For as much as 2021 will always be defined at least in part by heartache for Cubs fans, it’s hard not to have fun with with this group. Winners of seven in a row, the Cubs are somehow suddenly the hottest team in baseball.
While I’m not expecting an email about playoff tickets to pop into my inbox anytime soon, this group being as entertaining as they have been is a genuinely cool surprise.
With only a few weeks left in the season, let’s dig in.
Frank Schwindel‘s Value: Schwindel has done everything he can to just about lock down the top spot of Tuesday Trends since becoming the Cubs’ regular first baseman. With a shockingly good slash line of .370/.419/.706 as a Cub, it’s getting harder to ignore his early success.
Part of the reason it’s so hard to figure out what to make of Schwindel is that, despite his rookie status, he’s playing in his age-29 season. One comparison floating out there, usually made unfavorably, is to one-time All Star Bryan LaHair.
LaHair, of course, also came on strong with the Cubs at age 29 and earned a bid to the Midsummer Classic by hitting .259/.334/.450 – a decent enough performance for a guy with no real track record. You can see just in the slash line, though, that the comparison between Schwindel and LaHair isn’t a fair one because Schwindel has clearly been much better.
Just how much better? LaHair accumulated 0.6 fWAR in 380 plate appearances while Schwindel has 1.6 in just 149 PAs. Speaking of fWAR, there was an interesting note from Bleacher Nation this week comparing Schwindel to Cubs legend Anthony Rizzo.
I am deeply sorry for what I'm about to tweet, but I am not in charge of what my fingers choose to do …
Frank Schwindel, WAR with the Cubs this year: 1.6
Anthony Rizzo, total WAR this year: 1.3
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) September 6, 2021
Just the facts, folks.
Rowan Wick‘s Comeback Tour: After a long and strange road coming back from an oblique injury, the veteran reliever has looked strong in his return to the Cubs. Thursday’s blown save not withstanding, there’s a lot to like here.
Wick has struck out 15 while walking only six in 11.1 innings pitched and has averaged just a tick under 95 on the fastball. Better still, he’s generating whiffs at a career high rate of 28.2% to this point. Small sample? Sure. But a small sample of great results is a lot better than one with bad numbers.
Zach Davies: It’s almost hard to believe this wasn’t true before his last start, but his ERA has risen above 5.00 now. At 5.16, the veteran’s ERA comes at least reasonably close to capturing just what an awful chore it has been to watch him all season.
In acquiring Davies as a part of the Yu Darvish deal, the Cubs made a reasonable bet that Davies would produce a competent season because that’s what he has more or less always done. With pitchers like him — low velocity, mediocre stuff, and very high reliance on command — there’s always that possibility that things will just fall off.
With a career high walk rate of 4.0 per nine innings, that’s exactly what’s happened. Davies simply does not have the stuff to overcome the kind of decline in control that he’s experienced this year.
It’s difficult to project exactly what the Cubs rotation will look like next year, but it’s pretty easy to project that Davies will not be in it.