NOTE FROM AL: Unforeseen circumstances delayed Naveen's recap -- it includes games through the Yankee series.
The Cubs went 1-4 this past week, losing two of three to the Cardinals after a dramatic win in in game one of the series, and falling to the Yankees in both games of the day-night doubleheader. The Cubs entered Friday's game in last place, six games back of the division-leading Brewers.
Runs Scored: 14 | Runs Scored per Game: 2.80 | Runs Allowed: 24 | Runs Allowed per Game: 4.80
Competition Adjusted Runs Scored: 0.76 | Competition Adjusted Runs Allowed: 1.06
The Three Most Important Plays
4/11 Top 11, men at first and third with two outs, 3-3 Tie: Welington Castillo homers off Trevor Rosenthal to give the Cubs the lead, resulting in a .462 WPA. The Cubs had a 50.4% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 96.6% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
4/13 Bot 2, men at second and third with two outs, 2-2 Tie: Matt Carpenter singles off Edwin Jackson to drive in two runs and tie the game, resulting in a -.187 WPA. The Cubs had a 66.4% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 47.7% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
4/11 Top 11, men at first and third with one out, 3-3 Tie: Trevor Rosenthal gets Ryan Kalish to pop out, resulting in a -.186 WPA. The Cubs had a 69.0% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 50.4% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
Most Valuable Cub
Anthony Rizzo: Rizzo has gotten off to a quick start this season, posting a .401 wOBA through Wednesday. While part of his performance is due to his inflated .356 BABIP, there have been some promising signs of improvement: his strikeout rate is sitting at 12.9%, below his career average of 19.1%, and he's hitting slightly better against southpaws than he did last year (.301 wOBA vs. .282 wOBA).
The improvement could stem from a more patient approach at the plate as Rizzo is swinging at 42.9% of pitches he sees, down from his career average of 46.6%. He's also seeing 3.87 pitches per plate appearance (P/PA), which is higher than the 3.64 and 3.79 P/PA he posted in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
While it's still very early to draw any conclusions, Rizzo could have the breakout year that many systems projected if these trends continue.
Least Valuable Cub
Carlos Villanueva: Villanueva has now pitched 9⅓ innings, and surrendered 12 runs. While he has yet to issue a free pass, he has only struck out six hitters. That strikeout rate (11.8% of hitters) is the lowest of his career, and well below his 20.2% career average, suggesting that it has become easier to make contact against him. His 83% contact rate - which is above his career average of 76.3% - and his 8.8% swinging strike rate - below his career average of 10.3% - both confirm this.
Some combination of velocity, command, and pitch movement has likely resulted in Villanueva's elevated contact rates and depressed strikeout rates. His velocity, horizontal and vertical movement are all approximately in line with his career norms, which suggests that this could just be a matter of him missing his spots and leaving pitches in the zone. Villanueva has thrown 50% of his pitches inside the zone this year, which is above his career average of 47%, and well above the 43.5% he posted over the past two seasons. Whether this is by design or as a result of a lack of command, Jake Arrieta can't come back soon enough should Villanueva continue to struggle like this.
Up and Comers
I'll be including a couple of graphs on how our top hitting and pitching prospects are performing over the course of the season. I planned on beginning this section this week, but we may need another week or two before the numbers start making sense. Look out for this soon.
Competition Adjusted figures are based on last year's runs scored and runs allowed. This will be the methodology for the first month given the small sample size of games that we currently have.