Runs Scored: 19 | Runs Scored per Game: 3.17 | Runs Allowed: 16 | Runs Allowed per Game: 2.67
The Cubs first winning week comes as a result of some extremely good starting pitching. The starters pitched 36.2 innings out of the 54 we played, averaging a shade over 6 innings per start. They gave up 33 base runners, (23 hits and 10 walks), 11 earned runs, and recorded 30 strikeouts. If you take Randy's poor start out of the mix, the results are even more staggering: 33 innings pitched, 20 hits, 6 walks, 27 strikeouts, and 7 earned runs. The starting staff recorded more strikeouts than base runners allowed. Let's hope this isn't an anomaly.
The Three Most Important Plays
4/23 Bot 9, man at 2nd and 3rd base with 2 outs, 2-1 Cardinals: Joe Mather singles off Jason Motte scoring the tying and go-ahead runs, resulting in a .765 WPA. The Cubs had a 23.5% chance of winning the game prior to the at bat, and a 100.0% chance of winning the game after the at bat.
4/24 Top 8, man at 1st base with 2 outs, 1-0 Cubs: Matt Holliday homers on a fly ball to left center field off Carlos Marmol to bring in the tying and go-ahead runs, resulting in a -.536 WPA. The Cubs had a 81.6% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 28.1% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
4/24 Bot 9, bases empty with 0 outs, 2-1 Cardinals: Bryan LaHair homers on a fly ball to left center field off Mark Rzepczynski to tie the game, resulting in a .441 WPA. In other words, we had a 19.0% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 63.1% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
Most Valuable Cub Hitter*
Bryan LaHair: LaHair hit two game-tying home runs this past week. He hit one against Motte in the bottom of the ninth, and one the following day against Lynn in the bottom of the fourth. Just as importantly, LaHair continues to show some patience at the plate - taking three more walks in 22 plate appearances, a very healthy 13.6% walk rate. LaHair now has 10 walks in 70 plate appearances, and is tied with DeJesus for most walks on the team. On an aside, the Cubs now have 58 walks on the season, which is good for 5th worst in the major leagues, (the major league leading Indians have 101).
Joe Mather: Mather only collected nine plate appearances over the course of the week, but he made them count. He won last Monday's game with his walk-off single and homered in Sunday's win.
Most Valuable Cub Pitcher*
Matt Garza: Garza pitched like an ace this past week. In his two starts, he pitched 14 innings, and essentially had only one bad inning in which he gave up two runs. Aside from that inning, he pitched 13 scoreless ones. Aside from his one bad start in Miami, Garza has thrown 28 2/3 innings, allowed 13 hits, 7 walks, 4 runs, and recorded 29 strikeouts in his four other starts. I wonder if how closely Detriot is watching Garza's starts.
Jeff Samardzija: Samardzija bounced back well from a couple of bad starts with a solid outing against the Cardinals. Samardzija had an up-and-down month of April, with two good/excellent starts, and two bad/awful starts. If I get some time over the next couple of weeks, I'd like to do a bit of research on his four April starts and see if there is anything that he did differently in his successful starts versus his unsuccessful starts.
Least Valuable Cub Hitter*
Ian Stewart: After showing some promise earlier in the season, Stewart had a rough week. His only hit was the double in Saturday's game off Halladay to put the Cubs up 3-0. That said, there is one positive that I gleaned from this past week: Stewart only struck out four times in his 20 plate appearances.
Least Valuable Cub Pitcher*
Carlos Marmol: At some point Marmol may need to be sent down to AAA to work on his slider. He's just not throwing it as well, and that has really affected his ability to induce weak contact as well as swings-and-misses. Marmol's career swinging strike rate stands at 11.1%; this year, it's at 6.7%. Without his slider, he's lost his ability to strike out hitters at the incredible rates that we are used to. His strikeout rate stands at 7.04 K/9 right now, which is significantly lower than his 2011 rate of 12.04 K/9, and even lower than his 2010 rate of 15.99 K/9.
Best Managerial Decision
Sveum has begun letting relievers pitch multiple innings. This is something that Al was pleading for earlier in the season, and it looks like Sveum has finally begun to do it. He left Rafael Dolis in to pitch more than one inning twice this past week: once against the Cardinals on Monday and again against the Phillies on Friday. Dolis responded by posting solid outings in both situations.
While I wouldn't always choose to let a reliever throw multiple innings, the point is to not pull relievers just because they've already pitched an inning. In other words, if their pitch count is relatively low and there aren't any huge strategic advantages you can get by going with another bullpen arm, then the manager should leave the reliever in for the second inning.
Worst Managerial Decision
While the increase in the number of attempted steals has been exciting and refreshing, it's slightly concerning that Castro was only successful in half of his steal attempts this past week. Data has shown that stolen bases aren't worth the risk unless you are successful 75% of the time. Over the course of the season, Castro has stolen 10 of 13 bases, which is still above that threshold, but my concern is that Sveum has let Castro's early successes affect his number of steal attempts.
* The WPA for most and least valuable Cubs is the cumulative WPA over the course of the week.
An aside: Apologies for skipping last week's recap. I had midterms last week and didn't have any time to draw up a recap.