Kyle Schwarber needs no introduction to the playoffs. At various points in his career, he has absolutely owned the playoffs, and that makes him the most intriguing player in the Red Sox lineup ahead of Tuesday's winner-take-all wild card game vs. the Yankees.
How's this for a postseason resume with the Cubs? In Schwarber's debut on the big stage in the 2015 wild card vs. the Pirates, he homered. He added two more homers and hit .500 in the NLDS vs. the Cardinals. He slammed two more homers in an NLCS loss to the Mets.
The following spring, he tore his ACL two games into the season. He didn't return until the World Series, where he promptly hit .412 with a .500 OPS in Chicago's epic win over the Indians.
All told, he's a lifetime .288 hitter with six homers and a .981 OPS in 66 playoff at-bats. He did that damage at a time in his career when he wasn't nearly the complete hitter that he is now, an on-base machine with power who has helped transform the Red Sox lineup since returning from a hamstring strain in early August.
"I was spoiled when I was in Chicago, making five out of six, playing two wild card games, being able to win a World Series," Schwarber said. "You know, I love the playoffs. This is something that I want to keep doing every year."
Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom basically labeled Schwarber the best hitter to change teams at the trade deadline, and it turns out it wasn't hyperbole. In 41 games with the Red Sox, he hit .291 with a .435 on base percentage and seven home runs. More than numbers, though, is approach. Schwarber exudes calm in the box and it has rubbed off on teammates like Bobby Dalbec, who owned a .275 OBP when Schwarber debuted and has reached base at a .353 clip since.
"The at-bats are so different. The approach is so different, and the voice is loud and clear in meetings," said manager Alex Cora. "He's done an amazing job offensively for us. Even yesterday, this past weekend when he's working counts and walking and he mis-hit a few balls. I think he was trying hard to hit one there (in Washington). But the quality of the at-bats were great and that's what we are looking for."
With J.D. Martinez's status uncertain thanks to an ankle sprain, the Red Sox will have the luxury of starting Schwarber at designated hitter, if needed. He's only 3 for 17 lifetime vs. Yankees starter Gerrit Cole, but he possesses the traits that make his bat a must against New York's ace.
"It's a challenge to face a guy like Gerrit," Cora said. "He has a fastball and a slider and he's one of the best and he has done it. I think Kyle will help us out in that sense. He can catch up with the fastball, but at the same time he can work a count. We're glad that he's with us, and not only as a player but as a person. He's been amazing."
With a mutual option that assures he'll be a free agent this winter, Schwarber could be winding down his brief Red Sox tenure. It's not over yet, though, because the playoffs are here, and he has already left his mark on multiple Octobers.
"It's great for baseball," Schwarber said. "It's a game that it says it all in its word, 'wild card,' anything can happen. It's very exciting, and obviously with the Yankees, too, with the history with the Red Sox/Yankees, it's going to be a dogfight and it's going to be all hands on deck, and you're just trying to find a way to win it any way possible."