Another week, another handful of close losses for the Cubs. Of their five defeats over the previous seven days, two came in extra innings and two more came by two runs or less. This continues a trend that has been on full display all season. Despite having a strong bullpen, typically a hallmark of teams that can win close games, the Cubs just haven’t been able to hold on or come back late.
Let’s take a look at the individual performances that have added up to a challenging week for a team that just can’t find its own way.
Willson Contreras: He continues to be the hottest hitter on the team and has been the best offensive catcher in baseball. His season has been strong from start to finish, but this last week has been his best yet. Over the past seven games, Contreras is batting .400/.545/.840 with six walks and three home runs over 31 plate appearances.
One of those home runs got the Cubs started early in Thursday’s opener against the Cardinals.
Willson Contreras has homered in 3 of his last 4 games! pic.twitter.com/CpFr0MnG92
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) June 3, 2022
It’s getting hard to come up with new things to say about Contreras, who has grown into a leader on the box score and in the clubhouse. Despite that, he is very likely to be traded. While many, myself included, have largely come around on last season’s trio of deadline trades, one need only to glance around the league to see that it is far from easy to replicate the kind of production that the Cubs are currently getting at catcher.
Keegan Thompson: I was among those who thought moving Thompson to the starting rotation was a needless risk given how much value he was providing in relief. When something is working so well, why mess with it?
Well, this is why. Over 19.1 innings pitched over four starts, Thompson has gone 3-0 with a 2.79 ERA. In those 19.1 innings, he’s struck out 13 and walked six. The team really couldn’t ask for more than Thompson has given and his development will be one of the main storylines to follow for the rest of the 2022 season.
Nick Madrigal: Nothing at all is falling Nick Madrigal‘s way in his first season as a Cub. Madrigal is hitting .222/.267/.253 over the season and somehow, the eye test makes it seem like he’s been even worse.
Madrigal’s value was never supposed to come from power, but it remains surprising just how little he’s had. The second baseman has yet to record a “barrel” a ball this year, as defined by an exit velocity of at least 98 mph. It’s not good.
With David Bote set to return from the injured list later this week, there is a non-zero chance that the Cubs will give Madrigal a chance to reset and figure things out in Des Moines.