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August 30, 2005

Prospectus Hit List

Week of August 28

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Cardinals
83-48
5-2
Flat
Again, the Cardinals are navigating around an injury. This time it's Mark Mulder, second on the staff in VORP (32.6), missing a start with a cervical-thoracic strain. Mulder's injury made it all the more timely for Jason Marquis to snap a seven-start skid in which he'd allowed 37 runs in 41 innings while posting a 14/21 K/BB ratio. Marquis pitched a two-hit shutout, but it was against the Nationals in RFK, hardly Murderer's Row in the House That Ruth Built.

2


Athletics
73-56
5-1
Up
Reversed last week's troubles by pounding opponents 47-14 and moving back into first place in the AL West. A strained latissimus dorsi (that's this muscle) sends Rich Harden to the DL, but Joe Kennedy aces his first start against the Orioles. Joe Blanton completes August having given up just four runs in 38 innings (0.95 ERA), leading a staff that's yielded a 2.50 ERA on the month.

3


Indians
73-58
5-2
Up
A 24-10 run over the last five weeks has put the Indians within a game of the Wild Card, and the New York Times notes that the streak has coincided with Jhonny Peralta's elevation to the #3 spot in the lineup. Peralta ranks second among all shortstops in Marginal Lineup Value rate(.240) and is hitting .296/.358 /.540. Perhaps a bigger reason (literally) for the Tribe's surge is C.C. Sabathia, who put up a 3.27 ERA in 33 August innings after a combined 6.64 ERA in 61 frames during June and July.

4


Red Sox
74-54
3-3
Down
Manny being Manny: with a .347/.462/.653 month, Manny Ramirez has led the Sox offensive juggernaut to a whopping 6.74 runs per game in August. They've needed every one of them, as the pitching has allowed 6.30 in that span. Curt Schilling is back in the rotation, but he's unable to push off and thus reliant on junk rather than power. Meanwhile the bullpen has been a special house of horrors, with the worst overall ERA in the majors (5.42) and a 6.42 ERA on the month. Designating Mike Remlinger for assignment won't solve the problem any more than signing him did.

5


Yankees
73-56
6-1
Up
Platinum Pole Vault award winners for climbing three slots. Brian Cashman pulls off a nice waiver deal to get Matt Lawton from the Cubs; Lawton (.266/.366/.408) immediately strenghtens a bench populated by the likes of John Flaherty, Bubba Crosby, Tony Womack and Felix Escalona, four players with a combined -20.0 VORP and little chance of hitting water if falling out of a boat. Waaaaaaay at the other end of the spectrum, a .309/.394/.702 month with 10 homers has Alex Rodriguez leading the league in VORP by a wide margin (76.2 to 63.9 for second-place Miguel Tejada) and has put him atop the AL MVP discussion.

6


White Sox
79-48
4-2
Flat
Ozzie Guillen pledges his loyalty to the feeble-hitting (.224/.274/.308) Timo Perez: "I've got to play Timo. Timo's got experience. Timo's been in this position. I'm not going to see if [Brian Anderson] can play or not." Nonetheless, rookie Anderson responds the next day with his first two major league homers. The organization's top hitting prospect, Anderson batted .295/.360/.470 at Triple-A and wouldn't be a bad option for a team that's scored just 3.26 runs per game in August, but bratty managers with double-digit leads in the loss column tend to stick their tongues out a lot. Suit yourself, Ozzie.

7


Braves
74-56
4-2
Flat
A herniated disc sends Mike Hampton to the DL for the fourth time this year, likely dooming his season and raising the question of who might fill out a foursome in the event of a postseason series. Hastily promoted first-round pick Joey Devine becomes the first player ever to yield grand slams in his first two big-league appearances. And our long national nightmare ends when Jeff Francoeur garners his first unintentional walk in his 139th plate appearance; Francoeur even walked again on Sunday.

8


Angels
73-57
2-4
Down
This week's Golden Anvil award winner for their three slot tumble. With a .195/.226/.254 performance in the second half after coming back from a shoulder injury, Steve Finley's year couldn't have gotten any worse--at least until he made two errors in a game for the first time in his 17-year career. Finley's sub-replacement level struggles have the team considering moving first baseman Darin Erstad back to centerfield, which would give more at-bats to Casey Kotchman, hitting .288/.393/.596 with six homers in 65 PA since being recalled. That, in turn, would send Chone Figgins to third base, where the team's gotten just a .209/.298/.318 performance from his alternatives. With the Angels in another wild West battle, don't say Mike Scioscia doesn't have options to improve his team's lot.

9


Mets
68-62
5-2
Up
Back on Trachs: in his return from back surgery and his first start since last September 28, Steve Trachsel spins eight innings of two-hit shutout ball against the Giants... and still isn't guaranteed a spot in the rotation! Rookie Mike Jacobs belts four homers over the course of his first four major-league games, three of them in a two-day, 32-5 drubbing of the Diamondbacks. A catcher in the minors, Jacobs is slated to play mostly first base, where the team has gotten a feeble .217/.294/.343 peformance this year from the batboy, a wino, and Willie Randolph's imaginary friend, Timmy Doug Mientkiewicz and company.

10


Astros
68-62
2-4
Down
For the eighth time this season and the third time in four starts, the Astros failed to score even a run for Roger Clemens; they've tallied just 90 in his 27 starts, 14 of those in one game. Since the All-Star break, fellow ex-Yankee Andy Pettitte has been nearly as good as Clemens, posting a 1.77 ERA to the Rocket's 1.59, while pitching more innings (66 to 62.1).

11


Twins
68-62
2-4
Flat
A dismal second half with a 7.48 ERA has cost Joe Mays his spot in the rotation. Scott Baker has been summoned from Triple-A to take his place; Baker posted a 3.01 ERA, 7.15 K/9 and 4.11 K/BB in Rochester. As if they didn't have enough trouble trying to make up the 4.5 games between them and third place in the Wild Card hunt, the Twins are without Shannon Stewart, who's suffering from a shoulder strain. Stewart's .283/.333/.396 line is nothing to write home about, but his absence leaves the team with just three active hitters with double-digit VORPs.

12


Marlins
69-61
4-3
Flat
With Mike Lowell continuing to do his rotting fish impression (.200/.274/.282 on the month), Miguel Cabrera has been seeing time at third base. Since August 5, Cabrera and Carlos Delgado are the only Marlins to homer, and the team has hit just .245/.312/.353 on the month. Stingy pitching--Dontrelle Willis and A.J. Burnett have combined to allow 11 earned runs in 81 innings--has limited their opponents to a similarly inept line while helping the Marlins go 16-12 on the month to stay in the middle of the Wild Card scrum. Closer Todd Jones has allowed just one earned run and one walk in 21 innings since the All-Star break; he leads the NL in Adjusted Runs Prevented (25.6) and is third in Reliever Expected Wins Added with 4.162.

13


Phillies
70-61
3-3
Up
Still clinging to that Wild Card lead despite having dropped two out of three in the Arizona desert. Despite taking two losses on the week--thanks to zero run support--Jon Lieber has been vastly improved of late, having allowed two runs or fewer in six of his last eight starts, a 53-inning span during which he's posted a 4.08 ERA (distorted by a nine-run Rockies drubbing) and a 40/6 K/BB ratio.

14


Blue Jays
65-65
2-5
Down
Extended Halladay: Jay's ace Roy Halladay is shut down for the season with his fractured leg healing slower than expected. Halladay still leads AL pitchers in VORP (53.3) and ERA (2.41) despite not pitching since July 8. In happier news Guillermo Quiroz, #41 on BP's Top 50 Prospects list, is recalled after a rough season in which he missed time with a collapsed lung and hit .231/.314/.463 in just 36 games.

15


Rangers
61-68
4-2
Up
After a two-month skid which saw him allow 46 earned runs in 50.2 innings and produce just three quality starts out of 11, Chris Young is back on track. He's allowed just one run over his last 20 frames, striking out 19. Even with that rough patch, he's still seventh among AL rookie pitchers in VORP (17.1). Meanwhile, Mike Young has crept past Derek Jeter to take over second among all shortstops in VORP (56.9). He also holds a sizable edge over Mark Teixeira (42.2) for the team lead.

16


Cubs
62-68
2-4
Up
A strained left quad sends Aramis Ramirez to the DL--and Nomar Garciaparra to third base for the first time in his pro career. Garciaparra, who's hit .333/.379/.500 since returning from his groin tear earlier this month, has been struggling with back spasms; the thought is that the move might help because third base requires less lateral movement. It's a noble gesture on Nomar's part, but if the price is more work for Neifi Perez and/or Ronny Cedeno, it'll hardly help a team that's lost 16 of 25 this month.

17


Tigers
62-66
2-4
Down
Battered and Bruised: a five-game span sees the Tigers allow 48 runs in 43 innings (a 10.05 ERA), with Jeremy Bonderman adding injury to insult by being struck on the right (throwing) wrist by a line drive. Carlos Pena adds three more home runs to the three he hit last week and is now hitting .417/.481/1.250 since being recalled, but with pitching like that, what's the use?

18


Brewers
64-67
3-3
Up
A torn back muscle has likely ended Ben Sheets' year. Despite the injury and an inner ear infection which shelved him for five weeks in the spring, Sheets put up a 3.33 ERA, and struck out 8.1 per nine innings with a 5.64 K/BB ratio. Meanwhile, much has been made of Doug Davis' failure to earn a win over his last 12 starts, a span which includes 10 quality starts and a 3.51 ERA in 77 innings. He's seen his share of offensive droughts (six times the team scored three runs or less) and bullpen failures; in fact, Davis has been charged with just three losses in that span, and the team did win four times. He's third among Brewers pitchers with a 27.7 VORP, and figures to surpass Sheets (32.3) before the season ends.

19


Padres
64-65
3-3
Up
Adam Eaton's first start in two and a half months isn't quite a success, but on a team that now counts reclamation project Pedro Astacio as its second-best starter, it'll have to do. Astacio's had five quality starts in his last six outings, good for a 3.44 ERA in 36.2 innings. Meanwhile, Trevor Hoffman moves into second on the all-time saves list. He's 12th in the NL in Reliever Expected Wins Added with 2.613, and leading the league in Leverage with 2.14.

20


Orioles
61-68
1-5
Down
I've Got You Under My...Toenails: Sammy Sosa makes his second trip to the DL, this time for a lesion under his toenail, the latest turn in a frustrating season which finds him hitting .221/.295/.376. That's 10th percentile PECOTA territory. And on the recidivist theme, there's always Sidney Ponson, who now leads the league in DUI arrests and has the O's looking for ways to void his contract. Is it true that "Baltimore" translates to "bottom dropping out" in Susquehannock?

21


Nationals
67-63
2-4
Down
Hey, You Built It: GM Jim Bowden rips his team's hitters for a 21-inning scoreless streak: "This isn't a problem of one guy or two guys. We have an embarrassing problem of all eight. Zero offense." Compounding matters is manager Frank Robinson's penchant for bunting; the Gnats lead the majors with 72, and Robby clearly has forgotten everything he learned at the foot of Earl Weaver ("Your most precious possessions on offense are your 27 outs... If you play for one run, that's all you'll get.").

22


Reds
62-68
5-1
Flat
Juniorverse: with four homers on the week, Ken Griffey Jr. ties Jimmie Foxx for 13th on the all-time list, claims his 1,000th extra base hit, tops 30 dingers for the first time since 2000, and rides a 14-game hitting streak, hitting .458/.492/.898 with eight homers during that span. Speaking of streaking, Aaron Harang snapped an 0-for-49 skid, the longest in the majors in 14 years, and Brandon Claussen has allowed just a 2.76 ERA over his last six starts (39 innings), striking out 28.

23


Mariners
55-74
2-4
Flat
Adrian Beltre's hitting .298/.337/.574 in August, but with the exception of Yorvit Torrealba (.319/.385/.426), the rest of the M's can hardly be bothered; they're hitting just .233/.298/.366. In that, they're scarcely different than the rest of us. So long as Felix Hernandez evades harm, the other 24 Mariners could cure world hunger, shave each other's heads a la Jay Buhner, or be swallowed up by the nasty spiralling vortex of suck that Bill Bavasi's spent two years perfecting, and no one would even notice except for the U.S.S. Mariner boys. So: five starts, 36 innings, a 1.75 ERA, a nice 38/5 K/BB ratio, and a 15.5 VORP, fourth on the team and eighth among AL rookie pitchers.

24


Dodgers
59-71
3-4
Flat
Milton Bradley learns that he's torn his patellar tendon one day after exercising the nuclear option by going to the press with details of a racially-charged feud with Jeff Kent. Chris Kahrl calls it The Day the Pony Died while offering profuse DePologies, and with the body count rising (Odalis Perez, Cesar Izturis), most Dodger fans are ready to shoot the horse. Even if J.D. Drew can return with the strength of ten men and the ability to play both center and right field, it's Wait Till Next Year territory here.

25


Giants
57-72
3-3
Up
Raising Cain: the Giants promote 20-year-old Matt Cain, #28 on our Top Prospect List this spring. Cain allowed a 4.39 ERA at Triple-A Fresno while striking out 10.87 per nine innings. He'll join a pitching staff that's been vastly improved of late. They yielded just three runs to the Mets over the weekend and has posted a 3.77 ERA in the second half, down from 4.99 in the first. Noah Lowry gave up just three runs and 22 hits in 39.1 innings in August, striking out 33. He leads the staff in VORP with 32.8

26


Devil Rays
55-76
4-3
Up
At 27-15, the Rays have the best record in the AL East since the All-Star break, narrowly better than the Red Sox (25-16) and Yankees (27-16), to say nothing of the Orioles (14-28) or the Blue Jays (21-21). Luck has a little something to do with it; the Rays have outscored opponents by only a 12-run margin in that span, but are 9-2 in one-run games. Joe Borowski has put up 21 scoreless innings since joining the Rays over the All-Star break, helping the bullpen to a 3.38 ERA after a 5.58 first half.

27


Pirates
54-77
1-6
Down
A hard takeout slide by Hector Luna ends Jose Castillo's season with an MCL sprain and touches off a pregame brawl the following day between Pirates hitting coach Gerald Perry and Cardinals' pitching coach Dave Duncan. Meanwhile a sprained ankle will do the job of limiting Zach Duke's innings. Amid a slide which has seen the Bucs drop eight out of nine, that counts as the good news.

28


Diamondbacks
60-72
2-5
Down
A six-game losing streak saw them outscored 63-16, with the Mets taking a four-game set by a combined 39-7 tally. The staff's ERA is 6.76 on the month, with only Brandon Webb (2.45) keeping the rotation from Boeing (7.00+) territory. Let's face it: with the worst raw run differential of any NL team (-150), the Diamondbacks bear more resemblance to a cactus than they do a contender.

29


Rockies
51-79
4-2
Flat
What's the rush? After 26 starts and a 5.71 ERA, the Rox seem to have concluded that they've got better options for their rotation than Jamey Wright. Sunny Kim, who pitched five innings of one-run ball... against the Padres... in PetCo... appears to be the front-runner, but don't discount Zach Day (5.23 ERA in Colorado Springs), Zebulon Pike (peaking, according to scouts), or the ghost of Lyle Alzado; dead or not, that's a low standard to match when it comes to front-running.

30


Royals
42-86
2-4
Flat
It takes a special team to be officially eliminated before August ends, though the Royals' consecutive series wins against Oakland and Boston mean they haven't gone so quietly lately. Jose Lima bested Curt Schilling and has put up a 4.63 ERA since the All-Star break after a 7.33 first half. The sad thing is, that's the best of any starter on the team. Then again, when you're 4-19 with a 6.13 ERA in August, having been outscored 159-82, you have to take praise where you can find it. Damning stat of the week: the Royals are paying $4.8 million per marginal win, worst in the majors, even worse than the Yankees, who at least, y'know, win.

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. For more on the Hit List, see this article.

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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