The first time I saw Frank Schwindel‘s name penciled in following the roster purge we all bore witness to at the end of July, all I could think was, “The dark days have returned.” Little did we know, we were watching the beginning of a spectacular second half run by a new Chicago Cubs fan favorite.
In 56 games (what amounts to roughly one-third of a regular season), Schwindel was on a whole different level than his teammates. He slashed .342/.389/.613, racking up 1.7 bWAR, a 165 OPS+ and 33 extra-base hits, making the loss of longtime cornerstone Anthony Rizzo at least a little easier to stomach.
So what changed? Schwindel, who came to Chicago with just 14 big league games under his belt and a career .799 OPS in the minors, was never billed as a budding superstar or anything of the sort. When the Cubs acquired him from Oakland via waivers in mid-July, no one really batted an eye – and certainly no one saw what was about to transpire.
In an interview over the weekend with Marquee Network’s podcast (definitely worth a listen), the former 18th-round pick broke it all down for us. Maybe it sounds too simple, but for Schwindel, it all came down to getting a legitimate chance to play every day at the major league level.
"“Basically they met with me, they said, ‘you’re our guy and you’re gonna play every day at first base,’” Schwindel said. “I’ve never been told that before. Just the confidence they had in me, it allowed me to go out there and not have to worry about looking at the lineup and seeing if I’m playing or not or tracking when the lefty’s gonna be throwing and seeing if I’m in the lineup or not.”"
Schwindel rewarded the Cubs’ faith with back-to-back National League Rookie of the Month awards in August and September, blending a low strikeout rate with solid pop and giving the team a reliable performer at first base.
Chicago Cubs know Frank Schwindel has a role to play moving forward
He struck out in just 15.8 percent of his at-bats, which is really something given his inexperience and the fact that sluggers regularly whiff north of 30 percent of the time in today’s game. Schwindel will undoubtedly have a chance to play everyday again in 2022, but now, it’ll be about making adjustments to a league that was put on notice by his torrid two-month stretch this summer.
"“Frank is gonna be a big part of our team next year,” said Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer. “I’m not gonna make out lineups or anoint different guys at different positions but certainly excited he’s on our team for next year and I think he’ll play a big role.”"
From unknown to a star-in-the-making, there’s no questioning the second-half performance of Frank Schwindel was one of the brightest spots for the Cubs in 2021. Let’s hope we get more of his down-to-earth humor, big-time hits and gritty hustle for years to come.