Cubs’ Patrick Wisdom brings powerful whiff to rookie home run record

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Patrick Wisdom adds powerful whiff to Cubs record book originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

MILWAUKEE — By the time Patrick Wisdom’s latest home run got done bouncing around high and far over the center field wall in Milwaukee and finally stopped rolling, it sat on a ledge about nine feet above the 404-foot marker on the outfield wall, in plain sight for the rest of the game.

Home run No. 27 for Wisdom this season — in less than four months — broke a tie with Kris Bryant for the Cubs’ rookie record in a season.

“It’s awesome. It’s really cool. I’m super excited,” said Wisdom, who watched during an on-field postgame interview as a ballpark worker climbed a ladder to retrieve the milestone ball for him.

Wisdom, who turned 30 last month, has two more weeks to add to a career year that came after a career opportunity a decade in the making.

And by the time the Cubs 6-4 victory over the playoff-bound Brewers was done Sunday afternoon, the only thing more visible and conspicuous than Wisdom’s 27th home run ball on that ledge was Wisdom’s place in the Cubs’ plans for next season.

“The one thing that I love about Patrick is he just keeps having his at-bats,” manager David Ross said. “It hasn’t been the best series for him offensively — a lot of swinging and miss in there — and he continues to be a threat.

“That’s what he brings. He plays good defense, he’s versatile, and he’s got real thump in the bat.”

Wisdom, who has shown flashes of excellence at third, played left field Sunday. He’s also played right and first base since his season debut May 25.

But all that versatility and all those those home runs, in just 353 plate appearances, also has come with all the swings and misses Ross mentioned — an enormous 40.8-percent strikeout rate that leads the majors (minimum 250 plate appearances) and is exactly the kind of hitting profile Cubs officials talked about shifting away from as they broke up the championship core.

Wisdom had seven consecutive strikeouts against Brewers pitching before driving his three-run homer over the wall off Jandel Gustave during the Cubs’ five-run eighth. Then he struck out again in the ninth, for his 144th K of the season.

“The way I look at it, he’s definitely, extremely valuable with what he brings to the table,” Ross said. “You’re always trying to work on being better; we don’t want to stop and just give in to the swing and miss, and want to try to improve that. But I also don’t want to lose that thump.

“His type of power is hard to find in our game, from a guy that can move around a little bit.”

By comparison, versatile Gold Glove shortstop Javy Báez — traded by the Cubs to the Mets at the trade deadline — leads the National League with strikeouts, but with a 33.5-percent rate, and has averaged 31 homers the last three full seasons (with 31 and counting this year).

Whether the whiffs are something the Cubs simply choose to live with in Wisdom as they move into a transition season of 2022, it’s obviously something he’ll need to improve on.

“It’s on me when you have a really deep roster to find the matchups that may be tough on him and the ones that could benefit him,” Ross said.

But Wisdom, whose wife and two daughters were in attendance for the big homer in Sunday’s big moment of the game, has made a career so far of rebounding and resilience.

“That was pretty special for me,” he said of his family in the stands, calling the rookie record “just a testament to the support system I have, with my parents and my family and my brother; and the staff here does a great job of pumping you full of positivity and confidence and helping you stay on the next pitch.”

Wisdom, the 52nd overall pick of the 2012 draft by the Cardinals, played 41 big-league games for the Cards and Rangers before signing with the Cubs last year and getting in two games.

He had four career home runs in the majors before this year — and at least as many doubts about whether he would make it.

“I’ve be lying if I said it never crossed my mind,” said Wisdom, who chose to persevere.

“That’s just a life thing, too,” he said. “You’re going to get knocked down plenty of times. And you’ve just got to get back up and keep moving forward, and then you come out strong on the other end.

“And you can look back and be like, ‘I got through those times, and I can make it through this next obstacle in front of me.’ “

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