The Cubs went 1-4 this past week. The team split the two games that it had against the Rangers and was swept by the Brewers in Milwaukee. After the first three weeks of the season, the Cubs find themselves in last place, 4½ games behind the first-place Reds.
Runs Scored: 15 | Runs Scored per Game: 3.00 | Runs Allowed: 20 | Runs Allowed per Game: 4.00
Competition Adjusted Runs Scored: 0.86 | Competition Adjusted Runs Allowed: 1.03
The Cubs were 14% worse than the average offense and 3% worse than the average pitching staff. The offense was back to performing poorly, though it did have to face one of the better pitching staffs in the game. The pitching staff on the other hand fared much better this week. If it weren't for a few errors, Cubs pitchers may have allowed many fewer runs. According to FanGraphs' WAR, the Cubs pitching staff is tied with the Braves for ninth best in the majors.
Cubs starters pitched 32⅓ of the 42 innings played this week, or 77% of the innings pitched. That's up from last week's 64%, and considerably above last year's average of 60%. So at least one part of the team is doing well.
The Three Most Important Plays
4/21 Bot 5, men at 1st and 3rd with two outs, 2-1 Cubs: Ryan Braun hits a home run off Scott Feldman to give the Brewers the lead, resulting in a -.350 WPA. The Cubs had a 57.5% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 22.5% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
4/21 Top 3, man on 1st base with two outs, 0-0 Tie: Anthony Rizzo hits a home run off Wily Peralta, resulting in a .199 WPA. The Cubs had a 46.9% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 66.8% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
4/16 Bot 9, bases loaded with two outs, 4-2 Rangers: Darwin Barney flies out off Joe Nathan, resulting in a -.171 WPA. The Cubs had a 17.1% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 0.0% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
Most Valuable Cub Hitter
Anthony Rizzo: Struggling as a result of his .167 BABIP, Rizzo showed some positive signs this week by clubbing three home runs. Six of Rizzo's 13 hits on the young season have been home runs. Despite his extremely depressed BABIP, Rizzo has been able to hit to the tune of a 111 wRC+, which means that he is 11% better than the average offensive player. For comparison's sake, Rizzo posted a 116 wRC+ last season. As Rizzo's BABIP reverts to the mean -- Rizzo has a career .275 BABIP -- his numbers should start to climb.
Most Valuable Cub Pitchers
Travis Wood: Wood threw very well against the Rangers, surrendering only two runs in 7⅓ innings against a competent Rangers lineup. Thus far, Wood has pitched 19⅔ innings and has given up four earned runs. While this is partially a result of his abnormally low 0.0% HR/FB rate, it is also a result of his low .232 BABIP. As both of these rates revert to the mean -- career .271 BABIP and 8.6% HR/FB rate -- Wood should see his ERA rise.
That said, Wood, just like Villanueva, has induced a greater percentage of ground balls: 38.9% thus far versus his career rate of 32.9%. If Wood can continue to induce ground balls and keep his BABIP relatively low -- Wood did post a .244 BABIP last year -- he could also solidify his position as a good back-of-the-rotation starter.
Carlos Villanueva: Villanueva turned in another great performance in his third start of the season, throwing seven innings and only surrendering two runs against a competent Rangers lineup. Thus far, Villanueva has pitched 21 innings and has surrendered just three earned runs. While this is likely a result of Villanueva's low BABIP of .189 -- he has a career .275 BABIP -- he has also allowed a relatively high HR/FB rate of 18.8% -- he has a career 12.2% HR/FB. Villanueva's BABIP will likely rise and consequently result in a higher ERA, but his HR/FB rate should fall and negate some of the adverse effects of the BABIP's reversion to the mean.
Furthermore, one positive sign is Villanueva's ground ball rate of 49.1%, which is by far a career-high for him. If Villanueva continues to induce ground balls at this rate, he should serve as a great back-of-the-rotation starter.
Least Valuable Cub Hitter
Darwin Barney: While Barney has never been known for his bat, he has struggled mightily since his return to the field. Aside from his one single and two walks, Barney produced no offensive value this past week. He struck out five times, three of which were of the looking variety. In 156 games last year, Barney only struck out 58 times. That said, Barney's struggles should not be that concerning just yet -- he may need a few more games to get back to game shape.
Least Valuable Cub Pitcher
Scott Feldman: While Feldman's line looks good, the error that he made prior to the Braun home run ended up being very costly. Had Feldman thrown out Jean Segura on an comebacker, the Cubs would have remained in the lead. Instead, he botched the play and then served up that decisive three-run home run to Braun. While Feldman pitched much better than he did in his first two starts, his fielding error and hanging breaking ball cost him dearly this week.
The Cubs travel to Cincinnati to play a three-game series against the Reds and then to Miami to play a four-game setagainst the Marlins.