The Cubs young catcher Willson Contreras had a bit of a streaky year. He started out the season a bit slow offensively, but caught fire in May after a monster game against the White Sox. That performance and the love of Cubs fans helped him garner just enough votes to earn the starting gig at the 2018 All-Star Game, where he promptly did this:
But honestly, Willson had some trouble offensively in 2018. When he was good he was very very good, and there were times where he looked a bit lost at the plate.
Actually, I should be more specific, there were times where he looked a bit lost at the plate with the bat. He looked exactly like the Willson we all know and love behind the plate. Willson Contreras is one of the best in the game at throwing out runners and in 2018 he was the best in the game at picking them off. Here are some select catcher stats for qualified catchers in 2018:
Select fielding stats for qualified catchers - 2018
So on the eighth day of Cubsmas, it’s time to celebrate Willson picking off runners.
April 8: Contreras nabs Cain
Lorenzo Cain thought he was going to steal second in the first inning. He got a pretty good jump, but then seemed to remember who was behind the plate. He did not remember quickly enough. Despite initially being called safe, Cain was out on review [VIDEO]:
April 30: Contreras gets Cuevas
The Rockies had all of the ingredients for a big inning with runners on first and second and no one out. Kyle Freeland squared up to bunt and the Cubs’ bunt defense was on with Rizzo sprinting towards home. Noel Cuevas ventured a little too far off of second, however, and Willson picked him off for a perfect strike him out/throw him out double play [VIDEO]:
May 11: Willson Contreras Bobblehead Day
The performance that Willson Contreras put on on his bobblehead day was a game for the ages. He hit two home runs, including a grand slam. He also hit a two run double. It was epic. But Willson didn’t just show up with big hits in the Cubs 11-2 win over the White Sox, he also showed off his arm, picking Matt Davidson off at second on another failed bunt [VIDEO]:
June 15: Contreras picks off Bader
Harrison Bader is a speedy rookie for the Cardinals, but not only did he stray a little too far off second here, he also slipped, which gave Willson more than enough time to back pick him. I’m not sure what my favorite part of this play is, but it might the the look on Tommy Pham’s face as the Cubs head to the dugout, like really? The Cubs went on to win this game 13-5 [VIDEO]:
July 15: Contreras and Baez team up
Wonderful things happen when Javier Baez and Willson Contreras team up and July 15 was no exception. With Jon Lester on the mound and the Cubs up 5-0 over the Padres, Jose Pirela got too far off of second. Lester threw a ball outside that set Willson up to make a perfect throw to Javy Baez, and honestly Pirela never had a chance [VIDEO]:
August 10: Contreras is fired up after throwing out Juan Soto
The Nationals were threatening in the top of the eighth with two on and no outs when rookie phenom Juan Soto got caught sleeping off of first base. Soto is going to be a great player someday, but that’s not a mistake you can make with Willson behind the plate [VIDEO]:
August 21: Contreras picks off Mahtook
Another runner a bit too far off the bag, another pickoff for Willson Contreras. This throw, from his knees is outstanding and basically everything I love about the backpick [VIDEO]:
August 29: Contreras picks off Conforto
Michael Conforto was originally called safe on this play, but it was overturned on review. Rizzo was set up perfectly to take Contreras’ throw and tag out Conforto before he got back to the base [VIDEO]:
Watching Willson pick off runners is one of my favorite things in baseball.
On the eighth day of Cubsmas my true love gave to me eight runners picked off, a seven game winning streak, six Rizzo steals (and so much more), five comeback wins, four postseason appearances in a row, three epic relief appearances, two walkoff grand slams, and a Javy MVP candidate.