Chicago Cubs: Willson Contreras is quietly becoming the catcher he predicted

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
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Chicago Cubs: Off to a great start in 2018

In 2018 Contreras got off to a scorching start to the season, amassing a .279/.369/.449 slash in the first half of the season.  In July he slashed a .309/.405/.471, his best month of the year.

But Willson played 82 games that first half, nearly every game.  It got to him and the bottom dropped out for him as it did the whole team.  Theo Epstein was especially vocal about Contreras’s slump, singling him out when discussing how the offense broke.  Likely that was due to the offensive outage being most acute in his case, a meager .200/.291/.294 slash the last 56 games played.

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Among catchers with 300 or more plate appearances, Contreras ranked 12th in wRC+, 19th in slugging, and 14th in OPS.  All were significant drops from his midseason rankings.  Joe Maddon opined that perhaps he overused his catcher early on in 2018.  It is a mistake Maddon isn’t repeating this year and the results show it.

Leading the league in 2019

In 77 games, five fewer than in the first half compared to 2018, Willson’s numbers are improved over last year’s hot start.  He has compiled a .286/.381/.556 slash and .937 OPS, an OPS 119 points higher than 2018.

In OBP, slugging, OPS, and wRC+, Contreras leads all catchers who have 200 or more plate appearances.  On the Cubs, he ranks third in home runs with 18, has amassed a 147 OPS+ while making himself into one of the best hitters on the team.