Chicago Cubs: Can Frank Schwindel avoid a Bryan LaHair-like collapse?

(Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) /

It’s no secret Frank Schwindel is on an absolute tear right now for the Chicago Cubs. Mr. Clutch as of late, Schwindel tallied four games in the last week in which he drove in the winning run. Collectively, Schwindel is slashing .354/.404/.662 with a .308 ISO and wRC+ of 180 in the second half of the 2021 season.

After earning NL Rookie of the Month for August and then NL Player of the Week to kick off September, Schwindel has officially attained ‘rookie’ status, eclipsing 130 at-bats on the year. On a Cubs team that’s going nowhere this year, one can’t help but think of another bad Chicago squad we saw nearly a decade ago and another player who turned heads.

The 2012 Cubs were one of the worst clubs in franchise history, finishing with an abysmal 61-101 record – making them the last North Side club to break the century mark in losses and the first to do so since 1966. However, regardless of the outcome, they did have a player that went on to become someone of a controversial All-Star in the form of Bryan LaHair. LaHair, a first baseman in his own right, burst onto the scene at the beginning of the 2012 season, slashing .390/.471/.780 with a .390 ISO and a 227 wRC+, looking like the second coming of Babe Ruth by the end of April.

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Like I said, LaHair ultimately went on to earn All-Star honors, though not many were convinced he was deserving. In May, his slash was .253/.343/.448 and those numbers continued to fall in June – all the way to a .231/.286/.400 mark. He ultimately wound up with a season-worst slash in July of just .194/.275/.242. As time went on, in seemed that LaHair was more of a fan favorite more than really being deserving of an All-Star nod, at least by the time the season got to the Midsummer Classic, that is.

Now, this is by no means a comparison to drag Schwindel back down to human form. What he has done at the plate has been nothing short of incredible since being called up. It’s simply a reminder that if you can’t make adjustments, there is a fall from grace period. You hear it all the time when players go on hot streaks. Take Ian Happ, for example. He has scorched Earth in his last month of games, seemingly going from one of the worst in the lineup to one of the best.

Schwindel, like LaHair before him, is on a historic tear in his brief tenure with the Cubs. He undoubtedly knows pitchers will be looking to adjust to him in the final weeks of action. For example, let’s look at ISO splits on pitch types this season.

Chicago Cubs: Frank Schwindel has made his living against fastballs this year

Looking at curveballs, his ISO is .231 while with sinkers it’s .267. Every other pitch that is thrown to him, his ISO is under .150. Every pitch except for one. Fastballs. The fastball is Schwindel’s bread and butter. Along with the cutter, just a variation on a fastball, his ISO is north of .400 in both instances, with a .456 for fastballs and .417 for cutters. Need more proof Schwindel is making his living on heaters? Eight of his 10 home runs have come on either fastballs or cutters this year.

I’m honestly confused why anybody would throw Schwindel a fastball at this point. The problem for pitchers is, his batting average is high against most other pitches as well. Keeping in mind that these numbers are a small individual sample size, Schwindel is batting .286 against changeups, .385 against curves and .400 against sinkers. His average for fastballs is .333 which is not his highest among pitches he has seen, they are just the pitch he hits for the most power.

That is why Schwindel has found so much success. He just sees the ball so well and is ready for anything. Right now, pitchers don’t have a ‘go-to’ weakness of Schwindel’s to attack. At least so far, he makes mistakes only when his timing is slightly off or a pitch thrown to him is just that good. In those cases, sometimes a pitcher just brings it – and that happens to the best of hitter.

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Let’s hope that Schwindel can avoid the abrupt end to success LaHair saw during his playing days and can, instead, be the guy who came up from Triple-A, played first base and not only crushed it early on in his career, but became a legitimate long-term presence at the plate.