MVP

The most mind-boggling facts about Willson Contreras' monster day

The most mind-boggling facts about Willson Contreras' monster day

Maybe the Cubs ought to think about having a Willson Contreras bobblehead day more often.

On the day fans at Wrigley Field received a tiny plastic Contreras figurine, the Cubs catcher went BIG in real life in the first game of the 2018 Crosstown series.

Contreras hit a grand slam in the first inning, picked a runner off second base and then proceeded to hammer another homer and two doubles to finish with a career-high 7 RBI.

It's days like these why I was all aboard the Contreras MVP bandwagon before the season

And it's weeks like these why so many people have valid arguments that Contreras is the best catcher in baseball right now.

Friday's performance in the Cubs' 11-2 victory over the White Sox was certainly legendary, but Contreras had a game to remember Wednesday, too, collected two triples and a double while scoring a pair of runs and driving in one.

He woke up Wednesday morning with a .230 batting average, .315 on-base percentage and .354 slugging percentage (.669 OPS). Two games later, he now boasts a .268/.343/.488 slash line with an .831 OPS. 

Yes, over the course of just two games, Contreras raised his season OPS 162 full points.

He's also the only Cub ever to collect seven extra-base hits in a two-game span (research goes back to the 1913 season).

"I think we all knew it was coming," Friday's Cubs starter Tyler Chatwood said. "It was just a matter of time before he broke through a little bit."

Contreras can't point to anything specific behind his big game.

"I just think that it's part of the game," he said. "Baseball is one of ups and downs and it was just a matter of getting in the right rhythm. I think of the beginning of this year to that of last year, I'm not expecting myself to have the same start to every season, but it's just a matter of making adjustments necessary on the field."

Here are more mind-boggling facts on Contreras' monster game:

FanGraphs rated him as worth .4 WAR just for the one game:

You'd have to go back to 2006 to find a game this good from any Cubs hitter:

It might be the best Crosstown performance ever:

So what led to such an explosive game from the Cubs catcher?

"He's just good," Joe Maddon said. "When a guy's good, if he's not hurt, I think he's eventually gonna show up. You know how hard he is on himself. He's getting the ball on the barrel. ... I just think it was a matter of time."

So it had nothing to do with his bobblehead?

"You know what? I didn't even realize that," Maddon joked, "but more than anything I just said, that's absolutely correct. It had everything to do with the bobblehead."

Another wild twist in the Derrick Rose saga

derrick_rose.jpg
USA TODAY

Another wild twist in the Derrick Rose saga

We may have seen the last of Derrick Rose on a basketball court. 

According to ESPN's Dave McMenamin and Adrian Wojnarowski, the point guard, who's currently recovering from ankle injury, is away from the Cavaliers organization and contemplating his future in basketball: 

The news may come as a shock considering Rose is still only 29 years old, but the Chicago native has experienced triumphant highs and depressing lows like few others in league history. Undoubtedly, that's taken a toll. 

From youngest MVP in league history to injury-prone backup, the former No. 1 pick of the Bulls has seen it all in his nine-year career. And just last season in New York, his passion for the game was called into question after missing a game without informing coaches, players or staff to attend to a family issue. 

He decided to team up with LeBron James in Cleveland last offseason -- a move that nobody could have predicted five years ago -- on a veteran's minimum contract, and averaged 14.3 points before, you guessed it, being forced to sit with injury. 

Fred Hoiberg, who coached Rose for one season in Chicago, weighed in before Friday's Bulls-Warriors game: 

If Rose ultimately decides to step away for good, eerie parallels can be drawn to Doug Collins' NBA stint. Collins didn't have quite the upside Rose had, but he was a three-time All-Star before foot and knee injuries cut his career short at, yes, also 29. 

It's another sad twist in the Derrick Rose Story. He may be the greatest 'What if' in NBA history. 

How Theo Epstein sees Chili Davis making a difference for Cubs

chilidavisredsox.jpg
USA TODAY

How Theo Epstein sees Chili Davis making a difference for Cubs

The Cubs can’t send Chili Davis out to face Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw, but team president Theo Epstein believes his presence will help the franchise’s young hitters next October.

Those pronounced playoff struggles against the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers — on top of the way the New York Mets power pitchers overwhelmed the Cubs during that 2015 National League Championship Series sweep — led to a major shakeup of Joe Maddon’s coaching staff.

Firing hitting coach John Mallee isn’t really about what he didn’t do, because he worked nonstop across the last three years, overseeing an offense that actually scored more runs this season than the 2016 World Series team.

It’s more the instant credibility that Davis brings as a switch-hitter who made three All-Star teams and earned World Series rings with the 1991 Minnesota Twins and the last New York Yankees dynasty (1998-99).

Epstein initially brought Davis into the Boston Red Sox organization, hiring him as an overqualified hitting coach for Triple-A Pawtucket in 2011, the last season before sweeping changes would hit Fenway Park.

Davis spent the next six years as the big-league hitting coach for the Oakland A’s and Red Sox, working with players like Josh Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi.

“Chili’s well-established as one of the very best hitting coaches in the game,” Epstein said after Thursday’s staff announcements. “His philosophy and approach happened to fit with what we hope will be the next step for many of our hitters. We talked after the season about hoping to get better with situational hitting, with our two-strike approach, with using the whole field, with having competitive, team-based at-bats.

“That happens to be Chili’s core philosophy — hitting line drives to the middle of the field. Your line drives will turn into home runs. He’s excellent at teaching a two-strike approach and teaching situational hitting. He’s really good at helping to get hitters to understand when an elite pitcher’s on his game, you have to sometimes take what he gives you, and have an adjustable swing, an adjustable approach for those situations.

“He’s got the gravitas of a 19-year career, 350 homers, over 1,300 RBIs. That combined with his excellent manner and ability to communicate with players makes him a really impactful figure.”

Mallee — who grew up as the son of a Chicago cop and graduated from Mount Carmel High School — brought stability to a position that used to have the job security of the drummer for Spinal Tap.

The Cubs wanted Mallee’s data-driven approach and the ability to explain heat maps and cold zones and how pitchers would attack each at-bat. Mallee also gave the Cubs a very accurate scouting report on Dexter Fowler before making that January 2015 trade with the Houston Astros.

During Mallee’s tenure, Kris Bryant became the fourth player in major-league history to be named MVP the season after winning Rookie of the Year honors. Ian Happ kept making enough adjustments to hit 24 home runs during his rookie season (with only 26 games of experience at Triple-A Iowa). Javier Baez made great strides this year — 23 homers, 75 RBI, .796 OPS — before an 0-for-20 tailspin to start the playoffs.

In one way, the Cubs even endorsed Mallee’s methods by promoting minor-league hitting coordinator Andy Haines to work with Davis as the assistant hitting coach. Mallee and Haines have a Miami connection after working in the Marlins organization.

“I would like to thank the Chicago Cubs for the amazing opportunity to be part of a great tradition and organization for the last three years,” Mallee wrote in a statement. “I left a great Houston Astros organization to be closer to home with my family and to help my hometown team win a World Series.

“We did that. I have no regrets and stand by my work. I wish nothing but the best for the Cubs organization and all the amazing people I met along the way, especially my hitters. See you from across the field.”

When the Cubs talk up their culture and the first-class organization they’ve built, there’s also an unspoken, underlying coldness to it all, even while making justifiable decisions. The Cubs publicly hailed Ricky Renteria basically up to the moment Maddon opted out of his contract with the Tampa Bay Rays and someone better came along.

Whether or not that will always be sustainable, Davis does have a great resume, no doubt. The Cubs are hoping Davis can help salvage the $184 million investment in Jason Heyward and rewire an offense that ranked last in batting average (.168) and on-base percentage (.240) among the 10-team playoff field. Outside of that unforgettable 9-8 thriller at Nationals Park, the Cubs scored 16 runs in nine postseason games.

“John Mallee is an outstanding hitting coach and we would not be in the position we’re in now with rings on our finger without him,” Epstein said. “Chili just happens to be, in our opinion, uniquely qualified for this group, at this moment in time, to help us get to the next level.”