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June 3, 2010

Prospectus Hit List

Brave New World

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Padres
32-21
4-3
.603
Flat
Ain't It Grand? Two days after Jerry Hairston Jr.'s grand slam helps the Padres set a Petco Park record by dropping 18 runs on the Mets, Adrian Gonzalez bops an 11th-inning, game-ending grande after the team outlast Johan Santana. The win helps the Padres maintain their slim lead in the National League West and marks their third extra-inning win in their last eight games and their major league-high fifth of the season; they've squeezed in nearly a whole extra contest without a day off over their last nine games.

2


Cardinals
31-23
5-2
.601
Up
Bustin' Out: After going 11-13 while averaging just 3.8 runs per game and hitting 12 homers from May 1-26, the Cardinals' offense racks up 48 runs and 10 homers over a seven-game span, helping the team maintain pace with the Reds in the NL Central. Albert Pujols connects for four of those homers-three in one game-after hitting just one in his previous 28 games; yeah, he's still pretty good. Favored to win the division by a whopping nine games, the Cards suddenly find themselves in a race, but it's not because they're doing much wrong thus far; they're playing much better than their PECOTA-forecast .546 clip.

3


Braves
31-22
7-0
.575
Up
That First-Place Feeling: Chipper Jones homers for the first time in 38 games, the longest drought of his career, helping the Braves capture first place in the NL East from the reeling Phillies; they've now won eight in a row. Also homering in that game is Troy Glaus, his seventh amid a 22-game streak in which the Braves have won 18. He's hitting .318/.416/.600 during that span, with Eric Hinske (.351/.415/.684) and Jason Heyward (.280/.410/.500) the other prime movers, and Melky Cabrera (.316/.350/.421) suddenly looking almost lifelike.

4


Rockies
28-25
4-3
.566
Up
Bald-000000000: Ubaldo Jimenez hurls his second shutout of the season, a four-hit whitewashing of the Giants and Tim Lincecum. Jimenez becomes the first pitcher to win 10 games this year; more importantly, he's carrying a 0.78 ERA thanks to a string of 26 consecutive scoreless innings. His .809 Support-Neutral Winning Percentage obviously leads the majors; the top full season marks to shoot for belong to 2000-model Pedro Martinez (.768), 1994 & 1995 Greg Maddux (.746 and .757, respectively, both in 200-plus innings despite shortened schedules) and 1985 Dwight Gooden (.738).

5


Giants
28-24
5-2
.561
Up
Freaking Out? Tim Lincecum is outpitched in a battle with the Rockies' Ubaldo Jimenez; the Giants drop a series to the Rox, but maintain their third-place slot. Lincecum's been on a bad trip lately, walking five batters in each of his last four starts after passing just 10 through his first seven outings. He's been rocked for 14 earned runs in his last 15 1/3 innings, failing to reach the six-inning mark in each of his last three starts, all Giants losses. His problems may be mechanical, and while manager Bruce Bochy says he simply needs to relax, you'll recall that certain types of, um, relaxation have caused Timmy problems before.

6


Phillies
28-24
2-5
.549
Down
Far from Perfection: Roy Halladay throws the 20th perfect game in major-league history and the second of the season (first time that's ever been done, 1880 to the present), blanking the Marlins 1-0. Alas, the Phillies have been seeing all too many zeroes from the other side lately, scoring a grand total of 14 runs in their last 11 games, losing nine, being shut out five times, and surrendering first place in the NL East. The team is hitting just .197/.272/.269 with two homers in that span, with big guns Chase Utley (8-for-41), Ryan Howard (6-for-40), and Jayson Werth (5-for-33) combining for an especially futile .167/.246/.228.

7


Reds
31-23
4-3
.545
Up
Back in Business: Joey Votto goes 4-for-5 with a triple and a homer in his return from a six-game absence due to neck stiffness as the Reds take the middle game of a three-game set with the Cardinals. Votto's hitting .320/.414/.579 while ranking sixth in the league in True Average; the Reds as a team are second. Alas, they lose ground to the Cards in the Central race, and the question remains as to whether their pitching can keep up with their hitting.

8


Dodgers
31-22
5-2
.537
Flat
The Gang's All Here The Dodgers win back-to-back 1-0 extra-inning games against the Diamondbacks, as Matt Kemp collects his first career walkoff homer and .157-hitting blind chicken Garret Anderson finds the rare kernel of corn the next day. For the Dodgers suddenly to have trouble scoring runs is somewhat ironic, given that they've got Andre Ethier, Manny Ramirez, and Rafael Furcal back from the DL and together in the lineup for the first time since April 22; they're now scoring 5.8 runs per game with all three available (if not actually starting).

9


Marlins
27-27
3-4
.517
Down
Perfect Crime: Victimized by Roy Halladay's throwing a perfect game against them in front of 25,086 paying fans (65% capacity), the Marlins find a new way to devalue baseball history by selling unused tickets to the game in order to make a fast buck-while also padding their attendance total (yes, really). Screw Jeffrey Loria, David Samson, their merry band of money-grubbing carpetbaggers and the horse they rode in on; the money they'll raise won't buy them a clue.

10


Mets
27-27
3-4
.500
Down
Big Pelf and the Sunk Cost: Mike Pelfrey combines with two relievers to shut out the Phillies for the third straight game, then limits the Padres to one run in eight frames; he remains in the league's top 10 in both ERA (2.39) and SNWP (.647). Elsewhere on the staff, there's growing dissent in the ranks over the craptacular Oliver Perez's refusal to accept a minor-league assignment; even the ever-optimistic Jerry Manuel concedes difficulty in finding spots for him, though he does hand Perez the mop and bucket at the tail end of an 18-6 blowout. The Mets still owe Perez $20 million through the end of next season, but his options for helping the club have dwindled to a choice between organ donation and lighting himself on fire to collect the insurance money. We know he's an expert arsonist...

11


Cubs
24-29
2-4
.486
Down
Experiment Over: Carlos Zambrano's first start since April 20 is postponed by rain (the Cubs can't even get the weather right) but the experiment ends with his having made 13 relief appearances, compiling 0.367 WXRL and a 3.76 Fair Run Average. The Cubs went 19-20 during that span, and still rank 10th in WXRL, as compared to fifth in SNLVAR. Drawing the short straw as far as a rotation spot is Tom Gorzelanny, whose 2-5 record is distorted by 3.8 runs per game of support. His .513 SNWP is fifth among the starters, but his 3.66 ERA is third, and his 9.2 K/9 first.

12


Nationals
26-28
2-5
.481
Down
Capps Scraps: The Nats lose one-run games on unearned runs triggered by ninth-inning infield errors twice in a three-day span, first against San Diego, then against Houston. Matt Capps surrenders the game-winning hit both times, without being charged with an earned run. He may lead the league in saves (16), but he's been struggling of late, yielding eight runs (six earned) in his last seven outings and blowing his first two saves of the season. He's just 27th in the league in WXRL, though the Nats have to be happy they rank a solid seventh in the league, up from a dismal 15th last year.

13


Brewers
22-31
4-3
.427
Flat
Hart Attack: Corey Hart belts a walk-off homer against the Mets, then follows it with dingers in his next two at-bats, including a grand slam, and two more over his next three games. He now leads the league with 14 homers, two more than he hit all of last year, and three less than Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder combined. Hart's .588 SLG is second in the circuit as well, but he can only do so much to help a team that's yielding 5.8 runs per game, three-quarters of a run higher than last year.

14


Diamondbacks
20-34
0-7
.383
Down
Fire, and Lots of It: The Diamondbacks' losing streak reaches 10 in a row, including four straight one-run losses and a 31-inning scoreless streak. As the offense sputters, the bullpen continues to smolder, surrendering the winning run in all four games (once via walkoff balk!) and throwing the obligatory Chad Qualls blown save in for free; he and Juan Gutierrez, who surrenders a walkoff homer to Matt Kemp, are second and third in the majors in negative WXRL. Diamondback relievers have allowed opposing hitters to bat .309/.390/.545; the last time such a conflagration raged in the desert, Werner Herzog filmed it.

15


Astros
19-34
3-4
.319
Down
Not So Magic Wandy: As if their efforts to keep their offense churning out three runs per game weren't enough, the Astros' pitching has been every bit as awful lately. Over their last 10 games, they've yielded 6.9 runs per game, surrendering 10 or more four times after reaching double digits just twice in the previous 43 games. Bud Norris is dealing with inflammation of his biceps tendon, his bursa, and his ERA (6.80), but it's Wandy Rodriguez whose woes come to the fore after his latest pounding. He's yielded 30 runs (23 earned) in his last 30 1/3 innings, and his strikeout rate is down to 5.9 per nine, as compared 8.5 over the past two years; his curveball isn't curving and he can't find the answer via video. Gulp.

16


Pirates
22-31
2-4
.318
Down
Buc Bats Go Flat: Neil Walker's first major-league homer helps the Pirates beat the Cubs and post their first set of back-to-back wins in two weeks. Even with those, the Bucs have dropped nine out of 13 as the offense has bottomed out, averaging just 2.3 runs per game during the strech; they're now scoring just 0.06 runs per game more than the Astros, down from 0.53 runs per game just a couple weeks back. Don't blame Walker; the much-maligned 2004 first-round pick, who had just 40 MLB plate appearances and seven hits prior to this year, is hitting .313/.333/.531 since being recalled.


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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