Frank Schwindel has had one of the more unusual baseball stories I can ever remember. We certainly all have seen stories where a guy gets demoted, has a good attitude about it, works his butt off and then comes back and lays waste to the league afterwards. Can that happen when you never actually reported to a minor league club?
We all know the story, Frank was supposed to go back down to Iowa for a bit to work out his struggles away from the lights, camera and action of the big leagues. But COVID and a rash of injuries attacked the Cubs clubhouse, Frank was recalled before he ever reached Des Moines and then he was back in the lineup. Back with a vengeance. He’s got a line of .273/.310/.545 (wRC+ 138) over that stretch.
To be fair, this is likely not one of those romanticized stories where a fire was lit under a player’s butt and it turned things around. By all accounts Frank’s a good guy. He hasn’t even had a year of regular playing time in the majors. He didn’t get complacent or any of that stuff. The Cubs faced a lot of very good teams and some of the best pitching in baseball over their first 27 games. The last 15 games? Not as much. Were there some good pitchers in this last 15? And some good performances even by maybe lesser pitchers? Absolutely. And were there some lesser pitchers and some poor performances even in those first 27 games? Yeah. No doubt.
You can slice and dice baseball in a million ways. You can find stories of a great hitter who wore out a great pitcher. Those become the stuff of legends. But it shouldn’t even be a revolutionary thought to point out that EVERY hitter piles up their numbers against lesser pitching. I always used to laugh at the meme that Sammy Sosa piled up all of his numbers in lopsided games. You know who else has done that? Every player ever. All of the hitters pile up their numbers in those games. The only thing that holds the very best players back from really racking up numbers in those games, when the back of the bullpen guys are over exposed and position players are used, is the fact that many times they watch the last few innings from the locker room.
Without being any kind of baseball savant, I’m going to guess that two things have happened for Frank. The first is that the competition backed off a notch. All of those guys on the other side are very talented. But some pitchers are a cut above the rest and execute a game plan with a higher level of accuracy. So now Frank is facing some guys who aren’t executing quite as well and he’s had some success. And that leads to the second thing. Frank is more confident at the plate now because things are going well. Every former player color commentator will tell you that even that stupid broken bat, lob shot single that just flipped over the second baseman’s head can lift the weight off your shoulders.
Certainly, that confidence doesn’t come from an overly large amount of pride resulting from what was surely a lucky hit. It was that you did get some luck. It wears you out when every time you make solid contact it it hit straight at a defender. You hope to get some luck once in a while too. Obviously, things don’t “even” out for hitters. But less uneven is a thing.
Oddly, one of the games that has been most significant to me recently was a game against the Diamondbacks in the most recently completed series. Oh, he homered in the game. There’s been a lot of that to be sure. But he also drew two walks. Frank’s never been a huge walk guy. But he hadn’t been drawing very many walks at all. He’s got eight now in 154 plate appearances. But that day he took two of them. I don’t care how aggressive you are, you have to be able to recognize when they are flat out working you out of the strike zone.
Let’s turn our attention to three positives from Tuesday night’s win.
- Frank clearly gets the nod with two homers in a three-hit night..
- Alfonso Rivas has been struggling a bit lately after a hot start. He had a very nice night at the plate with a triple, a single, a walk, two RBI and a run scored.
- P.J. Higgins notched the first two-hit game of his major league career. He was also hit by a pitch and scored two runs. The best part of the season to date is seeing guys like Rivas, Higgins and Christopher Morel having some success after being pressed into duty.
And now we turn our attention to our featured attraction, Heroes and Goats as we look at the key performances of last night’s game through the lens of WPA.
Game 42, May 24: Cubs 11 at Reds 4 (18-24)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Frank Schwindel (.246). 3-5, 2HR, 3RBI, 3R
- Hero: Alfonso Rivas (.214). 2-4, 3B, BB, 2RBI, R, K
- Sidekick: Christopher Morel (.074). 1-4, 3B, BB, HBP, RBI, R, K
- Billy Goat: Seiya Suzuki (-.108). 0-5, SF, 2RBI, K
- Goat: Ian Happ (-.065). 0-5, 3K
- Kid: PJ Higgins (-.045). 2-4, HBP, 2R, K
WPA Play of the Game: With the Cubs leading 3-2 in the third inning, Alfonso Rivas batted with runners on first and second with one out against Tyler Mahle. He tripled, driving in two runs. (.173)
*Reds Play of the Game: With the Cubs leading 3-1 in the bottom of the first, Tyler Stephenson faced Marcus Stroman with runners on first and second and only one out. Stephenson singled, pulling the Reds to within one. (.092)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments below)
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 3/Bottom 3)
The award is named for Anthony Rizzo, who finished first in this category three of the first four years it was in existence and four times overall. He also recorded the highest season total ever at +65.5. The point scale is three points for a Superhero down to negative three points for a Billy Goat.
- Willson Contreras +12.5
- Ian Happ/Scott Effross +10
- Yan Gomes/Kyle Hendricks -6
- Patrick Wisdom -9
- Jason Heyward -11.5
Up Next: Game three of the series. The Cubs will look to lock in a series win by winning the first three games. They’ll send Kyle Hendricks (2-4, 4.89) to the mound. Kyle’s results have been unusually uneven this year. Cincinnati is also one of the few parks that hasn’t been kind to Kyle. The Reds send Luis Castillo (0-2, 4.60) to the mound. After losing the start of the season to injury, the talented Reds hurler is still trying to get back to his usual high level of performance. His last start was his best of the three he’s made so far. Each one of those starts was better than the previous, so this one definitely looked like the toughest matchup in this series.