Chicago Cubs: Frank Schwindel’s contact-based approach paying off

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Frank Schwindel is doing everything in his power to relegate Anthony Rizzo to the depths of our memories as the Chicago Cubs new first baseman. The 29-year-old former 18th rounder just continues to hit – and shows zero signs of slowing up, either.

It’s not just that he’s blasting the ball out of the yard on a regular basis. I mean, he is doing just that – with 14 home runs in 181 at-bats this season – but he’s also brought an approach that’s been sorely missing on recent Cubs teams: one focused on making contact and putting the ball in play.

"“When I grew up, I hated striking out and hated walking,” Schwindel told the Chicago Tribune this week. “Now there’s a lot of value in the walk and some teams have the philosophy, ‘strike out as many times you want as long as you’re hitting 30-plus homers.’ I think I’m a little mixed between where if there’s something over the plate, I’m trying to make something happen rather than being too selective and get behind. These guys are too good where you don’t want to get to their secondary stuff and their plus-out pitches.”"

True to that statement, Schwindel isn’t a big walk guy (6.7 percent walk rate) – nor does he strike out a lot (15.5 percent strikeout rate – a team best). But what he does do is hit. He entered action against Milwaukee on Saturday slashing a robust .366/.414/.689. Schwindel doesn’t qualify among league leaders due to the limited number of games he’s appeared in, but if he did, his 1.103 OPS would be better than both Bryce Harper and Vladimir Guerrero Jr, respectively.

Emergence of Frank Schwindel could alter offseason plans for Chicago Cubs

With the lack of long-term deals on the books, Chicago could be major players in free agency this winter. But with the emergence of Schwindel this year, it’s hard to envision Jed Hoyer focusing a ton of dollars on first base. Rather than pony up the cash to bring back Anthony Rizzo or the even larger commitment it would take to poach Freddie Freeman, the Cubs could stand pat with Schwindel – and focus those dollars on more glaring needs.

You can’t help but wonder if opponents will start making the types of adjustments that render Schwindel less effective in the closing weeks of the season. Or, if they can’t or don’t, could we see a new plan of attack against him next spring?  Perhaps. For now, though, he’s controlling what he can – and that’s how he approaches each at-bat.

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"“No matter what the pitch is, if I’m swinging at pitches in the zone, I’m going to usually hit something pretty hard, whether it’s a line drive, ground ball or in the air,” Schwindel said. “But once I start getting out of the zone and chasing pitches, that’s when there’s weak contact and easy outs.”"