What You Need To Know: Despite a nearly two hour rain delay (fitting for team that had a rain delay play such a prominent role in it’s championship run), for the first time since 1909 the Cubs raised a World Series banner. If we’re going to be technical, the Cubs actually raised four banners, one each for their 1907 and 1908 titles, and one each for last year’s NL Pennant and World Series title. Because of this, the night had a feel that regardless of the outcome of the game, the banner raising was always going to be the main story. Thankfully for the remaining fans (and BP recappers) who waited out the rain and sat in the cold until quarter to one in the morning, the 2017 Cubs added the finishing touches to a night celebrating the 2016 Cubs, with Anthony Rizzo collecting his first RBI of the season in the bottom of the ninth as the Cubs walked it off against Kenley Jansen and the Dodgers.
Next Level: Willson Contreras’ catching ability behind the plate remains a work in progress, albeit one that is certainly improving over time. Unlike in the opening night loss against St. Louis where Jon Lester struggled to get through five innings (102 pitches), and the Lester-Contreras battery struggled to contain the Cardinals running game, tonight Lester was much sharper as he went six innings (100 pitches) giving up only one earned run on four hits.
Still it seemed like there were a number of pitches close to the strike zone that could have been called strikes and Lester did not get the calls.
To be clear, not all of this is on Willson Contreras’ pitch framing abilities; different umpires have different zones. But there were similar problems for Contreras last Friday when Brett Anderson made his debut when the Brewers were able to extend innings on pitches perhaps a better framer would have been able to get for strikes. By the Baseball Prospectus CSAA metric, among the fifty three catchers with at least 2500 framing chances in 2016, Willson Contreras ranked sixteenth (just behind former Cub David Ross), so there’s talent to work with back there. However, there definitely seems to be an adjustment period that is taking place between Contreras and Lester/Anderson, the two starters who he has virtually no experience catching. That’s perfectly acceptable for the first couple of weeks in the season, not so much in August/September – but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there if need be. Now since I don’t want you guys to think I’m a Debbie Downer about all things Willson Contreras check out this strike em throw him out executed to perfection between Willson and Javy.
Top WPA Play: Rizzo’s walkoff hit that plated John Jay (who pinch hit for Albert Almora – a nice Maddon move of playing the matchups) in the bottom of the ninth to win the game (+.373). Special mention to Justin Grimm escaping a bases loaded, no outs jam in the top of the seventh by getting Andrew Toles to ground into a 4-6-3 double play (+.283).
Bottom WPA Play: Corey Seager doubled home the Dodgers first run in the top of the sixth (-.206). Dishonorable mention to Addison Russell, whose Wainwright-esque throwing error while trying to turn two in the top of the eighth led to the Dodgers second run (-.101).
Next Up: The Cubs have the day off tomorrow (because April baseball is the worst) and return to action Wednesday night against the Dodgers. Probable starters are John Lackey and Brendan McCarthy. Be sure to check back to BP Wrigleyville for the recap!
Lead photo courtesy Dennis Wierzbicki—USA Today Sports