Fun With Patrick Wisdom's Four-Homer Stretch and Unique Skill Set

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Fun With Patrick Wisdom’s Four-Homer Stretch and Unique Skill Set

Chicago Cubs

For the second straight night, Patrick Wisdom homered twice. The guy celebrates his 30th birthday with a new mustache, and then absolutely goes OFF. So much so that he’s now just one homer shy of Kris Bryant’s Cubs rookie homer record, and he’s done it in way fewer than half the plate appearances Bryant had in 2015 when he hit 26 homers.

But hey, Wisdom is not a traditional rookie, and he’s not doing traditional things. For one thing, he’s a 30-year-old rookie hitting .259/.321/.586 with a 138 wRC+ over 275 plate appearances. Breakouts of that magnitude, over that many PAs, at that age, are pretty darn rare.

*HOW* Wisdom is succeeding is even more rare.

Consider that Wisdom keeps finding pitches to crush, despite having one of the most crystal clear holes in his swing that I’ve ever seen. The upper-third of the strike zone is a black hole for him, and his 70.9% contact rate in the strike zone is the lowest in all of baseball (nearly a full percentage point lower than the second worst rate … belonging to Javy Báez). Can you keep having THIS much success when you whiff at some many pitches in the strike zone? Particularly when any decent fastball in the upper third is a nearly guaranteed swinging strike?

Well, I wouldn’t bet on it without adjustments, but Wisdom does have some things going for him. For one thing, he really does hit the shit out of the ball, and that matters. If you aren’t making contact every time, you better do a disproportionate amount of damage when you do make contact (and Wisdom does, as we’ve discussed). For another thing, Wisdom pretty clearly has great strike zone judgment. He’s not up there swinging at a lot of balls out of the zone (middle of the pack out-of-zone swing rate), and when it is in the zone, he’s usually swinging (top 30 zone swing rate). He can identify spin well, and he gets himself into a lot of great counts. It’s just that his big-strong-hard-launch-angle swing has a lot of miss in it.

That probably doesn’t go entirely away, especially post-age-30. So the extreme power will have to remain, and he’ll also have to be increasingly willing to accept walks. That part is not an issue for him so far, but pitchers are going to get more and more risk averse with him. (Or maybe they won’t, since they know they can get him if they can just get that fastball there at the letters. Of course, if it’s too high, he doesn’t swing, and if they miss just a little down, he destroys it. Heck, maybe the hole in his swing helps Wisdom! It’s bait!)

For now, Wisdom is finding a way to succeed at the extremes of the game, and thanks to his excellent defensive work at third base, he’s raised the floor quite a bit on his projection for 2022. Absent a catastrophic September, I’m at the point where I’d be OK with the Cubs going into 2022 with Wisdom as the starting third baseman, even if he is still striking out 39+% of the time. Almost no player can be a reasonable starter at that level (you’d like to see, what, a 110-ish wRC+?), but I think Wisdom might be able to pull it off given the rest of his game. It will cap his upside considerably, but if a better option doesn’t emerge in free agency or trade, I don’t think Wisdom at third is a terrible 2022 chance. You worry about a decline phase from there – yes, already – but cross that bridge when it comes. It’s not as if there aren’t plenty of guys who are very productive well into their 30s, and next year would just be about next year. See what he does for you if you’re already rolling with him anyway, and then re-evaluate at the end of 2022. Again, though, that’s a bridge that’s so far down the road it’s barely worth mentioning.

Anyway, now let’s just enjoy some fun from Wisdom’s big two days with four big flies …

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.