Chicago Cubs: Losing Willson Contreras shouldn’t make or break Cubs
Willson Contreras has been a pleasant surprise for the 2017 Chicago Cubs, but losing him should not be the offensive burden that it may feel.
Before the season raise your hand if you thought Willson Contreras would be one RBI off the Chicago Cubs‘ team lead – Anthony Rizzo leads the team with 71 RBI, 26 home runs – near mid-August, and 22 ahead of the next-closest guy?
And that includes reigning National League MVP Kris Bryant.
That’s how things have gone for Contreras. He had a very good first-half in which he hit .261 with 11 home runs and 41 RBI. You take that all day. The fact he is staring at a chance for 30 home runs is something few would have thought.
It may still be a possibility, depending on DL time.
Once Miguel Montero was sent out of town, thus thrusting Contreras into the starting catching spot, he seized the opportunity, both behind and at the plate. He has stepped up so much in the opportunity, he undoubtedly became the team’s MVP.
In July, Contreras hit .321 with seven home runs and knocked in 19. This month he’s hitting .324 and already has five home runs, four of which came in two games.
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This kind of production pleasantly surprised many, though maybe it shouldn’t have.
It definitely surprises most that outside of Contreras, there’s been rather few that have been able to dial up any consistency.
While Contreras was never supposed to be a focal point of the Cubs offense, it’s certainly nice to see the numbers.
However, with or without that kind of production, the rest of the team needs to get in line. Defensively, the team is well-equipped with veteran Alex Avila — this is why Theo got him — and Victor Caratini will be back from Triple-A Iowa.
Maybe Kyle Schwarber gets time behind the plate?
League MVP making up for current MVP?
The reigning NL MVP, Bryant, has just two homers and 10 RBI in 24 games since the All-Star Break. Since the break, Bryant sports a .309 batting average. For the year, Bryant is batting .279 with 20 home runs and 48 RBI.
Though Bryant may not have the RBI production most expect, that may have more to do with those ahead of him not getting on base. With no one on base, he’s a .292 hitter. But with runners in scoring position he’s a .220 hitter.
He’s led off an inning to the tune of a .311 average, but with two outs and runners in scoring position, he’s at .170. While Bryant can be better, people might forget this is still just his third season. Based on the past, expectations rise, fair or not.
He’s never really gone through any kind of slump if you can call this that – maybe it’s his 2016 Bryce Harper slump – and you factor in pitchers making adjustments on a third-year pro and MVP with a target on his back.
However, that’s not to say Bryant still hasn’t evolved as a player in 2017. His strikeouts have reduced nearly three percent since 2016 and he’s on pace to smash his single-season walk totals.
We’ll see how the 2016 MVP responds now in the wake of the team losing their current MVP.
Been here before
After everything this group of Cubs has been through in such a short time, the highest of highs and with it, the utmost adversity on the World Series stage just under a year ago, there’s plenty of reason to remain confident in the first place bunch.
The World Series win did help mask the obvious youth and with it, the flaws that come with young hitters. Last year’s team mark the only World Series Champion shut out four times in one postseason.
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Yet as a team, they are still among the best in offensive production across the board in the second-half. To get back on-track, every man will learn to lean on one another – something Joe Maddon continues to preach.
Behind the dish and at the plate.