The Cubs went 2-3 this past week, splitting a rain shortened two-game series with the Reds after losing two of three to the Brewers. As of Thursday, the Cubs sat in last place, nine and a half games back of the division-leading Brewers.
Runs Scored: 20 | Runs Scored per Game: 4.00 | Runs Allowed: 17 | Runs Allowed per Game: 3.40
Competition Adjusted Runs Scored: 1.03 | Competition Adjusted Runs Allowed: 0.83
The Three Most Important Plays
4/30 Bot 1, men at first and third with two outs, 2-0 Cubs: Todd Frazier doubles off Edwin Jackson to tie the game, resulting in a -.207 WPA. The Cubs had a 67.1% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 46.4% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
4/30 Top 1, man at first with one out, 0-0 Tie: Anthony Rizzo homers off Tony Cingrani to give the Cubs the early lead, resulting in a .188 WPA. The Cubs had a 50.3% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 69.1% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
4/29 Bot 6, man at third with two outs, 2-2 Tie: Chris Heisey singles off Jeff Samardzija to give the Reds the lead, resulting in a -.174 WPA. The Cubs had a 44.0% chance of winning the game prior to his at bat, and a 26.6% chance of winning the game after his at bat.
Most Valuable Cub
Starlin Castro: Castro is currently enjoying his best year at the plate, posting a .354 wOBA, well north of his career average of .318. There are three main catalysts: his (i) strikeout rate, (ii) power, and (iii) batted ball profile.
Castro is striking out less frequently than ever. His 11.9% strikeout rate, the lowest of his career, is well below the 18.3% that he posted last year, and his career average of 15.0%.
Additionally, as evidenced by Castro's .163 ISO, the highest of his career, and his PA/HR rate of 27.25, much better than his career average PA/HR rate of 66.49, he has shown an ability to hit the ball with more authority.
Finally, looking at Castro's batted ball profile, we can see a shift from a ground-ball heavy hitter to one who hits line drives more frequently. In fact, though his GB/FB rate has fallen to a career low 1.38 versus last year's 1.73, Castro's hitting just as many fly balls as he's been hitting for most of his career. The difference, as I just mentioned, stems from the frequency of ground balls and line drives that he's producing. Castro's ground ball rate has fallen from the 50.7% he posted last year to 44.0% this year, with the majority of that delta reflected in his line drive rate, which is up from 19.9% last year to 24.2% this year.
After a rough 2013 season, the future is once again bright for the still-young Castro.
Least Valuable Cub
Mike Olt: It's been a rough start to the season for Olt. His .258 wOBA ranks him well below replacement level on offense, and his defense does little to inspire faith in his ability to hold down the third base job. Thus far, Olt has proven to be a one-dimensional player, not offering much aside from flashes of awe-inspiring power. While it's early -- Olt has only posted 66 plate appearances -- his 34.8% strikeout rate is very concerning.
That said, there are a couple of reasons to remain hopeful for a moderate rebound. Even for a fly ball hitter like Olt, his .171 BABIP is at an unsustainably low level. Additionally, his 16.50 PA/HR rate is promising. If he can start to make more contact and maintain that home run rate, then he could be a serviceable regular. However, Olt's value will depend largely on his ability to limit strikeouts. If he continues to strikeout over a third of the time, he may soon find himself spending more time on the bench, and potentially down with the Iowa Cubs.
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 out for this soon.
The Cubs continue their three-game set against the Cardinals Saturday, followed by a four game home-and-home series against the White Sox.
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.