As bad as the Cubs have been this year, the Cardinals have been worse. Part of the reason for those struggles is the poor performance of their big offseason acquisition, a man who kept talking about how it was a dream to fill the shoes of Yadier Molina in St. Louis. Willson Contreras has already been involved in a little controversy after behind removed and reinstated from catching duties, which was reportedly the result of his starters’ lack of trust in him.
It’s not entirely surprising that Contreras ran into issues with his new pitching staff, particularly given his questionable preparation tactics, but his production at the plate typically made up for those shortcomings. Through 249 plate appearances in a Cardinals uniform, Contreras is batting .201 with a career-worst 82 wRC+ and just 0.3 fWAR.
He’s 5-for-59 with two homers in his last 18 games and the Cards are sitting two games behind the hapless Cubs for last place in the division. The only thing keeping me from enjoying this any more than I am is the fear that this will preface a turnaround over the summer that we’ll never hear the end of. Things sure don’t look like they’re turning around very soon, however.
“This is my first time since I’ve been in the big leagues that I have struggled this bad,” Contreras told MLB.com’s John Denton. “I think I’ve lost my confidence and I lost my trust, and lost the trust that I came into the season with. It just went away.
“I don’t think, I know I have to keep going. Right now, I have to find ways to get myself going. I’ve been hitting the ball hard, but right to people. That’s something that is out of my control, but man, I just have to keep playing hard one play at a time and be the best that I can for the team and my teammates.”
I’m not saying this is karmic retribution for anything because that would just be silly, but Contreras seems to be hinting at the idea that perhaps there’s something to the idea of getting a little comeuppance.
“Man, it’s been really hard, like a roller coaster,” the catcher said. “I don’t know if baseball is trying to show me something I’m not seeing or maybe I just need to look at it a different way.”
My long-held concern with Contreras was that his reliance on athleticism over rigorous preparation would result in a steep drop-off at some point in his early 30s. While plenty of time remains for him to right the ship this season and into the future, this disappointing performance seems like an indication that he hasn’t embraced a change in philosophy just yet. Or maybe it’s a sign that the Cardinals’ devil magic has finally worn off.
Either way, it’s nice to see them keeping the Cubs out of the cellar.