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Questioning the Off Day Decision for Willson Contreras

Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras was given an off day in Milwaukee to start an important series. Why was he given this game off rather than the game before?

Chicago Cubs
Photo: AP Photo/Morry Gash

It is 12:18 AM on Tuesday morning when I’m writing this, and the Cubs just got absolutely embarrassed in Milwaukee. The Cubs let up 10 runs in the 8th inning, all with two outs and a tie game. I had questions before the game when the lineup was sent out.

The Cubs knew that they were going to Milwaukee for a three-game series against Freddy Peralta, Brandon Woodruff, and Corbin Burnes. What games are more important, a fourth game against the Dodgers, or game one of three against the Brewers and their three best pitchers?

The answer should be very clear, and the Cubs needed to put their best lineup out there against the Brewers rather than the Dodgers, especially when they have their best pitcher on the mound in Kyle Hendricks. The team needed to start the series off on a good note. The struggles from the Cubs’ backup catchers is quite obvious as well. In addition, the Cubs are on backup catcher #4, and each one is somehow worse than the one before.

I am left questioning why the decision was made to play Contreras on Sunday against the Dodgers, whom the Cubs already secured a season series win against, instead of resting him to make sure he is in your lineup against the team directly above you in the division standings. On top of that, Willson Contreras and the Brewers have had some tension from early this season with all of the times he was hit by their pitchers. His energy could have been very important to a currently dead offense that is entirely dependent on home runs.

I am tired, angry, and frustrated with the way the Cubs have played in June. However, they are still so close to winning a lot of these games despite wretched offensive performances across the board. That makes me wonder the difference Contreras could have had on this game that, despite the final score of 14-4, was extremely close and hard fought.

The Contreras Difference

Think back to the 6th inning of Monday’s game when Hendricks gave up a single to Jace Peterson. Peterson then easily stole second base without a throw from catcher Jose Lobaton. Would Jace Peterson have been so aggressive if Willson Contreras was behind the plate? I can’t say for sure, but I do know that he would have been a lot more fearful of Contreras. Since Peterson was able to easily steal second, he then scored on a slow ground ball through the shift from Keston Hiura that extended the lead to 4-2 at the time.

Think again to the dreaded 8th inning when Cubs pitcher Ryan Tepera was on the mound and the score was still 4-4. Tepera walked Jace Peterson with one out and was noticeably worried about him at first base. It was very apparent from the many pickoff attempts and long pauses that Tepera had Peterson on his mind. The Milwaukee baserunner didn’t attempt to steal this time because Tepera walked Hiura without much of a fight. The Cubs’ bullpen arm simply wasn’t able to focus on attacking hitters. Would Tepera have been as worried about Jace Peterson at first if Contreras was behind the plate? Probably not.

I would have preferred Willson Contreras getting the off day in Los Angeles before a long plane ride back to the midwest ahead of a super important series against the NL Central leading Milwaukee Brewers, rather than the other way around.

Follow me @JoeMarras on Twitter and let me know your thoughts!


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