Willson Contreras enters Sunday’s game against Baltimore with a 108 wRC+ and a .341 wOBA. If this pace continues, he could be worth more than 4 WAR by the end of the year. The jubilant Cubs catcher is having success perhaps due to an adjustment he made sometime in mid-June. Since then, he’s hit to a .438 wOBA in over 90 plate appearances.
What change was that, you ask? The best way I can describe it is that he’s adopted a miniature toe-tap and crouch thing when the pitcher gears back. Before this change, Contreras used a controlled, modest leg kick as a trigger.
Below are four vidoes illustrating the change. The first is his last homer before making an adjustment. The second and third videos show the change he made, and the last footage is a side-by-side comparison.
Video #1: Homer against Dodgers on May 28 (pre-change)
Video #2: Bomb against Padres on June 19 (post-change)
Video #3: Most recent homer against Kevin Gausman (post-change)
Video #4: Side-by-side comparison of pre-change vs post-change
Contreras’ pre-pitch movement is actually eerily similar to another Venezuelan slugger, Miguel Cabrera. WARNING: I’m not saying Contreras is going to go out there rocking like one of the generation’s best hitters. What I am saying is that the mini toe-tap/crouch moves are almost mirror images of one another.
Adding more movement to a swing is probably not advisable for most hitters, but each player is unique. Cabrera certainly benefits from the small pre-pitch hitch. For Contreras, this change has contributed to more homers and a roughly 73 percent contact rate, which is better than his career mark of around 70 percent. Whether the increase in movement is useful over a large sample is yet to be determined, but, for the the time being, it seems to be working.