Contreras and Runners on Base, Villar's Defense, Hermosillo Lands One, Newcomb, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Contreras and Runners on Base, Villar’s Defense, Hermosillo Lands One, Newcomb, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs can still split this series with the Pirates! … is not a thing I wanted to be typing on Saturday morning.

•   The sample is still too small to be offered up as proof of anything, but it is big enough that we’ve all noticed it: Willson Contreras has been abysmal so far this year with runners on base. Bases empty? Dude has been all-universe (.444/.444/.889). But in 27 plate appearances with runners on base, Contreras has 4 walks, 2 HBP, 1 hit, 6 strikeouts, and 5 GIDP. Two thirds of the balls he’s put in play with runners on base have been ground balls.

•   For his career, Contreras has been almost identical in total results with runners on and with the bases empty (very slightly better with the bases empty). But there has been a pretty noticeable difference under the hood with his career splits: with runners on base, Contreras’s strikeout rate drops by about three percentage points, his ISO drops by about 25 points, and his groundball rate increases by about five percentage points. That kinda tells a story, no? A little more contact-oriented with runners on base, and maybe to his slight detriment? We seem to be seeing a very extreme version of that story this year in the early going.

•   Jonathan Villar’s defense has been pretty unplayable this year, eh? I don’t know what’s going on. I will admit that of course I didn’t watch him daily in the past or anything. But I don’t recall ever seeing him as a liability in games the Cubs were playing against him, and the metrics have had him intermittently “not great” and “kinda OK.” He has certainly rated out at his worst at third base, where he hasn’t played all that much the last five years, and maybe that’s just a terrible fit for him or something. Because, so far, he has looked BRUTAL at third base. Completely unplayable. Unless there is something the Cubs know about how he’s gonna clean up his inability to stop the ball or make routine throws, then there is no excuse for starting him again at third base. Period. I know I’m being a bit extreme, but it’s looked that bad. He has played just six games on the left side of the infield and he’s already been charged with three errors, and I’ve counted another three plays that really could’ve/should’ve been made.

•   The bat has been working, though, so I get the challenge of wanting to keep Villar in the lineup when you also want Nick Madrigal in there at second and a bunch of other guys rotating at DH. So, again, I guess I hope there *IS* something the Cubs know about how to immediately clean up his performance at third? Otherwise, they’ve gotta just ride or die with Patrick Wisdom at third 90% of the time, regardless of pitching match-ups (which, yeah, they don’t want to do that, either!).

•   Fun fact on Michael Hermosillo’s weird start to the season: although he only just got his first hit last night, he currently sports an above-average OBP of .316 (6th best on the team) thanks to a ridiculous 21.1% BB rate. Based on the quality of his contact over a tiny sample, his expected wOBA is a huge .373. I offer that not as proof of anything, but only as a reminder that just because last night was his first hit that fell in, that doesn’t mean Hermosillo hasn’t been putting together quality ABs. He has. When he gets a chance. Which is rarely.

•   To his credit, Hermosillo has a good sense of humor about the balls not falling in for him, but knowing that he has to stick to his process and not “chase results.” That would’ve been pretty easy to do when you’re 0-12, even if you feel like you’re having good plate appearances. Sure would like to see him getting more opportunities …

•   Imagine we’ll see new lefty Sean Newcomb soon enough, and he is excited about the chance to be on a new team (NBCSC): “I was pretty pumped,” said Newcomb of the Wednesday phone call from Cubs president Jed Hoyer after the trade. “I didn’t really expect there to be a trade, especially coming to a great organization like this …. There’s a lot of cases where guys switch up teams and have success. I’ve definitely seen it happen and am looking forward to working with [the Cubs].” Getting in the work is gonna be a little tricky, as Newcomb doesn’t have any minor league options, which will restrict the Cubs’ ability to work with him in controlled game settings on anything they’re trying to tweak. It’ll all have to be on the fly as he’s trying to get outs for his new team.

•   I love seeing how happy the happy fans make Frank – he’s just delighted to be doing this:

•   Very smart decision by MLB:

•   Well this is about as painful a way to lose as you can come up with. Literally throwing the game away (multiple times on one play!):

•   Happy Wrigleyversary:

•   Just so ridiculous:

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.