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May 20, 2010

Prospectus Hit List

Tightening Up

by Jay Jaffe

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Overall W-L
Week W-L
Hit List Factor


Better Latos Than Never? Mat Latos tosses a one-hit shutout amid a sweep of the Giants in San Francisco, but turnabout is fair play, as the Padres are swept by the Dodgers in Petco, tightening the NL West race. Latos' shutout comes amid a 21-inning scoreless streak which includes a two-start stretch in which he allows just three hits and no walks while striking out 15 in 17 innings. The Pad squad needs him and his league-leading rotation mates to continue the good work, particularly with Chris Young shelved for a loooong time due to further labrum woes.


Pricey Phillies: Ryan Howard's grand slam and six RBI help the Phillies trounce the Pirates 12-2, one of 10 wins in a 13-game stretch as Philadelphia expands their division lead. Howard's hitting .309/.352/.491 with a surprisingly lopsided 42/10 K/BB ratio; he hasn't walked in less than 10 percent of his plate appearances since 2005, the last year he had a K/BB ratio above 2.5. Also homering in that rout is Jayson Werth, whose .326/.406/.638 puts him in the top ten in all three triple-slash categories as well as True Average (where he's fourth at .353), numbers which raise the question of how the Phillies can afford him if/when he hits the market this winter.


Little Timmy: Swept by the Padres last week, the Giants rebound by sweeping the Astros, as Tim Lincecum tosses eight innings of one-run ball. He's put up quality starts in each of his eight outings and leads the league in strikeouts (69, 11.0 K/9) while ranking fifth in ERA (1.76). His .731 Support-Neutral Winning Percentage is third in the league, while Barry Zito is eighth and Jonathan Sanchez 15th; the rotation as a whole is a whisker behind the Padres in SNLVAR.


Power Struggle: A 3-9 skid knocks the Cardinals out of first place for the first time since last July 30, as the offense falls on hard times. The team is scoring just 3.6 runs per game this month on .257/.330/.372 hitting, and no Cardinal, has more than two homers since the calendar turned. Matt Holliday is hitting a slappy .310/.394/.397 without a homer in May, Colby Rasmus just .228/.286/.351 after a .323/.463/.708 April, and Albert Pujols "only" .292/.418/.431 with one homer. Pujols has just one other one-homer month in his 10-year career: June 2006, when he played just 10 games due to an oblique strain.


Test of Hanleyness: One inning after fouling a ball off his ankle, Hanley Ramirez is pulled from a game and benched indefinitely due to a lack of effort in chasing down a ball he boots into left field amid a Marlins loss. Manager Fredi Gonzalez and his star trade barbs before Ramirez finally apologizes. The incident overshadows the Marlins' four-game sweep of the Mets and 8-2 run which carries them into second place in the NL East, as Ramirez nemesis Dan Uggla homers five times in a six-game span, including a pair off hapless Oliver Perez.


Unpieworthy: Subbing for the injured Jair Jurrjens, Kris Medlen gives the Braves 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball against the Mets. The Braves win that game on a walkoff throwing error by David Wright during Melky Cabrera's infield single, but unlike his days in the Bronx, the Melkman gets no shaving cream pie to celebrate the win. Then again, given that he's "hitting" .193/.281/.228, he's lucky he's not being pelted by pies at some third-rate clown college instead.


Who Wants to Go Streaking? Good pitching helps the Dodgers win nine in a row and 14 of 17, including a three-game sweep of the first-place Padres in Petco. Chad Billingsley outduels Wade LeBlanc in a 1-0 squeaker, pitching into the eighth inning for the first time since July 5, 2009. Control freak John Ely spins his third straight quality start; he's got a 21/0 K/BB ratio in 19 2/3 innings during that span. Alas, the offense loses Andre Ethier to the DL due to a broken pinky at a time when he's leading the league in both the triple crown and triple slash stats as well as the entire MLB in True Average (.407); he could miss three weeks.


Welcome Returns: Back from labrum woes which prevented him from taking a major league mound since September 12, 2008, Jeff Francis gives the Rockies' banged-up rotation a lift by shutting down the Nationals (7 7 1 1 2 6) in a 106-pitch effort. Alas, the Rox offense isn't exactly firing on all cylinders these days; the offense is scoring just 3.9 runs per game in May on .251/.332/.361 hitting, and even Todd Helton's first homer in 36 games can't stop them from losing.


Red Run: Scott Rolen hits a pair of big blasts, a first-inning shot off Brad Penny in the rubber game of a series with the Cardinals, and a ninth-inning game-tying pinch-hit homer against the Brewers. The Reds win both, part of a 9-1 stretch which helps them capture first place in the NL Central for the first time since April 2007. Rolen has eight homers, just three off his season high since 2006. Adding a pair of key game-tying shots along the way is Jonny Gomes, hitting .441/.474/.765 amid the streak.


Big Deal: A 2-8 skid briefly knocks the Cubs down to fifth place in the NL Central and leads to the dreaded vote of confidence for Lou Piniella, not to mention a reversal of course which will restore Carlos Zambrano to the rotation. The Big Z's been a big dud (6.01 Fair Run Average, 0.2 WXRL) in a bad bullpen, but he's also been by far the least effective of the six starters the Cubs have used; with four posting Support-Neutral Winning Percentages above .500, his .362 mark sticks out like a sore thumb. Then again, who figured Carlos Silva and Tom Gorzelanny would both be useful at the same time?


The Kids Are Alright: Amid a five-game losing streak in which they score just 10 runs-knocking them back to .500 lest they be mistaken for the 1927 Yankees-the Nationals recall 2009 first-round pick... Drew Storen. He debuts with a scoreless two-thirds of an inning capped by a strikeout of Matt Holliday. As for their other 2009 first-rounder, Stephen Strasburg continues to dominate, having allowed just 17 hits and 27 baserunners in 40 1/3 minor-league innings; those in the business of speculating are circling June 4 on their calendars for his major league debut.


New Ways to Lose: A five-game losing streak, including four straight in Florida, prompts Little Jeffy Wilpon to jet to Atlanta for impromptu organizational meetings which put the deathwatch on Jerry Manuel's tenure. Manuel survives, but that can't stop the Mets from dropping games in creatively alarming fashion; they lose on a walkoff wild pitch by Fernando Nieve and a walkoff throwing error by David Wright. The latter's struggling at the plate of late, going 3-for-25 with 12 strikeouts; he's on a 217-strikeout pace, but his respectable .262/.382/.504 line is good for a .314 True Average, 20th in the league.


Blown Up: Trevor Hoffman fails to retire a hitter as he yields three ninth-inning runs to the Reds in a loss which runs the Brewers' losing streak to eight games, and marks the fifth blown save of the year for the all-time saves leader. He's got a 13.15 ERA with seven homers allowed in 13 innings, bad enough to rank last in the majors in WXRL (-2.0). The rest of the bullpen's hardly been better; the team has lost eight games in which they led or were tied after six innings. As if that's not bad enough, they lose Jim Edmonds to an oblique strain and struggling Doug Davis to pericarditis, though at least the prescription for the latter isn't more Jeff Suppan.


Like a Hunka Hunka Burning Tires: The Snakes slide further into the NL West basement thanks to a seven-game losing streak, as the bullpen continues to smolder like the Springfield Tire Fire. Chad Qualls blows another save and now ranks second-to-last in the league in WXRL (-1.4), with Juan Gutierrez (-1.3) a close third-to-last and Blaine Boyer (-0.8) in the bottom six as well. Things are so bad that the topic of Aaron Heilman closing has been broached. While his Fair Run Average is a tidy 3.09 in a pen averaging an astounding 8.90, he too has been below replacement level (-0.1). You know timing is a problem when Bob Howry leads the team in WXRL despite a 10.39 Fair Run Average; luckily, he's been released.


Os Wants Out: Not content with winning four games in a row, the Astros turn around and drop their next five, scoring just 11 runs in the process; they're barely ahead of the 1968 White Sox's post-expansion pace of 463 runs scored in a 162-game season. The situation's so dire that even Roy Oswalt is willing to waive his no-trade clause. Tough to blame him, given that he's receiving just 2.25 runs per game of support and is just 2-5 despite ranking 10th in the league in ERA (2.62) and 13th in SNWP (.619).


High Fives: It's a good week for the Bucs, who top a series win over the Cubs and a brief supping of the nectar of third place with a rare defeat of Doc Halladay. Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchen both collect five hits in a win against Chicago, the first Buc teammates to do so in nearly 40 years. Jones' outburst comes amid an 13-for-26 stretch which brings him back from the depths of a .224/.341/.388 showing as of May 11. As for McCutchen, he's hitting .329/.386/.493 and ranks 19th in the league in True Average.

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 Transaction Action: Se... (05/20)
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