Victory Monday for the Bears, whose almost-blew-it 4th quarter looked a lot like the Cubs’ almost-blew-it 9th inning yesterday. Brighter days are ahead for Justin Fields – the pick and the fumble had big Rookie Vibes – but if Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney don’t drop those passes, he’s day looks completely different. I’m excited for the Justin Fields Era in a way that rivals my excitement for what the Cubs have coming down in the farm system. Very different development paths, though, obviously …
• The Cubs’ almost-blew-it 9th inning came courtesy of a second straight Rowan Wick appearance where he looked like his great self for the first few batters, and then the command/velo/stuff all appeared to deteriorate rapidly. On the one hand, that shouldn’t be a surprise, or even necessarily a huge concern yet, given how few big league innings he has the last two years. On the other hand, if the Cubs are going to count on him as a setup man or closer next year, he’s gonna have to maintain the crispness sometimes in outings that take more than 15 pitches in a single inning. I don’t doubt he’s got it in him, but it’ll be something to work on this offseason, and it’s a reminder that even with the Cubs’ best in-house relievers, there are open questions.
• On the whole, I still buy the Cubs’ ability to turn their available group (and reclamation signings/claims) into a productive bullpen – they’ve done it for years – but we would be wise not to assume the Cubs have various roles locked up. That’s kinda the anthem for the offseason, eh?
• David Ross’s face when he had to come out to get Wick with two outs and the bases loaded in the 9th was perfect:
David Ross dropped a serious are-you-effing-kidding-me-I-have-to-do-this face on the way out to the mound to pull Wick with two outs and the bases loaded. pic.twitter.com/FwosADrfMs
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) September 19, 2021
• Patrick Wisdom’s three-run homer in the 8th wound up being the difference in the game, and it was the one that set the Cubs’ new rookie home run record. Interesting data points on that:
Cubs rookie HR leaderboard:
27: Wisdom, 2021
26: Bryant, 2015
25: Williams, 1961
24: Happ, 2017
AB/HR for those seasons:
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 19, 2021
Only five MLB players have hit at least 27 home runs in a season with 355 plate appearances or less: Patrick Wisdom, Glenallen Hill (27 in 2000), Giancarlo Stanton (27 in 2015), Mike Zunino (28 in 2021) and Mark McGwire (32 in 2000). #Cubs
— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) September 19, 2021
• That’s quite a specific list right there – dudes who hit the ball as hard and as far as anyone. But also some SERIOUS strikeout rates mixed in there. As for Wisdom, specifically, his homer comes amid a particularly rough stretch on the contact side – he’s struck out in more than half his plate appearances the last five games, and the K rate is an unthinkably high 46.2% since August 29. On the year, the mark is up to 40.8%. Just two qualified seasons in the last decade came in at over 40%, and both were in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season (Evan White and Miguel Sano). In seasons with at least 300 plate appearances, Wisdom’s 40.8% K rate is the highest since Candy Nelson … in 1887.
• Nico Hoerner’s return to the Cubs lineup for the first time in nearly two months was a success in the sense that he played the full game at shortstop and was healthy. He did not make any quality contact in his four at bats, though, which is a reminder of what he was still needing to work on this year before all the dang injuries.
• This is a great read on Frank Schwindel, and, specifically, how he came up in professional baseball without ever getting a real shot at the big league level until he was 29:
— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) September 19, 2021
• Great quotes and background in there. Schwindel was always behind someone at first base, and the Royals, Tigers, and A’s weren’t eager to bounce a set first baseman for an older, right-handed-hitting first baseman who may or may not translate to the bigs. The only window that I can find when a team *should* have given him a long look was the Royals in 2019. They were long out of the race by mid-May, but decided to give their first base time to a combination of Ryan O’Hearn, Lucas Duda, and Cheslor Cuthbert. In the Royals’ defense, veteran Duda got his run early in the year, and then the Royals moved on to O’Hearn and Cuthbert, each of whom were mid-20s guys with at least some prospect standing. Cuthbert was considered a pretty decent prospect at the time, and O’Hearn was raking at Triple-A. It wasn’t crazy for the Royals to split time between those two in 2019, but neither hit and neither has emerged as a real big league contributor.
• Schwindel got off to a really slow start that, year by the way, and right around the time the Royals were committing to O’Hearn and Cuthbert, they DFA’d Schwindel, who was claimed by the Tigers. There, he never got a look at first base because the Tigers were obligated to park Miguel Cabrera there. The A’s grabbed him for 2021, but again, there was Matt Olson. Schwindel, a guy who always hit in the minors, is story that makes you wonder how many other guys who *could* play in the big leagues just never get a shot.
• Meanwhile, Schwindel is on a nine-game hitting streak. Just casually. If you go back to two games before that – his first two back-to-back games without a hit – you get the “coldest” streak he’s had with the Cubs. The last 11 games, Schwindel is hitting only .333/.373/.604 with a 158 wRC+. That’s his worst stretch with the Cubs so far. I did not mis-type that sentence. Bonus: he has a 9.8% K rate during that stretch. What he’s doing continues to break my brain.
• A whole bunch of food and drink are among the Deals of the Day at Amazon today. #ad
• The Padres’ incredible descent continues:
From ESPN Stats/Info: The Padres had a .574 winning pct. through August 10. That projects to 92.9 wins over a full 162-game schedule. Since August 11, SD has played .294 baseball (10-24). That would project to 47.6 wins (or about 114-115 losses) over a full 162-game season.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) September 20, 2021
• The Padres are now 3.5 games back of the Cardinals for the second Wild Card spot. The Reds are 3.0 games back.