Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs hits a two-run home run against the Houston Astros at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
The Cubs went 5-1 this week -- their best week since I started putting these recaps together. The Cubs took two of three from a very good Mets team, and swept the Astros, who have fallen back to earth after being within a game of .500 at the end of May. The big news this week was Anthony Rizzo's Cubs debut, and he didn't disappoint. In his first game, he hit a go-ahead RBI-double that ended up being the game-winning hit. Keep reading for more on Rizzo.
In draft-related news, the Cubs didn't sign anyone this week. Of the 42 players the Cubs drafted, they have thus far signed 22. As I have done over the past couple of weeks, here's a link to a full list of draft signees. And finally, the Cubs now have 12 days to sign Albert Almora.
Runs Scored: 22 | Runs Scored per Game: 3.67 | Runs Allowed: 23 | Runs Allowed per Game: 3.83
Take out the one bad game against the Mets, and the Cubs pitching staff was tremendous this past week. 17-run meltdown aside, the Cubs gave up a combined six runs in five games. With the great pitching that the Cubs had this week, the offense didn't need to do much to win. While 3.7 runs a game isn't anything to write home about, it was enough given the quality of our pitching this week to win five out of six.
The Three Most Important Plays
6/30 Bot 5, man at 1st base with 2 outs, 2-1 Astros: Anthony Rizzo homers off J.A. Happ to give the Cubs the lead, resulting in a .314 WPA. The Cubs had a 36.5% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 68.0% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
6/25 Bot 4, man at 1st base with 2 outs, 0-0 Tie: Joe Mather homers off Johan Santana to break a scoreless tie, resulting in a .243 WPA. The Cubs had a 52.8% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 77.1% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
6/27 Top 4, man at 3rd base with 2 outs, 2-1 Mets: Daniel Murphy homers off Jeff Samardzija to extend the Mets' lead, resulting in a -.185 WPA. The Cubs had a 37.9% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 19.4% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
Most Valuable Cub Hitter*
Anthony Rizzo: I couldn't be more excited to see Rizzo in this spot. I was really hoping that the games would work out in a way that allowed Rizzo the chance to come up in key situations, and they did. In the five games that he played, Rizzo knocked in the go-ahead run in three of the games, and in each of those games, his go-ahead hit ended up being the game winning hit. Here's to many, many more.
Most Valuable Cub Pitcher*
Travis Wood: When Ryan Dempster gets back from the DL, Travis might give him all he can handle when it comes to winning this title every week. Wood has claimed the most valuable Cub pitcher award for the second straight week and had an even better week this week than last, as he threw 14.2 innings of shutout baseball, and is currently on a consecutive scoreless innings streak of 19.1innings. In his last six starts, Wood has thrown 39.1 innings, given up 41 base runners, and 8 earned runs, which is good for a 1.81 ERA. While the Sean Marshall trade wasn't looking too good in spring training, it looks a lot better now.
Least Valuable Cub Hitter*
Starlin Castro: While Castro had trouble hitting his way on base this week, he did get on base via the walk five times this week. To put that in perspective for you, Castro only walked seven times in his first 72 games. He nearly doubled his walk total in a week. Last week, I mentioned how concerning Starlin's walk totals have been -- maybe this is the start of an important trend in Castro's development.
Least Valuable Cub Pitcher*
Jeff Samardzija: There's something wrong with Samardzija. In the past four starts, he has thrown only 18.1 innings and given up 36 base runners, 4 home runs, and 25 earned runs. In the eleven starts before this stretch, Samardzija was averaging over 6 innings a start, and gave up only 5 home runs in nearly 70 innings pitched. Digging a little deeper, one of the culprits may be Samardzija's inability to produce as many swings-and-misses. He has induced swings-and-misses on 8.2% of his pitches in his past four starts. In his first eleven starts, he was getting swings-and-misses on 12.5% of his pitches. Teams have likely developed a much better scouting report on Samardzija after watching him dominate for his first ten or so starts, and hitters have adjusted. It's now Jeff's turn to adjust. Whether or not he can will determine how valuable he is as a starter moving forward.
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 in the comments. Thanks to those who commented last week!
Feel free to send me an email with the best BCB comments of the past week -- you can find a link to my email at the bottom of this page. I didn't receive any emails this past week, but please do consider doing this over the course of the next week -- given the level of wit that is usually showcased on this site, I'm sure there are a number that deserve to be here.
Congrats to Bryan LaHair and Starlin Castro on making the All-Star team. After putting so much time and effort to be a productive big-league first baseman, this has to be a great moment for LaHair.
The Cubs will travel to Atlanta for a four game set before they head to New York to play the Mets in the last series of the first half. Go Cubs!
* The WPA for most and least valuable Cubs is the cumulative WPA over the course of the week.