The Rundown: Willson Contreras 2020 Report Card, Manfred Bemoans Historic League Losses, Dodgers Hope to End Series Drought Tonight

The Cubs did have a few bright spots in a very down year offensively, and Willson Contreras was one of them. Though not much better than league average, he remained somewhat consistent at the plate and his regression was merely slight compared to the rest of the lineup. In fact, one could say it was almost certainly attributable to the smaller sample size that was the 2020 season.

He did score a perfect 10 for this bat flip in a late-season game against the White Sox.

With a .356 OBP and a slightly better than league average wRC+, Contreras was one of the few reliable bats manager David Ross could count on. As a result, he and Victor Caratini split catching and DH duties for most of the season. Though his SLG (.407) and ISO (.199) were near career lows, the 28-year-old was more valuable to his pitching staff than ever before.

Never known for his defensive prowess, Contreras surprised us all by being named as a finalist for the Rawlings Gold Glove Award. The veteran backstop improved his pitch framing ability by converting 51.2% of non-swinging pitches into strikes. That was good for 10th overall among catchers and was a significant improvement over his 46.5% rate in 2019.

According to Baseball Prospectus, Contreras ranked near the top among his peers in catcher defensive adjustment and did not allow a passed ball all season. His 1.7 FRM metric was good for 11th out of 34 qualified backstops per FanGraphs, a huge improvement over the -8.9 he scored in 2019, and his overall DEF metric (6.5) was fourth best at the position. His offseason work with strategy coach Mike Borzello and new catching coach Craig Driver really paid off.

  • Odd Numbers: Contreras led the league in HBP with 14.
  • Final Stats: .243/.356/.407, 7 HR, 109 wRC+, 1.6 fWAR
  • Final Grade: A

Cubs News & Notes

  • There is no new Cubs news this morning so this is going to be a really short column.
  • Oh wait, former Cubs infielder Robel García has been claimed by the Mets. The switch-hitting García made his big league debut in 2019 with Chicago, batting .208 with five home runs and 11 RBI in 31 games. He spent the previous two seasons playing pro ball in Italy and was recently cut by the Reds.

Odds & Sods

I thought I was the only person who felt like baseball season had already ended. Nothing but Bears stuff in my Twitter feed over the past 24 hours.

Postseason Potables

There is almost as much drama to a Game 6 as a potential Game 7, so tonight (and possibly tomorrow) represents a win-win for baseball fans. The Dodgers, who haven’t won a championship since 1988, will try to derail the Rays, who are attempting to win their first-ever World Series. Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts is hoping Tony Gonsolin will be more effective than he was in his previous start, but make no mistake, this will likely be a six-pitcher game for the Dodgers.

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash will counter with Blake Snell in the win-or-walk game. Neither team has been able to string together consecutive wins in this series and the Dodgers would love nothing more than to jump out to an early lead and end it. Burning through your bullpen ahead of a possible Game 7 is a risky strategy, even with Walker Buehler waiting in the wings if it comes down to a winner-take-all game.

Something to watch tonight: The Dodgers bullpen carries a 5.57 series ERA into tonight’s game.

How About That!

Rob Manfred took advantage of yesterday’s day off to posture ahead of upcoming CBA negotiations. According to the commissioner, MLB will have historic levels of debt after the pandemic-shortened season. Manfred said the league will post $2.8 billion to $3.1 billion in operational losses this year as a result.

Mark Kotsay interviewed for the open managerial position with the Tigers.

Yankees third base coach Phil Nevin became the third coach under the direction of manager Aaron Boone to interview for the Tigers vacancy, joining bench coach Carlos Mendoza and batting coach Marcus Thames.

Legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully is having a hard time rationalizing with the fact that the Rays have yet to be eliminated.

The 2020-21 MLB free agency list lost a bit of luster with the extensions of its biggest names, including the best player in baseball (Mike Trout), the second-best player in baseball (Mookie Betts) and arguably the best pitcher in baseball (Jacob deGrom), but the class is still exceptionally strong, and should make for a fun winter for fans of every team except the Cubs.

Extra Innings

Pitching a baseball defies so many laws of anatomy and physiology.

Sliding Into Home

If you’re a football fan, don’t forget to catch our work over at Bears Insider. Personally speaking, I’m still getting my feet wet with that team, but I do enjoy the work.

They Said It

  • “The economic losses [this season] have been devastating for the industry. You’re seeing the ramifications of that in terms of decisions clubs are making with respect to [laying off] baseball operations and business employees.” – Rob Manfred

Tuesday Walk Up Song

Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival – A Halloween blue moon that encapsulates the entire country is quite the rarity, but we’ll have one this Saturday. The last time was in 1944, and it won’t happen again until 2039, according to the Farmers’ Almanac.

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