted a one-man drama on home plate to illustrate Hernandez’s horrible zone, gesticulating up, down, right, and left — all the places the much-maligned ump had missed calls.
It was an entertaining spectacle of grievance, frustration, and rage, and it earned Schwarber sympathetic retweets, because Hernandez is reviled for both his personality and his inconsistency.
Watching Schwarber’s theatrics from the perspective of his old team, however, engendered a very different reaction — the Red Sox would’ve swung at that pitch and short-circuited the drama.
If there’s an offensive theme to their season thus far, it’s that they’re hacking. Only the White Sox and Royals have drawn fewer walks, a damning indictment of a franchise that used to define the concept of grinding at-bats. The Red Sox have walked just 37 times in 16 games, which is less than half the rate of the league-leading Mariners (76).
The Red Sox never made Schwarber a serious offer this winter because they considered him expendable, thanks to his lack of positional fit between first base, DH, and the outfield, as well as the looming arrival of prospect Triston Casas. It was certainly a defensible decision, but the Red Sox may have miscalculated the value of Schwarber’s eye in a lineup that flails first and asks questions later.
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When Schwarber debuted last August, he immediately helped remake the team’s entire offensive approach. He walked 33 times in 41 games, almost single-handedly transforming the Red Sox from a free-swinging team into a patient one. Their walk rate improved from 7.8 percent without him, which ranked 24th in baseball, to 9.7 percent with him, which placed third.
The Red Sox could use someone with such discipline now. No team has swung more and swung and missed more than the Red Sox, who join the last-place Royals as the only two teams that have swung at more than half the pitches they’ve seen.
This approach has yielded mediocre results, with the Red Sox ranking eighth in the American League in scoring and coming off a three-game weekend series vs. the Rays that saw them manage just eight runs, two of which came after they were no-hit for nine full innings on Saturday.
The Red Sox could use someone who knows the strike zone well enough to take bad calls so personally.
John Tomase on Kyle Schwarber’s ejection
Bobby Dalbec and Trevor Story are striking out more than once a game. For all his greatness, Rafael Devers is back to swinging at absolutely everything, which will eventually catch up to him. The only player with more walks than strikeouts is Alex Verdugo, and otherwise the most patient at-bats probably belongs to right fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who has walked six times while consistently working the count.
“I think the challenge is the same, for us to get the ball in the zone, to swing at strikes and be willing to use the whole field,” bench Will Venable told coach reporters in Tampa on Sunday.
It’s never clear until the games start how the pieces of a lineup will fit. No one saw Schwarber remaking the Red Sox offense last August, and yet he helped carry them within two games of the World Series. When the Phillies signed him for four years and $79 million in free agency, there was a general understanding that the Red Sox would never go that high.
Maybe they should’ve reconsidered. They could use someone who knows the strike zone well enough to take bad calls so personally.