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June 28, 2005

Prospectus Hit List

Week of June 26, 2005

by Jay Jaffe

Rk Team
Overall W-L
Week W-L
Trend
Comment

1


St. Louis Cardinals
47-28
3-4
Up
Back in the catbird seat despite a middling week against a pair of lesser teams. Jim Edmonds returned with a bang (.375/.474/1.000 with three homers on the week), but Scott Rolen's been rusty (.208/.269/.250). Meanwhile, the rotation is showing some wear and tear, with Mark Mulder (9.00 ERA in 20 innings this month) having been hit hard by some mediocre teams and Jason Marquis' K-rate falling through the floor (4.31 per nine innings--down from last year's 6.17--and only one strikeout over his last three starts). Stay tuned.

2


Chicago White Sox
50-24
4-2
Up
Only a pair of losses to their crosstown rivals prevented them from retaking the top spot for the first time in seven weeks. With Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye, Carl Everett and Frank Thomas all on hot streaks, they've added considerable power to their speed-and-defense recipe, with the Big Hurt and everyone's favorite diplomat combining for 12 longballs and a jumbo .747 SLG in just 101 plate appearances this month. Meanwhile, with an 0.87 ERA in 31 June innings, Mark Buehrle has very quietly climbed to second in VORP among AL pitchers (38.1) and at 2.48 is just 0.02 behind Kenny Rogers for the league lead in ERA.

3


Boston Red Sox
44-30
6-0
Up
The majors' most prolific offense (5.69 runs per game) has smothered opponents of late, outscoring them 96-36 as they won 12 out of 13 and took over first place in the AL East for the first time this year. Even without Curt Schilling, the rotation has come around; the starters have posted a 3.86 ERA, considerably better than the team's overall 4.63 mark. At the plate, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez have spent the month bashing like it's 2004, each slugging above .650.

4


Anaheim Angels
45-29
6-0
Up
Kelvim Escobar's bad elbow is getting the attention, but this rotation has the depth to cover for even such a season-ending injury; the other four starters have combined for a 3.42 ERA, and rookie Ervin Santana's been impressive at times. Similarly, depth and versatility--in the form of Chone Figgins and Maicer Izturis filling in around the diamond--should help the team overcome the loss of Steve Finley shoulder injury, who wasn't exactly helping anyway (.225/.287/.408).

5


Baltimore Orioles
42-33
1-6
Down
Cooked Birds? Knocked out of first place in the AL East for the first time all year while being outscored 45-25 on the week, losing five straight as Melvin Mora sat with a bad hammy. The staff yielded a 7.11 ERA, with the starters alowing 30 runs in 33 innings, while the hitters mailed in a grim .229/.272/.375 performance underscored by a hacktastic 43/11 K/BB ratio. If there's good news, it's in Brian Roberts regaining his early season form (.379/.419/.586 on the week), enough to reclaim his lead in VORP among AL hitters (48.0).

6


Minnesota Twins
40-33
2-4
Flat
Relieved to have interleague play in their rearview mirrors after being roughed up by the not-so-tough NL West and those big bad Brewers. With eight walks and 10 runs allowed over his last two starts, Johan Santana's been surprisingly ineffective, even being passed by Carlos Silva in the VORP department (25.6 to 24.6). Such inversions abound on the other side of the ball as well, with Torii Hunter (.291 EqA) outperforming everybody from Justin Morneau (.284) to Joe Mauer (.281) to Lew Ford (.273) to Mike Cuddyer (.255). Ouch.

7


Texas Rangers
38-35
1-5
Down
Apparently forgot to take their bats on the road trip, scoring only 17 runs while "hitting" .216/.245/.346. Meanwhile, the starting rotation got bombed, allowing 28 runs in 28.1 innings, and staff ace Kenny Rogers lost a bout with a water cooler as well. It's all part of a not so pretty picture which has seen the Rangers go 8-15 this month, losing 7.5 games in the standings to the AL West-leading Angels. With the Halos in town for a four-game set, now would be a good time to stop the hemorrhaging.

8


Cleveland Indians
39-34
2-4
Down
Finished interleague play with a 15-3 record, steamrolling a weak NL West and the Hapless (that's a suburb of Cincinnati) Reds and gaining seven games on the Twins. They've scored 5.48 runs per game in June, with Grady Sizemore (.393 /.460/.652 this month) continuing to lead the way and Victor Martinez (.299/.391/.519 this month) showing the form which made his contract extension an organizational priority. Their three-game broom-spanking at the hands of the Red Sox hints that they've got work to do before anyone catches Wild Card Fever; keep an eye on how they handle the rematch this week.

9


New York Yankees
38-37
2-5
Flat
Now starring in Back! Or Not! a musical based on this team's ability to mount only the occasional gallant rally--setting off new rounds of tea-leaf reading in which the question, "Is this the turning point?" is endlessly invoked--as opposed to the more mundane ones that sustain the real business of winning. Don't be fooled by the intermittent dramatics; these Yanks may be too rich, but they're also too thin (Kevin Reese? Russ Johnson?), they don't have enough pitching (Sean Henn?). To paraphrase Bob Dylan, they ain't goin' nowhere.

10


Atlanta Braves
41-34
5-1
Up
Keeping Up With the Joneses: With Chipper on the DL, Andruw's picked up the offense. He's hit a scorching .393/.508/1.071 with 12 homers over his last 15 games. Chipper's primary replacement at third, Wilson Betemit, has hit .365/.406/.698 on the month, while Ol' Man Franco's come around with a .375/.474/.688, all helping to offset a beleagured pitching staff that's missing three of its top four starters (and nearly four of five), yet threatening to devour the roster. A well-earned Platinum Pole Vault award for climbing five spots in the face of so many setbacks.

11


Florida Marlins
38-34
4-2
Down
Dontrelle Willis shoots past the Rocket on the VORP leaderboard after twirling his third shutout of the year, while A.J. Burnett's two-hit masterpiece seems to be writing his ticket out of town. But how badly is the offense sputtering? Miguel Cabrera (.332/.380/.560 overall) was the only Marlin to homer all week, and Willis has a higher VORP as a hitter(3.2) than either Juan Pierre (-0.8) or Mike Lowell (-6.9).

12


San Diego Padres
42-34
4-3
Flat
But for a pair of late-inning hiccups, they could have buried the Dodgers in the NL West race, and even with the resurrection of Xavier Nady (.364/.417/1.364 with three homers), they barely got past the Mariners. With the already punchless Phil Nevin (.268/.308/.424) headed to the DL with an oblique strain, they'll need all the Nady they can get. In light of Ramon Hernandez's wrist woes, they need Robert Fick (.333/.395/.522 in 76 plate appearances) to stay hot as well.

13


Chicago Cubs
38-36
4-3
Down
Amid a 5-9 slide over the past two weeks, Sunday's six-inning, one-hit stint by Mark Prior in his return from a fractured ulna had to rate as the best news Cubs fans have heard in quite some time. With the pitching staff bombarded in June (5.59 ERA before Prior's start), Kerry Wood still out and Carlos Zambrano exceptionally shaky, they'll need the good news and good luck to continue.

14


Detroit Tigers
36-36
3-3
Flat
Though they're hitting a seemingly toothless .268/.323/.420 as a team, much of that is park effects; by Equivalent Average they're sixth in the AL at .270, while they rank only eighth in scoring at 4.57 runs per game. The offense will get a big boost with Carlos Guillen reactivated and Magglio Ordonez eying a return as well. Mea culpa from last week: the Tigers last saw .500 on September 8, 2000, not in 1995 as reported.

15


Toronto Blue Jays
38-38
4-3
Up
Sent the Orioles reeling but fell flat against the Nats. Rookie infielder Aaron Hill continues to tear up the league, hitting .353/.421/.496 in 133 plate appearances since being recalled in late May, and at .317, he's got far and away the highest Equivalent Average on the team at .317; Shea Hillenbrand is the only other Blue Jay above .270. "Dear Corey, I've found someone else..."

16


Washington Nationals
44-31
4-2
Flat
Hot Head, Hot Hitter: Jose Guillen's run-in with his old boss appears to have lit a fire under the controversial rightfielder; he's hitting .385/.400/.769 since the incident, with a pair of two-homer games helping to boot the Bucs. Though Ryan Church has missed three games with a shoulder injury, his hot June (.368/.439/.737) has positioned him to surpass Clint Barmes in VORP among NL rookies (17.7).

17


New York Mets
37-38
4-2
Flat
Took a series from the Phillies and came within one inning of sweeping the Yankees in the Bronx, but close doesn't count in a five-team race. Cliff Floyd (.333/.462/.905) continues to carry the offense with the help of David Wright, while Carlos Beltran (.262/.318/.426 with only eight homers) looks completely out to lunch. Maybe he took GM Omar Minaya with him; how else to explain a roster which features Chris Woodward playing first base and Gerald Williams drawing a major-league paycheck?

18


Philadelphia Phillies
39-37
1-5
Down
Their 3-9 skid is accompanied by a Golden Anvil award for falling five slots. They've got enough lumber to reverse the trend, but pitching is another story. The staff is walking over 3.0 per nine innings, a recipe for disaster given their Citizens-induced gopheritis (1.54 HR/9). The bullpen's a particularly sore spot, sporting a 5.36 ERA, third-worst in the NL, with Ugueth Urbina contributing an 11.05 ERA since his recent arrival.

19


Milwaukee Brewers
35-40
4-3
Flat
A Night to Remember: Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks both go yard for the first time in their major-league careers in the same game, the former providing a series-clinching blow in a pinch, the latter merely hit off of Johan Santana. Despite slugging .542, Fielder is still likely bound for the farm when Russ Branyan is healthy, but Weeks, who's hitting .308/.438/.442, is staying put.

20


Oakland Athletics
35-40
6-1
Up
Have now taken five straight series and seven out of eight while going 18-8 since May 29. Thank the starting rotation, which--if one conveniently ignores stopgap Ryan Glynn--has yielded only a 2.67 ERA on the month, with Joe Blanton (2.02 in 35.2 innings) and Kirk Saarloos (2.08 in 26 innings) leading the way (and no, you can't have Barry Zito, but thanks for asking). On offense, Eric Chavez (.374/.441/.725 in June) continues his resurgence, and Nicholas Swisher (.289/.344/.506 this month) appears to be acclimating.

21


Seattle Mariners
33-41
2-5
Down
Puttering along in unmemorable fashion, dropping series to both the A's and the Padres. Rookie shorstop Michael Morse continues his torrid pace (.395/.461/.513), vaulting to the lead in VORP among AL rookies (15.9). But at this point, the M's should be fattening hogs for the slaughter. With Bret Boone rehabbing his swing (.368/.400/.684 since his benching), Jamie Moyer enjoying something of a resurgence (2.41 ERA over his last six starts), and Randy Winn poised to join the centerfield version of musical chairs, Bill Bavasi's sure to be spend a lot of time on the phones.

22


Los Angeles Dodgers
35-40
2-5
Down
Bullet Dodged: Dr. Frank Jobe, who knows Tommy John surgeries, tells Eric Gagne, "You're no Tommy John surgery (this time)," opening the likelihood that the team's ace closer might make spring training. But amid a 2-11 road trip that saw the offense squeeze out only 27 runs, injuries continue to decimate all around the diamond, with J.D. Drew's absence leading to the inevitable appearance of the All-Ja(y)son Outfield, almost certainly a major-league first.

23


Houston Astros
33-40
5-1
Up
Clinched their first winning month of the season, and yielded only 17 runs on the week. Andy Pettitte's been in a groove, putting up a 2.11 ERA and a 7.60 K/BB ratio over his last six starts. Also starting to turn things around is Lance Berkman, who's hit .295/.402/.500 on the month. A .500 record would be a major salvage, but they've got a ways to go even to get there.

24


Pittsburgh Pirates
34-40
3-4
Down
After sighting the shores of the mythical Five Hundred Beach, they've drifted back out to sea having lost 10 of 14, though a pair of homers from Jason Bay at least allowed them to steal a series split (if not more) from the Cardinals. The outfield of Bay, Matt Lawton and Tike Redman has combined to hit .336/.427/.550 this month.

25


Arizona Diamondbacks
39-38
4-3
Down
First alphabetically, but nonetheless winners of this week's Authorial Indifference award, and probably deserving of a prize for staying above .500 while having the highest bullpen ERA (6.08) in the majors. Finally registering a pulse is Shawn Green, who's hit .308/.371/.659 with seven homers in June.

26


Cincinnati Reds
30-45
3-3
Up
Code Red: Axed manager Dave Miley and pitching coach Don Gullett, addressing a mere fragmentof the team's woes. Gullett got a particularly raw deal, as you can't make Cincinnati Chili out of chicken guano, and with the majority of the team's pitchers sporting negative VORPs after a collective 6.68 ERA this month, there was no shortage of supply. As if things couldn't get worse, Ryan Freel, who leads the team with a .406 OBP, says he's suffering from "degenerate toe," or something like that.

27


San Francisco Giants
30-44
2-5
Down
Bay Area Beatdown: Sweep by A's capped by 16-0 humiliation in which they were outhit 24-1. Of course, in a week that included the signing of Alex Sanchez, humiliation is a relative term. Jason Schmidt struck out 10 in his most recent start and is riding a streak of 17.1 scoreless innings, but just as his ERA is down, rotation workhorse Brett Tomko's has climbed to 5.21, thanks to a skid in which he's allowed 24 runs in 19.1 innings.

28


Tampa Bay Devil Rays
26-50
3-4
Up
Not the freshest fish in the Sunshine State, the Rays were swept by the Marlins, scoring only six runs over the weekend. But for whatever slings and arrows they suffer--including a humiliating 17-run turnaround -- they've run their record to 7-3 against the Yankees this year, which no doubt chafes a certain Tampa resident's ass.

29


Kansas City Royals
25-49
0-6
Down
Chapter XIII: in which the Royals show new manager Buddy Bell that they haven't forgotten how to lose, despite the lessons of the past three weeks (et tu, Runelvys?). Outscored 46-20 over the past week, and had the White Sox not been edged out for the top spot, the Royals would have suffered the distinction of being pounded by the #1 and #30 teams here, a Prospectus Hit List first worthy of a proper trophy. Better luck next time, guys.

30


Colorado Rockies
25-48
3-3
Flat
Won as many games over the weekend as they had in the previous three weeks. The bad news is that it took the Royals to make everybody feel good about themselves, and the even worse news is that the clock won't strike Lima Time for them again this year.

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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