Kyle Schwarber Heads to Nation’s Capital

On Saturday, it was reported that Kyle Schwarber had agreed to a one-year contract with the Nationals. After spending six seasons with the Cubs, Schwarber now finds himself with a new home park for the first time. Let’s consult the park factors to see how the change might impact his performance.

Park Factor Comparison
Park AVG 1B 2B 3B HR SLG wOBAcon RBIcon
Wrigley Field (Cubs) 98 100 94 107 97 98 98 97
Nationals Park (Nationals) 101 102 102 79 99 100 101 100

It’s almost a clean sweep!

Let’s begin with the AVG factors. Nationals Park has boosted batting average by 1%, while Wrigley Field has suppressed it by 2%. As usual, we don’t know specifically which factors are driving the difference in the AVG factor, so let’s look at Schwarber’s strikeout rate and BABIP marks through the years, as those are two of the primary factors that fuel batting average.

Though Schwarber has generally maintained a SwStk% around he league average for the past three seasons, he has posted worse than league average strikeout rates because he see a lot of pitches and remains patient at the plate. Seeing more pitches means deeper counts and more opportunities to get to strike three. As a left-handed slugger, it’s no surprise to see low BABIP marks, as Schwarber has unsurprisingly grounded into the shift at a significantly higher rate than the league average. Given worse than league average strikeout rate and BABIP marks, it’s clear that a batting average boosting home park would be welcome.

The AVG factor gap is mostly driven by a favorable singles environment at Nationals, versus a neutral one at Wrigley. As a high strikeout power hitter, Schwarber doesn’t hit a whole lot of singles, but that only serves as room for upside if the park effects means a couple of more singles drop. The gap is larger for doubles, where Schwarber has been inconsistent. He was a strong doubles hitter in 2019, but that looks like the outlier, as he posted significantly worse AB/2B marks over the rest of his career. That said, like singles, a low baseline simply means it’s a bit easier to improve.

Perhaps surprisingly, Schwarber has actually hit eight triples through his career, including three in both 2018 and 2019. The biggest park factor gap is here, with Nationals greatly suppressing triples, while Wrigley boosts them. This shouldn’t have much of an effect on Schwarber given a full season projection might only forecast a triple or two.

Last of the hit type park factors is HR. Both parks are slightly negative, but Nationals has suppressed left-handed home runs by a bit less than Wrigley has. As we know, Schwarber earns the majority of his fantasy value and a large portion of his real life offensive value from his home runs. He has remained remarkably consistent, having posted HR/FB rates between 24% and 24.5% from his 2015 debut season through 2019, before raising that mark marginally to a new career high of 25.6% in the shortened 2020 season. His career HR/FB rate home/away splits look pretty normal, with a slightly higher home mark. Perhaps the gap would have been larger in a more favorable home run park. Perhaps the move to Nationals Park widens the gap somewhat.

Because of the difference in the 2B and HR factors, Nationals sports a higher SLG factor, even though it’s neutral. That should result in a higher RBI and runs scored total, if all else remained equal. Nationals maintains the edge in the wOBAcon factor, as their edge in AVG adds to the gap seen in the SLG factor. Last, Nationals is once again sporting a neutral park factor, this time in RBIcon, but it remains a bit more hitter friendly than Wrigley, which has been suppressive.

Overall, the park switch alone looks to be an obvious good thing for Schwarber’s fantasy value, with positives in both batting average and home runs. However, the differences are quite small and will likely be canceled out by noise and randomness, so his value gain should be present, but minimal.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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Nats Fan
Nats Fan

I wonder if any park highly favors singles, doubles and triples but not homers. That would be a fun park

Nats Fan
Nats Fan

yep, Boston and KC! I suppose both were predictable.