The Cubs went 2-3 last week. The team split a two-game series against the Angels, and won only one game against the Pirates. The Cubs currently sit in fourth place -- the team is one game ahead of the Brewers and fourteen and a half games behind the Cardinals.
Runs Scored: 17 | Runs Scored per Game: 3.40 | Runs Allowed: 19 | Runs Allowed per Game: 3.80
Competition Adjusted Runs Scored: 0.82 | Competition Adjusted Runs Allowed: 0.96
The Cubs were 18% worse than the average offense and 4% better than the average pitching staff. The offense struggled mightily against the Pirates league-best pitching staff. Francisco Liriano, A.J. Burnett, and the Pirates' bullpen stymied the Cubs offense. Aside from the blown game on Tuesday, the pitching staff pitched well this week.
Cubs starters pitched 31⅓ of the 44 innings played this week, or 71% of the innings pitched, which is down from last week's 74%, and higher than the major league average of approximately 69%.
The Three Most Important Plays
6/4 Bot 8, man at 2nd base with two outs, 3-2 Cubs: Albert Pujols hits a two-run home run off Carlos Villanueva to give the Angels the lead, resulting in a -.514 WPA. The Cubs had a 65.2% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 13.8% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
6/5 Top 10, bases loaded with two outs, 5-5 Tie: Anthony Rizzo hits a bases-clearing double off Robert Coello to give the Cubs the lead, resulting in a .432 WPA. The Cubs had a 53.6% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 96.8% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
6/5 Bot 8, bases empty with no outs, 5-4 Cubs: Mark Trumbo hits a game-tying home run off James Russell, resulting in a .313 WPA. The Cubs had a 71.1% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 39.8% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
Most Valuable Cub Hitter
Cody Ransom: Ransom had a couple of huge home runs this week: one against Jason Vargas to tie the game in Anaheim on Wednesday, and an eventual game-winning one against Justin Wilson on Sunday. In only 84 plate appearances, Ransom has quietly put together a great season: a .330 wOBA, which corresponds to a 112 wRC+. He has also been pretty good in the field, posting a positive UZR thus far this year.
Unfortunately, this isn't likely to continue as Ransom is posting an unsustainably high 25.0% HR/FB rate, which manifests itself in his career-best .270 ISO. While Ransom has played much better than we expected, our expectations of what he's capable of shouldn't change: he's likely the same middling player he has been for most of his career.
Most Valuable Cub Pitcher
Edwin Jackson: Jackson put together his best performance as a Cub against the Pirates this past week. It marked the first time this season that Jackson completed seven innings, and only the second time that he surrendered one earned run or less, (the first time was against the Brewers when he surrendered only one earned run, but four unearned runs).
Aldimond made some great points last week regarding my writeup on how Jackson is underperforming his luck-neutral stats. In my analysis, I should have addressed his K% and BB%, which as Aldimond pointed out, is a better metric than K/9 and BB/9 because the latter two are affected by BABIP. While his K/9 and BB/9 are better and worse than his recent performance, respectively, his K% and BB% are both in line with with recent performance.
Jackson's above average strikeout rate, average walk rate, and above average ground ball rate are all positive signs that suggest that he can pitch well. We just have to wait and see if the results catch up to him. The good news is that ZiPS expects Jackson's luck dependent stats (BABIP and LOB%) to regress to the mean over the course of the season and projects him to finish with 3.2 WAR.
Least Valuable Cub Hitter
Starlin Castro: This week was just another week in a very disappointing season for Castro. His .243/.283/.339 line has translated into a career-worst .275 wOBA, which is good for 13th out of 19 shortstops in baseball.
Not only has Castro's walk rate fallen to a career-low 4.2%, but his strikeout rate has also risen to a career-high 17.0%. While his increased strikeout rate may indicate that Castro is attempting to hit for more power, his rising ISO trend -- .108 in 2010, .125 in 2011, and .147 in 2012 -- has been cut short this year as Castro is currently sporting a .096 ISO. Furthermore, after posting a positive UZR season last year, Castro has once again slipped back into negative territory this year. While his BABIP is a little lower than his career rate -- it currently stands at .286 versus a career rate of .328 -- Castro has had a couple seasons worth of potentially inflated BABIPs, which may skew his career rate upward.
That said, ZiPS expects Castro to get his act together by the end of the season. ZiPS expects Castro to post a .322 wOBA over the course of the rest of the season. To put that in perspective, Castro posted a .323 wOBA last season. This isn't how any of us wanted to see Castro progress, but maybe these struggles will help Castro learn to make the adjustments that are necessary for him to become the all-star caliber shortstop we envisioned when he came up to the majors.
Least Valuable Cub Pitcher
Carlos Villanueva: After beginning his tenure in the bullpen by pitching well -- he threw 5⅓ scoreless innings -- Villanueva struggled mightily this past week. In his three innings of work, he faced sixteen batters, and surrendered three earned runs, two of which ended up being the decisive runs in the loss against the Angels on Tuesday night. With the return of Garza, Villanueva was meant to provide Sveum with another dependable arm in the pen. The Cubs could really use an effective Villanueva given the bullpen's struggles this year as well as Fujikawa's season-ending injury.
The Cubs stay at Wrigley to start the week with four games against the Reds, and then head to New York to play a three-game set against the Mets.