Darwin Barney of the Chicago Cubs hits a RBI double as Gerald Laird of the Detroit Tigers looks on in their MLB game at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by John Gress/Getty Images)
This past week, the Cubs went 2-4 with one win against the Tigers and one win against the Red Sox. Last week I mentioned the draft and the Jorge Soler derby as two things I would be watching more closely than the actual games. While the Soler signing ended up preceding my post last Monday -- which was phenomenal news -- we have yet to hear many draft signings over the past week. The biggest news was that the Cubs agreed with high school pitcher Paul Blackburn, their 56th pick, on a $911,700 bonus. Jim Callis tweeted that Blackburn has a clean delivery, fastball between 90 and 94 MPH, and potentially three plus pitches. The Cubs also signed a number of their lower round picks, here's the link to a full list. For the second straight week I'm going to say: let's hope Albert Almora is a Cub come next week.
Runs Scored: 21 | Runs Scored per Game: 3.5 | Runs Allowed: 27 | Runs Allowed per Game: 4.5
Last week I pegged our losing week on our pitching, but this week the blame goes to the hitters. Three and a half runs a game is not going to win you many games. The pitchers, on the other hand, rebounded well. Aside from the one bad outing against the Tigers on Wednesday, they held the Tigers to eight runs over the other two games and the Red Sox to 11 runs over the three-game series. Consistency is something that the Cubs have had issues with in the past, and it's apparent that the problem persists.
The Three Most Important Plays
6/12 Bot 8, bases loaded with 2 outs, 3-3 Tie: Starlin Castro reaches on an error with a head first slide into first off Phil Coke, resulting in a .251 WPA. The Cubs had a 63.2% chance of winning the game prior to the at bat, and a 88.3% chance of winning the game after the at bat.
6/12 Top 7, bases loaded with 1 out, 3-1 Cubs: Austin Jackson singles off Casey Coleman to bring in the tying run, resulting in a -.223 WPA. In other words, we had a 66.1% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 43.8% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
6/14 Top 7, man at 2nd base with 2 outs, 2-2 Tie: Austin Jackson singles off Travis Wood to bring in the go-ahead run, resulting in a -.199 WPA. The Cubs had a 52.4% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 32.4% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
Most Valuable Cub Hitter*
Darwin Barney: Barney has been having a pretty good season thus far. The most encouraging developments have been his ability to draw more walks -- a 6.3 BB% compared to the 3.9 BB% he posted last year -- and hit for a little more power -- Barney's sporting a .401 SLG%, slightly higher than the .353 SLG% he posted last year. It will be interesting to see whether or not he can keep this up as the season progresses. I've never been high on Barney, but if he can maintain a walk rate close to 7% and can hit for a little more power, he may be a serviceable second basemen for the next couple of years.
Steve Clevenger: It was only five games, but Clevenger looks like he's right back to form. Clevenger picked up five hits, a couple of doubles, and a timely hit against the Red Sox this week. For me, the better news is the amount of playing time Clevenger's getting -- earlier this year Clevenger found himself on the bench frequently, even when Soto struggled. While some of that may have been trade value related, (the more time we gave Soto to get out of his funk, the more likely he would start hitting and, in the process, increase his trade value), it would have still been nice to see Clevenger get more playing time. With Soto out, there is no reason that Clevenger shouldn't be catching five or six of every seven games.
Most Valuable Cub Pitcher*
Ryan Dempster: What else is there to say about Dempster? It's getting to the point where I don't even have to look at the stats to dub him the pitcher of the week. Not only did he pitch a gem against the Red Sox, but he also gave some it some effort on the base paths to end up with a standing triple. Here are some incredible numbers for you: hitters are hitting .199 and slugging .301 against him. At the same time, Dempster has been extremely lucky -- his 83% LOB% is significantly higher than his 72% career rate, and his .235 BABIP is well below his career rate of .301. It goes without saying, but both are unsustainable in the long-run. Let's hope Theo and Jed can take advantage of this stretch of luck and that Dempster sustains this incredible level of skill and luck until the Cubs find a trading partner.
Least Valuable Cub Hitter*
Alfonso Soriano: One week after tearing the cover off the ball, Soriano seemed far removed from the player he was last week, but that's the Soriano that we're used to. We still have nearly six weeks left until the trade deadline, so there's still plenty of time for Soriano to get on one of his hot streaks, but you wish the hot streak from last week didn't end so early.
Least Valuable Cub Pitcher*
Matt Garza: After getting off to a fast start, Garza has seen his season performance come back down to earth. In his first seven starts, Garza was 2-1 with a 2.58 ERA. In his five starts since then, Garza is 0-4 with a 6.58 ERA. However, if we look at some of his peripherals, we can see that Garza's still throwing pretty well, and that he may just be getting unlucky. He's striking out 8.65 batters per nine, and walking only 1.73 batters per nine. His issues have started with the long ball: Garza has given up six home runs in the past 26 innings, and gave up only three in his first 45 innings pitched. It will be interesting to see how lucky or unlucky Garza is in his next few starts before the trade deadline -- it could have a huge impact on whether or not he gets traded.
Best and Worst Managerial Decisions
Unfortunately, with work during the week, I don't get the chance to catch enough of the games to come up with the best and worst managerial decisions. That said, I'd love to have you guys throw out some of your own suggestions.
Also, someone asked me to include the best BCB comments from each week, and while I think this is a great idea, I unfortunately don't have the time to do this. However, if anyone would like to nominate comments, and if I get enough nominations, I'll post them at the end of my weekly recaps. Feel free to send me an email -- you can find the link at the bottom of this page -- by Saturday with any nominations.
* The WPA for most and least valuable Cubs is the cumulative WPA over the course of the week.