The Cubs went 1-6 this week and are now 2-11 over the course of the last two weeks. The Cubs were swept in San Diego and lost three straight against the Reds at home after a stirring comeback victory in the series opener on Thursday. This marked the first full week of action for Brett Jackson, Josh Vitters, and Brooks Raley -- unfortunately, all of them struggled, with Jackson looking completely overmatched in many of his at bats.
Runs Scored: 19 | Runs Scored per Game: 2.71 | Runs Allowed: 31 | Runs Allowed per Game: 4.43
We're going to try something slightly different here -- since the Cubs aren't facing the same level of competition each week, we can learn more about the team by putting their performance within the context of their opposition. In other words we're going to try to account for the fact that the Cubs faced the Padres and the Reds this week as opposed to the Cardinals and Braves, (the two highest scoring National League teams), or the Nationals, (the stingiest National League staff). Follow me past the jump for the adjusted runs scored and runs allowed numbers for this week.
Competition Adjusted Runs Scored: .69 | Competition Adjusted Runs Allowed: 1.08
I compared the number of runs the Cubs scored and allowed with the number of runs the Padres and Reds have allowed and scored, on average, over course of the year. For example, on average, the Padres allow 4.23 runs per game. Thus, in a three game series, an opposing team with a talent level equal to the average of all of the teams the Padres have thus far faced would score between 12.7 runs. The Cubs scored four runs. The competition adjusted runs scored ratio for the average team that scored 12.7 runs would be 1.0 -- they scored as many as an average team would against the Padres pitching staff. The Cubs ratio would be .31, almost 70 percent worse than the average team's results.
With this in mind, the Cubs were 31 percent worse than the average offense and eight percent worse than the average pitching staff this past week.
Most of you probably didn't need the math to help you see how poorly the Cubs hit this week. The team was shut out three times. Prior to this week, the Cubs were shut out eight times all season. While I don't know how that stacks up against the rest of the majors, I'm looking at the team's shutout rate -- eight shutouts in 106 games versus three shutouts in a seven-game span. While these stretches happen to every team, it's no coincidence that it's happening to the post-trade-deadline Cubs. Although it's not like we lost any critical hitters from our lineup -- Reed Johnson and Geovany Soto were hardly everyday players. Maybe this is just another one of those bad stretches.
On the other side of the ball, the pitching wasn't as bad. The staff had two bad games with several very good games mixed in. Their performance was not nearly as bad as it could have been given that three of the seven starts were by Justin Germano and Raley.
Cubs starters pitched 41⅔ of the 63 innings played this week, or 65 percent of the innings pitched. That's up from last week's 60 percent. The major league average is 67 percent, which also happens to be the Cubs season average. Here is how the thirty teams stack up.
The Three Most Important Plays
8/9 Bot 8, man at 1st base with 1 out, 3-3 Tie: Alfonso Soriano homers off Logan Ondrusek to break the tie and give the Cubs the lead, resulting in a .334 WPA. The Cubs had a 60.4% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 93.8% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
8/9 Bot 6, man at 1st and 2nd base with 2 outs, 3-1 Reds: Starlin Castro doubles off Mike Leake to tie the game, resulting in a .323 WPA. The Cubs had a 23.8% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 56.1% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
8/11 Top 8, men at 1st and 3rd base with no outs, 2-1 Cubs: Ryan Ludwick doubles off James Russell to give the Reds the lead, resulting in a -.270 WPA. The Cubs had a 45.2% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and an 18.1% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
Most Valuable Cub Hitter*
Welington Castillo: While Castillo didn't knock in as many important runs this week as a couple of other players -- indicated by his low WPA -- he had the best numbers of any Cub hitter by far. Granted, it was a sample size of 13 at bats, but Castillo started three games and got a hit in each of them. Castillo had his best game on Friday against the Reds, hitting two doubles, one on a fly ball to right field, and one on a ground ball to left. In 62 plate appearances, Castillo has put together a .271/.306/.492 line. While it's way too early to make any conclusions on such a small sample size, Castillo's current SLG would put him ahead of hitters like Brian McCann and Miguel Montero. Now let's hope he gets a little more playing time so that he can be more accurately evaluated.
Most Valuable Cub Pitcher*
Travis Wood: It looks like Travis enjoys performing well in even-numbered months -- since his disastrous July, Wood has pitched three good to very good games in August. In his three August starts, Wood has thrown 18 innings, given up 20 base runners, and struck out 17, while only allowing five runs to cross the plate. In his most recent start this past Saturday, Wood pitched very well -- he went seven innings, gave up one run, and it was the first time he gave up less than two walks in his past seven starts. The alternating good and bad months could be a result of adjustment cycles -- Wood makes adjustments, then hitters adjust to Wood's altered approach, and the cycle repeats. Has anyone seen any changes in the way Wood is attacking hitters this month as opposed to last? While the inconsistency can be frustrating, I'd rather Wood make the necessary adjustments now than two or three years from now.
Least Valuable Cub Hitter*
Brett Jackson: Aside from his debut last Sunday against the Dodgers, Jackson has been a mess. He struck out in 11 of his 18 plate appearances this week -- 61% of the time. Again, we're dealing with a small sample size here, but there was no indication of him improving in Triple-A either. In the 215 plate appearances he put together last year in AAA, Jackson struck out 30% of the time. This year, in 467 Triple-A plate appearances, Jackson struck out 34 percent of the time. It doesn't look like he had fixed the issue prior to his call-up either -- in the ten games prior to his call-up, Jackson struck out 15 times in 43 plate appearances, good for a 35 percent whiff rate. Jackson just turned 24 years old -- there's only so much longer he can be at Triple-A and still have a chance to be an every day player on a future winning team. Maybe Theo and Jed were thinking just this when they promoted Jackson, because it sure couldn't have been as a result of an improvement in his strikeout rate -- we're all still waiting on that to come around.
Least Valuable Cub Pitcher*
Brooks Raley: While Raley pitched a good game yesterday, his first start was poor enough to land him here. Raley got hit hard in Petco, and didn't help himself out by issuing three walks in the four innings he pitched. However, he turned it around yesterday by pitching much better against a better offensive team in a more difficult park. Raley had some nice numbers in Triple-A this year before his call-up. He struck out 7.5 batters and walked three every nine innings, while posting a 3.62/3.76 ERA/FIP line. Maybe Raley just needed to get that first major league start out of the way. With Matt Garza out indefinitely, Raley should have plenty of chances to prove that he belongs -- I'm rooting for him.
Please do keep the managerial decision comments coming - I think they're a great way to keep up to date on how people feel about Dale Sveum's tenure thus far.
My biggest issue this week -- one that I saw voiced in a couple of threads as I briefly scrolled through -- is management's decision to play Vitters in what thus far looks like a platoon role. Luis Valbuena is not our third baseman of the future, so please permanently pencil Vitters into the lineup card. If he's not performing well, then send him to the minors, but do not leave him on the bench. I'm really hoping there's more to this than we know -- with Theo and Jed in charge, there has to be a reason that they're taking this approach, right?
Please let me know if you have questions regarding the competitive runs ratios that I introduced. There are likely better ways to do what I'm trying to do so I'll keep thinking through it and may come up with a new approach next week. Now that I have some more time on my hands, I'm going to do my best to evolve this recap into something that will provide more value to the community. Let me know if this starts becoming counterproductive.
The Cubs finish up the home stand against the Astros, before flying to Cincinnati to play four games in three days. Go Cubs!
* The WPA for most and least valuable Cubs is the cumulative WPA over the course of the week.