The essence of cool: Alfonso Soriano of the Cubs rounds the bases after hitting a two-run homer during interleague play at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
NOTE FROM AL: Please welcome Naveen Nallappa as a front-page contributor to BCB. He started writing these weekly wraps as FanPosts when the 2012 season began. They were well written, with good detail on the week just completed, so I'm adding them to our front page. They'll be posted generally every Monday afternoon.
Before I begin, I wanted to thank Al for allowing me to contribute to the front page of the site. It's been a while since I posted, but I'm excited to say that I've committed to putting these recaps together on a weekly basis for your viewing pleasure.
The last time I wrote one of these the Cubs had come off of two winning series against the Cardinals and the Phillies. The Cubs were 8-14 at that point in time, which was bad, but not awful, especially considering their previous six games. Unfortunately, they've gone 12-26 since. This past week, they went 2-5 with one win against each of the Brewers and Twins. While I still watch as many games as I can, I'm more focused on the draft - who signs and for how much - and the Soler derby. Let's hope Albert Almora and Jorge Soler are Cubs by the time next week's recap is posted.
Runs Scored: 33 | Runs Scored per Game: 4.71 | Runs Allowed: 36 | Runs Allowed per Game: 5.14
Another losing week comes primarily as a result of poor pitching. Aside from Ryan Dempster, no Cub starting pitcher pitched past the sixth inning. Not only was it the starting pitching, though -- the bullpen blew a couple of late leads at Milwaukee and Minnesota. While the offense put up some crooked numbers on the scoreboard over the course of the week, they scored three or fewer runs in four of the seven games. A volatile offense combined with poor pitching will almost always lead to a losing week.
The Three Most Important Plays
6/8 Bot 9, man at 1st base with 0 outs, 7-6 Cubs: Justin Morneau triples off Shawn Camp, scoring the tying run, resulting in a -.605 WPA. The Cubs had a 67.3% chance of winning the game prior to the at bat, and a 6.8% chance of winning the game after the at bat.
6/7 Top 8, man at 1st base with 2 outs, 2-1 Brewers: Bryan LaHair homers on a fly ball to left field off Francisco Rodriguez to bring in the tying and go-ahead runs, resulting in a .529 WPA. In other words, we had a 18.6% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 71.5% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
6/8 Top 8, man at 1st base with 0 outs, 6-5 Twins: Alfonso Soriano homers off Glen Perkins to bring in the tying and go-ahead runs, resulting in a .420 WPA. The Cubs had a 33.4% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 75.4% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
Most Valuable Cub Hitter*
Alfonso Soriano: Soriano's hot streak could not come at a better time -- his recent performance has to have some teams at least considering a trade for him. Since teams can essentially have him for free, I think that Theo and Jed will find some team desperate for power to trade with.
Bryan LaHair: LaHair seems to have a knack for hitting big home runs, and did it coming off the bench this past Thursday. While I can somewhat understand Sveum's decision to play Jeff Baker, I would rather see LaHair get more chances to hit against left-handed pitchers. I'll discuss this in a little more detail below.
Most Valuable Cub Pitcher*
Dempster has continued to pitch extremely well. He finally got his first win this season against the Brewers on Tuesday, and then picked up his second win yesterday. In his two starts, he pitched 15 innings and gave up zero runs and only 8 base runners. Dempster has benefited from a little luck -- he's sporting a 79.9 LOB% this season, which is well above his career mark of 72.0% -- but these things can stick with a pitcher for season-long stretches. You have to believe Theo and Jed are fielding calls on Dempster, so all you Dempster fans out there should probably try and watch his next few starts -- they may be his last as a Cub.
Least Valuable Cub Hitter*
Steve Clevenger: It's a shame that Clevenger got injured when he did -- when we last saw him he was hitting balls all over the field and pushing Geovany Soto for playing time. After a few weeks on the disabled list, Clevenger has struggled mightily. Here's all we need to know: he had as many hits as Koyie Hill had, but in more than twice the number of at bats. Let's hope that this performance is the anomaly rather than the one we saw from him earlier in the season.
Least Valuable Cub Pitcher*
Shawn Camp: He came into the ninth inning of a one-run game and gave up a single and a triple, and then got out of a man-on-3rd-with-no-outs jam. Unfortunately, Camp came back out for the 10th, gave up a walk, a single, and another single to give the Twins the win. I considered putting Samardzija here, but gave him the pass given how solid he's been over the course of the season. Plus, he pitched a decent game against the Giants that could have turned out differently had Starlin Castro remembered how many outs there were.
Best Managerial Decision
To be honest, I don't have one, and that is not me bashing Dale Sveum. I don't feel strongly either way about him, but I do think we need to give him at least the rest of this season, if not another year, before we evaluate him. Sure, he's made a lot of questionable calls, but most managers make mistakes. Plus, this is his first year managing, so he's had to struggle with a learning curve. I'm interested in how he manages the upcoming crop of talent, more than the on-field decisions he has made. I want to see how he deals with Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson when they struggle or when they make mistakes. To me, this is much more important than the decisions that he has made in these first few months, especially considering how woefully lost the season has been. That said, if Sveum continues to make the same mistakes next year, I would definitely be disappointed in Theo and Jed's judgment. Finally, let's remember how talent-deprived this team is -- managers can only do so much.
Worst Managerial Decision
I can understand that Sveum is trying to win games, and that playing Baker at first base should, according to historical numbers, be a better bet than playing LaHair. However, I think Sveum still needs to give LaHair a chance, especially since Baker hasn't exactly been crushing lefties, (79 wRC+). LaHair is an interesting trade candidate, and could gain some value if he can show teams that he can hit lefties. Thus far, LaHair has been awful, (32 wRC+), but he's only gotten 32 plate appearances against lefties over the course of the season, which is way too few to come to any conclusions. If he's given a chance and he continues to hit lefties poorly, I don't think his trade value will fall much; however, if he does start hitting lefties, then his trade value can really start to climb just in time for the deadline.
* The WPA for most and least valuable Cubs is the cumulative WPA over the course of the week.