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May 9, 2006

Prospectus Hit List

Week of May 7

by Jay Jaffe

RkTeam
Overall W-L
Week W-L
Hit List Factor
Trend
Comment

1


Yankees
18-11
5-1
.691
Flat
Winners of seven out of eight, including five straight on the road and number 1,000 in Joe Torre's pinstriped career, fourth behind Joe McCarthy (1,460), Casey Stengel (1,149) and Miller Huggins (1,067) among Yankee managers. Johnny Damon is booed and collared in his return to Fenway, but hitting .350/.409/.625 since April 28. Driving the Yankee offense is Jason Giambi (.295/.533/.731) who's not just crushing a lot, but also on pace for 201 walks and taking more pitches than any other hitter in the game (72.4 percent).

2


Tigers
20-12
4-3
.656
Down
Chip Off the Old Sox: Joe Sheehan finds a very recent precedent in this AL Central squad's hot start, driven as it is by good starting pitching, great defense and the long ball: the defending World Champions. Still, a trio of losses to a pair of reeling teams (the Angels and Twins) knocks them out of the top spot after just a week, with Mike Maroth (9 ER in his last 17 IP vs. the Angels, Royals and Twins) showing serious signs of regression.

3


White Sox
22-9
5-2
.654
Flat
Though Javier Vazquez's quest for perfection falls short, there's no questioning the value of his addition to the staff; he's second to Jose Contreras in ERA (2.88), with the best K/9 (7.30), K/BB (33/8) and HR/9 (0.22) of any Sox starter. He's also one of the few World Baseball Classic pitchers who haven't underperformed thus far. Meanwhile, with another three-homer week, Jim Thome continues to destroy AL pitching; he's hitting .307/.466/.743 overall and with 443 homers, has crossed the magical Kingman Line.

4


Mets
21-10
5-2
.626
Down
On the right end of some dramatic victories, and now 9-2 in one-run games. Still, when injuries to the rotation--the latest a torn flexor tendon that will cost Victor Zambrano the season due to a communication breakdown--portend the arrival of the owner of both the American and National League records for highest ERA in a season of 30+ starts, you have to wonder whether the Mets are living on borrowed time now that the clock has struck Lima Time.

5


Cardinals
20-12
3-4
.591
Down
MV3: despite back troubles that have him feeling "75 percent," Albert Pujols reaches 16 homers faster than anyone since 1923. This just in: his career to date puts him in fine company. Scott Rolen returns after missing nine days due to a viral infection and goes 6-for-12, helping the Cards shake a four-game losing streak. Jim Edmonds continues battling through shoulder woes and hits .333/.409/.389 in limited duty (18 AB) on the week. The rest of the team is hitting a combined .253/.318/.361, showing as much muscle as the original cast of "The Facts of Life."

6


Reds
21-11
4-3
.580
Flat
Still atop the NL Central and pacing the Senior Circuit in scoring (5.50 runs per game) despite the continued absence of Ken Griffey Jr. and now the loss of Rich Aurilia (hitting a handy .295/.341/.551 while playing all four infield positions). It's not that but the lack of pitching depth which could doom them, says Joe Sheehan. Three starters--including the DLed Eric Milton--carry ERAs of 5.63 or more, and the bullpen--despite Todd Coffey's 1.807 Reliever Expected Wins Added (second in the NL)--has been middle of the pack in those ABCs of relief: WXRL, ARP, and FRA.

7


Indians
17-15
4-3
.568
Up
The weekend ballgames end an 11-game streak in which either the Indians or their opponents score seven or more runs. The offense is on pace for 1,018 runs and hitting a combined .302/.370/.473, with four hitters (Travis Hafner, Ben Broussard, Casey Blake, and Victor Martinez) among the AL's top ten in Equivalent Average. The pitching is no great shakes; C.C. Sabathia (one run in 13 IP) has been stellar since coming off the DL, but three starters have ERAs above 5.00, topped by Paul Byrd (7.11). Lousy defense (.690 Defensive Efficiency, 12th in the league) isn't helping matters.

8


Red Sox
19-12
5-1
.567
Up
Back in Black: by outscoring opponents 45-23 on the week, the Red Sox return to the land of positive run differentials, with Manny Ramirez (.500/.630/.722 on the week), Mike Lowell (.429/.520/.714) and Kevin Youkilis (.440/.533/.720) leading the way. David Ortiz strikes a timely blow off former teammate Mike Myers, though Big Papi is just 1-for-20 since. Elsewhere, Josh Beckett continues to struggle, and Jonathan Papelbon finally gets touched for a run, but given the latter's 0.50 ERA, league-leading WXRL (1.802), and rebound from that setback, the Sox have to be pleased with their new closer.

9


Brewers
16-16
2-5
.562
Down
Brews'ed: Ben Sheets is scratched from his Sunday start due to shoulder stiffness, Prince Fielder departs with a groin injury, and Tomo Ohka is headed for an MRI on his shoulder. The Brewers are swept by the Dodgers, and have now dropped five out of six, with the largest third-order shortfall (3.7 wins) of any team in the top 21 here.

10


Diamondbacks
18-14
6-1
.562
Up
Winners of seven straight on the strength of a staff that held opponents to a 2.00 ERA during the streak, and is it really any surprise it took the exile (shenanigan or no) of Russ Ortiz? Juan Cruz turns in his second good start in Ortiz's place, Claudio Vargas has allowed just two earned runs in his past 19 innings, and Brandon Webb has taken over the NL lead in VORP for pitchers (21.4).

11


Rockies
19-13
4-3
.560
Up
Jason Jennings tosses a rare Coors Field shutout, and Todd Helton returns with a bang, going 4-for-11 and jacking a three-run homer to cap a three-game sweep of the Astros. Thank the pitching, which has put up a respectable 4.14 ERA, and particularly the bullpen, second in the league in WXRL (3.966) and first in ARP (19.2); the rotation's SNLVAR is just 1.8, good for 12th in the NL. All in all, it's a momentous occasion as the Rox reach six games above .500 for the first time since Sept. 14, 2000.

12


Blue Jays
16-14
4-3
.550
Up
For all of the hemming and hawing about the contracts doled out to A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan this past winter, the Jays worst signing looks like Josh Towers (two years, $5.2 million). Through six starts, he's 0-6 with a 10.59 ERA in 26.1 innings. His walk rate, the key to last year's success (just 29 BB in 209.2 inings, or 1.24 per nine) has tripled to 3.76, his homer rate has more than doubled (2.39 per nine), and his -12.9 VORP is second-worst in the league. Furthermore, in games he's pitched, the Jays have been outscored 54-24; take those away and you've got a team with a first-order winning percentage of .657, fourth-best in the majors.

13


Astros
19-12
3-4
.549
Down
A rocky week as the Astros are swept in Colorado after taking a pair from the Cardinals and splitting two with the Brewers. Brad Lidge's struggles continue; he gets past Albert Pujols but is done in by a handful of Rox. Even as the rotation solidifies (Taylor Bucholz: 6 ER in 28 IP as a starter; Roy Oswalt: 2.86 ERA and the league's seventh-best VORP)--the Astros make their pitch to Roger Clemens. No hard facts are forthcoming, but rumors of $20 million for five months work abound, and while the Rocket remains poker-faced, he says he'll decide by June 15.

14


Rangers
17-15
4-3
.542
Up
Hot off a six-game win streak which vaults them to the top of the AL West standings, the Rangers run into the Yankee buzzsaw and are swept at home. Still, there are positives to be had. Kevin Millwood has allowed three or fewer runs in each of his last five starts, bringing his ERA down to 3.52. John Koronkahas yielded a 3.55 ERA in 38 innings. And despite a concussion, Brad Wilkersonhas started to hit; in fact, he's riding a 10-game streak (.441/.513/.735).

15


Dodgers
15-17
3-4
.502
Down
We're Going Streaking! The Dodgers follow five losses in a row with a sweep of the Brewers, their first streaks of longer than two games in either direction this season. The new guys are the ones doing the interesting stuff: Nomar Garciaparra slaps a pair of game-winning singles, Aaron Sele rises from the dead to arrival of Chad Billingsley be far behind?

16


Padres
16-15
7-0
.486
Up
Eight straight victories enable the Padres to cross the .500 threshold back into respectable society. Thank the pitching, which puts together a 21-inning scoreless streak while allowing just 16 runs on the week, including four to the Cubs in the weekend's three-game series. Suddenly, the rotation's fifth in the NL in SNLVAR (4.3), and thanks to Clay Hensley, tough enough to withstand being bonked in the noggin by a broken bat. Offensively, the Pads' bats still look broken; they're scoring just 4.06 runs per game, 14th in the league, and hitting .235/.310/.354, with Brian Giles posting an odd .268/.400/.357, Adrian Gonzalez a weak .225/.289/.324, and Mike Piazza a very un-Piazzalike .213/.294/.387.

17


Phillies
17-14
7-0
.485
Up
Phantastic: the Phils run the table, stretching their winning streak to eight games and rising above .500. Leading the charge is Chase Utley (.483/.531/.862 with three homers) with Ryan Howard and Aaron Rowand each adding a trio of dingers. The rotation remains a problem, with Brett Myers and Cory Lidle the only starters with ERAs below 6.16, and with Cole Hamels dominating Triple-A hitters (0.39 ERA and 36/1 K/BB in 23 innnings), the time to make a move may be approaching.

18


Braves
13-18
3-4
.484
Up
Already eight games back in the NL East standings, hardly the Brave New World this team envisioned; only a charity start from Jose Lima saves them from being swept by the Mets. Still, the infield--including Edgar Renteria, who's hit in all 22 games as a Brave--makes it through an entire week at full strength. Jeff Francoeur has shown some pop (three homers and 13 hits in his past eight games, though still that 25/0 K/BB ratio), while fellow soph Brian McCann's hitting .484/.526/.548 since April 26. With 10 games against the Marlins and Nationals directly in front of them, the Braves could get healthy in a hurry.

19


Athletics
16-15
4-3
.474
Up
Punch and Judy: Jason Kendall's mound-charging antics will eventually cost him four games; frankly, they look like manhood overcompensation issues coming from a player who hasn't homered in over 1,000 plate appearances. Elsewhere, Milton Bradley finally heads to the DL with knee and oblique woes, but Huston Street is back from a two-week layoff, and Barry Zito (0.59 ERA in 14.1 innings) and Brad Halsey (3.27 in 11 innings) rise to the occasion with two-fifths of the regular rotation on the shelf. Instant Simpsons bonus: Homer's fallacious assertion that the '74 A's (90-72) were the best team ever.

20


14-18
2-5
.464
Down
Casey Kotchman reveals he's suffering from mononucleosis, then clubs his first homer of the year, helping the Angels snap a six-game skid; still, he's hitting just .158/.229/.224 while the Angels have dropped nine of 12. The rest of the players in their winter shuffle aren't faring so well, either, particularly Darin Erstad, who's DL-bound and perhaps surgery-bound as well. On the hill, John Lackey brawls with Jason Kendall; we'll bet on the burly mouthbreather with the low-90s heat over the punchless catcher with the body armor any day of the week.

21


Cubs
14-16
1-6
.430
Down
Like a Nonet of Neifis: shut out four times in eight days, and with just six runs in that span, the Cubs offense has simply died like that goldfish you stopped feeding back in second grade. As a team, they're hitting just .217/.295/.319 since Derrek Lee went down; another month of that and they may as well switch places with their Iowa affiliate. On the rehab front, there's good news to report with Kerry Wood's progress, a bout of food poisoning for Mark Prior, and frustration for Wade Miller.

22


Nationals
11-21
3-4
.429
Flat
Our long Nationals nightmare is over, as Ted Lerner's group buys the franchise for $450 million, ending a four-year farce of syndicate ownership. A day later, the Nats break ground on a new ballpark. Continuing the great week theme, they get Zach Day's best day in over a year, find out Cristian Guzman won't be usurping any outs for a good long time, and split six games on the field.

23


Giants
14-17
1-6
.423
Down
Barry Bonds hits home runs number 712 and 713, gets bonked on the head and feels the Brotherly Love as the Giants are swept in Philly. They've now lost seven out of eight, and with Moises Alou (.378/.436/.671 on the year) out at least 15 days with an ankle sprain, Bonds won't exactly be seeing more pitches to hit.

24


Mariners
13-20
2-5
.419
Flat
Dial M for Miserable: Eddie Guardado loses his job as closer after blowing three of his last five save opportunities; he's third-worst in the AL in Reliever Expected Wins Added. (-0.852). Richie Sexson goes down with a moderate ankle sprain, no huge loss as he's hitting just .195/.280/.339. Jeremy Reed's meager .188/.247/.290 suggests all is not well in his unbroken hand. And yes, Felix Hernandez (5.40 ERA) is still searching for the form which tantalized us all last summer.

25


Marlins
8-21
2-5
.409
Flat
Stuck on single digits in the win column, with no thanks to a starting rotation carrying a 5.75 ERA and last in the league in SNLVAR (0.4). Dontrelle Willis continues to struggle; he's yielded 14 earned runs and 20 hits over his past two starts (12 IP), ballooning his ERA to 5.15. Scott Olsen's control problems aren't helping his cause; he's lasted just 11 innings over his last three starts while yielding more walks (11) than hits (five), and his BB/9 is an astronomical 7.22. And the bullpen has the league's worst WXRL (-0.869) and second-worst Fair Run Average (5.61).

26


Orioles
14-19
1-6
.399
Down
Why wait until mid-summer controversies trigger a collapse when you can start sucking now? Outscored 35-12 over their past five games, the O's have now lost 12 out of 15. The pitching is a trainwreck wrapped in a calamity inside a disaster that calls to mind FEMA's best efforts: a 5.70 ERA, with the starters 12th in SNLVAR (1.8) and perhaps suffering from the WBC Flu, the relievers tied for last in Fair RA (6.17), and Leo Mazzone wondering which circle of hell he's stumbled into. Meanwhile, the trio who was supposed to man the left-spectrum 1B/DH/LF axis--Jeff Conine, Kevin Millar, and Javy Lopez--are hitting a combined .220/.293/.373, with the latter now sidelined by a back strain.

27


Devil Rays
13-19
2-5
.372
Down
Huff's Muff: in his second game back from the DL, Aubrey Huff's Buckneresque gaffe costs the Rays a ballgame, but reveals a manager who can quote Young Frankenstein. Even better, the Rays manage to take the weekend series from the A's, salvaging a week that started 0-4. Huff's return, along with that of Julio Lugo, should provide a boost, especially since Ty Wigginton is likely to prove himself mortal, and Tomas Perez is riding the Mendoza Line (.202/.239/.310) like the futility infielder he always was.

28


Twins
13-18
4-3
.360
Up
In which the hemorrhaging finally ceases, and who cares if it takes the Royals to help soak up the blood? Brad Radke throws his first quality start of the year, Carlos Silva lowers his ERA into single digits in a losing cause, and Johan Santana flirts with a no-hitter against the Tigers. Santana has allowed just eight earned runs over his last four starts (29 IP), with a 36/5 K/BB; he's now virtually tied for seventh in the AL in VORP (13.3).

29


Pirates
9-24
2-5
.316
Down
Outscored 27-21 on the week, which speaks volumes. The offense hits just .186/.266/.267, yet Jim Tracy is protecting Jeromy Burnitz's spot in the lineup despite the rightfielder's 6-for-54 slump (.191/.238/.365 overall). The pitching may be improving, but facing the Cubs (who Zach Duke shuts out) will do that, and dropping two out of three to the Nationals is hardly the way to impress girls at the beach. Oliver Perez (7.71 ERA, a 26/27 K/BB ratio, and nine homers allowed in 32.2 innings) is in danger of being demoted, and frankly, we're scared of what might replace him.

30


Royals
7-22
2-5
.290
Flat
Alex Gordon's baseball card is going for $7,500 on eBay, which is at least $7,499.90 more than this ten-cent excuse for a franchise is worth. From calling up Justin Huber just to have him watch Doug Mientkiewicz hit like a shortstop's little sister (.236/.303/.337) to making Joe Posnanski's daughter yearn for commercials (won't somebody think of the children?) to forcing our own Christina Kahrl to throw up her hands in dismay ("...bad and dumb, and that makes a team about as uninteresting and unworthy of sympathy as you might think possible"), this is a disaster in search of an insurance fire. Douse it in kerosene and flick that Bic.


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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