“None of this counts if you just plow it up.” – Mumford & Sons, Monster
Apparently, Cubs first baseman Frank Schwindel decided the best way to celebrate the honor of being named Rookie of the Month for August was to start September as a hulking monster. Though he’s not 100% responsible, the Cubs have now won seven straight with him providing a great deal of the offensive output.
Since the calendar turned to September, the 29-year-old rookie has gone 13-for-26 with four home runs and 12 RBI and has an excellent chance of being named NL Player of the Week, yet many fans refuse to acknowledge he’s anything more than a fluke along the lines of Tuffy Rhodes and Rudy Pemberton.
It's Frank's world, we're just living in it. pic.twitter.com/2lMZWMV2u0
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) September 6, 2021
After yesterday’s 4-3 win over the Reds, Schwindel has a streak of four games in which he’s had a go-ahead RBI in the 6th inning or later, and he may be one of the best two-out hitters in the game right now. Though some regression is likely, he’s batting .343/.386/1.036 and is making a late charge for Rookie of the Year honors. In order to do that, he’d have to continue at an unsustainable pace to displace Jonathan India, Trevor Rogers, and teammate Patrick Wisdom at the top of that list.
Despite all of that, many Cubs fans are loath to concede first base next season to the new toast of Chicago. Perhaps those fans believe that Jed Hoyer and Anthony Rizzo will find a way to reconnect, or that the president of baseball operations is hatching a plan to acquire Freddie Freeman, Brandon Belt, or C.J. Cron in free agency. Schwindel still has two years of pre-arb control and has raked at every level of the minors, but for some reason has continually been a victim of 40-man roster rules at every stop. Hoyer scooped him up off of the waiver wire on July 18 and resurrected his career.
Schwindel’s competition next season will probably be Alfonso Rivas if Hoyer whiffs on Rizzo and other potential free agents. For now, Frank the Tank seems content to simply enjoy the moment and just wants to help his team continue its hottest streak of the season. Replacing a legend like Big Tony is never an easy thing, but Schwindel has let his game do all the talking. He’s easily the most talked-about in-season addition since Theo Epstein acquired Nick Castellanos at the 2019 trade deadline, and his impact on this team is similar to Big Stick Nick’s that season.
Given the current state of the Cubs and the careers of the team’s new pseudo-stars, not to mention an ERA of 5.00+ for Chicago’s rotation, we should expect the coach to turn back into a pumpkin any moment. Regardless, nobody can take away Schwindel’s accomplishments up to this point. If the first baseman can carry that over into next season and beyond, Hoyer has himself the rarest of baseball finds: A late-bloomer who finds a way to stick and be successful following years of minor league obscurity in what has been a truly unremarkable career up to this point.
As I said last week, Schwindel won’t pass anybody’s eye test, but he continues to be as clutch as they come. Maybe all he needed was an opportunity to get regular at-bats, which makes him and Chicago’s North Side baseballers a perfect match. He and Hoyer are perfect for one another in that respect as well.
Cubs News & Notes
- Per the above, Pemberton hit .336/.395/.909 in 147 plate appearances spanning three seasons (1995-97) with the Tigers and Red Sox and was never heard from again. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Schwindel has had similar success in 168 PAs with three organizations.
- That said, Schwindel has added to his growing legacy with each Cubs’ win.
- Justin Steele continues to show progress with each start. He was lights-out yesterday before getting derailed in the 6th inning. Tommy Hottovy would like to see the rookie work with a little less effort and a lower pitch count.
- Ian Happ is red-hot right now and looks to be a lock to stick with the Cubs next season despite being brutal through mid-August.
- At least Cubs fans aren’t pelting Happ with projectile candy.
- Ryan Tepera has been a heck of an addition to the White Sox bullpen.
- The Cubs are keeping an eye on the workload of starter Kyle Hendricks. There is no current plan to remove him from the rotation, but the veteran starter has shown signs of fatigue in his last few starts.
- Willson Contreras wants to know Hoyer’s intentions in fielding a winning ballclub before he sits down to discuss a contract extension.
- Nico Hoerner took early batting practice before fielding grounders at shortstop and running the bases prior to yesterday’s game.
Odds & Sods
I can’t stop watching Big Frank and his “arm cannon!” Best moves since Elaine Benes tried to dance.
Frank Schwindel grand slam!!!! Not sure what this celebration is 😂 pic.twitter.com/wLfN0Norbv
— Taylor McGregor (@Taylor_McGregor) September 5, 2021
You Can Look it Up
In a season that has been beyond absurd for many fans, the Cubs have used 38 pitchers, including four position players: Rizzo, Matt Duffy, Andrew Romine, and Eric Sogard, who pitched on five occasions in relief.
Climbing the Ladder
“Some girls they want a handsome Dan or some good-looking Joe. On their arm some girls like a sweet-talking Romeo. But around here baby, I’ve learned you get what you can get…” – Bruce Springsteen, Tougher Than the Rest.
- Games Played: 135
- Total Plate Appearances: 4,954
- Total Strikeouts: 1,338
- Strikeout Rate: 27%
- Team Batting Average: .231
Scwhindel hit .285/.320/.798 with 134 home runs in 3,252 minor league at-bats with three different organizations before joining the Cubs.
How About That!
Jeter’s former teammates and opponents still have vivid memories of the shortstop’s 3,000th career hit: a 400-foot home run at Yankee Stadium.
22-year-old All-Star hero Vladimir Guerrero Jr. became the youngest Toronto hitter to reach 40 homers in a season and one of just 10 in franchise history, while he and his Hall of Fame father are one of only two father-son duos to hit 40 home runs. The other duo is Prince and Cecil Fielder, in case you were wondering.
Monday’s Three Stars
- Max Scherzer – The Dodgers will enter the playoffs with Scherzer, Walker Buehler, and Clayton Kershaw as their go-to starters. The recently acquired veteran primed the pump against the Cardinals yesterday, striking out 13 batters in eight innings of work as Los Angeles downed St. Louis 5-1.
- Jorge Polanco – Three doubles and his 27th home run of the year makes for a helluva day. One would assume the Twins plan to build around the 28-year-old Polanco, who is under team control for the next two seasons.
- A.J. Alexy – The Rangers’ rookie starter had a second consecutive strong start, shutting down the Angels on one hit with seven punchouts across six innings.
Even George Costanza had his moment in the sun.
"Hitting, not about muscle…" ~ George Costanza, Assistant to the Traveling Secretary for the New York #Yankees, gives batting tips to Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter! #MLB #Seinfeld #Baseball pic.twitter.com/XOJu6fwSnG
— Baseball by BSmile (@BSmile) September 1, 2021
They Said It
- “Oh, man, this is unbelievable. Probably the most fun I’ve had playing baseball these last few days. And I’ve got a bunch of friends [from New Jersey] in the stands that are enjoying it just as much as I am. The guys in the clubhouse, we’re all having a good time. Nothing is better than this.” – Schwindel
- “Frank never comes off the barrel.” – Duffy
- “You absolutely love the guys that were here to start the year, and as we went through that rough stretch in June, you could feel it threatening to end and everybody carried the weight of that through the end of the trade deadline and even the start of August when everybody had turned over. But as the new guys came in, they came in hungry with a lot to prove and they’re great guys, and they’re having fun on a baseball field and competing to win.” – Andy Green
Tuesday Walk-Up Song
Glory Days by Bruce Springsteen & the E-Street Band. There’s no doubt Schwindel could end up being nothing more than a flash in the pan, but then again, there’s a chance he could be the game’s next late-blooming star. Here’s hoping for continued success for the big guy.