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April 22, 2010

Prospectus Hit List

Epic Flights and Epic Fights

by Jay Jaffe

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RkTeam
Overall W-L
Week W-L
Hit List Factor
Comment

1


Phillies
9-5
2-4
.627
Down
The Looming Lidge: Ryan Madson squanders a three-run ninth-inning lead via back-to-back homers by Troy Glaus and Jason Heyward, capping a three-game skid which sees the Phillies' bats go flat; they score just four runs and temporarily surrender a share of first place in the NL East. It's Madson's first blown save of the year, but he's allowed six runs in seven frames and is carrying a -0.4 WXRL, giving ammo to the tired Can't Close charges. Brad Lidge may return soon, but after last year's debacle-o-rama, is that really a good thing?

2


Cardinals
10-5
4-3
.617
Down
Overmanager of the Year? Tony La Russa may have a new award to add to his mantle after his work during the Cards' 20-inning loss to the Mets. His machinations include sending Felipe Lopez and Joe Mather to the hill and Kyle Lohse to left field, leaving Yadier Molina to catch the entire game, double-switching his way into putting the pitcher's spot right behind Albert Pujols (Matt Holliday was ill, apparently), leading to two intentional walks. And smallball? You bet. Still, it's just one loss, and hardly enough to derail a team whose starting pitching tops the circuit.

3


Giants
8-7
1-5
.598
Down
The Incredible Shrinking Run Support: Having bolted to the top of the NL West standings by averaging 6.2 runs per game over their first 11, the Giants proceed to drop four straight, including three one-run affairs, scoring a combined five runs as their offense turns into pygmies. Getting the short end of the stick are Barry Zito (seven scoreless innings squandered by the bullpen) and Jonathan Sanchez (zero run support for a 7 1 1 1 3 10 line). That duo has put up ERAs of 2.65 and 3.46 since last summer's All-Star break, but have gotten scant run support during that span, 3.9 and 4.2 per game, respectively.

4


Padres
9-6
6-1
.573
Up
Five and Fly: A six-game winning streak carries the Padres into first place in the NL West. They hold opponents to just 10 runs over that span, with Kevin Correia and Mat Latos starring in combined shutouts. Oddly enough, while the rotation has put up a 2.91 ERA (second in the league), they've got just five quality starts (14th). It's their bullpen which is picking up the slack, leading the league in WXRL.

5


Braves
8-6
4-2
.565
Up
Glausing Over? Mired below the Mendoza Line, Troy Glaus belts a two-run ninth-inning homer to start a game-tying rally. He's hitting just .184/.259/.306 and stands out as an area the Braves could look to fix. Meanwhile, Jason Heyward follows Glaus's shot with a game-tying blast, his second big ninth-inning hit in as many games, following a two-run walkoff single. The J-Hey Kid is just killing it: .286/.407/.592 with four homers.

6


Dodgers
7-7
4-2
.544
Up
Bad Bills and Big Boppers: Chad Billingsley's tagged for his second straight disaster start; he's now carrying a 5.51 ERA since last year's All-Star break, with just six quality starts out of 16 in that span due to mechanical struggles. The rotation's 5.19 ERA is lousy, but the offense is booming; they lead the majors in scoring (6.6 runs per game) and True Average (.312), with six regulars above .300. Leading them all is Manny Ramirez, who bops a game-winning two-run pinch-hit homer to erase a Barry Zito shutout; he's hitting like the guy who just arrived from Boston (.421/.510/.684).

7


Rockies
7-8
2-5
.540
Down
Bald-.000: Ubaldo Jimenez tosses the first no-hitter in Rockies history, a 4-0 gem over the Braves which should call attention to his emergence as one of the league's top-notch pitchers; he cracked the top 10 in ERA, strikeouts and home run rate last year while ranking 12th in SNLVAR. Meanwhile, the team copes with the sudden passing of team president Keli McGregor, notching an emotional win as they pay tribute.

8


Marlins
8-7
3-3
.502
Up
Definite Maybin: Jorge Cantu's hitting streak continues; he's hit safely in every game this year and is batting .300/.348/.600, though his streak of driving in runs stops at 10 games. One player helping to pad his RBI total is Cameron Maybin, who with 13 hits over his past nine games is now batting .302/.362/.413 and has 15 runs scored in 15 games. It's too early to be sure that Maybin's turned a corner-his K/BB ratio is still above 3.0, and he's striking out in over a quarter of his PA-but it beats writing Alfredo Amezaga into the lineup.

9


Brewers
7-7
4-2
.494
Up
While Ryan Braun (.393/.453/.661), Rickie Weeks (.327/.478/.596) and Casey McGehee (.377/.435/.717) continue to feast on opposing pitchers, Prince Fielder (.226/.359/.283) has yet to join the festivities. Their run differential is momentarily in the black, but the team which finished with the worst rotation ERA in the league last year (5.37) has been nearly as bad (5.26) thus far. Typifying the problem is Doug Davis, who can't even eke out five innings when staked to a 10-0 first-inning lead. He's got an 11.25 ERA, and his .512 BABIP and 9.8 K/9 (nearly 50 percent higher than last year) hint that he may be throwing too many strikes.

10


Mets
6-9
4-3
.462
Up
Signs of Life: Spurred by an epic 20-inning win over the Cardinals-or maybe just the threat of endless dry-humping-the Mets begin to stir. Mike Pelfrey runs his scoreless streak to 19 innings via two seven-inning efforts sandwiched around a save in Saturday's saga, helping the staff lower its ERA to 3.56, fourth in the league. Meanwhile, Mike Jacobs is mercifully designated for assignment in favor of prospect Ike Davis, who goes 2-for-4 with an RBI in a promising debut.

11


Cubs
6-9
2-5
.461
Down
Faced with an inexperienced bullpen that ranks second to last in the league in WXRL, Lou Piniella offers the week's most harebrained plan this side of Chickens for Checkups: moving Carlos Zambrano to the bullpen once Ted Lilly returns this weekend. The Big Z has pitched fairly well since his implosion on Opening Day, but rather than take advantage of his ability to provide quality innings in bulk, Sweet Lou's making him the World's Most Expensive Set-up Reliever ($18.9 million this year) while taking his chances with Tom Gorzelanny and Carlos Silva in the rotation-though to be fair, that duo has yielded just four runs in 28 1/3 innings with a 19/5 K/BB ratio.

12


Diamondbacks
6-9
1-6
.460
Down
Despite the shakiness of a rotation propped up by Rodrigo Lopez and Kris Benson, it's the bullpen which is failing the Snakes. Not the underbelly, either; their top four relievers in terms of leverage have WXRL marks below zero. The team cumulatively ranks last in the league and is carrying a 7.99 Fair Run Average. With help like that, they lose six out of seven, with their relievers taking the loss in five of those games, and Chad Qualls getting lit like a Christmas tree.

13


Nationals
8-7
5-2
.455
Up
Marquis Mashup: Jason Marquis fails to retire a hitter while yielding seven runs against the Brewers, part of a 10-run inning. Marquis' third straight disaster start-still four shy of Willie Blair's record-bumps his season ERA to 20.52. The staff's ERA is 6.14 (6.98 sans Livan Hernandez), and despite their winning record, they've been outscored by 18 runs. That'll end well.

14


Reds
6-9
1-5
.389
Down
Edinson Volquez gets a 50-game suspension for violating baseball's drug policy. A major loophole in the game's drug policy allows him to serve the suspension while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, but it won't protect him from Dusty Baker once he's activated. Not that the Reds couldn't use him; their rotation's got a 5.90 ERA, with Homer Bailey (7.47) and Aaron Harang (8.31) pitching like they're lobbying for new area codes.

15


Pirates
7-7
3-2
.357
Down
Unlucky 13: As superficially impressive as their 7-6 record was, this marks the third year in a row and fifth in the last eight that they've reached this point with exactly that mark, and none of those other seasons ended in glory. They're back to .500, with a -37 run differential to date; they've been outscored by 2.6 runs per game. Aside from Zach Duke, the rotation has a 9.74 ERA, and even he's getting in on the action; they've got more disaster starts (5) than quality starts (3).

16


Astros
5-9
5-1
.342
Up
We Have Cleared the Tower... Barely: Brad Mills collects his first managerial win after starting his career with eight straight losses. The Astros like the feeling so much, they win four of their next five as well, welcoming Lance Berkman back to the lineup along the way; he goes 1-for-4 with a double and two RBI in his return. The Astros' other big bats are struggling, however. Carlos Lee is just 8-for-55 with one extra base hit, and Hunter Pence 9-for-52 with a homer, while the team is hitting a collective .224/.255/.311.


The Prospectus Hit List rankings are derived from Won-Loss records and several measurements pertaining to run differentials, both actual and adjusted, from Baseball Prospectus Adjusted Standings through the close of play on every Thursday.

Jay Jaffe is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jay's other articles. You can contact Jay by clicking here

6 comments have been left for this article.

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