Through the first three games of the second half of the season, it is very clear who the Cubs best hitter has been.
Reigning MVP Kris Bryant?
Team leader in home runs, Anthony Rizzo?
Try 25-year-old catcher, Willson Contreras.
The energetic catcher has started the second half of the season on an absolute TORRID pace. In three wins against the Baltimore Orioles, Contreras went 8-14 with one home run, three 2B, and four RBIs. For the month of July, his number are even more impressive — .378/.425/.703 and a staggering OPS of 1.128.
While I love the numbers that follow Willson, it’s the amount of fun that he has while he’s playing that really makes him such an awesome player.
— Adam Nissen (@nissen54) July 16, 2017
Contreras has done all of his damage from his new spot in the batting order, clean up, which just so happens to follow another great hitter, Anthony Rizzo. Hitting behind Rizzo has historically paid big dividends as we saw last year with Ben Zobrist. In 2016, Zobrist had an OPS of .831 and an OBP of .386 (which was the second highest of his career.) Now it appears Contreras will be the one reaping all the benefits from hitting after Rizzo and if the first three games are any indication of the second half Contreras will have — look out National League.
While some would think it’s Contreras batting clean up after Rizzo that has helped him get off to a red hot start, there may be something else that helped Willson’s offensive production these first three games.
Contreras didn't like the feel of his bats. Used Victor Caratini's all weekend. Went 8 for 14
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) July 16, 2017
This is the first documented time that the 2017 Cubs have pulled the old “switch-a-roo” that we all remember so well from last season. If you recall, Anthony Rizzo made headlines during the post season when he admitted that he ditched his bats to use a lighter bat of a teammate, Matt Szczur.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) March 15, 2017
A new spot in the batting order, a teammates bat, and an uncanny eye for the ball has cemented Willson Contreras as one of the most dangerous bats in the Cubs lineup. Getting offensive production from him has to be seen as an additional bonus since this is the first full season that he has been the primary catcher of a very solid pitching staff.
Think about the stress Contreras probably goes through. Jon Lester can’t throw to first base, Jake Arrieta’s command is usually all over the place, John Lackey is just a dickhead, Kyle Hendricks hates to talk, and Jose Quintana is brand new to the team. So the fact that he’s putting up outstanding offensive numbers in addition to being held accountable for managing a big league pitching staff is something that has to be applauded.
And if all of that doesn’t make you love him, when he was being interviewed about his big four-hit day, a reporter asked him what he thought about the Cubs offensive outburst the past three games.
Contreras delivered a short message that all Cubs fans (including myself) have been waiting to hear all season.
“I think we’re back. I think we’re back to who we were last year.”
God I hope so.