Player of the "Week" --- Offense Edition
The Cubs have been unstoppable of late. Over their last 19 games dating back to the Pittsburgh Pirates series, the Cubs are 14-5, which has to be the best or close to the best mark in the league over the same period of time. Their offense has been clicking a lot more than in the first 36 games of the season, with many slumping players finding their strokes and other unsung heroes being given a chance to shine. The Cubs team is definitely player of the week for their exploits last week (6-1 road trip with series wins over the Dodgers and NL West-leading Padres), and I wanted to track back a little further to look at some of the stats since their rise from a dismal 16-20 to a monumental 30-25.
Offensively, it's hard to pinpoint one player above all others who has been the best. Derrek Lee has of course enjoyed big games down this stretch, but big games from all the major players - Ramirez, Neifi, Corey, Burnitz, Barrett - have emerged when D-Lee is not firing on all cylinders. That's what makes a good team: if yr star is not performing, the rest have to get it done. And get it done they did.
As a team, the Cubs scored 79 runs over the last 19 games, averaging 4.16 per game. Ironically, given the rest of the stats I'm about to unleash, that figure is down from their previous 36 games, where they scored 175 at an average of 4.86 per game.
I'll throw these in a list, and analyze them a little bit when I'm done.
Hits: 199 (10.47 per game; 8.94 per game before)
Doubles: 39 (2.05 per game; 1.92 before)
Home Runs: 22 (1.16 per game; 1.33 before)
79 runs scored, 57 runs allowed
Fielding: 8 errors in 19 games (26 in previous 36 games)
Analysis of these statistics is pretty simple. On the whole, the Cubs are performing more competently on offense. Their pitching staff is being given solid leads to defend, and with sharper fielding all round, our performance in 1-run games and close games has been vastly improved. Over the 19 games, the Cubs are 4-0 in 1-run games, and 2-1 in 2-run games. Those errors which cost us dearly in early-season close games have been reduced, and therefore those games become wins instead of tough defeats. It also points to an offensive balance. While Derrek Lee is still hammering out the offense with every at-bat, including some ridiculous feats (last week: 10-10 at-bat streak in 3 games, with 7 singles, one home run and two walks), everyone else has been performing as expected.
Looking at the team as a whole:
Neifi Perez -- .325, 7 HR, 26 RBI
Michael Barrett -- .275, 5 HR, 23 RBI
Jerry Hairston Jr -- .272, 24 R, 5 SB
Aramis Ramirez -- .270, 11 HR, 29 RBI
Jeromy Burnitz -- .266, 8 HR, 34 RBI
Corey Patterson -- .266, 10 HR, 20 RBI, 30 R
Jason Dubois -- .265, 5 HR, 20 RBI
While the first portion of the season could be characterized as "Year of the Lee", the team has more balance now. With offensive pressure off Lee's shoulders a little, he is free to hit and bat without having to worry about providing the lion's share of the runs. Perez has been a stunning substitute for a groiny Nomar, and everyone else's improving production yields a dangerous lineup.
Pitching to come via Hypo, the strike n' ball king.