Cubs Weekly Recap: September 3 Through September 9

Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano hits a solo home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

The Cubs went 3-4 this week after getting swept by the Nationals and sweeping the Pirates. The Rockies trimmed the Cubs lead to 2½ games for the #2 pick in the 2013 draft. Yes, you gain ground by losing -- in a rough season, it's something worth watching. There are at least a few players on this team that are more exciting to watch than the reverse standings, so it's not all gloom and doom.

Runs Scored: 29 | Runs Scored per Game: 4.14 | Runs Allowed: 38 | Runs Allowed per Game: 5.43

Competition Adjusted Runs Scored: 1.09 | Competition Adjusted Runs Allowed: 1.24

The Cubs were 9% better than the average offense and 24% worse than the average pitching staff. While the pitching logged another subpar week, the staff did throw well in Pittsburgh, only surrendering seven runs in the entire series. Cubs starters pitched 37 of the 63 innings played this week, or 59% of the innings pitched. That's the first time since I've been tracking this number that we've fallen below 60%, and this week's number even included the first complete game of the season.

The Three Most Important Plays

9/9 Top 8, man at 1st base with no outs, 2-2 Tie: Alfonso Soriano homers off Jason Grilli to give the Cubs the lead, resulting in a .311 WPA. The Cubs had a 56.9% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and an 88.0% chance of winning the game after his at bat.

9/8 Top 8, men at 1st and 2nd base with 2 outs, 3-3 Tie: David DeJesus singles off Jason Grilli to give the Cubs the lead, resulting in a .279 WPA. The Cubs had a 48.7% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 76.6% chance of winning the game after his at bat.

9/6 Bot 2, men at 1st and 2nd base with 1 out, 2-1 Cubs: Kurt Suzuki homers off Justin Germano to give the Nationals the lead, resulting in a -.278 WPA. The Cubs had a 52.7% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 24.9% chance of winning the game after his at bat.

Most Valuable Cub Hitters

Alfonso Soriano: After three years of poor performances, it's been great to see Soriano round back into decent form. As I mentioned last week, he's on pace to post his 3rd best season with the Cubs and with a slight boost over the next couple of weeks, Soriano could even surpass his 2008 season. This year, Soriano has been worth $16.1 million according to FanGraphs. He's set to earn $19 million this year -- including his prorated signing bonus -- and for only the second time in his tenure, could be worth his salary. According to most accounts Soriano is the consummate teammate and is one of Dave McKay's two favorite teammates, the other being Rafael Furcal. It's great to once again see his performance fall in line with his energy and enthusiasm.

Anthony Rizzo: While there have been stretches when he has struggled, Rizzo has been great in the nearly 70 games he's been with the major league team. According to wRC+ -- which measures how a player's offensive output compares with the league average -- Rizzo has been 19% better than the league average player. Here are a couple of other players who are also about 19% better than league average: Carlos Beltran, Derek Jeter, and Mark Teixeira. While they're not having their best years, that's still good company for a 23 year-old.

Starlin Castro: While this season will likely end up being the worst of his young career, there are still some positive takeaways from his season: he's transformed from a very poor defender to a league average defender, has hit for significantly more power, and just collected his 500th hit at age 22.

While there are concerns -- primarily his lack of patience -- let's not forget how special Castro is. Let's do some math here to illustrate an example of why he's so special. He reached the 500 hit milestone in 421 games. If Castro can keep up this pace for the next ten years, and plays 150 games a season, he will have close to 2,300 hits before his age 33 season, and that's assuming that he won't improve at all. Barring injuries and a sudden decline in performance, Castro could notch his 3,000th hit in his age 36 season -- that's special.

Most Valuable Cub Pitcher

Jeff Samardzija: Samardzija went out in style by posting one of his best back-to-back start performances of the year. He limited a potent Nationals offense to essentially one baserunner an inning, struck out eight, and gave up one run. He followed that up with the first complete game of his career, and the first of the season for the Cubs, giving up only five base runners and striking out nine batters.

Samardzija proved all his doubters wrong this season by posting some remarkable numbers in his first year as a starter. He is currently the 13th best pitcher in the National League according to FanGraphs' WAR, within a couple tenths of a WAR of Cole Hamels, Madison Bumgarner, and Matt Cain. I can't wait to see him back on the mound next year.

Least Valuable Cub Hitter

Darwin Barney: For the second consecutive season, there are signs that Barney may be tiring and wearing down. His average, on-base percentage, and strikeout rate have all trended in the wrong direction over the past month or so. There's still almost a month's worth of data left, but if this trend continues, second base might become a concern for us over the next couple of years.

Least Valuable Cub Pitcher

Justin Germano: Here are Germano's collective numbers from his past four starts: 18⅔ innings, 31 hits, 5 walks, 23 earned runs, and 11 strikeouts. That's good for an 11.09 ERA and a 4.81 FIP. While he's likely suffering from a little bad luck given his .383 BABIP, Germano doesn't help his case with his limited velocity: his sinker has averaged between 85 and 87 mph over his past four starts. Germano's short-lived run may be over as teams have likely adjusted to his approach -- it was fun while it lasted.

Miscellaneous

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 will start a three game series against the Astros in Houston tonight, and will then fly back home to play the Pirates starting Friday. Go Cubs!

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