The start of the week was so promising, but alas, the Cubs went 2-4 for the second consecutive week, and won only two games in a week for the third consecutive week. The Cubs put together two wins against the White Sox and none against the Diamondbacks. In other news, the Cubs signed Pierce Johnson, the right-hander out of Missouri State, on a $1.196 million bonus. The Cubs essentially received Johnson as compensation for the departure of Aramis Ramirez. Aside from this signing, the Cubs managed to sign four others that they picked up between rounds 5 and 22. Here's a link to a full list of draft signees. And now for the most important draft-related topic: the Cubs now have 19 days left to sign Albert Almora. I'm not worried -- I trust that Theo and Jed are doing all they can to get Almora signed to the best possible deal.
Runs Scored: 21 | Runs Scored per Game: 3.5 | Runs Allowed: 32 | Runs Allowed per Game: 5.33
The Cubs started the week off with very good pitching with two great games against the White Sox. Since then, however, the pitching staff proceeded to give up 28 runs over the next four games. While the hitters certainly didn't help, it's hard to win games when you look at the scoreboard and find that the other team has scored nearly seven runs in the game.
The Three Most Important Plays
6/23 Top 4, man at 1st base with 2 outs, 1-0 Diamondbacks: Paul Maholm homers off Ian Kennedy to give the Cubs the lead, resulting in a .239 WPA. The Cubs had a 34.4% chance of winning the game prior to the at bat, and a 58.3% chance of winning the game after the at bat.
6/18 Top 3, man at 1st base with 2 outs, 0-0 Tie: Bryan LaHair homers off Zach Stewart to break a scoreless tie, resulting in a .225 WPA. The Cubs had a 47.2% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 69.6% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
6/22 Bot 4, man at 1st base with 1 out, 1-0 Cubs: Jason Kubel homers off Jeff Samardzija to give the Diamondbacks the lead, resulting in a -.223 WPA. The Cubs had a 56.8% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 33.6% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
Most Valuable Cub Hitter*
Starlin Castro: Though Castro had a good week, with a couple of extra-base hits, I am concerned with a couple of his stats: his walk rate has plummeted from 6% in 2010 to 2% this year, while his strikeout rate has jumped from 14% to 17% over the same time period. This is somewhat palatable given his increase in power -- Castro is slugging .451, which is above his 2011 mark of .432. However, Castro is now walking less frequently, striking out more frequently, and only showing a modest improvement in power. It's a concerning development, but it's only been 65 games, so I wouldn't say the time to panic has come just yet.
Alfonso Soriano: One week after an anemic performance at the the plate, Soriano hit two home runs, a double, and walked twice to post a strong line this week. If you're keeping track of it, Soriano was on a tear two weeks ago, couldn't hit anything last week, and was back to hitting the ball well again this week. We now have about five weeks left until the trade deadline, so a couple more weeks of good-Soriano could do wonders to his trade value.
Most Valuable Cub Pitcher*
Travis Wood: While Ryan Dempster would have likely found his name here for the third consecutive week, his minor injury opened the door for another pitcher -- though who would have guessed it would be Wood. Wood worked around a number of walks and a handful of hits to keep the Sox to only one run. In his four June starts, Wood has thrown 24.2 innings and allowed 32 base runners and eight earned runs, which is good for a 2.92 ERA. In my opinion, Wood could absolutely be good enough to be the Cubs 4th or 5th starter for the next several years.
Least Valuable Cub Hitter*
Reed Johnson: Reed has been one of my favorite Cubs going back to 2008. The effort that he gives on every play and his ability to make highlight-reel catches, mostly because of his effort, have made it easy to root for him. While Reed isn't having as good a season as he had last year, (.331 wOBA this year versus .354 wOBA last year), he's still a slightly above average outfielder. Pending a LaHair trade, Reed might find himself with less playing time once Rizzo is promoted -- less playing time for Reed means fewer grand slam-saving catches and head-first dives into walls (the video is unfortunately no longer available on MLB.com, but I think we can all still picture that catch in Washington), which is truly a shame.
Least Valuable Cub Pitcher*
Paul Maholm: Two-run home run aside, Maholm was atrocious Saturday night. Here is how Maholm's 4th inning went against the Diamondbacks: single, walk, error, single, single, triple, single. That's seven straight batters to reach base -- while some of it was bad luck, Maholm should have been able to navigate his way out of the mess he created, but he just couldn't, and Sveum mercifully pulled him. Here are Maholm's month-by-month ERA totals: April -- 6.20 ERA, May -- 3.56 ERA, and June -- 6.93 ERA. Maholm may not currently be a trade candidate, but he could be a cheap option for cash-strapped teams looking to add some pitching depth. However, Maholm's going to need another month of May before any trade talks begin.
Unfortunately, with work during the week, I don't get the chance to catch enough of the games to come up with the best and worst managerial decisions. That said, I'd love to have you guys throw out some of your own suggestions in the comments. Thanks to those who commented last week!
Also, someone asked me to include the best BCB comments from each week, and while I think this is a great idea, I unfortunately don't have the time to do this. However, if anyone would like to nominate comments, and if I get enough nominations, I'll post them at the end of my weekly recaps. Feel free to send me an email - you can find the link at the bottom of this page - by Saturday with any nominations. I didn't receive any emails this past week, but please do consider doing this over the course of the next week -- given the level of wit that is usually showcased on this site, I'm sure there are a number of comments that deserve to be here.
Next up for the Cubs is a six-game homestand against the Mets and the Astros. Go Cubs!
* The WPA for most and least valuable Cubs is the cumulative WPA over the course of the week.