Cubs' Willson Contreras In A Powerful Groove Early

Contreras homered twice in the Cubs' 5-1 win against the Angels on Friday.

Bruce Levine
April 12, 2019 - 5:55 pm
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CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- Launch angle has been a key factor in the home run crazy in MLB over the past half-decade or so.

The Cubs have embraced that as an organization, but there's at least one individual whom they prefer isn't too preoccupied with it. That would be catcher Willson Contreras, and Friday displayed why.

Contreras homered twice in the Cubs' 5-1 win against the Angels at Wrigley Field, and each was the product of a clean swing that didn't include an uppercut. He hit a 460-foot homer off Angels left-hander Tyler Skaggs in the first inning and later hit a 443-foot blast off righty reliever Noe Ramirez in the sixth inning. Their launch angles were 28 and 29 degrees, and manager Joe Maddon loved what he saw -- a player relying on his 

"No, no, no no launch angle," Maddon said of Contreras' swing. "He is a line-drive freak. He just has a flat swing through the zone and the ball goes up because he hits it so hard. When he does try the launch angle and he lays back, that is when he gets in trouble."

Related: Cole Hamels in control throughout in Cubs' win

Contreras was an All-Star in 2018 before slumping mightily in the second half, posting a weak .585 OPS. He believes those struggles are behind him, and he's off to a good start with five homers in his team's first 12 games. It was Contreras' fifth multi-homer game in his career.

"I really never lost the confidence and trust in myself," Contreras said. "What happened last year is behind me. We have a fresh start in 2019. My season began in the offseason. I put my mind and focus in the right place. When you try to make adjustments, good things happen."

So what's different now for Contreras?

"If you really break down his swing, he looks very much like he did when he was so hot in 2017," Maddon said. "That was the second half of 2017 when he got hurt. He looks exactly like that. He had a chance for 100 RBIs and 25 homers. That all went away with an injury (a hamstring strain that cost him a month). Physically and mechanically, he looks like he did then. This is a carryover from spring training."

With the wind blowing out to dead center, Contreras admitted he was tempted to use an uppercut swing Friday. Instead he stuck to his approach, and it worked out.

"It's really hard (to control the swing)," Contreras said. "That happened to me last year. Whenever I saw the wind blowing out, I wanted to try and hit a 1,000-foot homer. We know that didn't work out. It is hard to keep your focus with the wind blowing out. Sometimes, yes it is a little too hard for me."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.