Schwindel's 23rd multihit game: 'He can hit'

September 29th, 2021

PITTSBURGH -- smiled when the subject of age was mentioned pregame on Tuesday afternoon. The Cubs are rebuilding, and the first baseman is hardly a prospect.

Schwindel is not alone, though. Three of Chicago's top second-half performers -- center fielder Rafael Ortega and third baseman Patrick Wisdom included -- are all near or past their 30th birthday.

"Better late than never," Schwindel said ahead of the Cubs' 8-6 loss to the Pirates in the series opener at PNC Park.

That is true, but the question the Cubs have to answer this offseason will be: For how much longer? As Chicago's front office looks ahead to 2022, it can now at least write Schwindel's name in as a piece of that puzzle.

In Tuesday's loss, Schwindel connected for another multihit game -- his 23rd since joining the team on July 30. In that short time period, Schwindel is already tied with Willson Contreras for the most multihit games this season for the Cubs. Chicago's six-run, 12-hit showing was not enough, however, to overcome a tough night for Alec Mills (six runs on seven hits and two walks in five innings) and the bullpen.

As part of the offense's showing, Schwindel singled to right field in the third inning off Pirates righty Mitch Keller, plating Austin Romine to spark a three-run outburst. The first baseman singled to center in the fifth, helping get another three-run rally rolling.

Cubs manager David Ross was recently asked when Schwindel's production should start rising above the small-sample disclaimer.

"I mean, I take guys for face value," Ross said. "If you rake, you rake, right? He can hit."

Here is a snapshot of just how well Schwindel has continued to hit:

• Entering Tuesday, there were 15 players with a minimum of 200 plate appearances this season who boasted a slugging percentage of .550 or higher. Only the Reds' Jesse Winker (15.5 percent), the Blue Jays' Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (15.9 percent) and the Astros' Kyle Tucker (16 percent) had a strikeout rate lower than Schwindel (16.5 percent).

• Using that same sample (minimum 200 plate appearances, entering Tuesday), Schwindel ranked third with a .616 slugging percentage. Only the Phillies' Bryce Harper (.621) and the Padres' Fernando Tatis Jr. (.617) ranked higher.

• And in that same grouping, Schwindel's 160 wRC+ ranked fifth, just ahead of Tatis' 159, and the Cubs first baseman's .415 wOBA was fourth in MLB (just ahead of the Braves' Ronald Acuña Jr.'s .412).

• Prior to Tuesday, Schwindel had collected 69 hits in his first 50 games in a Cubs uniform. Going back to 1906, only Al Dark had more hits in his first 50 games with the franchise (73 in 1958).

“I think I definitely showed myself that I can hit here,” Schwindel said. “When I stay within myself and I don't try to do too much, I think I can put together some good at-bats in the big leagues. That's definitely going to be huge going into the offseason -- just the confidence knowing that I can hit at this level.”

It is not as though Schwindel, 29, has not hit during his professional career. While his previous MLB stints were brief with paltry numbers -- he went 1-for-15 for the Royals in 2019 and 3-for-20 for the A’s earlier this year -- he hit at a .297 clip with an .858 OPS across four seasons at the Triple-A level.

With the walk and pair of hits Schwindel collected in the series opener, he has slashed .355/.403/.640 through 51 games for the Cubs, who claimed him off waivers from Oakland on July 18. That includes 13 homers, 16 doubles, 38 RBIs and 33 strikeouts against 15 walks.

“You have to continue to, one: just get your time in, in the Major Leagues,” Ross said recently. “Do I think he's going to continue the numbers that he's put up? That's extremely hard to do. Those are Hall of Fame-type numbers.

“But I'm really happy he's doing it and it's a very consistent at-bat and consistent play on a daily basis.”

And the Cubs are happy that players like Schwindel, Wisdom and Ortega have given them something to think about as they navigate the offseason and construct their 2022 roster. Was an opportunity to play regularly in the Majors all these journeymen really needed?

“The age is a factor, of course, right?” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said last week. “But the honest answer is, I don't know. These guys have played exceptionally well. We have a full offseason ahead of us. To answer that question now is impossible to do, honestly.”