Every Cubs player had a leather vest hanging in their locker Saturday evening, a new addition in advance of the "Easy Rider" themed road trip to the West Coast beginning Monday.
On those vests contained the nickname for each player as the nameplate on the left breast, things like "Schwarbs" for Kyle Schwarber or "Q" for Jose Quintana.
On Willson Contreras' vest, the word "Killer" spread across the left side.
Yep, that's Contreras' nickname within the Cubs clubhouse, apparently. It came from Jon Lester and Cubs strength coach Tim Buss (who engineered all the leather vests).
But why "Killer"?
"Because of the way I play and the way I look at people on the field," Contreras said, almost bashfully.
Opposing pitchers would have to agree.
Contreras is on an absolutely surreal run right now, leading baseball with 27 RBI since the All-Star Break (tied with Colorado's Nolan Arenado) after three more runs knocked in during Saturday's 7-4 win over the Nationals.
In 21 gms since All-Star Break, Willson Contreras is hitting .370 with a 1.141 OPS, 8 HR and 27 RBI.— Cubs Talk (@CSNCubs) August 5, 2017
But Contreras' epic summer actually began earlier than the midseason break, dating back to June 18.
The 25-year-old catcher woke up that mid-June morning hitting .244 with a .708 OPS, five homers and 28 RBI.
Fast forward seven weeks and those numbers now sit at .279, .861, 19 and 68, respectively. He's raised his average 35 points, his OPS 153 points and has driven in 40 runs in 39 games (35 starts) while crushing 14 homers.
"I've been locked in throughout my career in the minor leagues, but not at this level," Contreras said. "Just simplifying things, doing simple things. I think that's the key."
Case in point:
District of Contreras. pic.twitter.com/Zz2SI9bk7N— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 5, 2017
What's even more impressive is Contreras has done this while playing the most demanding position on a daily basis during the hottest time of the year.
"He understands himself; he knows his swing," said veteran backstop Alex Avila, who also homered Saturday. "It doesn't seem like he gets tired. That's nice being that age.
"He's got tremendous ability and has an idea how to use it. ... As he gets older, he's gonna notice some things about himself and about the league and his baseball IQ will only go up from here."
Even on what is supposed to be an off-day, Cubs manager Joe Maddon couldn't possibly rationalize taking Contreras' bat out of the lineup, so he bumped him from catcher to left field for one afternoon.
Saturday's monster showing now puts Contreras on pace for 28 homers and 101 RBI in only 480 at-bats.
Those numbers are simply staggering for a catcher. No backstop has driven in 100 runs since Victor Martinez in 2004 (101).
Buster Posey drove in 103 runs in 2012, but he also played 29 games at first base that year and only 111 behind the plate.
#Cubs getting more HR & RBI from Catcher this season (23 HR, 71 RBI) than any other position except first base (27, 72)— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 5, 2017
In fact, Contreras is off to a similar start to his career as Martinez and Miguel Cabrera among Venzuelan-born players:
And Contreras has also done it in a premium spot in the lineup, settling in as the No. 4 hitter now behind Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo:
Willson Contreras: 11 HR in 25 starts in the #4 spot in the order this season #Cubs— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 5, 2017
He's been a one-man wrecking crew:
Take any stretch of games and his numbers just looks insane:
Willson Contreras July 1- present (27 gms)— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 5, 2017
.343/.412/.686, 17 Runs, 10 HR, 30 RBI#Cubs
It's still only the first week of August and any talk of Contreras being the NL MVP is a little overblown right now.
But with these last seven weeks, he's at least earned a spot in the conversation.