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May 6, 2010

Prospectus Hit List

Pitching Deep and Young

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Rays
20-7
3-2
.670
Down
Get Used to It: Wade Davis outduels Zack Greinke with seven scoreless innings, lowering his ERA to 2.79 and enabling the Rays to split a four-game series with the Royals. As with the NL's list-topping Cardinals, the Rays have no fewer than four pitchers (Matt Garza, David Price, and Jeff Niemann being the others) with ERAs under 3.00, with slacker James Shields bringing up the rear at 3.15. Amazingly, all five starters are under club control through at least 2012.

2


Yankees
19-8
5-1
.662
Up
The Funky 4 + 1: Javier Vazquez's routine poundings are problematic enough to merit a skipped turn, but the rest of the rotation is picking up the slack, and then some. Led by Phil Hughes (1.44) and A.J. Burnett (1.99), the other four starters have a combined ERA of 2.14, and all four rank among the AL's top 10 in SNLVAR, with Burnett, who's riding a string of 18 1/3 innings without having allowed an earned run, ranking third. Nonetheless, the team gets a scare when Pettitte departs Wednesday's start after five innings, with an MRI revealing mild elbow inflammation.

3


Twins
19-9
5-1
.600
Up
Catcher of the Future? With Joe Mauer sidelined by a bruised heel, the Twins turn to Wilson Ramos, who collects four hits in his first game and three more in his second. Mauer shouldn't be sidelined too long, but the question arises as to what to do with Ramos, a a four-star prospect; he could make a fine trade chit for this contending club, or eventually provide the team with an impetus to shift Mauer from behind the plate.

4


Blue Jays
16-13
5-1
.540
Up
The Near No-No Club: Brett Cecil joins Shaun Marcum and Ricky Romero as the third Blue Jays starter to chase a no-hitter when he tosses eight innings of one-hit, one-run, 10-strikeout ball. Rocked for a 5.30 ERA last year, he's down at 2.61 thus far because he's missing more bats and showing better control, via a 21/4 K/BB ratio in 20 2/3 innings. Elsewhere in the rotation, Shaun Marcum offers his fifth quality start out of six and collects his first W since September 11, 2008. The Jays' rotation is a big reason why the team remains above .500; they're fifth in the league in SNLVAR.

5


Tigers
16-13
3-3
.532
Up
Rest in Peace, Ernie Harwell. You'll be missed not just by Tigers fans, but by baseball fans everywhere.

6


Red Sox
14-14
3-3
.529
Up
"Bomb Squad? They're Early": Swept by the lowly Orioles thanks to two late-inning comebacks and a pounding of Daisuke Matsuzaka in his 2010 debut, the Red Sox finish April under .500 for the first time since 1996. The situation has the Sox turning to gallows humor upon receiving an unfounded bomb threat at Fenway. While the lineup's still having problems regarding Victor Martinez and David Ortiz, the rotation is showing signs of life, with Josh Beckett rebounding from a pair of poor starts, Jon Lester allowing just one run in his last three turns, and John Lackey stringing together five quality starts out of six, the latest at the expense of his former teammates.

7


Athletics
15-14
3-3
.496
Down
Sheeeeeeeets: Already down Brett Anderson and Justin Duchscherer, the A's rotation is taking its lumps, with five different starters producing six disaster starts in an eight-game span; not surprisingly, the A's lose six of eight and add more than a run to their team ERA. The repeat offender on the disasterpiece theater stage is Ben Sheets, who yields 17 runs in 7 1/3 frames; he's been rocked for a 7.12 ERA and is striking out just 4.7 per nine while allowing 1.8 homers-a performance not worth 10 cents to the pennywise A's, let alone $10 million. Worse, the only guy on the roster making more money, Eric Chavez, is hitting a limp .228/.284/.316.

8


Rangers
14-14
4-2
.492
Up
Colby Cheese: Plenty of eyebrows were raised when the Rangers brought a former first-round pick with a 6.71 career ERA back from Japan via a two-year, $5-million deal, but Colby Lewis is living up to his end of the bargain. He whiffs 10 for the third time in four starts (9 3 0 0 1 10) and now leads the league in strikeouts, but he's deprived of the shutout because the Rangers don't score until the 12th inning. Elsewhere in the rotation, Rich Harden not only avoids ball four for an entire day after being dogged by walks through his first five starts (23 in 23 2/3 frames, remember?), he takes a no-hitter into the sixth and whiffs a season-high nine. After finishing 12th in the league in strikeout rate last year, the Rangers are currently fourth.

9


White Sox
12-16
3-3
.459
Down
'Nerk, 'Ruw, and the Seven Dwarves Paul Konerko homers four times in a four-game span, driving in 10 runs in the process. He now leads the majors with 12 homers and a .736 SLG; he and Andruw Jones (eight homers) account for the majority of the team's longballs. Alas, the rest of Konerko and Jones' teammates are hitting a combined .217/.288/.329. As ever, Ozzie Guillen's the man to step up and take the blame, though he could go a long way towards showing some contrition by removing Juan Pierre (.218/.288/.218) from the leadoff spot he's occupied 23 times in the team's first 27 games.

10


Mariners
11-16
0-5
.443
Down
Missing Milton: Despite an 8-for-25 run which returns him to the cleanup spot for the first time since April 9, Milton Bradley can't get no satisfaction. Hitting just .214/.313/.371, he's pulled mid-game and leaves the ballpark after striking out twice, but before the incident flares up into another bridge burned, he asks the team for help in dealing with personal problems. However temporary, his departure comes amid a four-game losing streak in which the Mariners score just six runs and lay an egg in Cliff Lee's long-awaited Seattle debut.

11


Royals
11-17
3-3
.429
Up
Progress? Amid their perpetual failure to support Zack Greinke, the team demotes struggling Alex Gordon (.194/.342/.323), not merely to keep hot-hitting Alberto Callaspo (.303/.347/.477) at the hot corner or to demonstrate their ever-bountiful organizational incompetence but to convert Gordon to left field as they look towards a day where he might share the lineup with top hitting prospect Mike Moustakas. In this blind organization, the one-eyed man is king, or at least in charge of the Royals' roster, so this counts as vision.

12


Indians
10-17
1-5
.392
Down
Babe Ruth's Dead, Throw Strikes: Losers of eight out of 10, the Indians tumble into the AL Central basement. They find themselves there because despite new manager Manny Acta's spring training admonitions, they're simply not throwing strikes. Their 52.8 first-strike percentage is the majors' lowest by a hair, and their 1.18 K/BB ratio the lowest by a wider margin; they'd have to strike out 20 hitters without walking one in order to shed the latter distinction. Chief offenders: Mitch Talbot (12/15 K/BB ratio), Fausto Carmona (17/18), David Huff (13/12), and their five highest-leverage relievers, none of whom has more walks than strikeouts.

13


Angels
12-17
0-6
.390
Down
Fallen Angels: The Halos drop six straight for the first time since April 12-18, 2007. The coup de grāce is delivered by former Angels ace John Lackey, a reminder that the two latest additions to the rotation, Joel Pineiro and Scott Kazmir, are serving up a combined 5.40 ERA, while Joe Saunders has been torched for a 7.04 mark. The offense isn't helping much, either; it's been outhomered 38-25 thus far this year, including 10-2 during this run.

14


Orioles
7-21
3-3
.376
Up
Gettin' Wiggy: Ty Wigginton lashes a walk-off double to cap a three-game sweep of the Red Sox. It's the Orioles' second walk-off win of the series, and the second win in which Wigginton plays a big part; his two homers help the O's score 10 unanswered runs in the middle game. Settled into the second base job in Brian Roberts' absence, Wigginton's now hitting .289/.381/.663, and the Orioles are now 4-2 versus Boston, 3-19 versus the rest of the league.


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

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Under The Knife: Petti... (05/06)
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Premium Article Prospectus Hit List: R... (05/05)
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Premium Article Prospectus Hit List: B... (05/13)
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Premium Article Future Shock: Scouting... (05/06)

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