Cubs Weekly Recap: May 20 Through May 26

Joe Sargent

The Cubs lost a couple of games in agonizing fashion on their way to a 1-5 week.

The Cubs went 1-5 last week after leaving a couple of winnable games on the table. The team was swept by the Pirates in Pittsburgh, and managed to salvage one game against the Reds in Cincinnati. After last week, the Cubs were once again in last place -- the team was 13 games behind the Cardinals.

Runs Scored: 17 | Runs Scored per Game: 2.83 | Runs Allowed: 26 | Runs Allowed per Game: 4.33

Competition Adjusted Runs Scored: 0.80 | Competition Adjusted Runs Allowed: 0.98

The Cubs were 20% worse than the average offense and 2% better than the average pitching staff. The offense struggled mightily against two of the best pitching staffs in the game -- the Pirates and Reds have allowed the third and fourth fewest number of runs, respectively. While the pitching staff managed to post an average week, every starter not named Samardzija had some trouble on the mound, and the bullpen blew yet another game.

Cubs starters pitched 30 of the 50 innings played this week, or 60% of the innings pitched, which is down from last week's 75%, and lower than the major league average of approximately 69%.

The Three Most Important Plays
5/21 Bot 6, bases loaded with two outs, 3-1 Cubs: Travis Snider hits a grand slam off Shawn Camp to give the Pirates the lead, resulting in a -.583 WPA. The Cubs had a 73.1% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 14.8% chance of winning the game after his at bat.

5/26 Top 10, man at 1st base with two outs, 4-4 Tie: Welington Castillo doubles off J.J. Hoover to drive in the go-ahead run, resulting in a .407 WPA. The Cubs had a 43.1% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and an 83.8% chance of winning the game after his at bat.

5/24 Bot 4, men at 1st and 3rd with two outs, 3-2 Cubs: Ryan Hanigan hits a three-run home run off Scott Feldman, resulting in a -.355 WPA. The Cubs had a 58.2% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 22.7% chance of winning the game after his at bat.

Most Valuable Cub Hitter

Alfonso Soriano: While a .747 OPS isn't typically worthy of mention, not only did Soriano hit a huge home run on Sunday to help bring the Cubs back from a four-run deficit and put the team in place for their first win of the week, but he also posted the third-highest OPS of the week -- behind Ryan Sweeney and Dioner Navarro -- and the highest OPS of any Cub with more than 15 plate appearances.

Many have been waiting to see Soriano go on one of his hot streaks during which he collects several extra base hits, but he has yet to do that this season. If Soriano's current .422 SLG% held up, it would be his lowest season total of his career. Furthermore, Soriano's .144 ISO1 is nearly 100 points lower than his career .230 ISO. While some of the balls that are falling short of the bleachers may get some extra help during the summer, it currently looks like Soriano's age is catching up to him.

Most Valuable Cub Pitcher

Jeff Samardzija: Samardzija pitched another great game this past week against the Pirates, throwing seven innings of one-run baseball. Unfortunately, his pitch count was somewhat elevated again, limiting him to only seven innings of work. That said, if we look at how Samardzija's season has progressed, we can see that he's becoming more efficient with his pitches. Earlier in the season, it took Samardzija 100+ pitches to throw between five and six innings; however, in his last two starts, Samardzija has completed eight and seven innings respectively, while throwing the same 100-110 pitches.

As we can see above, there is a slight downward trend in the number of pitches Samardzija has thrown per inning. This can, however, be somewhat misleading. If we look at Samardzija's 8th start, he threw less than 15 pitches per inning, but he only lasted for five innings. Thus, we should also look at how many innings he pitched. In his last two starts, Samardzija has not only thrown a low number of pitches per inning, but he has also gone deep into the game. This is either a result of better stuff or style adjustments -- it'll take several more starts and a bit more digging to find out.

Least Valuable Cub Hitter

Anthony Rizzo: After a couple of good weeks at the plate, Rizzo started this past week off by going 0 for 18 in his first four games. While he finally tallied a few hits on Saturday and Sunday, his rough start to the week could not be forgotten. Still, Rizzo has produced at a higher offensive rate than he did last year as his .357 wOBA and 126 wRC+ are both above his .349 wOBA and 116 wRC+ from last year.

Least Valuable Cub Pitcher

Shawn Camp: Camp surrendered the game-winning grand slam to Travis Snider, ruining Matt Garza's wonderful debut on Tuesday. Camp was then promptly placed on the disabled list with a sprained right big toe.

After a great season in the bullpen last year, Camp has been unable to get hitters out in 2013. While his 7.56 ERA is inflated due to an abnormally high BABIP and HR/FB rate, his elevated BB/9 rate suggests that he's struggling with his command and likely missing his spots more frequently than he did last year. That's trouble -- especially for someone who throws an 86 mph fastball. Here's hoping his poor performance has been a result of his toe issues.

Up Next
The Cubs play four against the White Sox in Chicago; one more Tuesday on the South Side followed by two on the North Side, and then three against the Diamondbacks at Wrigley.

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