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June 14, 2005

Prospectus Hit List

Week of June 12, 2005

by Jay Jaffe

Rk Team
Overall W-L
Week W-L
Trend
Comment
1 Cardinals
40-22
4-2
Up
New birds atop the pecking order, the Cardinals put their talons into the Red Sox and Yankees, holding two of the AL's top offenses to a mere 16 runs in six games. Skipper Tony LaRussa is getting his money's worth out of those 2.7 relievers per game: a 3.33 ERA and the third-best Expected Wins Above Replacement Level (WXRL) total in the NL at 5.05.
2 White Sox
42-20
5-1
Up
Road Warriors: With a 5-1 road trip, the Sox added two games to their AL Central cushion over the Twins. Away from U.S. Cellular, their record is 23-12; they're outscoring opponents 169-127, outplaying their first-order win projection by one game. At home they're 19-8, outscoring opponents only 122-104, outperforming that first-order projection by 3.5 games.
3 Twins
36-25
3-3
Down
Through Saturday, they were as close to their first-, second- and third-order win projections as a team can be (0.0, 0.1, 0.0). While the control-freak rotation gets the press, the bullpen (2.44 ERA)--with Jesse Crain, J.C. Romero, and Juan Rincon ably supporting Joe Nathan--is a fine one, currently 5.00 Expected Wins Above Replacement Level (WXRL), second-best in the AL. The defense, leading the majors with a .718 Defensive Efficiency Ratio, deserves a bow as well.
4 Orioles
36-26
2-4
Down
Surrendering the top spot after four weeks ruling the roost, thanks to consecutive series lost to the Pirates and Reds. Brian Roberts has returned from shoulder woes (a quiet 4-for-15 so far). Meanwhile, strange birds sighted in centerfield--David Newhan? Eli Marrero? Napolean Calzado?--haven't been able to compensate for the loss of Luis Matos (out since May 12), combining for a .234/.274/.305 performance. The indispensible Luis Matos--who knew?
5 Rangers
33-28
1-5
Down
Pitching staff blitzed for 40 runs (7.16 ERA) as they left first place in the AL West just as rapidly as they'd arrived. Only the unlikely duo of Rich Rodriguez and John Wasdin escaped unscathed as they combined for the Rangers' sole win in their 2005 debuts. At the plate, Alfonso Soriano hasn't let a minor hamstring injury curtail a 13-game hitting streak that's boosted him to .289/.329/.553.
6 Cubs
33-28
3-3
Flat
Took two of three from the Red Sox in the overhyped battle of "cursed" teams, but gave up 20 runs in doing so. Despite three not-so-hot starts between them this week, Carlos Zambrano and Glendon Rusch remain 11th and 12th in the NL in pitcher VORP (22.6 and 22.1 runs, respectively). Even better news regarding the rotation comes from the injury front as Kerry Wood begins rehab and Mark Prior starts throwing again.
7 Marlins
31-29
3-3
Up
Treading water in the five-deep NL East despite a monster week from big fish Carlos Delgado (.326/.421/.600 overall, good for the second-best EqA in the NL). Sinking deeper is Guillermo Mota, who has given up 12 earned runs in 7.2 innings since returning (prematurely?) from the DL. But the biggest story is the rumbling and grumbling that manager Jack McKeon's style is wearing thin.
8 Angels
36-26
4-2
Up
Vladimir Guerrero's return capped a successful East Coast swing which saw the Angels retake the AL West lead they'd briefly surrendered. Alas, one man's recovery is another man's misfortune, as Kelvim Escobar heads back to the DL and perhaps to surgery to remove a bone spur. Shuttling from Salt Lake City is 22-year-old Ervin Santana, who shut out the White Sox in just his second big league start while filling in for Escobar three weeks ago.
9 Mets
32-31
2-4
Down
Struggled for runs, scoring just 17 all week as the offense hit a meager .230/.300/.333 with three homers. Off the field (in the current parking lot, actually) the news is better: New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg drafted a proposed Shea Stadium replacement (ETA: 2009) to pinch-hit in a revised 2012 Olympic bid.
10 Phillies
36-28
6-1
Up
Nearly kept pace with the Nationals by winning 9 of 10 and 15 of 17. Pat Burrell continues to crush a lot (.429/.484/.964 with 4 homers this week), and Jim Thome's two homers increased his season output by 67 percent; he's hitting . 233/.410/.567 for the month. And while the Placido Polanco for Ugueth Urbina trade may generate some headscratching, the Philly bullpen has a 5.60 ERA and ranks 14th in the NL in Expected Wins Above Replacement Level (WXRL), with a mere 0.23.
11 Red Sox
33-29
2-4
Down
Below the (Ramiro) Mendoza Line: bullpen is currently yielding a 5.33 ERA and ranks 13th in the AL in Expected Wins Above Replacement Level (WXRL) with -0.9. David Wells' combined shutout gem over the Cardinals aside, the pitching staff was bombed (7.68 ERA this week), and not even a dozen homers and a team SLG of .500 could make up the difference.
12 Indians
31-30
5-1
Up
Winners of the Platinum Pole Vault rose seven notches and inched above .500 for the first time this year. Stingy staff now ranks second in the majors in ERA (3.56) thanks to a week in which no Indians pitcher surrendered more than three runs. Meanwhile, Grady Sizemore's .444/.479/.689 June is erasing memories of his slow start, but the offense as a whole is still the AL's lowest-scoring at 4.13 runs per game.
13 Padres
36-27
2-4
Down
Still atop the NL West, but sliding backwards thanks to a slump that has the team hitting a mere .231/.286/.323 in June and outscored 50-26 in those 11 games. They're especially hemorrhaging at second base; with Mark Loretta sidelined by thumb surgery that will keep him out until late July at the earliest, fill-ins have hit only .211/.257/.253.
14 Nationals
37-26
6-0
Up
Winners of ten straight are now 11 games over .500 despite outscoring opponents by only five runs, hence the low ranking. None of which matters to DC fans, more than one million of whom have shown up in RFK; they passed last year's Expos' attendance total back on June 2. Livan Hernandez keeps rolling (3.35 ERA, 10 straight quality starts, and the seventh-best VORP of an NL pitcher, 24.9 runs), while Nick Johnson (.335/.451/.541 and at .336, the fourth-best Equivalent Average in the league) continues to shame the Yankees.
15 Pirates
30-31
4-2
Up
.500 Ho! Briefly drew even in the Won/Lost column and took all four series of their homestand, beating some good teams (Orioles, Marlins, Braves) along the way. After stumbling out of the gate with an 8.08 ERA over his first seven starts and then taking a two-week hiatus to retool and recover, Oliver Perez's last five outings have him approaching his 2004 breakout season's form: 3.26 ERA, 39 K and 13 walks in 30.1 innings.
16 Braves
32-30
2-4
Down
No surgery for Chipper Jones's partially torn ligament in his left foot, but he'll still miss six weeks. His injury heralds the arrival of BP #1 Top Prospect Andy Marte, who debuted on June 7, but he'll have to share time with hot-hitting rookie Wilson Betemit (.309/.413/.559).
17 Yankees
30-32
2-4
Down
Ended a dismal road trip 3-9 and have lost 11 out of 14 overall. George Steinbrenner says Joe Torre's job is safe, but how many Yankee skippers have heard that line before? Even a former 88th round pick, Scott Seabol, who had a lone at-bat as a Yank in 2001, is playing hero on their watch.
18 Dodgers
33-29
4-2
Up
Hee Seop Choi's six-homer binge against the Twins (a walk-off against lefty (!) Terry Mulholland in the opener and three off of Brad Radke in the rubber match) ends homestand on a high note and erases a dry month for the Dodger first baseman, now hitting . 263/.335/.532. Meanwhile, Sunday's starter D.J. Houlton is making a good case to stay in the rotation; he's got a 3.18 ERA with 10 K in 11.1 innings over two starts, compared to a 7.41 ERA in 17 innings out of the pen.
19 Blue Jays
31-32
2-4
Down
.000 Dog: Orlando Hudson's 0-for-16 makes him just one of the culprits for the Jays' .182/.259/.260 performance this week, a slide which made them repeat winners of the Golden Anvil as they fell seven slots. On a positive note, Roy Halladay, who's allowed only six runs over his last six starts (a 1.36 ERA, to go with a 4.14 K/BB ratio in that span) now leads AL pitchers in VORP (37.3).
20 Brewers
28-34
2-4
Down
Weeks' Week: though the Brew Crew forgot to bring their A-games to Philly after taking two of three from the Yanks, the big news is a future getting one two steps closer. First, Rickie Weeks' torching of Triple-A (.320/.435/.655) led the team to trade struggling Junior Spivey for a solid starter in Tomokazu Ohka and--cue the heraldic trumpets--promote the #1 overall pick of the 2003 draft; keeping it in the family, Milwaukee selected Weeks' brother Jemile in the eighth round of this year's draft. Then, just as they needed a designated hitter for the coming week, the Brewers promoted Prince Fielder, a/k/a Little Big Daddy, to snack on Devil Ray pitching before returning to Nashville.
21 Tigers
28-32
2-4
Down
As hamstring and knee woes sidelined Carlos Guillen, the Tigers got a middle infield upgrade in the form of Placido Polanco, jettisoning reliever Ugie Urbina, who apparently couldn't play nice with others. Not that such a win-now maneuver makes much sense in the grand scheme of things, but with a bullpen clicking to the tune of a 3.15 ERA, they at least have the depth to cover for Urbina's departure.
22 Astros
26-35
5-1
Up
Stingy pitching staff held opponents to just a .200/.284/.272 line and 12 runs, a total even the feeble Astros offense--last in the majors by nearly half a run at 3.69 runs per game--could double. Not that the team is without hot hitters; speedster Willy Taveras is on a nine-game hitting streak during which he's racked up 20 hits amid a .541/.541/.676 performance, Jason Lane is enjoying a .379/.400/.897 June, and Morgan Ensberg (.277/.368/.540) is back to his 2003 form.
23 Diamondbacks
33-31
3-4
Down
Torched for 58 runs on the week, including 28 by the Royals (!) over the weekend, with the bullpen yielding 18 of those Royal runs in a mere 10 innings. As if the news from the arson squad weren't bad enough, closer Brandon Lyon, out since May 12 with elbow woes, won't return until after the All-Star Break.
24 Mariners
26-35
2-4
Down
Weekly winners of the Authorial Indifference Award because, as Jon Stewart says, I got nothin'. The Pat Borders joke-cow? Milked last week. Ichiro? .342 OBP. Adrian Beltre? Pffffftht, and with a hamstring injury to boot. And God help the starting pitching, which even after a good week (12 earned runs in 35.1 innings) still holds a combined 5.00 ERA.
25 Reds
26-36
5-1
Up
Like a Big Red... Machine: reached double digits in runs four times, including back-to-back ten-spots against the Orioles on Saturday and Sunday, and clubbed 16 homers on the week while slugging .575. The deluge lifted the offense into second in the NL in runs per game (5.15). Absent from the party was Austin Kearns, whose .224/.306/.394 line, coupled with the return of a healthy Wily Mo Pena, earned him a demotion to Louisville. Expect a trade as soon as he starts to restore his value.
26 Athletics
25-37
2-4
Down
Through another losing week, some small signs of life: their first road series win since April, against the Braves no less, Bobby Crosby's .317/.391/.634 performance since returning from the DL, Eric Chavez' .353/.463/.765 line in June, and Huston Street's rapid acclimation to the majors and move into the closer role. Twelve games below .500 means they still have plenty of work cut out for themselves.
27 Giants
25-36
1-5
Down
Losers of 14 out of 16, with reliever Jim Brower (6.53 ERA in 30.1 innings after being the team's mainstay with a 3.29 ERA in 89 appearances last year) the latest body thrown over the side of this sinking ship. But it's the starters, with a combined 5.19 ERA, a 1.54 K/BB ratio, and a mere 5.73 innings per start (15th in the NL) who are the real culprits.
28 Royals
21-41
4-2
Up
Rough week for the organization's crown jewel Zack Greinke: two starts, 8.2 innings, 25 hits, 18 runs, and an ERA fluffed to 6.01, dampening the unlikely thrill of his first major-league HR. Which raises two questions: what was Greinke doing at bat when trailing 7-1 after four innings? And again, why is pitching coach Guy Hansen continuing to guide a staff with a 5.54 ERA when the manager and hitting coach have been cashiered, and when the team's projected ace has reeled off five lousy starts in a row?
29 Rockies
21-40
2-4
Flat
Oh, Deer: as if things weren't bad enough--and when you're underperforming your .344 winning percentage, they're plenty bad enough, thanks--Rookie of the Year candidate Clint Barmes (.329/.371/.516 and a 20.3 VORP, tops among rookies) broke his clavicle carrying venison and will miss three months. As if the meat he's surrounded with wasn't gamey enough...
30 Devil Rays
21-42
1-5
Down
Rode a seven-game skid courtesy of the A's, Mariners, Reds and Pirates, teams not exactly tearing up this chart, and gave up runs by the bushel (59 in a five-game span). Looking for the exit is manager Lou Piniella, who said, "I'm not going to take responsibility for this." As the Reggie Taylor era dawns, we can't blame Sweet Lou one bit.

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 Sunday.

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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