The Cubs went 3-4 this week after winning two of three against the Astros and losing three of four against the Reds for the second straight week. Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters have continued to struggle, while Brooks Raley notched his first major league win. In other news, it was reported that Starlin Castro and the Cubs have agreed on a seven-year, $60 million deal that would keep Castro in Chicago through the 2019 season. The deal includes a club option for an eighth year at $16 million. While the deal has yet to be confirmed by the Cubs, it looks like all that's left is to draft the contract details according to mlbtraderumors.com.
Runs Scored: 34 | Runs Scored per Game: 4.86 | Runs Allowed: 37 | Runs Allowed per Game: 5.29
Here are the adjusted runs scored and runs allowed numbers for this week.
Competition Adjusted Runs Scored: 1.13 | Competition Adjusted Runs Allowed: 1.29
With this in mind, the Cubs were essentially 13 percent better than the average offense and 29 percent worse than the average pitching staff. As we can see from these adjusted metrics, the pitching really let the team down this week as the staff gave up five or more runs in five of the seven games. Cubs starters pitched 39⅔ of the 63 innings played this week, or 62 percent of the innings pitched. That's slightly down from last week's 65 percent.
The Three Most Important Plays
8/19 Bot 9, bases empty with no outs, 4-4 Tie: Xavier Paul triples off Shawn Camp to lead off the ninth inning for Cincinnati, resulting in a -.293 WPA. The Cubs had a 35.9% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 6.6% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
8/17 Bot 4, man at 1st base with no outs, 3-2 Cubs: Todd Frazier homers off Travis Wood to give the Reds the lead, resulting in a .207 WPA. The Cubs had a 52.2% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 31.5% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
8/14 Top 3, men at 1st and 2nd base with 1 out, 1-0 Astros: Brett Wallace homers off Chris Volstad to extend the Astros' early lead, resulting in a -.206 WPA. The Cubs had a 34.5% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 13.8% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
Most Valuable Cub Hitters*
David DeJesus: DeJesus broke out in a big way this past week. He hit his first home run since June 2 against the Giants, and then followed that up with another home run in the very next inning. In a span of two innings, DeJesus doubled his home run total for the year. DeJesus continued his power surge with a pinch-hit home run against the Reds in game two of the doubleheader. In sum, DeJesus got on base in 50 percent of his plate appearances. With Melky Cabrera out of the picture in San Francisco, DeJesus's recent hot streak may have come at just the right time.
Luis Valbuena: While Valbuena doesn't figure to be more than a utility player on a future Cubs team, he showed a mix of patience and power this week by clubbing four extra-base hits and drawing four walks in less than 20 plate appearances. Valbuena's recent streak has provided the Cubs offense with a much needed spark; however, it has also made it more difficult for Dale Sveum to play the struggling Vitters at third base. While Valbuena's hot streak will come to an end in the near future, it will be interesting to see how long Sveum's comfortable leaving Vitters on the bench.
Most Valuable Cub Pitcher*
Justin Germano: Germano had his longest outing of the season this week against the Astros, throwing 6⅓ innings of two-run ball. In his four starts with the Cubs, he has pitched 22 ⅓ innings, given up 24 base runners, and 10 earned runs -- good for a 4.03 ERA. While that's hardly impressive, Germano has done a decent job of both giving the Cubs at least five innings in each of his starts, and keeping them in the games he starts. He has also posted a 48.1% ground ball rate, which would be above the league average of 44%. Germano's ability to induce ground balls and avoid walks could lead to modest success over the course of the remainder of the year, and into next year as well. Shockingly, by the end of the year, Germano has a chance of becoming more valuable than either Travis Wood or Chris Volstad by FanGraphs WAR.
Least Valuable Cub Hitter*
Josh Vitters: In the 18 plate appearances that Vitters logged this week, he struck out six times, three of which were of the looking variety. Of the 12 remaining appearances, 11 resulted in an out, with the only hit being a ground ball to third base. It's fair to say that Vitters looks lost at the plate, even more so than Jackson. While Vitters makes a little more contact than Jackson, the majority of the contact is weak. The inconsistent playing time can't be helping -- usually one to get closer to 30 plate appearances a week, Vitters now has to settle for between 15 and 20. Vitters is about to turn 23 at the end of the month and could potentially spend another year at Triple-A before giving the majors another shot without being considered too old to be a future piece of the championship puzzle. That said, it looks like he has a long way to go before even becoming an everyday third baseman, much less a championship-caliber one.
Least Valuable Cub Pitcher*
Travis Wood: So much for the alternating good and bad months theory. Wood struggled mightily on the road in Cincinnati and showed us why the Reds were willing to part with his fly ball tendencies. Wood gave up three home runs in five innings, while only striking out three batters. He now boasts the second highest HR/9 rate in all of baseball, as he gives up 1.88 home runs per nine innings. Predictably, Wood has posted the eighth lowest ground ball rate (35.9%) and the ninth highest fly ball rate (41.9%) in baseball. That said, there is some hope: Wood had similarly skewed ground ball and fly ball rates in his impressive rookie season with the Reds in 2010. However, he was striking out one extra batter and walking one fewer batter per inning back then.
Please do keep the managerial decision comments coming - I think they're a great way to keep up to date on how people feel about Sveum's tenure thus far.
The Cubs head to Milwaukee to play a three game series that begins tonight, before heading back home to play a three-game set against the Rockies at Wrigley. Go Cubs!
* The WPA for most and least valuable Cubs is the cumulative WPA over the course of the week.