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October 4, 2005

Prospectus Hit List

Week of October 2

by Jay Jaffe

RkTeam
Overall W-L
Week W-L
Trend
Comment

1


Indians
93-69
1-5
Flat
The bandwagon crashes. Despite the top slot here, the season ends in tears for the Indians thanks to losing six out of their last seven games to the Royals, the Devil Rays and a Triple-A caliber edition of the White Sox. The Tribe scored just 20 runs in that span, losing five games by one run, bringing their record to 22-36 on the year in that department. All of that translates into a 4.6-game deficit in their third-order wins; none of the eight playoff teams fell short in their D3s. Lousy production from the bottom third in the order and some questionable decisions by manager Eric Wedge will leave the team playing what-if while four other AL teams play ball. But their season has to be seen as a success nonetheless; after three losing years, GM Mark Shapiro's plan is paying dividends, and they've got an enviable base of young talent to build upon. This is the beginning of the road, not the end.

2


Cardinals
100-62
3-2
Flat
Century City: the Cards put a nice round number on top of their season-long sundae as they closed their final regular-season game at Busch Stadium in style, and with a feel-good bonus of having the winning runs driven in on a homer by Chris Duncan, son of pitching coach Dave Duncan. Still, the team goes into the postseason on a flat note, having lost nine out of its previous 13 before closing the season with a sweep of the nowhere-near-playoff-caliber Reds. Chris Carpenter's September ineffectiveness (a 9.14 ERA over his last four starts) and decreased velocity dampen both a Cy Young-ish season and the team's October hopes. The loss of Al Reyes (2.15 ERA and 23.3 Adjusted Runs Prevented, sixth in the NL) doesn't help either, but the Cards are still the Hit List pick to win the NL pennant.

3


Yankees
95-67
4-3
Flat
In the end, the little $208 million engine that could used a 16-4 sprint to the finish, bookended by Randy Johnson beating the Red Sox twice, to win the AL East on a tiebreaker. In six starts against the Sox, the Big Unit put up a 3.63 RA in 40 2/3 innings, shaving almost exactly two runs off of the majors' most prolific offense, and his team went 5-1. Still, only with the unlikely contributions of bargain-basement midseason additions Shawn Chacon (25.7 VORP), Aaron Small (22.1), and Chien-Ming Wang (17.3) was the rotation able to cover for the expensive flops of Kevin Brown (-9.5), Jaret Wright (-9.8) and Carl Pavano (-1.3), and the same could be said about Robinson Cano (27.4) over Tony Womack (-8.5) if only the latter's $2 million salary qualified as anything but chump change. Don't even get us started about center field and the lack of a lefty reliever worthy of anything beyond an organ donor card. Yes, they made the playoffs, but the guess here is that they won't get very far, and while Joe Torre is safe, Brian Cashman likely has better ways to earn an ulcer, and more power to him.

4


Red Sox
95-67
4-3
Flat
It took them 162 games, but the Sox finally ensured themselves the opportunity to defend their long-awaited World Championship, hopefully giving Mind Game, our newly published magnum opus, an extra push. Thanks to the astute patchwork that ditched Kevin Millar and Mark Bellhorn in favor of John Olerud and Tony Graffanino, the team maintained its status as an offensive juggernaut, leading the majors with 5.56 runs per game. But the pitching, thanks mainly to injury-marred seasons by Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke and a disquieting inconsistency from Matt Clement, was considerably more porous, and a differential that favored the Sox by 181 runs in 2004 was reduced to 96 in 2005. Their bullpen is a liability going into the playoffs, but no lead is ever safe with that offense, particularly in Fenway Park. They may not win, but don't expect the Sox to go quietly.

5


Angels
95-67
6-1
Up
Another torrid September from Vladimir Guerrero (.330/.435/.625 with an eye-opening 4/17 K/BB ratio), another division title for the Angels. While the East Coast heavyweights traded body blows and watching scoreboards, few noticed the 14-2 finishing kick which left the A's eating, er, Angel dust. The rest of the lineup beyond Guerrero isn't particularly imposing; among regulars, only Ben Molina (.280), Chone Figgins (.279), and Adam Kennedy (.274) have above-average EqAs. But the rotation's depth and Mike Scioscia's ability to handle a bullpen which contains both the league's top closer (Francisco Rodriguez) and setup man (Scot Shields) in terms of Reliever Expected Wins Added are advantages most teams would kill for, making this a team capable of knocking off the Yankees and other October opponents.

6


White Sox
99-63
5-2
Flat
So much for any worries about an historic collapse or the integrity of the schedule; Ozzie Guillen's B-squad was enough to crush the Indians' dreams, hold onto the Sox's home-field advantage for the playoffs, and with an 8-2 finish, carry some momentum and confidence into the first round. Guillen's use of Bobby Jenks (11.44 K/9, 3.33 K/BB) as the closer down the stretch displayed a bullpen depth that will serve the team well in October (note Jenks' limiting of lefties to .105/.203/.211 in 64 PA), as will a solid--if not optimally arranged--front four in the rotation and the best defense of any playoff team. Having some hot hitters like Paul Konerko (.327/.425/.614 in September), Joe Crede (.379/.419/.759), Juan Uribe (.304/.379/.641) and even Scott Podsednik (.337/.386/.404) couldn't hurt, either. The Hit List pick to represent the AL in the World Series.

7


Athletics
88-74
3-4
Down
They were red-hot for about three months--from the end of May until the end of August, a period almost exactly coinciding with a healthy Bobby Crosby. But the last time we checked, three months do not a season make, and this A's team had some serious flaws: Jason Kendall slugging .321 and throttling rallies with 26 GIDP, Eric Chavez flailing, and an offense that--save for good months from Mark Ellis and Mark Kotsay--hit all of .232/.292/.366 in September/October. On the other hand, the pitching, from Rich Harden to Dan Haren to a resurgent Barry Zito to rookies Joe Blanton and Huston Street (first and third in VORP among AL rookie pitchers), justified Billy Beane's bold breakup of the Big Three last winter. Still, it's back to the drawing board for Beane, and don't bet it won't be interesting.

8


Phillies
88-74
4-2
Up
Joe Sheehan asks, "[H]ave the Phillies set any kind of record for 'most consecutive seasons printing and selling playoff tickets without ever tearing one in half?'" Indeed, it's another close-but-no-cigar phinish by the phloundering Phils, who can look to that early-September three-game sweep by the Astros--by a total of four runs--as all that stood between them and an October date. Even with that sweep, the Phils played good ball in the second half; their 42-30 record was topped in the NL only by the Cardinals (43-30) and, yes, the Astros (44-30). To have gotten that far with a loss of 57 runs from Jim Thome's bat (with Ryan Howard reclaiming about half of that) is a point in their favor, as is the lack of daily drama created by Charlie Manuel as compared to Exploding Head Bowa. And though his five-year, $40 million contract extension didn't look great in the light of his first five months, Jimmy Rollins's 36-game season-ending hitting streak not only closes the season on a high note, it's legitimately expandable into next season, kind of like Manuel's pants.

9


Astros
89-73
4-2
Flat
With an offense that lost 110 runs off of last year's total, due largely to the departures of Jeff Kent and Carlos Beltran and injuries to Jeff Bagwell and Lance Berkman, the Astros could be excused for falling short of the postseason this year. Thankfully, good health smiled on their frontline pitchers, placing Roger Clemens, Roy Oswalt and Andy Pettitte in the pantheon of great trios, with a combined 218.4 VORP and 25.2 SNLVAR that fell just 1.0 run and 0.2 wins short of the 1997 Maddux/Glavine/Smoltz Braves among all post-1972 trios. With them at the forefront, the Astros shaved 93 runs off of their 2004 totals, allowing them to repeat as the NL wild card. Though Clemens struggled through September (a 5.40 ERA that didn't prevent him from leading the league at 1.87 overall) with back and hamstring problems, he was solid in his final regular season start, and helps to make the team a legitimate threat in any short series.

10


Braves
90-72
1-5
Down
Depending upon how you feel about handling the wretched scourge of 1994, the Braves' NL East title qualifies as either their 11th or 14th straight. With PECOTA having pegged them at 82 wins, it's still worth celebrating. Whether it was to provide chits to procure fodder for Leo Mazzone to turn into the staff's unlikely savior in Jorge Sosa (2.55 ERA), a jolt of needed offensive production in the form of Jeff Francoeur (.300/.336/.549), or a couple of live arms to fetch a bona fide closer in Kyle Farnsworth at the deadline, this is the organization's bow to take, though a shaky offseason that included Danny Kolb and Raul Mondesi made some of those solutions necessary. Getting a career year from Andruw Jones (.263/.347/.575 with an MLB-leading 51 homers), fine work from Chipper Jones (.296/.412/.556) when he was healthy, and a workhorse season from John Smoltz didn't hurt, though how much the latter has in the tank will be a factor in October.

11


Mets
83-79
5-2
Flat
Sure, 83 wins makes this the team's best season since 2000, but manager Willie Randolph's stubbornness with regards to the batting order (Jose Reyes, leadoff hitter), the rotation (Kaz Ishii at the expense of Jae Seo or Aaron Heilman, who posted a 0.68 ERA in 40 second-half innings), and the closer slot (it turns out Braden Looper was damaged goods all along) prevented the team from reaching higher. Those particular mules have been flogged heavily in this space before, as has the pretty vacant Carlos Beltran (.266/.330/.413). Still, the season wasn't without its successes. Cliff Floyd stayed healthy. David Wright justified the hype; Wright led all NL third basemen in VORP with 65.6. Pedro Martinez was a smash, logging 217 innings and finishing with the league's fifth-best VORP at 66.1. And the Mike Piazza love-fest was a classy farewell to the Hall of Fame-bound best-hitting catcher ever. With his salary freed up and the dish seemingly covered by a Ramon Castro/Mike Jacobs tandem, the Mets should be able to find a first baseman who can hit and hope that Randolph learned enough from his mistakes to mount a stronger threat next year.

12


Twins
83-79
5-2
Up
Another bandwagon crashes. A poor offseason--except where pitching was concerned, perhaps--and a plethora of injuries brought the Twins three-year reign over the AL Central to a halt, yielding the majors' worst-hitting team (a .245 EqA) in the process. Brutal decisions as to what constitutes a middle infielder worthy of a contender led to over 850 plate appearances to a .247/.295/.348 tune by Juan Castro, Luis Rivas and Nick Punto. The biggest blow to the Twins offense came in the form of a .239/.304/.436 season from Justin Morneau, who was hampered by bone chips in his elbow that he would have been better off dealing with in-season. On the mound, Johan Santana wasn't quite the dominant ace he was in 2004, but he still led all AL pitchers in VORP by an 18.8 run margin, and with a 1.53 ERA over his last two months, a second Cy Young is there for the taking.

13


Rangers
79-83
2-4
Down
Buck Showalter's pulling his stars in the third inning of Sunday's finale caused a stink among Yankees concerned about the game's home-field playoff ramifications. But the stinks that will resonate regarding the Rangers season are Kenny Rogers' altercations with two cameramen and a 1-12 mid-August road trip from hell that included stops in Boston, New York and Cleveland. Rogers made the AL All-Star team on the strength of what he did prior to those incidents, but he posted just a 5.88 ERA after returning from a truncated suspension (in the middle of that dismal road trip, coincidentally), and now he's finished as a Ranger. Take away the trip and you've got a team on pace for about 85 wins--not thrilling, but worlds better than the sub-.500 ignominy of 79 wins. Instead, the Rangers find themselves with the largest third-order shortfall of any team in the majors at -8.2 wins. They had lumber to burn, outhomering opponents 260-158, the third-best margin of all-time. Starting pitching was the real killer; aside from Rogers and rookie Chris Young, the rest could only provide a 5.88 ERA in 5.25 innings per start, hardly a recipe for contention or a feather in Orel Hershiser's cap.

14


Cubs
79-83
2-4
Flat
Aside from the hobbled Dodgers, no team underachieved more relative to their PECOTA projections than the Cubs. Even at the level of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood combining for just 232 2/3 innings, Nate Silver's calibrations had them pegged for 89 wins and the wild card. Dusty Baker's brutal job of managing apparently isn't enough for Jim Hendry to send him packing, and don't shoot the messenger if Nomar Garciaparra's departure or voluntary move to left field turns into 600 plate appearances for a Neifi Perez/Jose Macias/unretired Shawon Dunston hydra while Dusty keeps the likes of Matt Murton and even Ronny Cedeno chained up in some Iowa dungeon. In any event, a tip of the cap to Derrek Lee on a fantastic season (12.9 WARP1, an MLB-leading 103.9 VORP and .349 EqA).

15


Brewers
81-81
4-3
Flat
After 12 years of losing, the Brewers can take a bow for finishing at .500 during the first year of the post-Selig era. GM Doug Melvin deserves the extension that's apparently coming his way. Feathers in his cap include signing Doug Davis (the staff's VORP leader at 35.6) via a minor-league deal in mid-2003; getting Chris Capuano (31.0) and Lyle Overbay (36.0) in the trade for Richie Sexson in December 2003; swapping Scott Podsednik (11.0) for Carlos Lee (37.3); unloading Danny Kolb (-4.8) before he turned into a pumpkin; and picking up closer Derrick Turnbow (fifth in the NL in Reliever Expected Wins Added with 4.687) and leadoff hitter Brady Clark (40.5 VORP, third among Brewers hitters) off of waivers.

16


Blue Jays
80-82
4-3
Up
Though this year's Blue Jays improved by 13 games over last year's model, they never strayed far from center, spending the entire season within five games of .500. Any chances of ascending higher were doused when a comebacker broke Roy Halladay's leg at a time he led all pitchers in VORP (he finished third with 52.7) and ERA (2.41, but too few innings to qualify) and was slated to start the All-Star Game. Gustavo Chacin had a fine rookie season (38.4 VORP, second in the AL), and Josh Towers (34.1 VORP and 3.86 K/BB) emerged as a viable mid-rotation starter, but Ted Lilly was a disaster (2.8 VORP). The offense was one of the league's most uninspiring, with a .250 EqA good for just 11th in the league. Vernon Wells hit 28 homers but managed just a .318 OBP; indeed, just two Jays regulars, Frank Catalanotto (.363) and Gregg Zaun (.355), topped .350.

17


Marlins
83-79
3-3
Down
Their final-weekend sweep of the Braves salvaged a winning season, but a 2-12 skid during which they were outscored 93-46 sent the Fish to sleep with Luca Brasi, not to be confused with Paul Lo Duca, whose patented Late Season Fade-O-Matic(TM) came out to a .191/.233/.309 September. That and the injuries to Luis Castillo and Alex Gonzalez turned out to be the decisive blows, while the rest is just as Tolstoy observed: all unhappy teams are unhappy in their own way. Larry Beinfest has made clear that A.J. Burnett (5.93 ERA in September, by the way) will never eat lunch in their clubhouse again (which is defensible), nor will he net them a draft pick when he departs as a free agent (not so defensible). Miguel Cabrera has drawn fire for his work ethic, somehow managing to post a 77.0 VORP, fourth-best in the league. And crusty Jack McKeon has fallen on his sword, leaving a nice mess of fish guts to clean up over the winter.

18


Padres
82-80
5-2
Flat
At 82-80, they're the Worst Dang First-Place Club Ever, edging out the 1973 Mets by a half-game, and with the largest negative run differential (-42) of any full-season winner, undercutting the 1987 Twins. Things turned out OK for those Twins, and even the Mets went seven in the World Series, so on that note the Cardinals should consider themselves warned. Jake Peavy has responded well to his skipped start while throwing 26 2/3 innings of 2.04 ERA ball in September, and Pedro Astacio put up a 1.89 ERA in 19 innings after missing three weeks with a strained quad, but Adam Eaton put up a 6.75 ERA in 40 innings after returning from a torn finger ligament; better to bypass him in favor of Woody Williams (4.15 in a September marred by one awful Coors start). The potential for wreaking October havoc exists, at least if you can overlook the fact that aside from Ramon Hernandez (.349/.393/.590) and Brian Giles (.309/.436/.394), the team hit an anemic .226/.309/.328 in September/October.

19


Orioles
74-88
4-3
Flat
Memo to Sam Perlozzo: be careful what you wish for, and really, a 23-32 record as interim manager and the league lead in both dismissed players and thousand-yard stares is nothing to write home about. The sight of Miguel Tejada half-assing his way down to first base on every ground ball during their series with the Yankees just to maintain his consecutive-game streak speaks volumes about this team's sense of priorities. For eight straight years, they've finished under .500, and for the past five they've folded like a $2 suitcase after playing .500 ball for at least the first 47 games. Dismantling the Jim Beattie/Mike Flanagan co-GM situation would shake things up, but just because that happens doesn't mean Peter Angelos will make a good decision as to who replaces them.

20


Nationals
81-81
3-3
Up
Well, they're the Best Darn Last-Place Team Ever at 81-81--or tied for that distinction with the 1991 Angels--and that has to count for something, right? Does it count for as much as being almost as good as the 82-80 Padres (a.k.a the Worst Dang First-Place Team Ever)? Some may see the finish as a bitter disappointment for a team that spent seven weeks in first place this summer and was 18 games over .500 on July 8. But let's face it: the Nats were hampered by GM Jim Bowden from the moment Satan Cristian Guzman and Vinny Castilla signed on the dotted line, and even that pales in comparison to the handicap they've endured by being the ward of the other 29 teams for four years running. They were 9.6 wins above their third-order projection at the All-Star break, they finish with Pythagoras having claimed only about three of those wins back (or about five if you want to measure from first-order wins), PECOTA pegged them at 74-88, and thus they overachieved by most objective measures. Questions abound regarding their future ownership, management and ballpark. But as to what's on the field, the Nationals move forward with positives most other last-place teams would kill for.

21


Tigers
71-91
2-5
Down
"Beware the Plexiglass Principle," the debut version of the Hit List warned, and though the Tigers only declined by a game, the rebound was enough to cost manager Alan Trammell his job. Never mind Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez both missing about half the season, or the total disappearance of Ivan Rodriguez's plate discipline and sunny disposition, or the fact that by year's end the team was down to its fourth closer. Somebody had to pay, damn it! And with the Tigers going 10-29 over roughly the last quarter of the season, better the manager than the inmates of the asylum, at least according to Dave Dombrowski's calculus.

22


Reds
73-89
1-6
Flat
A 46-42 stretch after taking over from Dave Miley earned Jerry Narron a contract, though the Reds showed their usual magnanimity by giving him a one-year deal. A closer look at that record under Narron shows a team that lost 21 of its final 32 games while being outscored 182-143, with pitching not much better in terms of runs per game than in the first half (5.69 to 5.82). A modestly healthy season from Ken Griffey Jr. (.301/.369/.576 with 35 homers, his most since 2000) was marred by the team's refusal to capitalize on his restored value while clearing the outfield logjam, and now the Reds go into the offseason hoping that a surgically repaired Junior can repeat the feat while eating 15-20 percent of a slim payroll. The good news includes another fine year of thumping from Adam Dunn (.247/.387/.540 with 40 homers), the emergence of Felipe Lopez as the league's most productive shortstop, and the development of Aaron Harang and Brandon Claussen into solid starters, and if you haven't heard the bad news about Eric Milton, then you clearly haven't been paying attention here.

23


Mariners
69-93
2-4
Flat
Well, Ichiro Suzuki hit .304/.351/.437 in an off year that bears a striking resemblance to 2003, Richie Sexson walloped 39 homers while staying healthy, and Felix Hernandez debuted to rave reviews. Other than that, it was another disastrous season for the Mariners. The damage included three steroid supsensions, two expensive veterans DFAed, a lost season from highly-regarded Jeremy Reed due to a torn ligament in his wrist, a bust of a season for pricey Adrian Beltre, and a disquieting number of injuries to the pitching staff. In the wake of the latter, pitching coach Bryan Price has resigned, as has hitting coach Don Baylor, and at this point it probably wouldn't be a bad idea to invite GM Bill Bavasi to leave either. At the very least, the hope is that a regime change will spare Hernandez (fifth among AL rookie pitchers in VORP with 28.6) a similar fate to Gil Meche, Joel Pineiro, Rafael Soriano and a slew of other pitchers whose scarred arms are this organization's cross to bear.

24


Dodgers
71-91
2-5
Flat
One Bataan Death March--over 1000 player-days on the DL, and $29 million of salary lost to them--past last year's love-fest finds the Dodgers posting their lowest win total since 1992. Manager Jim Tracy is gone, having failed to admit any culpability in the matter, but even a back-of-the-envelope calculation regarding a player such as Hee Seop Choi shows real wins lost to the stubbornness of playing dead-end kids like Jason Phillips and Mike Edwards where better solutions, solutions that were in the team's long-range interest, existed. None of which is to let GM Paul DePodesta off the hook for sins such as failing to have an appropriately durable and productive fourth outfielder at the ready in the event J.D. Drew went down, or failing to add even a semi-reliable veteran arm to the bullpen once it became clear that Yhency Brazoban was overmatched in the closer role. The slightest mea culpa might have bough Tracy a free pass, but instead, a fragile alliance crumbles and nobody's the better. Truly a waste of a season for nearly everybody involved.

25


Diamondbacks
77-85
5-1
Up
Only the White Sox (12.1 wins) and the Cardinals (8.8) beat their third-order win projections by more than the Snakes' 7.3. All of which means that this was a bad team masquerading as a mediocre one, lucky enough to hang around the fringes of contention in a weak division without ever seriously mounting a threat. Their 158-run deficit was the worst in the NL, a problem that rested largely on the pitching side. The Randy Johnson dividend drew mediocre returns in Javier Vazquez (22.3 VORP) and Brad Halsey (-1.5, thanks to an 8.10 ERA over his last six starts and a resultant shutdown), while Russ Ortiz was an expensive flop, with the third-worst VORP (-20.4) of any NL pitcher. The bullpen was an unspeakable house of horrors, with a majors-worst 5.50 ERA. Things were better on the offensive side, where Chad Tracy developed into a power hitter (27 homers, and a team-high 47.2 VORP), Troy Glaus (37 homers, 45.3 VORP) was healthy enough to play 148 games, and Tony Clark made a surprising comeback (.304/.366/.636 with 30 homers in just 393 PA).

26


Giants
75-87
2-5
Down
And so ends a season dominated by a player who wasn't on the field except for 52 plate appearances that, tantalizing as they were (.286/.404/.667 with five homers), came a couple of weeks too late to have a real impact on an NL West race there for the taking. Barry Bonds's knee woes made Brian Sabean's Over the Hill Gang look even more rickety and absurd than they did coming out of the gate, and unless you're easily impressed by the flawed charms of Lance Niekro (.252/.295/.460) and Jason Ellison (.263/.311/.360), the youths were nothing to write home about either. Jason Schmidt's off year, Armando Benitez's hamstring tear, and Kirk Rueter's departure set a sour tone for the pitching, though the emergence of Noah Lowry (3.78 ERA in over 200 innings, and the staff's top VORP at 35.4) and the arrival of #28 Top Prospect Matt Cain (2.33 ERA and 16.8 VORP, fifth among NL rookie pitchers) offset that somewhat. Given the weakness of the division, they'll be as in it as anyone next year if Sabean's wishcast of 120 games for the big man comes true.

27


Pirates
67-95
4-2
Down
A topsy-turvy season on the high seas: an 8-16 start, a 22-14 mad dash to .500, a 25-51 skid that forced skipper Lloyd McClendon to walk the plank, and a 12-14 finish showcasing a promising batch of rookies. With the highest VORP (33.0) of any NL player, Zach Duke has a case to bring home some hardware; he's already supplanted the bitterly disappointing Oliver Perez (who lost 58.4 runs worth of VORP between the buffet table and the laundry cart) at the front of the rotation. Paul Maholm was an impressive sixth among NL rookie pitchers at 15.7 in 41.1 innings, and if the hitters could use some serious plate discipline (see Brad Eldred's .225/.279/.465 or Ryan Doumit's .255/.324/.398), well, Rome wasn't built in a day either. Meanwhile, it's time to sing the praises of Jason Bay (.304/.401/.557), who finished third among NL hitters in VORP and deserves at least a token nod on your MVP "ballot."

28


Devil Rays
67-95
2-4
Flat
Sweet Lou departs, but not without his Rays having upset more than one apple cart on its way to the postseason. Taking two out of three from the Tribe during the final week and six out of ten overall helped send the Indians to a long winter's nap. Taking two of three from the Red Sox last week and 11 out of 19 against the Yanks overall caused both teams to play right to the final weekend with their Octobers in doubt. After 10 years of losing, the anticipated regime change can't help but improve their fortunes. The new guys will have a good base of hitting talent--including Jonny Gomes, who finished with the top VORP among rookie hitters (36.6)--to build upon, but the pitching, which posted the second-worst ERA in the majors (5.38) needs some serious work.

29


Rockies
67-95
3-4
Flat
As lowly as it is to wind up the bottom-ranked NL team and to have capped their fifth straight losing season, the Rox did show some progress by going 30-28 over the final two months and 7-4-1 in 12 NL West series. Youth is obviously the theme here, with 19 rookies seeing time, but few actually impressed. Clint Barmes hit an anemic .216/.256/.288 after returning from a broken collarbone, dampening his chances at hardware that were probably already severely curtailed once Jeff Francoeur and Ryan Howard took out their thumping sticks. Jeff Francis, #11 on our Top 50 Prospect list, posted a rather uninspiring 5.68 ERA and -4.7 VORP. Honorable Mention Garrett Atkins hit only .287/.347/.426, not exactly impressive given the carbonation effects of Coors. The best news were the emergences of Matt Holliday (.307/.361/.505, 33.7 VORP), Brian Fuentes (an MLB-leading 5.441 Reliever Expected Wins Added), and Aaron Cook (a 13.9 VORP, second on the staff in just 13 starts after returning from a life-threatening blood clot situation).

30


Royals
56-106
3-4
Flat
Worst Royals team ever after their 105th loss, and why stop there with one game remaining? Jose Lima sets a record for the highest ERA for a pitcher with 30 starts (6.99); he's also got the lowest VORP of anyone in the major leagues this year (-30.8). And he hopes to return. No wonder--the Royals kept sending him out there to trigger $1.25 million in incentives. If they bring him back, expect Rany Jazayerli to make headlines by burning the stadium to the ground.

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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2005-09-20 - Prospectus Hit List: Week of September 18
2005-09-13 - Prospectus Hit List: Week of September 11
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INCOMING ARTICLE LINKS
2010-02-23 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: AL Central Competiti...
2008-09-18 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: The Underachievers
2007-04-02 - Prospectus Hit List
2006-10-04 - Premium Article Prospectus Hit List: Week of October 2
2006-09-08 - Prospectus Hit List
2006-07-18 - Prospectus Hit List
2006-05-16 - Prospectus Hit List: Week of May 14
2006-05-05 - Prospectus Notebook: Reds, Indians, Marlins
2006-04-03 - Prospectus Hit List
2005-12-28 - Prospectus Notebook: Tigers, Yankees
2005-10-07 - Premium Article Prospectus Matchups: Playoff Octet
2005-10-05 - Prospectus Notebook: Indians, Yankees, Devil...