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August 9, 2005

Prospectus Hit List

Week of August 7

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Cardinals
70-41
4-3
Flat
With half the regular lineup still sidelined, the Cardinals have been flaunting their depth. 27 year-old rookie John Rodriguez, who spent eight years in the Yankees chain, is hitting .333/.400/.561 in 20 games since taking over for the injured Reggie Sanders in left field. Abraham Nunez remains hot (.306/.372/.415 on the year) in place of Scott Rolen, performing in the range of his 90th percentile PECOTA projection. And the walk-off grand-slam business is being taken care of by pint-sized David Eckstein, whose blast on Sunday gave the Cards a series win over the NL East-leading Braves.

2


White Sox
72-38
4-3
Flat
Rookie second baseman Tadahito Iguchi has been tearing the cover off the ball lately, hitting .333/.436/.606 since the All-Star break. He's now second in the AL in VORP among "true" rookie hitters (22.0). Also on a post-break tear: A.J. Pierzynski (.358/.419/.716) and Paul Konerko (.329/.424/.608). On the other hand, Scott Podsednik is hitting just .250/.291/.338 over that span, going 10-for-17 in steals after a 44-for-53 first half.

3


Athletics
64-47
6-1
Up
Another hot week--expanding their run to 46-15 since May 29--has the A's now tied for first place in the AL West. They pounded the Royals by a combined score of 27-1 on Saturday and Sunday, a run differential which helped inch them to within a Catfish Hunter whisker of #2 on the Hit List. Dan Johnson homered in four consecutive games en route to a .346/.452/.846 week; he's now tops among the AL's "true" rookie hitters in VORP (23.9). Meanwhile, Danny Haren allowed just two runs over 14 innings while striking out 12, reversing a month-long slump.

4


Red Sox
63-47
4-2
Down
Head Games: Manny Ramirez survives collision with Edgar Renteria, sustaining bruises on his cheek and chest as well as a bit of bleeding in his eye, Matt Clement returns to the mound after getting drilled in the noggin by a line drive, and stathead fave Roberto Petagine returns to the majors for the first time since 1998 as John Olerud goes down with a strained hamstring. Despite being limited to 16 plate appearances on the week, Ramirez's .467/.500/1.067 performance, including three homers, helped the limping Sox gain a game on the intensive care unit some 200 miles down the road.

5


Braves
64-48
3-4
Down
A .500 week ending in a walk-off grand slam by a 5'7" shortstop is hardly a stellar one, but the Braves have to be heartened by the performance of Jorge Sosa, who threw seven shutout innings before watching the Cardinals beat closer Chris Reitsma. In 11 starts (60 innings), Sosa has yielded just a 2.25 ERA and struck out 6.75 per 9 innings. He's struggled with control (1.73 K/BB) but even that's much improved on his 0.84 K/BB ratio as a reliever. Given that he came into the year with a career ERA of 5.17, this looks like another piece of Leo Mazzone's fine handiwork.

6


Indians
60-52
5-1
Up
Haf Back: As the Indians enjoy an 11-4 run, Travis Hafner returns from a 17-game absence and hits .400/.500/.533 on the week. But the title of the team's hottest hitter goes to Victor Martinez, who's batting .400/.489/.675 since the All-Star break, bringing his numbers into line with his career norms and moving him up to second among AL catchers in VORP (28.9) and third in EqA (.286).

7


Angels
64-47
4-2
Flat
Even in a winning week, the Angels lost ground to the A's, with whom they're now tied atop the AL West. Fortunately for them, some of their rookies have stepped up. With Darin Erstad sidelined by a sore Pipp, er, hip, Casey Kotchman (#5 on our Top 50 Prospect List) stepped in and hit his first three major-league homers over the weekend. Ervin Santana has settled into his rotation slot, lowering his ERA to 4.91 with three good starts in his last four; he'll need to keep that up with Jarrod Washburn sidelined with an inflamed elbow.

8


Yankees
59-50
3-3
Down
This week on M*A*S*H: Randy Johnson's back acts up, threatening his next start. Carl Pavano gets a plane ticket to Birmingham to see Dr. James Andrews instead of a green light to continue rehab; he may be done for the year. Jaret Wright's strong rehab start has him on target to return later this month, and perhaps Chien-Ming Wang will as well. Meanwhile, Gary Sheffield shoots his mouth off to a magazine reporter, then lets his bat do the talking with two homers and a 5-for-12 weekend against Toronto. He's hit in 14 straight, and is batting .406/.496/.792 with runners in scoring position, though he trails both objects of his diatribe in VORP.

9


Astros
60-51
3-3
Flat
Lost three straight after a 15-2 run, but they're now atop the NL Wild Card hunt, a situation that has Jeff Bagwell eying a late-season return from career-threatening shoulder surgery. He hit just .250/.361/.398 before going on the DL May 11. Meanwhile Roger Clemens celebrated his 43rd birthday in between two starts in which he allowed just one earned run over 14 innings. He's lowered his ERA to 1.38 and leads Chris Carpenter and the rest of the NL in pitching VORP by 8.3 runs (69.9).

10


Mets
57-54
4-2
Up
To the Victor Goes the Spoils: Mets win the battle of the Zambranos to wrap up a weekend sweep of the Cubs, halting a slide which saw them lose the previous three series. Jose Reyes is riding a 20-game hitting streak in which he's hit .374/.400/.462 while tacking on 11 steals. That mad dash has pushed his season's OBP all the way up to .303, 14 whole points above Rey Ordoņez's career mark. You can't spell Mets without Meh... well, close enough.

11


Rangers
56-54
3-3
Down
As predicted last week, the Rangers are poised to struggle in the rotation until Kenny Rogers returns from his suspension; this past week, they put up a 7.47 ERA, which is great if you're an airplane but bad if you're fighting for the Wild Card. Only John Wasdin (John Wasdin?) and Chris Young could even manage quality starts in that span. Meanwhile, Sarge is in charge: Gary Matthews Jr. has hit .296/.379/.644 with 12 homers since June 27.

12


Blue Jays
56-54
3-3
Flat
Roy Halladay's return from a broken leg is pushed back eight days, and Ted Lilly's still sidelined by bicipital tendonitis, but the Jays have held up admirably. Aside from Lilly, the rotation has put up an ERA of 3.90 since the All-Star break, with Gustavo Chacin (2.64 in that span) leading the way. Chacin leads AL rookie pitchers in VORP (30.7).

13


Marlins
57-52
4-3
Flat
Dontrelle Willis has put together three good starts in a row, allowing just one earned run over 20 innings and giving hope that he can return to the dominant form he showed earlier in the year. The offense, however, is struggling in the absence of Carlos Delgado, scoring just 3.55 runs per game in the 11 games since the first baseman was sidleined by a sore elbow. He's been placed on the DL retroactive to July 28.

14


Twins
57-54
3-4
Flat
Snapped a 3-11 slide by beating up on the Red Sox, but once again, the Twins can't keep their infield intact. After a week which saw him hit .300/.364/.800 with three homers, Michael Cuddyer went on the DL again, this time due to a bad right knee. Others who've manned the position for the team have hit a punchless .257/.329/.345. The team's troubles extend to the mound as well, where Joe Mays has been bombed in four of his last six starts, a span during which he's given up an 8.59 ERA while averaging less than five innings a start and drained his VORP down to 2.0.

15


Phillies
58-54
3-3
Up
Bobby Abreu's .304/.385/.652/ 2 HR week halted a skid that's traceable to his success in the Home Run Derby; from the All-Star break through the end of July, he hit just .194/.282/.290 without a homer. Also showing signs of snapping his post-break skid is Cory Lidle, who allowed just one run over eight innings while striking out nine and walking none against the Brewers on Friday. In his previous four starts, Lidle had yielded a 12.46 ERA in 17.1 innings thanks to nine home runs, including five in one game.

16


Brewers
56-56
4-2
Up
A 21-14 run has brought the Brewers back to .500 for the first time since May 25. With a .500/.556/1.042 week, Geoff Jenkins continues his hot streak; he's now leading the team in VORP with 35.9. Also streaking is Derrick Turnbow, who's only been scored upon once in his last 20 appearances (21 innings). He's now second in the NL in Reliever Wins Above Expectation (3.410).

17


Cubs
54-57
1-5
Down
Comebacks by Nomar Garciaparra (2-for-7 with a walk), Scott Williamson (two scoreless innings of relief) and Kerry Wood (one blank frame in his first major-league relief appearance) can't halt a 1-7 skid in which the Cubs have been outscored 44-23, and pummeled by rumors about Dusty Baker's wherebouts in 2006. The tough questions Baker should be answering concern the fact that Rich Hill (7.00 ERA overall, 8.03 in three starts) is in the rotation and Glendon Rusch (3.86 ERA overall, 3.32 in 10 starts) isn't.

18


Orioles
53-58
2-5
Down
Put Out of his Mazzilli: With the Orioles in a 2-16 slide amid a miserable week for PR, the team opted to fire manager Lee Mazzilli and promote bench coach Sam Perlozzo as the interim skipper. Meanwhile, news leaked that the steroid Rafael Palmeiro tested positive for was stanzolol, a common anabolic steroid not available in any dietary supplement. The MLBPA is considering a grievance over the leak, the O's have cancelled a celebration of Palmeiro's 3,000th hit, and Congress is investigating Mr. Finger Wag for perjury. At least Camden Yards is still standing.

19


Tigers
52-58
2-4
Flat
A 3-9 spell has the vultures circling manager Alan Trammell, conveniently ignoring the fact that the team win total at year's end will almost certainly surpass last year's 72 and nearly double the previous year's 43. In one of the week's few highlights, Sean Douglass outdueled Felix Hernandez in the latter's big-league debut; amid all the hype, few noticed Douglass' three-hitter, or that he's yielded just a 3.32 ERA in his seven starts since being recalled from Toledo. Not too shabby for a pitcher who'd put up a 6.51 ERA in his previous 120 big-league innings.

20


Padres
56-55
5-1
Up
Beating up on the less fortunate (Pirates, Nationals) allowed the Padres to halt their 1-12 skid and climb back over .500. Not everything is so rosy-- Adam Eaton was shaky in two relief appearances, Ryan Klesko has missed six out of the past seven games with severe back spasms, and Chan Ho Park was hit hard by the Pirates in his first apperance since being traded. The good news: Miguel Olivo homered in his first Padre at-bat, added another the next night, and hit .313/.389/.688 on the week.

21


Nationals
58-53
2-4
Down
Pythagoras is a Fickle Bitch Goddess. Once 24-8 in one-run contests, the Nats are 0-13 in them over the last month, and have now lost 21 of 28, a skid that has Livan Hernandez pitching another fit. Wary of another close loss, manager Frank Robinson fields a lineup BP editor Jonah Keri termed the worst ever: 1. 2B Jamey Carroll (-7.4 VORP), 2. SS Cristian Guzman (-17.1), 3. 1B Nick Johnson (35.7), 4. 3B Carlos Baerga (1.6), 5. CF Ryan Church (17.0), 6. RF Matt Cepicky (-0.9), 7. LF Tony Blanco (-0.1), 8. C Gary Bennett (-0.2), 9. P Esteban Loaiza (1.6 hitting, 30.5 pitching). The result: 3-0 Padres. They deserved worse.

22


Mariners
47-63
2-4
Up
Ryan Franklin was suspended 10 days for testing postiive for a banned substance, one day after Palmeiro. Jorge Campillo went down with a torn ulnar collateral ligament one inning into his first big-league start and is headed for Tommy John surgery. But this week will be remembered by M's fans for a happier reason: the major league debut of 19-year-old Felix Hernandez. King Felix, #3 on our Top 50 Prospect List, tossed five innings of three-hit ball against the Tigers, allowing one earned run and striking out four, drawing raves despite taking the loss. Set your TiVos for tonight against the Twins.

23


Diamondbacks
54-59
2-4
Down
One and Done: the Diamondbacks' stay in first place in the NL West lasted just one game, and they've fallen to three back while returning to business as usual. Rookie Conor Jackson hit .333/.375/.800 in his first full week, but the two homers he belted came in a 14-7 loss to the Rockies. More impressive and more crucial to the team's chances going forward was Troy Glaus homering in three straight starts while continuing to battle back and knee problems. Not to be counted on is Russ Ortiz, who was blitzed in a discouraging rehab start.

24


Dodgers
50-61
3-3
Up
Despite being in more robust health than 95 percent of the Dodger roster, Hee Seop Choi had just nine plate appearances in the two weeks prior to Sunday's rare starting appearance. It's forgivable for manager Jim Tracy to platoon Choi with perpetually hot Olmedo Saenz (.301/.357/.546 on the year, and third on the team in VORP with 20.8), but lately Jim Tracy has been playing Jason Phillips (.237 EqA) at first while keeping Choi (.278 EqA) on the bench, indefensible given that the former is a considerably worse hitter and fielder (a Rate2 of 94 there, compared to Choi's 100). The Dodgers have enough trouble generating runs without their manager standing in the way; decisions like this won't help them make up ground on the Padres.

25


Reds
49-62
2-4
Down
Hit just .219/.308/.316 and scored just 19 runs on the week, especially odd given that it all happened at Great American Ballpark, where they'd been averaging 5.79 per game at home (and giving up even more). Then again, the Braves and Marlins offer good pitching, and you know what they say: "Hell hath no fury like a team which spent its $25.5 million on Eric Milton." After a brief sign that Milton had righted himself, he's put up a 6.08 ERA since the All-Star break, though the deluge of homers has slowed down (1.35 per 9 innings since the break, 2.45 before). All of which may prevent him from breaking Bert Blyleven's single-season record of 50 allowed, despite Jerry Narron's commitment to keeping him in the rotation. Awwww, where's the fun in that?

26


Giants
48-62
3-3
Flat
Out with Gout: not just a credit for the stellar acting career of Troy McClure, but also an apt description of Kirk Rueter's situation (perhaps brought on by a binge of cauliflower and lentils). Given Rueter's 5.95 ERA and level of employee satisfaction, the end of Woody's tenure as a Giant is likely nigh. Meanwhile a racial slur by radio host Larry Krueger has manager Felipe Alou in anything but a forgiving mood. It's a new Summer of Love in San Francisco.

27


Pirates
47-65
3-4
Flat
R is for Rookie, That's Good Enough For Me: centerfielder Chris Duffy has hit .405/.427/.506 since his mid-July recall, 270-pound first baseman Brad Eldred hit .412/.444/.824 on the week, including his first big-league homer after 66 minor-league bombs over the past two years, and Zach Duke leads all NL rookie pitchers in VORP (20.7) after just seven starts.

28


Devil Rays
43-69
3-3
Flat
Rays of Hope: Reeled off a six-game winning streak and are now 15-8 since the All-Star break. Scott Kazmir, Casey Fossum and Doug Waechter have combined for a 2.99 ERA in 75.1 innings in that span, and reliever Joe Borowski, picked up over the break, has yet to allow a run in his 11.1 innings with the club. The offense has been pounding out 5.43 runs per game since the break, with six regulars slugging over .500 and a reinvigorated Aubrey Huff (.302/.351/.605) leading the way.

29


Rockies
41-69
4-2
Up
Won both series in the same week for the first time in 11 months. Second baseman Luis Gonzalez has been making like the other Luis Gonzalez, hitting .429/.478/.857 on the week. New keystone partner Omar Quintanilla, acquired from Oakland along with Eric Byrnes, has hit in six of his first seven big-league games and is battting .300/.323/.367 thus far. He's one of a majors-leading 17 rookies to appear for the Rox this year.

30


Royals
38-73
0-6
Down
Losers of 10 straight have been outscored 86-36 during that span, including 32-5 by the A's over the weekend. The series of drubbings has taken the starting rotation's collective ERA to 6.03 on the year, with only D.J. Carrasco (4.29) and Runelvys Hernandez (4.93) below 5.80. Adding injury to insult, David DeJesus sustained a concussion while breaking up a double play amid a 1-for-26 slump.

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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