Kyle Schwarber, discarded by Cubs in offseason, hitting homers at historic rate for Nationals

By | June 24, 2021

The slugger the Cubs didn’t want because they thought he would be overpaid in 2021 is on a home run hot streak like we’ve rarely seen in baseball history. 

Kyle Schwarber hit two more home runs on Thursday, bringing his total to 12 in his last 13 games. Yep, practically a homer-per-game pace for two straight weeks.

That’s impressive. We’ll get to the “historic” part in a moment. 

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First: He’s doing this for his new team, the Nationals. Schwarber made $7.01 million in 2020 (well, a prorated amount of that) and was set to earn as much as $9 million in arbitration for 2021. The Cubs deemed that too expensive and decided to non-tender him in early December. “I don’t think he was surprised, with that being out there as a possibility,” Cubs GM Jed Hoyer told reporters. “I don’t think he was blindsided. Obviously, he was disappointed.”

The Cubs offered to discuss bringing him back if he was willing to accept a lower salary.

Schwarber, who hit 38 home runs for the Cubs in 2019 and 94 total from 2017-19, declined that “offer.” He signed a one-year deal with the Nationals worth $10 million guaranteed — a $7 million base salary for 2021 and a $3 million buyout if the two sides decide against an $11.5 million mutual option for 2022.

Jettisoning Schwarber was part of the Cubs’ overall contending-optional offseason, which included trading ace Yu Darvish to the Padres for a No. 4 starter and a handful of young, not-close-to-the-bigs prospects. 

Now, the historic angle.

In the history of baseball, nobody has hit more than 13 home runs in 13 games. The only players to do that: Barry Bonds in 2001, Troy Tulowitzki in 2010 and Albert Belle in 1995.

Schwarber is the sixth slugger to swat 12 in 13 games. Frank Howard was the first, in 1968 — especially impressive in the “Year of the Pitcher” — and then Doug DeCinces turned the trick in 1982. Nelson Cruz was the most recent, in 2019. 

The two others in the group might not surprise you: In 1998, both Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire did it. Sosa actually turned the trick in two separate stretches — May 22 to June 8 and June 13-25 — following McGwire’s run in May. Sosa, of course, hit 20 home runs that June, a record for any single month

Schwarber has 23 RBIs in those 13 games. That’s not close to the record. Among just the 12/13 homer guys, Tulowitzki tops the list at 29 RBIs. 

The streak has coincided with his move into the leadoff spot. He hit there in the opening game of a doubleheader on June 12 and homered to begin the game. He was back at cleanup in the nightcap and did not homer. He homered twice from the leadoff spot on June 13 — his first two ABs of the game — and then homered again as the leadoff batter on June 14, though not to open the game. 

Needless to say, Nationals manager Davey Martinez has kept the lefty atop the lineup. For the season, Schwarber now has 21 home runs, to go with a .245 average and .874 OPS.