The Cubs went 2-5 in the week just completed. The team split a four-game series against the Padres and was swept by the Reds. After the first month of the season, the Cubs find themselves in last place, nine games behind the Cardinals.
Runs Scored: 33 | Runs Scored per Game: 4.71 | Runs Allowed: 41 | Runs Allowed per Game: 5.86
Competition Adjusted Runs Scored: 1.13 | Competition Adjusted Runs Allowed: 1.46
The Cubs were 13% better than the average offense and 46% worse than the average pitching staff. The offense continued to struggle with runners on base, but still managed to score nearly five runs a game. The bullpen and Edwin Jackson continued their early season struggles. The bullpen blew multiple leads while Jackson surrendered twelve earned runs in his two starts this week.
Cubs starters pitched 43 of the 63 innings played this week, or 68% of the innings pitched, which is down from last week's 69%, and higher than last year's average of 60%.
The Three Most Important Plays
5/2 Top 8, men at 1st and 2nd with two outs, 2-2 Tie: Everth Cabrera singles off James Russell to give the Padres the lead, resulting in a -.269 WPA. The Cubs had a 51.5% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 24.6% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
5/3 Bot 9, bases loaded with two outs, 6-5 Reds: Darwin Barney strikes out against J.J. Hoover, resulting in a -.268 WPA. The Cubs had a 26.8% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 0.0% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
5/2 Bot 7, man at 1st with no outs, 0-0 Tie: Scott Hairston hits a home run off Eric Stults, resulting in a .250 WPA. The Cubs had a 64.3% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and an 89.3% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
Most Valuable Cub Hitter
Alfonso Soriano: Soriano put together his best stretch of games of the young season over this past week. Prior to this week, Soriano was sporting a .247/.278/.323 line and an OPS of .600, which is well below his career-worst mark of .726 that he posted in 2009.
That said, there were a number of positive signs: his strikeout rate has fallen to 17.4% after remaining stubbornly above 20% -- reaching 24.9% last year -- for his entire tenure with the Cubs. As of today, his contact rate sits at 79.9% which is well above his contact rate of 71.7% from last year, and above his career 74.1% rate. Furthermore, his line is now a much healthier .276/.306/.414. While it's a far cry from last year's .262/.322/.499 line, there are a number of positive underlying signs that indicate that Soriano may not be in as much trouble as it looked like he might be.
Most Valuable Cub Pitcher
Scott Feldman: Feldman put together a masterpiece against the Padres by throwing a complete game, striking out twelve batters, and allowing only three hits and one walk. Feldman made two sub-par pitches that cost him -- a couple of two-seamers that caught too much of the plate -- but worked around a couple of late solo home runs to throw the first complete game of his career.
After a couple of awful starts to start the season against the Braves and the Giants, Feldman has settled in and pitched much better. Over his last three starts -- against the Brewers, Marlins, and Padres -- Feldman has surrendered five earned runs in 20⅔ innings, recording 20 strikeouts against only six walks.
That said, Feldman's benefitting from a .230 BABIP, which is well below his career rate of .294. As that BABIP rises, Feldman's overall performance will likely worsen. However, his 17.2% HR/FB rate should regress to his career average of 10.6%, and partially offset his rising BABIP. The confluence of these two factors should result in something close to a 4.00 ERA pitcher who can serve as an innings eater.
Least Valuable Cub Hitter
Dave Sappelt: While he was only given 48 plate appearances, Sappelt performed so poorly to start the season that the Cubs have already decided to option him to Triple-A, effective Monday. In the past, Sappelt's above-average fielding compensated for his weak bat, but even that took a turn for the worse this year as he supplemented his .178/.229/.222 line with a negative fielding rating.
Least Valuable Cub Pitchers
Hector Rondon, Shawn Camp, Carlos Marmol: Over the span of 8⅓ innings this past week, the trio surrendered 11 earned runs, blowing multiple games in the process. Combined, the three have twelve meltdowns -- an instance in which a relief pitcher comes in and makes his team more likely to lose -- and only eight shut downs -- an instance in which a relief pitcher comes in and improves his team's chances of winning the game.1 Marmol and Camp's struggles have left Sveum with only two relatively consistent options in the bullpen: Russell and Gregg, of which only Russell is proven.
The Cubs wrap up the home stand with a makeup game against the Rangers and a two-game series against the Cardinals. The Cubs then head to the nation's capital to play a three-game set with the Nationals.