When Patrick Wisdom joined the Chicago Cubs in May of last year, the slugger quickly began turning heads rather instantaneously. In fact, Wisdom started out scorching hot, recording seven hits in his first 15 at-bats. Those numbers were coupled with three home runs and a double and you thought to yourself, “hopefully Wisdom can just bat .467/.500/1.133 with a 320 wRC+ the rest of the season as he did in his first handful of game.”
In fact, Wisdom still put up a very respectable number moving forward to June. He recorded a slash line of .260/.333/.616 with a 147 wRC+ as well as eight more home runs over 81 at-bats on the month. For the first half of the season, Wisdom finished with a line of .270/.323/.617 with 12 homers and 23 RBI. At the time, it seemed evident that with Wisdom’s sudden emergence, trading fan favorite Kris Bryant seemed like a viable option as he had already began to fill the hole nicely.
From there, although he kept doing damage, some red flags quickly emerged. His second half slash line dropped all the way down to a mere .211/.296/.466 as his strikeout rate increased from an already high 38.7 to 41.8 percent. His wRC+ dropped from 144 to 101, which by definition is still league average, but his ISO fell from an extremely respectable .348 to just .256. Though that is still a high ISO, the problem stemmed from the results: home run or bust – evidenced by a 51.9 percent hard-hit rate to accompany that sky-high strikeout rate.
That’s not to say hitting the ball hard is a bad thing, but consistently swinging for the fences, especially when you’re whiffing as much as Wisdom was, isn’t a recipe for success. Shortening up and putting the ball in play is a lost art in today’s game. For example, a runner on second base needs only to be driven in by a simple base hit and nothing more. It is not necessary to hit the ball 110 MPH when the important thing is just driving in the runner by putting the ball in play.
Chicago Cubs: Can Patrick Wisdom make critical adjustments at the plate?
A true pull hitter, Wisdom sprayed the ball to right field just 10 percent of the time. A change in approach will be needed for him or not much is going to change in 2022 numbers-wise. The last thing the Cubs need on their roster is another 25-30 home run hitter that strikes out nearly 200 times a season. Perhaps the most alarming fact is had Wisdom seen 500 at-bats last season rather than the 338 he did see, he would have been on pace to lead the league in strikeouts with 220.
If Wisdom can find some sort of happy medium, he could be a major factor for Chicago. Situational hitting is key in today’s game and he can benefit in a big way from changes in his approach, focusing more on making contact instead of driving the ball 400′ every at bat. Of course, a lot of respect goes out to Wisdom for breaking the Cubs rookie record for home runs.
But to unlock his true potential, he must now learn to hit for a higher average and stay consistent. Filling the shoes left behind by Bryant is a daunting task and in a year, we’ll have a much better idea as to whether or not Wisdom is up to the task.