Cubs News: Willson Contreras is starting to pick up steam at the right time

Cubs catcher Willson Contreras is finally beginning to break through the barrier.

Last season Cubs backstop Willson Contreras took his game to new heights, breaking out with a career year across nearly every offensive category. He appeared in 105 games, due mainly to two separate injured list stints – the first for his foot and the second for his hamstring.

Even as he appeared in fewer games, it seemed to help him overall as he hit a career-high 24 home runs, finished with a career-high .533 slugging percentage, posted a career-high 127 wRC+, and was worth 2.7 WAR.

This season started nicely for the 28-year-old catcher. In the first week, he picked up where he left off at the end of last year, posting a 162 wRC+ through the first week, slashing .300/.391/.600, a home run, four RBI, and three doubles. Shortly after, the rails came entirely off.

August was a brutal month for Contreras. He slashed .172/.284/.310 with a 61 wRC+ and struck out at a rate of 30.4 percent. However, the saving grace for much of the season for Contreras has been his much-improved catcher framing. As someone who has consistently ranked near the bottom of the league for much of his career in the category, the positive shift has undoubtedly made up for many offensive woes.

Per the leaderboard at Baseball Savant, each of the Cubs’ catchers rank in the top 10 overall in pitch framing. Teammate Victor Caratini ranks sixth with a 53.2 percent strike rate while Contreras is just a few spots lower with a 51.2 percent strike rate. As the starter, Contreras has caught twice as many pitches as Caratini, and it is an excellent boon to an area he has so far struggled through the years.

As we hit September, fans did not know if Contreras was going to turn his misery around. It, however, has not been the case at all. The veteran backstop has been one of the hottest hitters of the month to this point. Through the first six games of September, Contreras opened on a tear slashing .455/.520/.636, striking out at only a 12 percent clip and riding a 214 wRC+.

The Cubs entered last weekend’s series versus division rival St. Louis Cardinals riding a hot streak, and disappointingly it didn’t go as planned, with the Redbirds taking three of five from the North Siders.

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And while the rest of the team has struggled, Contreras feasted against St. Louis pitching early on, going 4-for-11. At the point where there was no direction to go, but up, Contreras has answered the call nicely. Optimistically, it will continue to produce at a high level and act as a cog towards another division title.