Willson Contreras’ maturity has been noticed this season. It is seen that the Venezuelan has more confidence as a player and teammate, but more important as a leader for the Chicago Cubs.
Although he was not selected to participate in the All-Star Game in Colorado, 2021 is still the best year of his career. Chicago pitchers, who are the big beneficiaries of Contreras’ work ethic, credit him for his success on the mound.
“Willson is doing a good job behind the plate. I think he knows why, even if it’s a walk or a hit, whatever, he has confidence in the pitcher on the mound, “said pitcher Zach Davies. “He’s confident in his pitchers, in how he calls for pitches and he’s ready for anything. It is very impressive”.
Contreras’ confidence in pitchers has resulted in a 3.78 ERA when he is behind the plate this year, the second-best average among catchers in the majors. In nearly 600 defensive catcher innings, Contreras has made only two mistakes. His reliability as a defensive player has made him one of the best catchers in the league.
“He leads the entire league in innings received,” Davies said. “He is playing every day and has improved how he runs the game. He is present at all times and maintains the bullpen very well and recognizes what we do well ”.
When pitchers aren’t talking about how great their defensive skills are, they are throwing away their talents on the batter’s box.
“He’s a good hitter, so he’s not just behind the plate on defense,” Davies said. “He is also contributing on offense. Is a great player”.
Contreras has one of the best batting averages among catchers in the majors. His .236 average ranks third best among qualified receivers and is tied for the lead in home runs with 13 with fellow Venezuelan Salvador Perez of Kansas City.
Contreras is in his fifth season of his career and fourth of being the main catcher for the Cubs. With experience with one of the best groups of pitchers in the sport, the Venezuelan learned to control the game.
“Since 2016, I have matured in how I run the game,” Contreras said. “I know how to identify pitchers’ strengths and weaknesses and it’s something we use to our advantage.”
His presence behind the plate has contributed to Chicago’s success this season. Although they are not in first place in the NL Central, they still have aspirations.
However, future success depends on many components. Since late June, when they played the Los Angeles Dodgers, the lineup has struggled offensively that has resulted in 10 consecutive losses.
But the Cubs feel that to qualify for the postseason, pitchers have to remain dominant and a lot of that depends on Contreras.
“He keeps fighting. Keep waiting for every release. When pitchers start to lose their ability, he guides them to the zone, ”Cubs manager David Ross said. “He knows when they have to attack hitters to make them uncomfortable at the plate.”
His talent and work ethic as a catcher led to a special moment in his career. When the Cubs began the series against Los Angeles on June 24, Chicago threw its first combined no-hitter. For Contreras, he was finally a part of the team’s history.
“Personally, I’ve been the catcher since 2016 and have played a lot of tough games, but nothing like a no-hitter,” Contreras said. “This was special; It is a moment that I will never forget. I’m very proud of all the players, all the pitchers who came out of the bullpen and did their job without knowing what was going on. I am very proud”.
Contreras led Davies, Ryan Tepera, Andrew Chafin and Craig Kimbrel in nine innings, in what was the seventh no-hitter this season. No-hitter, no-run games are incredibly rare in the sport, but Contreras had seen two before his turn behind the plate.
In 2020, Contreras watched from the dugout his teammate, the Puerto Rican Victor Caratini, celebrate with Alec Mills the last no-hitter for Chicago. As a rookie, manager David Ross was the catcher for Jake Arrieta’s second career no hitter.
Contreras’ emotions going into his first no-hitter showed when Ross spoke of the catcher and how the team celebrated the achievement.
“I know how he feels and how special that moment was for him,” Ross said. “He has worked hard on how he prepares for the game and how he runs the game. And looks.
“A lot of no-hitter credit goes to Wilson Contreras,” Ross continued. “He worked a lot, he had an impact on the game in how he called for pitches. It was a great night for him with the home run and being the leader for pitchers in how they performed. He really deserves the no-hitter credit. “
That day in June was not only a celebration of a momentous game in Cubs history, but also the high point of Contreras’ career.
“I have matured a lot at the plate and (on defense). Obviously when you get uploaded, you have no experience and you want to learn quickly, ”Contreras said. “Fortunately, I have had many coaches who have taught me a lot.”