This is the second season of weekly recaps here on Bleed Cubbie Blue. The structure remains largely the same, but please let me know in the comments if you have any suggestions or requests. With that out of the way, here's your first weekly recap of the 2013 season.
The Cubs went 2-4 in the season's first week. The team won two of three against the Pirates and was swept by the Braves in Atlanta. After the first week of the season, the Cubs are right in the middle of the pack in the NL Central, trailing the division-leading Reds by two games.
Runs Scored: 13 | Runs Scored per Game: 2.17 | Runs Allowed: 21 | Runs Allowed per Game: 3.5
Competition Adjusted Runs Scored: 0.81 | Competition Adjusted Runs Allowed: 1.24
The Cubs were 19 percent worse than the average offense and 24 percent worse than the average pitching staff. However, this is all based on a very small sample size, and is thus somewhat unhelpful this early in the season. While the offense showed some signs of life on Saturday, it wasn't able to muster up much in the five other games -- aside from Saturday's five-run outburst, the Cubs scored an average of 1.6 runs per game this past week. The pitching staff on the other hand fared much better than the competition adjusted runs allowed figure indicates. While it did have its own issues -- Marmol's shaky ninth innings and Fujikawa's eighth inning on Saturday -- the starters pitched well and the bullpen threw a few strong innings. Cubs starters pitched 36 of the 50⅓ innings played this week, or 72% of the innings pitched, which is significantly higher than last year's average of around 60%.
The Three Most Important Plays
4/6 Bot 9, bases empty with no outs, 5-4 Cubs: B.J. Upton hits a solo home run off Carlos Marmol to tie the game, resulting in a -.443 WPA. The Cubs had a 81.3% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 37.0% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
4/6 Bot 9, bases empty with no outs, 5-5 Tie: Justin Upton hits a solo home run off Carlos Marmol to give the Braves the win, resulting in a -.425 WPA. The Cubs had a 42.5% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 0.0% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
4/7 Bot 6, bases loaded with 1 out, 1-1 Tie: Ramiro Pena singles off Jeff Samardzija to give the Braves the lead, resulting in a -.254 WPA. The Cubs had a 39.7% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and an 14.3% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
Most Valuable Cub Hitter
Anthony Rizzo: Rizzo crushed the first pitch of his season 445 feet for a two-run home run on Monday. That currently qualifies for the sixth furthest hit home run of the season by anyone. He followed that up with another home run against the Braves on Saturday. Both the ZiPS and Steamer projection systems expect Rizzo to be a 4 WAR player this year, which would be quite a season for the 23-year-old first baseman.
Most Valuable Cub Pitcher
Jeff Samardzija: Samardzija twirled a gem against the Pirates on Opening Day. He threw eight shutout innings, surrendering only two hits and a walk in the process, while striking out nine Pirates hitters. In Sunday's start against the Braves, Samardzija looked dominant early on, striking out ten in the first four innings. Unfortunately, walks, a high pitch count, and a couple of ill-timed hits were his undoing. Nonetheless, Samardzija struck out 13 Braves hitters in 5⅔ innings of work. In other words, of the 17 outs that he recorded, 13 of them were via the strikeout. If he continues to miss bats, Samardzija may end the season as one of the best pitchers in the National League.
Least Valuable Cub Hitter
Brent Lillibridge: Lillibridge has yet to collect a hit on the young season, and has not looked good at the plate. We should see less of LIllibridge once Darwin Barney works his way back into the lineup.
Least Valuable Cub Pitcher
Carlos Marmol: Marmol has pitched in three games this year and has surrendered runs in each of his outings. After being unable to close out the game on Monday, Marmol almost blew the save on Thursday, and then did blow the save on Saturday.
While it's a wonder he was even in the game on Saturday, it's a great sign that Sveum has finally had enough of Marmol as a closer. However, moving Kyuji Fujikawa to the closer's role now leaves the team with one fewer capable arm to bridge that gap between the starters and the closer. Furthermore, Sveum can no longer use Fujikawa in high leverage situations because he now has to save him for the end of the game. It will be interesting to see how Sveum uses Marmol, though it looks like he will try and place Marmol in "less stressful" situations.
That's it for this past week. The Cubs are at Wrigley Field this week to host the Brewers and the Giants in the first homestand of the year, which will continue next week with the Rangers visiting Wrigley. Go Cubs!