The Cubs went 3-4 this past week, winning their first series of the season against the Cardinals, before losing three of four to the crosstown rival White Sox. As of Thursday, the Cubs sat in last place, nine games back of the division-leading Brewers.
Runs Scored: 30 | Runs Scored per Game: 4.29 | Runs Allowed: 31 | Runs Allowed per Game: 4.43
Competition Adjusted Runs Scored: 1.06 | Competition Adjusted Runs Allowed: 0.97
The Three Most Important Plays
5/4 Top 9, bases loaded with two outs, 3-3 Tie: Yadier Molina singles off Hector Rondon to give the Cardinals the lead, resulting in a -.394 WPA. The Cubs had a 46.5% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 7.1% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
5/5 Top 12, men at first and second with two outs, 1-1 Tie: Marcus Semien doubles off Justin Grimm to give the Sox the lead, resulting in a -.368 WPA. The Cubs had a 52.1% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 15.3% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
5/7 Bot 4, men at first and second with two outs, 1-1 Tie: Gordon Beckham homers off Travis Wood to give the Sox the lead, resulting in a -.307 WPA. The Cubs had a 44.9% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 14.2% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
Most Valuable Cub
Jeff Samardzija: Samardzija pitched marvelously against the White Sox - surrendering only one unearned run as a result of a Mike Olt error. Though Samardzija has yet to win a game this year, in fifty innings of work, he's posted a 1.62 ERA, which is good for second in the majors,
That said, his peripherals suggest that a good portion of his results can be explained by luck. His .271 BABIP is below his career average of .295, and his 83.0% LOB% is well north of his career average of 71.9% and the league norm (pitchers typically hover around 70%). This is why his 3.50 xFIP is in line with the past several years.
Furthermore, his strikeout rate has fallen from 24.9% in 2012 to 19.0% this year, which corresponds with the drop in his SwStr% from 12.1% in 2012 to 8.2% in 2014. That said, in accordance with anecdotal evidence, it looks like Samardzija may be trying to pitch more efficiently and go deeper into games by pitching to contact. As expected, his contact rate has jumped from 74.9% in 2012 to 82.5% in 2014. His transition will be an interesting one to watch over the course of the year.
Least Valuable Cub
Nate Schierholtz: After a career year in 2013, Schierholtz has struggled mightily -- his current .218 wOBA is the second worst among qualified hitters in the majors. His struggles stem from his swinging strike rate, which has risen from 8.3% in 2011 to 10.9% this year. Furthermore, his batted ball profile shows that 14.7% of his fly balls are infield flies - not only is he making less contact, but it also looks like he's making weaker contact. That said, with Ruggiano and Sweeney both on the disabled list, Schierholtz should continue to get some time to work out his issues.
Up and Comers
The Cubs are in Atlanta for a three-game set against the Braves, followed by a four game series at Busch Stadium against the Cardinals.
Competition Adjusted figures explained: 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 Cardinals and the White Sox this week as opposed to the Braves and Padres, (the two lowest scoring Major League teams).
In order to adjust for the level of competition, I compared the number of runs the Cubs scored and allowed in the two series from this week with the number of runs the Cardinals and White Sox have allowed and scored, on average, over course of the year. For example, on average, the Cardinals allow 3.2 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 Cardinals have thus far faced would score 9.6 runs. The Cubs scored thirteen runs. The competition adjusted runs scored ratio for the average team that scored 9.6 runs would be 1.0 (9.6 / 9.6) as they scored as many as an average team would against the Cardinals pitching staff. The Cubs ratio would be 1.35 (13 / 9.6), almost 35% better than the average team's results.