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Schwindel continues his torrid hitting pace for Cubs
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Schwindel continues his torrid hitting pace for Cubs

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The “Frank the Tank” chants rang out as Chicago Cubs first baseman Frank Schwindel crossed home plate and headed toward the visitors dugout at Citizens Bank Park.

Approximately 70 of his friends and family attended Wednesday’s game and those seated behind the Cubs dugout on the third-base line made themselves heard in the fifth inning. Schwindel, born and raised Livingston, New Jersey, 100 miles north of Philadelphia, hit a two-run homer in the Cubs’ 6-5 walk-off loss to the Phillies, prompting his personal cheering section to go crazy. Five were wearing white T-shirts with a picture of Schwindel and his nickname on the front, with each donning a letter on the back to collectively spell out “TANK!”.

“It’s always fun when Frankie comes in the dugout after a home run, I’ll say that,” manager David Ross said.

“He’s always coming in with a lot of energy and pretty proud of himself when he comes in and it shows with a big smile on his face. He’s got a lot of supporters that were loud tonight and it definitely stands out. When he hits them here close to home, it’s a good moment for him.”

Schwindel, 29, has enjoyed many good moments in a Cubs uniform since his call up July 30, from go-ahead hits in the late innings to timely home runs. His consistency through 164 plate appearances and counting is one of the most impressive parts of his success. After collecting two extra-base hits Wednesday against, Schwindel is hitting .362 with a .409 on-base percentage, 1.093 OPS and 1.8 WAR.

“When I grew up, I hated striking out and hated walking,” Schwindel told the Tribune Wednesday. “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.”

Schwindel takes a straightforward approach: if the ball is over the plate and there are runners on, he’s going to attack.

“But I’m trying to be a little smarter than just going up there hacking,” he added.

Through 40 games with the Cubs, Schwindel hasn’t shown many offensive weaknesses. He feasts on fastballs, something opposing pitchers continue to leave in the strike zone. Entering the game, Schwindel owned a .359 average and .772 slugging percentage versus fastballs. His home run Wednesday came on a sinker down and away that he hit to right for his 12th as a Cub and first opposite field homer this season. All but two of those home runs were hit off a fastball. Schwindel’s barrel percentage, which measures how frequently a well-struck ball features an exit velocity of at least 98 mph, is rated among the top quarter of hitters. His 7.1 barreled percentage is tied with Kris Bryant, Willy Adames, Nick Castellanos and Albert Pujols.

“Obviously, they’re going to game plan for me now that they’ve seen me and have more scouting reports and stuff,” he said. “So I think if I stay within the zone, I’m going to be OK.”

Schwindel possesses a fascinating hitting profile. He doesn’t walk much (7.3 BB%), but he’s not striking out a lot either. Schwindel’s 14.6 K% is the lowest strikeout rate on the Cubs, while it ranks 14th among 192 National League players with at least 160 plate appearances.

He’s struck out only once in his last 46 plate appearances.

“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.”

Schwindel has been one of the Cubs’ best storylines. His emergence, only possible by the organization dismantling the roster and trading the longest tenured Cub, has been at times surreal and unforgettable. He’s become a hitter pitchers now need to more seriously game plan against and not let him beat them.

Now it’s on Schwindel to show this six-week stretch isn’t a fluke. At this rate, he’s forcing the Cubs to include him in their plans for 2022.

“I’ve been intentionally walked twice, which I mean, I’ve had a couple but it’s nothing I’d say I’m used to, especially in the big leagues. But just knowing that they know of me — guys get to first base, like, ‘Frank, you’re doing great, keep it going, happy to see it,’ stuff like that means a lot,” Schwindel said.

“There’s a lot of great players up here and when they take notice, it’s pretty cool.”

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