The Cubs went 3-4 this past week, losing two of three to the Reds and splitting a four-game series with the Diamondbacks. The Cubs currently sit in fifth place in the National League Central, eight and a half games back of the division-leading Brewers.
Runs Scored: 32 | Runs Scored per Game: 4.57 | Runs Allowed: 31 | Runs Allowed per Game: 4.43
Competition Adjusted Runs Scored: 1.13 | Competition Adjusted Runs Allowed: 1.04
The Three Most Important Plays
4/23 Top 9, men at first and third with two outs, 5-5 Tie: Aaron Hill triples off Justin Grimm to give the Diamondbacks the lead, resulting in a -.425 WPA. The Cubs had a 49.8% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 7.3% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
4/23 Top 9, men at first and third with two outs, 5-4 Cubs: Miguel Montero singles off James Russell to drive in the tying run, resulting in a -.341 WPA. The Cubs had an 83.9% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 49.8% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
4/21 Bot 2, men at first and second with two outs, 1-0 Cubs: Travis Wood homers off Bronson Arroyo, resulting in a .217 WPA. The Cubs had a 65.5% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and an 87.2% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
Most Valuable Cub
Jason Hammel: Thus far, Hammel's results have completely surpassed the most optimistic projections. In his first four starts, he has surrendered eight runs in 27⅔ innings, good for a 2.60 ERA.
That said, his exceptional results are driven by a whole lot of luck. His BABIP is sitting at the unsustainably low level of .130, well below his career average of .306. Furthermore, he's posted a 91.7 LOB%, well above his career average of 69.6%. As both of these figures regress to their respective means, Hammel's results will likely start to mirror those of the past.
Regardless, with his fast start, Hammel could join Paul Maholm and Scott Feldman on the list of pitchers the team has picked up and flipped at the deadline. Let's just hope his lucky start doesn't fizzle out too quickly.
Least Valuable Cub
The Bullpen: No matter the score, it always feels like it's a one- or two-run game when the Cubs bullpen is in the mix. In 17⅓ innings of work this week, the bullpen let over 35 percent of hitters reach base, surrendered 14 runs in the process, and blew a three-run ninth inning lead of the game played on Wrigley's 100th birthday.
During the offseason, it was hard to imagine a bullpen worse than the one the team had in 2013, but that's just what we may be currently witnessing. Russell, Jose Veras and Pedro Strop all struggled during the course of the week, and there currently aren't many pitchers in the pen whom Renteria can trust to get hitters out, much less to step in during high-leverage situations. Of those who have pitched more than three innings, Grimm and Hector Rondon are the only two who seem to be able to get hitters out consistently. Management will have to continue to give guys like Neil Ramirez and Zac Rosscup opportunities in the hopes of finding someone to take innings away from the likes of Veras and Brian Schlitter.
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. Look for this soon.
The Cubs head to Milwaukee to play the Brewers for a three-game weekend series, followed by a trip to Cincinnati for a three-game set against the Reds.
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.