Despite their first-place status (I think that means they get to board first and alcohol is free after takeoff), the Chicago Cubs have been plagued by a mountain of injuries this season. The silver lining, such as it is: injuries often beget opportunity. And this year, a number of Cubs have taken advantage.
Nico Hoerner, Matt Duffy, and Jake Marisnick (among several others) answered the call when opportunity rang this season, but most recently – and most loudly – Patrick Wisdom is straight-up screaming into the speakerphone.
With another two homers yesterday – already his second two-homer game of the season – Wisdom has seven home runs on the year, despite making just nine starts and four pinch-hit appearances. His seven homers are more than stars like Alex Bregman (5 HRs), Mookie Betts (5), Trevor Story (5), Francisco Lindor (5), Anthony Rizzo (5), Eric Hosmer (5), Tommy Pham (4), Jorge Soler (4), and Gleyber Torres (3). And, remember, he also had at least one would-be homer pushed back like 75 feet with the wind. I’m not counting that – if it wasn’t a homer, it wasn’t a homer – but still.
It’s been only 36 plate appearances, so slash lines are silly to share, but for the sake of the moment, note that Wisdom enters the week with a .412/.444/1.088 slash line, which is 206% better than the league average hitter (LOL). Yeah, he’s struck out 13 times in 36 PAs, but whatever. When you’re hitting over .400 and half of your hits are homers, you can do whatever you want in those other plate appearances. Theoretically, none of this will last (the extreme good and extreme bad), but as we’ve discussed a number of times already, Wisdom does have the bones and pedigree to be more than just a flash in the pan. And right now, he’s certainly done a lot with his opportunity.
We’re not just talking flukey results, either. Everything under the hood is as extreme as his production:
Among batters with at least 20 batted balls, it may not surprise you to learn that Patrick Wisdom leads baseball in barrels per plate appearance, and barrels per batted ball.
His average exit velocity trails just one man by 0.1 mph … Giancarlo Stanton.
— Bleacher Nation Cubs (@BleacherNation) June 7, 2021
Right now, Wisdom has an 81.0% hard hit rate according to Statcast, which is WAY higher than anybody with more than 5 batted balls this season. Giancarlo Stanton, who leads MLB by a very wide margin, himself, is at 65.0% (only three players are above 60% and only 42 players are above 50%, so 81.0% is a true outlier). Sample size, sample size, sample size. We’re talking about just 21 batted balls here. But, c’mon. It’s impressive.
So where did this guy come from? Well, Sahadev Sharma and Patrick Mooney actually dug in on his background, and I completely missed the fact that the Cubs current VP of Scouting, Dan Kantrovitz, is the guy that ran the Cardinals draft when they selected him with the No. 52 overall pick in the 2012 draft (that was Albert Almora’s year for reference). Wisdom also discusses his newfound comfort hitting with one or two strikes, which could help explain why his K-rate is so elevated, though he’s still succeeding at such a high level. I think we all (Cubs fans) have come a very long way in learning to appreciate the value of making contact, but power is still a very big deal.
And, again, Wisdom isn’t just hitting for power, he’s making relative history. According to the Elias Sports Bureau (via Jordan Bastian at Cubs.com), “Wisdom joined Trevor Story (2016 for the Rockies) and Aristides Aquino (2019 for the Reds) as the only players with as many as seven homers within his first eight starts with a team.” And I don’t think he’ll be sitting down anytime soon.
“He’s been carrying us,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “I feel like he’s been the real offensive force for us right now, right? It seems like every time he gets in the box, you feel like he’s going to do something really good to help the team. Real damage.”
To move the spotlight for just a second, I’d like to point out one of David Ross’ apparent strengths: quickly identifying a hot bat (or arm) and rolling with that guy while he can. Even if the entire Cubs roster was healthy at the moment, I get the sense that Wisdom has earned some more leash. And how could you not? He’s gotten at least one hit in every single one of the game’s he’s started and has 9 extra base hits, 9 runs scored, and 10 RBI in 13 games. Who knows if the Cubs actually have A Guy here, but for now, I’m perfectly content to let it play out.
Ian Happ sums up the new Cubs Way: “If we can just get it to Wisdom with guys on base, we’ll be all right.”
— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) June 7, 2021