CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Swing a... (07/12)
<< Previous Column
Prospectus Hit List: W... (07/05)
Next Column >>
Prospectus Hit List: W... (07/19)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Prospectus Q&A: Tony L... (07/12)

July 12, 2005

Prospectus Hit List

Week of July 10, 2005

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Cardinals
56-32
5-2
Flat
Firmly in control of the NL Central, and with the largest lead of any Hit List #1 thus far, so we'll cut Tony La Russa some slack on his nepotistic choice of Chris Carpenter (fourth in VORP among NL pitchers) to start the All-Star Game. If there's a concern, it's in having so many key players with reputations for fragility--Carpenter, Matt Morris, Mark Mulder, Scott Rolen (an All-Star Game scratch), Jim Edmonds, Larry Walker--but with a nearly insurmountable double-digit lead (11.5 games), The Genius ought to be smart enough to keep them rested.

2


White Sox
57-29
3-3
Flat
The AL's biggest surprise, and Pythagoras' as well--the Sox are 11 games over their third-order projection at the break. Their speed-and-defense blueprint has paid off in the major-league leads in both steals and Defensive Efficiency, but there's more to the recipe. For starters, they've got three of the league's top six pitchers according to VORP, including All-Star Game starter Mark Buehrle. The bullpen boasts the fourth-best ERA in the league (3.26) and the third-best Reliever Expected Wins Added (6.33). The offense, however, is tied for last in the league in Equivalent Average (.261), so there's still room for improvement.

3


Angels
52-36
2-5
Flat
Apparently they thought the All-Star break started last Thursday; how else to explain losing four straight at home to the Mariners (and not the Griffey/Unit/A-Rod model) by a combined score of 33-13? This squad has overcome more than its share of injuries thanks to its depth at the plate (nine hitters with Equivalent Averages of .260 or better), and on the mound (four starters among the league's top 25 in VORP). Sweep or no, they're still the team to beat in the AL West.

4


Red Sox
49-38
3-4
Flat
Soapy Sox: Keith Foulke finally submits to arthroscopic knee surgery, while the organization's Curt Schilling-as-closer plan reveals a clubhouse divided. With another tepid week, the Sox now find a familiar face in the rearview mirror, and they'll get an up-close look at their pinstriped pursuers next week in Fenway. Pass the popcorn.

5


Braves
50-39
5-2
Up
Earning a second Platinum Pole Vault award in three weeks, the Braves have seized control of the NL Wild Card race, and with Mike Hampton and Tim Hudson due back next week, they're poised to push the upstart Nats for the NL East lead. Bobby Cox continues his masterful juggling act, working in a set of rookies who have hit a combined .265/.344/.437 in 22 percent of the team's non-pitcher plate appearances. The latest is BP's 27th-ranked prospect Jeff Francoeur, who homered in his debut and again three days later. Meanwhile, Leo Mazzone's work has been no less miraculous on a staff full of unfamiliar names, one that currently ranks second in the league in ERA (3.77) despite requiring nine different starters and untold rolls of duct tape. Not for nothing has this team won 13 straight division titles.

6


Indians
47-41
3-5
Down
Nearly crushed by the weight of expectations at the outset of the season, the Indians have run off a 22-12 record over the last five weeks to emerge as serious Wild Card contenders. Though their bullpen faltered in New York over the weekend, it still holds the league leads in both Reliever Expected Wins Added (8.089) and ERA (2.87). Meanwhile, the offense has hit .283/.344/.473 since June 1 after a limp .245/.313/.401 performance over the first two months, one that required so many crossings of the Mendoza Line that the U.S. Border Patrol was placed on alert.

7


Rangers
46-40
4-2
Up
Amid the Kenny Rogers-related distractions, the Rangers took some momentum into the break by winning eight of 11. Mr. Rogers will go to Motown, thereby becoming, for at least a day, the biggest eyesore in a city that's got all too many. Meanwhile #2 starter Chris Young has allowed an 8.10 ERA over his last five starts, only one of which has gone beyond five innings, an ominous sign on a team that has enough trouble preventing runs as it is. With eight of their next 11 games against the A's, their niche as the #2 team in the AL West is about to be threatened.

8


Yankees
46-40
5-1
Up
They're not in first place at the break, they've got only three healthy starting pitchers, and their two big offseason free-agents are on the DL. But with a strong week against good teams, the Yanks are back in the AL East and Wild Card races, and--who'd have thought?--taking a stab at solving problems from within their system, with 20-year-old centerfielder Melky Cabrera the latest to get a look. But no in-season acquisition might have as much impact as the resurgence of Jason Giambi (.556/.636/1.500 on the week); behind him, the Yanks have taken over the major league lead in run scoring (5.56 per game).

9


Orioles
47-40
3-3
Down
After surrendering 25 runs to the Yanks in a two-day span, they salvaged some dignity by smiting the Red Sox, holding what was the league's top offense to a single run three times in four days. They've lost their lofty perch atop the AL East, but they're 7.5 games better than they were at the break last year, and the division looks to be a three-way fight for awhile yet. They have much to look forward to, including Rafael Palmeiro's 3,000th hit (he's at 2,998) and the returns of Erik Bedard and Javy Lopez over the next couple of weeks.

10


Twins
48-38
3-4
Down
It would take Antonio Alfonseca to count the number of infielders they've sent to the DL on one hand, so the Twins had reason to snag Bret Boone off waivers. But injuries only tell part of the tale of a team that's been eating the White Sox dust since the outset. Johan Santana hasn't dominated, though the rotation is actually deeper thanks to a healthy Joe Mays and an improved Carlos Silva, and still showing pinpoint control (2.97 K/BB). Yet the team is 13-14 over the last month despite playing seven out of nine series against sub-.500 teams, with Justin Morneau (.201/.285/.341 over his past 50 games) in an exceptional funk, and not in the Prince Rogers Nelson sense. The Wild Card is still theirs for the taking, but they need some of last year's heroes to return to form.

11


Athletics
44-43
4-2
Up
Four weeks ago they were #26 here, 12 games under .500, and the object of vituperative ridicule from the Flat Earth Society. One 19-6 run later, they're back above .500, though still dark horses at best for the Wild Card. Not all of Billy Beane's gambits have paid off; the pitching (with four starters posting ERAs below 4.08) and defense (third-best in the majors) are solid, but the offense remains in a virtual tie for last in the AL in Equivalent Average. Thanks to the return of Bobby Crosby (.324/.380/.545 after missing nearly all of the first two months) that unit has improved from a .243/.322/.345 April and May to a much more Beane-like .292/.361/.464 since June 1. They'll need to maintain that strong pace to shut Joe Morgan's pie hole.

12


Blue Jays
44-44
2-4
Down
Tough Break: a fractured tibia sidelines Roy Halladay, the AL leader in VORP among pitchers (52.6) and ERA (2.41) and likely All-Star Game starter, for at least a month. Given the dropoff behind #2 starter Gustavo Chacin--a 5.26 ERA for the rest of the rotation--that's likely to make life difficult for the Jays, though Ted Lilly (2.03 ERA over his last five starts) appears to be on the right track.

13


Padres
48-41
3-4
Down
Leading the NL West more by default (the two sweetest words in the English language, according to one philosopher) than performance, the Padres are only 15-22 since their torrid May. At 3.38, their bullpen has the second-best ERA in the NL and the fourth best Reliever Expected Wins Added, covering for a rotation that's shaky beyond Jake Peavy and Adam Eaton. Injuries to Ramon Hernandez, Mark Loretta and Phil Nevin have threatened the offense, but Robert Fick (.316/.370/.459), Damian Jackson (.292/.365/.404), and Mark Sweeney (.294/.414/.521) have filled in better than anyone this side of Kevin Towers expected.

14


Marlins
44-42
2-5
Down
Just 30-34 since April despite a rotation that's as strong one through four as any in the game, and even stronger with Scott Olsen subbing for Al Leiter (though Josh Beckett's blister-related cascade throws that into doubt). Thank a messy bullpen (4.57 ERA and the third-worst Reliever Expected Wins Added total in the league, 1.974) that's resorted to Todd Jones to cover for Guillermo Mota's woes. The offense is neatly divided into four overachievers and four guys threatening to sink this team to the bottom of the Atlantic. Guess which camp the leadoff hitter falls into (hint: you can't steal first base).

15


Tigers
42-44
5-3
Up
With one more win, they not only would have finished the first half at .500, they'd have matched their entire 2003 total. So as the baseball world sets its eyes on this week's festivities, let's have a hand for the home team (and please, a moment of silence for the dearly departed). Led by Jeremy Bonderman, the rotation's front four has been solid (3.87 ERA) if not dominant (only 5.39 K/9 and 2.15 K/BB), and the bullpen deep enough to make Ugueth Urbina expendable. The offense has its drawbacks--a collective OBP of .318, 12th in the AL, and just five walks from Ivan Rodriguez--but Chris Shelton (.345/.391/.580) has done an exceptional job since replacing Carlos Pena six weeks ago.

16


Mets
44-44
4-3
Up
Their 0-5 start aside, this team hasn't been more than four games in either direction from .500 all year, which is about as .500 as .500 can be. Record by month: 11-13, 15-13, 13-13 you get the idea. Pedro Martinez has looked like the same old Pedro, right down to skipping the All-Star Game. Elsewhere in the rotation, Victor Zambrano has very quietly put up eight quality starts over his last ten outings, yielding just a 2.55 ERA despite middling peripherals (4.70 K/9, 1.21 K/BB). Not that any team in their right mind would take him over Scott Kazmir, or that a team incapable of distinguishing between Aaron Heilman's positives (4.63 ERA, 8.07 K/9, 3.21 K/BB, 0.66 HR/9) and Kaz Ishii's negatives (5.57 ERA, 5.69 K/9, 1.31 K/BB, 1.33 HR/9) has much hope for moving beyond .500...

17


Nationals
52-36
2-5
Down
The NL's biggests first-half surprise, even if they garnered the Golden Anvil award this week. A strong bullpen--led by Chad Cordero, who tops all relievers in Reliever Expected Wins Added with 4.604 as well as a majors-leading 31 saves--and a staggeringly good home record (30-13, .698) have the Nats nearly 10 games above their Pythagorean projections as well as atop the NL East. Dayn Perry suggests that those two qualities outweigh their negative run differential, making an extreme second-half regression less likely. Maybe so, but a healthy Nick Johnson (DL'ed with a bruised heel) is critical to their chances.

18


Cubs
43-44
3-4
Down
Barely noticing their own slide below .500 amid the good news (Derrek Lee's shoulder is OK, and Mark Prior and Kerry Wood are back) and bad (demotions to Triple-A for Corey Patterson and Jason Dubois, and a slide into third place into the NL Central). Then again, this is a team managed by a man who's seen fit to grant nearly 500 plate appearance to Patterson and Neifi Perez as his #1 and #2 hitters to the combined tune of .245/.276/.377, so injury excuses only go so far and reality is just a passing acquaintance. They've got a cupcake schedule for the rest of the month, with four out of five series against teams below .500, so there's time to straighten out, but not a lot of it.

19


Astros
44-43
6-1
Up
By winning 16 of 20, the 'Stros are actually a half-game ahead of where they were a year ago. Alas, there's no Carlos Beltran on the horizon, and no Jeff Bagwell either, but Morgan Ensberg (.290/.387/.596 with 24 homers and 39.3 VORP, sixth-best in the NL) has emerged as a stud, and even a belated All-Star. Returned to his rightful position, Craig Biggio's enjoyed a resurgence as well (.288/.351/.497, which would make for his highest SLG since '98). Just as he has NL hitters, expect pitching VORP leader Roger Clemens to dominate all Astro-related conversation over the next three weeks as the bellwether of this team's aspirations.

20


Phillies
45-44
4-3
Flat
The biggest bust in baseball now that Morganna's been retired for four years. Or perhaps just ammunition for the Larry Bowa Appreciation Society, a small faction of Bushmills-swilling red-asses living in an Idaho bunker. Either way, the Phils have once again disappointed those who saw them as primed to take over an NL East ripe for change. Jim Thome's back troubles, which have limited him to .207/.360/.352 with seven homers while sidelining him twice, make for an excuse that goes only so far with Ryan Howard desperately waiting in the wings; as it is, the teams's .257 EqA is subpar. The real culprit is a bullpen that aside from Billy Wagner has put up a 5.51 ERA, one in which the acquisition of Ugueth Urbina (6.75 ERA in 13.1 innings) has done little to help.

21


Brewers
42-46
4-3
Down
Lest anybody injure a rotator cuff patting the Brewers on the back for a solid, entertaining first half, let's recall that they were actually four games better at the break last year (45-41) only to post the all-time worst second half of any team .500 or better. Solid pitching (the fifth-best ERA in the NL at 3.92) and defense (the league's best Defensive Efficiency at .705) have carried the day, and the big half-season of Carlos Lee has been just one of many acquisitions that make GM Doug Melvin look very smart. With the youth movement already underway, Melvin's moves to shed spare parts over the next few weeks should position the team even better down the road.

22


Mariners
39-48
5-2
Up
Swept the division-leading Angels in four straight, providing for a sweet end to a sour half that concluded with them shedding a relic in Bret Boone. Richie Sexson's lived up to expectations, but Adrian Beltre's been a bust except to those impressed by the 25th-best VORP among major-league third basemen, and Ichiro's had a down first half by his standards. Meanwhile, who'd have thought Mike Morse would be the best Mariner to come out of the Freddy Garcia trade, or that its fallout would lead to the exhumation of Pat Borders? The rotation could use a Garcia, paced as it is by Ryan Franklin's 4.43 ERA, and striking out a mere 4.45 per nine innings. If it weren't for the second-best Defensive Efficiency (.716) in the AL, they'd be Royally screwed.

23


Dodgers
40-48
2-5
Down
Bleeding Blue: with five Opening Day starters already on the DL, what could Jeff Kent do but strain a hamstring? Luckily, he's back--they'd have cancelled the season had he gone down--and so are Ricky Ledee and Odalis Perez, but the team quickly continues to fade from contention, having lost 19 out of 26. Bright spot: shortstop Oscar Robles, filling in for Cesar Izturis, is hitting .357/.407/.405 since arriving from the Mexican League. Deadline-beating season-ending injury of the week: spot lefty Kelly Wunsch (ankle). Ugh.

24


Pirates
39-48
4-3
Down
Arrrrgh, an Authorial Indifference award to the not-quite-sinking Pirate ship. They're just 9-18 since that magical day they spent at .500, and as they descend further towards Davey Jones' Locker, there'll be plenty of booty to pillage--Craig Wilson, Mark Redman, Matt Lawton, Jose Mesa, Ty Wigginton, two-piece suits, three-piece suits, tuxedos--come the trading deadline, because if there's one thing Dave Littlefield knows how to do, it's answer the phone in July.

25


Diamondbacks
43-47
2-5
Flat
Looking for a team to give the Padres a run for the NL West crown? Move along. This offense is sputtering to the tune of a .253 Equivalent Average, third-worst in the NL, and if the pitching were any thinner, they'd be serving it for lunch at Guantanamo Bay. A rotation for whom losing Russ Ortiz (5.88 ERA) was a blow now has to scrap to offset the loss of Shawn Estes (4.56 ERA) as well for the next couple of weeks. Don't look for the bullpen to pick up the slack; their collective 5.95 ERA is the worst in the majors, and Brandon Lyon still has hurdles to clear before coming back.

26


Giants
37-50
3-4
Flat
In the absence of Barry Bonds, corner outfielders besides Moises Alou (who's split time between left- and rightfield) are hitting a mere .261/.307/.412. If that were the Giants' only problem, they'd have a hope in the weak NL West, but the pitching has been an unmitigated disaster. Among starters, only Kevin Correia (in all of 10 innings) has an ERA under 5.00, and on the entire staff only spot lefty Scott Eyre has a VORP in the double digits (11.7). If mid-August is really Bonds' return date, they'll be playing for his milestones and little more.

27


Reds
35-53
4-3
Flat
The good news is an offense cranking out 4.88 runs per game, second in the NL, a healthy Ken Griffey Jr., a shortstop who's emerged as an All-Star in Felipe Lopez, and a pair of good young starters in Brandon Claussen and Aaron Harang. The bad news is a poorly designed pitching staff that's giving up nearly a run per game more (5.82 RA, 5.61 ERA), abetted by an historically helpless defense. If they're smart, they'll get some value for Joe Randa and make up their mind which outfielder to cash in, but given the decisions this organization has made in recent months, that's a bigger if than most.

28


Rockies
31-56
3-4
Up
Even when you're going nowhere, it's preferable that your biggest investment doesn't flatline, which is why Todd Helton's .424/.557/.742 over the last 19 games has the Rox breathing sighs of relief. After all, they only owe him another $97 million over the next six years. The youth movement has been a mixed blessing thus far, probably because them youths ain't so young. Along with the sidelined Clint Barmes, Garrett Atkins, Brad Hawpe and Rule V draftee Marcos Carvajal have proven useful, while blue-chip Jeff Francis has been promising if erratic. The rest? Eh, not so much.

29


Royals
30-57
2-5
Down
It says something that this team's brightest spots have been Andy Sisco, a Rule V draftee who's pitched middle relief and Emil Brown, a 30-year-old journeyman outfielder last seen in the bigs in 2001 and sporting a career line of .200/.289/.302 coming into this year. Somebody in KC is sweating the small stuff, but the bigger picture is a trainwreck wrapped in a calamity inside a disaster of biblical proportions--and that's just the rotation behind Runelvys Hernandez and D.J. Carrasco, which has put up a 6.83 ERA. With an offense that's last in the league in run scoring (4.31 per game) and EqA (.261), they're poised to give the Devil Rays a fight for the Hit List's bottom spot all season long.

30


Devil Rays
28-61
1-5
Down
Sixteen games worse than they were at last year's All-Star Break, but given this team's fetid history, there's no question as to which season was the outlier. The current futility had manager Lou Piniella threatening to start with his relievers, but apparently that was just cloud talk. Lou might have better luck shooting his starters before the game, Scott Kazmir and Casey Fossum excepted; the rest have a 6.55 ERA. It's almost enough to drive a man crazy, except... already there.

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

0 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Swing a... (07/12)
<< Previous Column
Prospectus Hit List: W... (07/05)
Next Column >>
Prospectus Hit List: W... (07/19)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Prospectus Q&A: Tony L... (07/12)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Premium Article Some Projection Left: The "Don't Give Up On ...
Fantasy Rounders: Arms Race
Premium Article What You Need to Know: August 28, 2015
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit List: August 28, 2015
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Roach Motel
Premium Article Raising Aces: Are We There Yet?
Premium Article Ducks on the Pond: That Pitch Doesn't Look F...

MORE FROM JULY 12, 2005
Premium Article Prospectus Matchups: EqA Streakers
Prospectus Today: The Greatest Man I've Ever...
Premium Article Prospectus Q&A: Tony La Russa
Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Swing and a Myth: The Home Ru...

MORE BY JAY JAFFE
2005-08-02 - Prospectus Hit List: Week of July 31
2005-07-26 - Prospectus Hit List: Week of July 24, 2005
2005-07-19 - Prospectus Hit List: Week of July 17
2005-07-12 - Prospectus Hit List: Week of July 10, 2005
2005-07-05 - Prospectus Hit List: Week of July 3, 2005
2005-06-28 - Prospectus Hit List: Week of June 26, 2005
2005-06-21 - Prospectus Hit List: Week of June 19, 2005
More...

MORE PROSPECTUS HIT LIST
2005-08-02 - Prospectus Hit List: Week of July 31
2005-07-26 - Prospectus Hit List: Week of July 24, 2005
2005-07-19 - Prospectus Hit List: Week of July 17
2005-07-12 - Prospectus Hit List: Week of July 10, 2005
2005-07-05 - Prospectus Hit List: Week of July 3, 2005
2005-06-28 - Prospectus Hit List: Week of June 26, 2005
2005-06-21 - Prospectus Hit List: Week of June 19, 2005
More...

INCOMING ARTICLE LINKS
2005-08-02 - Prospectus Hit List: Week of July 31
2005-07-26 - Prospectus Hit List: Week of July 24, 2005
2005-07-15 - Premium Article Prospectus Matchups: Diversity and Unpredict...
2005-07-14 - Prospectus Notebook: Thursday Edition