After a season that has largely been spent in the mud, the Cubs have finally put together a strong stretch of play. There have been surprises along the way, but none have been more shocking than the fact that this resurgent play started on a West Coast swing through San Diego and Arizona.
In many years, such trips are the stuff of nightmares. Just last season, the Cubs’ slide into irrelevance began in Los Angeles in the wake of a no-hitter. This time around, however, getting away from Wrigley may have sparked something. Several individual performances have stood out, so we’ll dig into them below.
Willson Contreras’s value: Whether you’re coming at it from the angle of an extension or his value as a trade chip, Willson Contreras has never been a hotter commodity than he is right now. He had quite a night on Monday, smacking two extra-base hits in the 1st inning against Pittsburgh, including a grand slam that was the 100th home run of his career.
Willson Contreras' 100th career home run comes in the grandest of fashions. pic.twitter.com/LRF1GaGg9M
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 17, 2022
Contreras is now hitting .283/.396/.509 with a 158 wRC+, the best offensive pace of his career by a considerable margin. Given just how hard it is to acquire even passable talent at catcher, he sounds like a guy you might want to consider keeping around.
A once beleaguered rotation: After a prolonged period of struggle, could it be that the Cubs’ rotation just might be stabilizing? The last three starts by Kyle Hendricks, Justin Steele, and Wade Miley certainly suggest that it might be. Over those three starts, the trio has given up only a pair of earned runs over 18.2 innings combined.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the Cubs have had their first three-game winning streak of the season behind their efforts. Though the rotation doesn’t need to be this good, the stretch provides reason for optimism after what had been an ugly run of starting performances.
Patrick Wisdom’s on-base percentage: After an exceptionally poor start, Patrick Wisdom came on strong beginning in mid-April. Over his last 30 games, Wisdom is slashing .223/.286/.476 with six home runs. That’s not exactly an exceptional line, and while his .762 OPS is passable at third base given his exceptional defense, it’s far too reliant on slugging percentage to get there.
That problem has gotten worse over the last week, during which Wisdom is hitting .185/.241/.333 with 15 strikeouts in 28 plate appearances in seven games heading into Monday night’s action.
The Cubs can live with Wisdom as an excellent defender with significant power at third base, but he’s got to reach base at a better clip.