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June 27, 2006

Prospectus Hit List

Week of June 25

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Tigers
51-25
5-1
.637
Up
The first team to win 50, and for those looking for omens, the last two times the Tigers did that--1968 and 1984--culminated in champagne corks popping. Detroit's now won 14 out of 17, including eight out of 10 on the road. Marcus Thames continues to pound the pill; he's hitting .309/.378/.661 this year, and his 22.2 VORP is third on the team despite the fact that he's ninth in plate appearances. Meanwhile, the Tigers still lead the majors in defensive efficiency by a wide margin; their .730 is nine points better than the Cardinals and 13 points better than the White Sox. Their bullpen has slipped to sixth in the AL in Reliever Expected Wins Added thanks to Todd Jones (-0.188); Joel Zumaya (2.531) and Fernando Rodney (1.861) still rank among the AL's top 15.

2


White Sox
49-26
5-1
.614
Up
Ozzie Guillen's antics--a suspension for a David Riske beanball (on the heels of the Sean Tracey incident), a sluragainst columnist Jay Mariotti, and a dismissal of his subsequent punishment--threaten his job and bring him a strange, uh, bedfellow in his fight against political correctness. They also overshadow a week that sees the Sox run their winning streak to nine games as they sweep the Cardinals by a combined score of 34-11, then take the World Series rematch from the Astros. Jim Thome spoils Anthony Reyes' no-hit bid, while Joe Crede pounds out four homers, including a Grand Slam that generates some October nostalgia. Crede is hitting .307/.341/.532 this year, a big step up from last year's .252/.303./454, and he's fourth among AL third basemen in VORP (16.4).

3


Mets
47-28
4-3
.613
Up
The Mets increase their NL East lead into double digits, finishing the week 11.5 up on the Phillies. Jose Reyes reels off 19 hits for the week, including three four-hit games, one of them a cycle. He's riding a 13-game hitting streak during which he's batting .561/.583/.912, and his 31.9 VORP ranks 14th in the majors. But the Mets' bullpen--tops in the majors in Reliever Expected Wins Added (7.634)--hits some snags. Billy Wagner squanders Reyes' cycle by blowing a save; he's walked 17 in 36.2 innings this year, compared to 20 in 78.2 frames last year. Duaner Sanchez suffers a stinger in his neck; the NL's #4 man in WXRL is day-to-day, just like the rest of us.

4


Yankees
42-31
4-2
.609
Up
Four wins in their last five games help the Yanks shake a 3-8 slide, but they end the week two games further out of first than they started. Mike Mussina outduels Dontrelle Willis to shake a four-start slump; since his complete game against the Tigers on May 31, the Moose had put up a 6.85 ERA in 23.2 innings. He's now fourth in the AL in VORP (30.5), sixth in SNLVAR (3.2), and third in strikeouts (100). Elsewhere in the rotation, as Shawn Chacon continues to struggle (22 runs, 18 earned, in his last five starts totalling a whopping 15.2 innings), the calls for 20-year-old phenom Philip Hughes to join the rotation are getting louder.

5


Red Sox
44-28
5-0
.594
Up
An eight-game winning streak gives the Sox some room at the top of the AL East. Most impressive is Jon Lester, who strikes out 10 in just his third major-league start; thus far he's posted a 2.76 ERA and struck out 19 in 16.1 innings, though his recent competition (Braves and Nationals) aren't exactly the '27 Yankees. Meanwhile, Sox fans give Brett Myers the welcome he deserves, and David Ortiz caps an emotional day with his 12th walkoff hit and eighth walkoff homer as a Red Sock (six in the regular season, two in the postseason, and that's right, two off of Tom Gordon). Ortiz is hitting "just" .267/.375/.557, a step down from last year's .300/.397/.604, but you won't get Sox fans to admit he's slipped.

6


Blue Jays
41-34
4-2
.570
Up
Dial 9.11: that's Josh Towers' ERA after a pair of poundings actually increases it further. The number is somewhat fitting, given that the Jays are 2-10 in his starts, 39-24 otherwise; slot in a replacement-level starter or any one of John Hodgman's 700 favorite hoboes and you've got yourself another serious contender for the AL East crown. On the positive side, A.J. Burnett is back in the rotation after a two-month absence; he pitches well in his return engagment, though the Braves are hardly a good yardstick in their current state.

7


Dodgers
40-35
4-2
.559
Flat
Jim Tracy comes to town and brings just what the doctor ordered: a patsy to help halt a 2-7 skid. The Dodgers sweep the Pirates and their ex-skipper by a combined score of 24-8, enabling them to climb back atop a tight NL West. Speaking of doctors--as we must wherever the Dodgers are concerned--Cesar Izturis returns from Tommy John surgery as the team's third baseman, and while he goes 8-for-17, the move forces Willy Aybar (.274/.364/.443) back to the minors (meanwhile, Bill Mueller is not improving). Speaking of former shortstops, Nomar Garciaparra hits his 200th home run; he's hitting .362/.426/.584, with the NL's top batting average and ninth-best VORP (30.3).

8


Rangers
40-36
2-4
.547
Down
Just as the A's finally cool off, the Rangers get even colder. Their starting pitchers have gone six innings just five times in the team's last 16 games; they're 10th in SNLVAR (7.0) and are averaging just 5.61 innings per start, 11th in the AL. That's far too much ammo to give Buck Showalter towards carrying 13 pitchers; to put it politely, quantity most definitely does not equal quality when it comes to relievers. More to the point, those Ranger relievers are 12th in the AL in WXRL (0.138). The offense, despite the heroics of Michael Young and Gary Matthews Jr., is sputtering a bit as well. Brad Wilkerson is hitting just .200/.243/.431 this month,Kevin Mench is even worse (.206/.306/.302), and Ian Kinsler is hitting .217/.292/.373 since a two-homer/three-hit game when he was fresh off the DL on May 25.

9


Cardinals
42-32
0-6
.527
Down
The Redbirds lay a goose egg for the week as they're swept by both the White Sox and Tigers, surrendering 33 runs in a two-game span to the former. Mark Mulder endures a nine-run shellacking; as he and his 6.09 ERA head to the DL with rotator cuff inflammation, it's worth noting that Mulder's 7.1 VORP as a hitter helps offset his -4.3 as a pitcher, but that's not exactly why the Cards are paying him $7.75 million. Meanwhile, Jason Marquis takes one for the team and yields 13 runs, leaving just Chris Carpenter and Anthony Reyes--the latter of whom loses despite flirting with a no-hitter--as the only Cards starters carrying ERAs under 5.00. Good news: Albert Pujols returns to the lineup after missing "only" 15 games due to a strained oblique and goes 4-for-4 with a homer in just his second game back.

10


Athletics
41-34
3-3
.519
Down
Oakland's 10-game winning streak comes crashing to a halt when the entire offense is replaced by a particular species of zombies indigenous to the Rocky Mountains. These ersatz Athletics lack the coordination of the genuine article and manage just three runs in three games, though they do scrape out one win to help the team maintain its AL West lead (thank zombie Nick Swisher for those two home runs). Meanwhile, the real A's (distinguished by their more robust offensive skills and lack of appetite for brains) win two out of three in San Francisco to earn a split in the Bay Bridge series. In all, the A's appear to have pulled off one of their patented turnarounds, having won 18 out of 23 despite injuries to Milton Bradley, Rich Harden, Justin Duchscherer, Frank Thomas, Mark Ellis, Eric Chavez (tendonitis in both forearms) and others. If they could teach those zombies to score some runs, they might win this thing...

11


Indians
33-41
2-4
.515
Down
Lost Tribe, Again: the Indians drop series to the Cubs (eesh) and their cross-state rivals, meaning they've now lost all seven they've played in June. Turnover has already started; the Tribe a great leap forward, according to Kevin Goldstein. Eyes are on Buffalo, where Andy Marte has heated up; he's hitting .316/.373/.711 with nine homers in Jun. GM Mark Shapiro is downplaying the likelihood of recalling Marte in the near future, but Aaron Boone continuing to putrefy (.256/.313/.360) and with this season looking like a lost cause, he ought to reconsider.

12


Padres
39-36
3-3
.514
Down
Launching Pad: Mike Cameron homers in three straight games at Petco, though the Padres lose two of those three to the Mariners. Indeed, balls are flying out of the big park lately; a record 14 are hit in the Pads-M's series. Unfortunately for San Diego, all eight of theirs were solo shots, not terribly surprising given that the team's .321 OBP ranks second-to-last in the NL. Egregious offenders in that department here include Mike Piazza (.318), Adrian Gonzalez (.310), Khalil Greene (.308), Mark Bellhorn (.298), Josh Barfield (.289), Vinny Castilla (.268), Bill Almon, Tucker Ashford, Mike Champion... just checking to make sure you were still paying attention.

13


Reds
41-35
4-3
.513
Down
George Kenneth Griffey Jr. passes Michael Jack Schmidt on the all-time home-run list with his 549th shot. How much higher would his total be if he hadn't averaged just 89 games a year from 2001-2005? Considering that he hit 98 homers in those 445 games, a conservative estimate of 135 games a year while hitting longballs at the same pace would add 51 to his total, leaving him right at 600, good enough for fifth all-time. Griffey's shot helps the Reds snap a rare five-game homerless streak and a week in which the Reds zig-zag (win, loss, win, loss, etc) but tighten up the NL Central race.

14


Rockies
38-37
4-2
.504
Up
How often does a 10-game winning streak crash to a halt with a shutout at Coors Field? And how often is that shutout followed by another? Considering there's been just one other instance of back-to-back zeroes in Coors' 12-season history, it appears we have a baseball first--and another, as the Rox manage a third shutout in their six-game homestand. Byung-Hyun Kim is responsible for 13 of those scoreless innings, fighting off food poisoning to beat the A's, then shutting down the next-best team in the AL West, the Rangers. The Rox hold opponents to just 17 runs for the week; lowering their rate to 4.59 per game, fifth in the NL. They're scoring exactly as much, which is a bit of a problem, particularly when Jamey Carroll (.404/.442/.573 this month) begins looking like an indispensible cog in your offensive machine.

15


Mariners
38-39
4-2
.502
Up
Another good week for the M's, who have won six out of their last seven series, and are 15-7 in June. This is the offense Bill Bavasi must have envisioned in that oversized dome. June has seen Adrian Beltre hit .290/.353/.538, Richie Sexson and Raul Ibanez pound eight home runs apiece (the latter as part of a .329/.404/.720 showing), and Ichiro Suzuki maintain a 248-hit pace while batting .423/.462/.567. Beltre goes 6-for-11 with two walks and a homer against his old team, helping the Mariners up their interleague record to 10-2 while boosting his VORP to a whopping -0.8. With more than $40 million still on his contract, the M's better hope he's got a few more boosts in him.

16


Giants
37-38
3-3
.495
Down
Barry Bonds leaves a game with an irritated knee, a day after cracking his 719th homer, and two days after hurting the knee while stealing a base (in an orange jersey, no less); talk about a break-even point. Bonds needs more rest, says Will Carroll, but that may not work particularly well for an offense that's 13th in the NL in Equivalent Average (.255) and 10th in scoring (4.68 runs/game). On the hill, Matt Cain continues his uneven season, chasing a no-hitter again one night, taking an early powder the next. He's the weak link in a rotation which is relying on Jamey Wright, which... well, enough said.

17


Twins
39-35
5-1
.495
Up
A 12-1 tear helps the Twins cross the .500 rubicon for the first time since April 15, and they can thank the National League; they're 10-2 against the Senior Circuit, one of five teams (all AL) to have reached 10 interleague wins. Francisco Liriano steals the thunder in Roger Clemens' return to action. Liriano's 29.2 VORP is tops among rookie pitchers, and eighth in the AL; Johan Santana is tops at 39.9. Something about J in June: Justin Morneau (.361/.402/.747/9 HR), Joe Mauer (.390/.478/.532), Jason Bartlett (.368/.455/.474), and Jason Kubel (.352/.370/.620).

18


34-41
3-3
.481
Up
Bad Vlad: lost in the injury hubbub and the comings and goings of various Angel prospects is that Vladimir Guerrero has been in a funk; he's hitting just .225/.233/.382 this month after typically ripping it up (.330/.393/.583) in May. Guerrero tried shaving his goatee, but it's his command of the strike zone that needs work; he's drawn just one walk this month, an intentional pass in a 14-2 loss. Meanwhile, the Halos are down another hitter, and no, we don't mean the reinjured Darin Erstad (we did say hitter). Back spasms have sidelined Dallas McPherson at an inopportune time, as he's hitting .319/.385/.574 this month. Still ripping it up: Mike Napoli, whose 15.9 VORP is third among rookie hitters.

19


Marlins
32-40
3-3
.479
Up
The Marlins' streak tops out at nine wins, and while they lose three out of the remaining five, the two victories are memorable. In the first, Miguel Cabrera drives in the go-ahead run in the 10th inning on an attempted intentional walk. In the second, Anibal Sanchez combines on a shutout in his major league debut, helping the Fish salvage a wet weekend that puts a damper on Joe Girardi's Bronx homecoming. The youth movement is bearing impressive fruit; Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez, Mike Jacobs and Josh Willingham rank in the top 12 in rookie hitter VORP, with Uggla's 29.0 leading the majors, while Joshua Johnson (4th) and Ricky Nolasco (13th) rate among the rookie pitching leaders. With a run differential that's climbed back to dead even, second place in the NL East isn't out of the question.

20


Diamondbacks
37-39
2-5
.474
Down
The headlines have died down, but the defeats continue; this week it's powerhouses like Tampa Bay and Anaheim treading on the Snakes. In less than a month, they've put together three streaks of five or more losses in a row on their way to losing 17 out of 20, falling from 12 games above .500 to two below while being outscored by more than a two to one margin (141-68). First innings have been a problem; the Diamondbacks have been outscored 31-4 in that frame during the streak. All in all, the stench here is only slightly less than that of a dead calf rotting in the hot sun, but the team is just 3.5 games out of first place, and there's still enough talent and time to turn it around.

21


Brewers
37-39
2-4
.472
Down
First, the good news: Ben Sheets threw to hitters for the first time since early May, as did Tomo Ohka. The bad news: neither of them will be back before the All-Star break, leaving a team that's managed to stay afloat for the past eight weeks in their absence treading even more water. Actually, the Brewers can't even manage that modest goal this week, as they fall to both the Tigers (understandable) and the Royals (not so much). At least Chris Capuano and Doug Davis are throwing well; the former is eighth in the NL in VORP (29.3), with a lower ERA and markedly better peripherals (8.4 K/9, 4.4 K/BB, 0.8 HR/9) than his 2005 breakout (7.2 K/9, 1.9 K/BB, 1.3 HR/9). The latter, after a rocky April and May (5.59 ERA, 42/44 K/BB) has rediscovered the strike zone (31/8 K/BB in June), leading to better results (3.31 ERA).

22


Astros
38-38
2-4
.464
Flat
Roger Clemens returns to the majors--you may have heard about it--but the Astros can't capitalize, as they drop series to both the Twins and last October's nemesis, the White Sox. Clemens' return may be good PR for owner Drayton McLane, but it won't mean much unless certain players--Andy Pettitte (5.75 ERA, -1.1 VORP) and Brad Lidge (5.55 ERA), I'm looking in your direction--can get their acts together. Even then, we're still talking about a lineup that has to carry sub-replacment level bats in Brad Ausmus and Adam Everett, not to mention an outfield that aside from Chris Burke has managed a combined -4.0 VORP. The 'Stros may be the NL's defending champs, but until they can get their run differential into the black (they're -23), they look more like 2006's chumps from here.

23


Phillies
35-39
1-4
.452
Down
Brett Myers is arrested for beating his wife, but he can't beat the Boston Red Sox lineup he faces a day later. In putting the team's interest ahead of other concerns by allowing Myers to pitch, the Phils send a disgraceful message that trivializes a problem all too common among professional athletes, one that does far more harm to society than performance-enhancing drugs. Seriously, here's hoping the fine fans of Philadelphia shower Myers and the organization with the scorn and abuse they deserve, and that both Major League Baseball and the criminal justice system bring down the hammer on this thug.

24


Orioles
35-42
3-3
.448
Flat
"Let me get this straight. We're behind the rest of our class and we're going to catch up to them by going slower than they are? Cuckoo."--Bartholomew 8:1 That's the Orioles in a nutjob eggshell nutshell for you. They're allowing 5.49 runs per game, 29th in the majors, so the latest solution to their rotation problems involves signing free-agent Russ Ortiz. That's right, he of the 6.94 ERA and 0.77 K/BB ratio over the past year and a half as he led the National League in Useless Existence. Ortiz enjoyed some measure of success under Leo Mazzone in Atlanta; he even won a sparkly 21 games in 2003. But if Mazzone's mojo didn't make the journey north, then why should anyone expect an injury-addled pitcher who's walked 4.62 per nine innings over the course of his career to have better luck here than Daniel Cabrera, who can at least miss bats?

25


Braves
32-44
2-4
.445
Down
Atlanta's slide reaches 4-21 before Chuck James--who has been touted for months--wins his first start. In this June from hell, the team has been outscored by two runs a game (5.43 to 3.43); Brave hitters are batting .244/.308/.377, with Chipper Jones (.218/.295/.359 ) and Marcus Giles (.235/.275/.353) especially rancid. James' addition to the rotation is just one long-overdue change in this Brave New World; sending Jorge Sosa to the bullpen, and cutting bait on wheezing vets like Mike Remlinger and Brian Jordan offer hints that there may be more. If you're taxed by trying to understand the talk of the team being sold, Maury Brown will sort you out.

26


Nationals
33-44
1-5
.443
Down
Another down week for the Nats, who've now lost 10 of 13 as their big hitters have fallen on hard times. Alfonso Soriano's feast has turned to famine; he's in the midst of a 10-for-68 slump since June 9, a span during which he's homered just once after blasting 14 in the previous 30 days. Jose Guillen goes 1-for-18 on the week and is hitting just .210/.267/.398 overall. Back spasms limit Nick Johnson to just three at-bats between June 17-24, but he dodges the DL and gets on base three times in his triumphant return; he's got the fourth-best EqA in the league (.332). Also falling on hard times is Tony Armas Jr., who heads to the DL with a forearm strain after a pair of bad starts bump his ERA from 3.48 to 4.43; his market value has almost certainly taken an even bigger hit.

27


Devil Rays
33-43
4-2
.410
Up
They may be 10 games under .500, but the Rays have won nine out of 12 in interleague play. James Shields improves to 4-0, becoming the first Devil Ray to start his career with such success; more impressive are his 3.00 ERA, 8.10 K/9, and the fact that he hasn't allowed a homer in 30 innings. Meanwhile, Rocco Baldelli remains hot (.362/.431/.621); his return allows the team to thin its outfield ranks by trading Joey Gathright for J.P. Howell. The Rays do themselves even more good by farming out Seth McClung and his -11.3 VORP, continuing a welcome purge of the previous regime's bad ideas.

28


Pirates
26-51
0-7
.389
Down
Happy Homecoming: just when you thought things couldn't get worse for the Pirates, they're swept by the Dodgers in L.A. (welcome back, Jim Tracy) following a sweep by those dregs of baseball, the Royals. The losses run the Pirates' streak to 11 straight, their worst since 1955. For the week, the Pirates are outscored 55-25, never surrendering fewer than six runs in any game and allowing opposing hitters to bat .344/.431/.471. Kip Wells is ineffective in his return from a blood clot, Paul Maholm continues to suffer from an allergic reaction to the strike zone, and Oliver Perez appears to have a terminal case of The Suck. Oh, and things do get worse for the Pirates, as they face the White Sox, Tigers and Mets (oh my!) over their next 10 games.

29


Cubs
28-46
2-4
.388
Flat
How bad does a team have to be not to surpass the Hit List ranking of another while the latter is in the midst of an 11-game losing streak? Bad enough to manage just three runs in a three-game series against the Twins, who entered with a 4.59 ERA. Still, there are rays of hope amid the continued gloom for the Cubs. Derrek Lee returns from his wrist injury with a 1-for-4; the team went 19-40 in his absence, scoring just 3.66 runs per game while hitting .254/.306/.382. Mark Prior keeps the ball in the park and lasts 5.2 innings in his second start of the season. Michael Barrett begins serving a 10-game suspension after missing three games with back trouble that might have meant a trip to the DL anyway. As for gloom, a setback threatens Kerry Wood's season, though Will Carroll offers some outside-the-box thinking about a way the Cubs might work around Wood's limitations.

30


Royals
24-50
5-1
.334
Up
The Royals sweep the Pirates and take two of three from the Brewers, giving them three series wins in a row for the first time in just over a year. Another couple months of that, and they might earn a promotion to the big leagues. Mark Redman asserts himself as the staff ace; he's notched wins in five straight starts while posting a 3.74 ERA, and should net the Royals a fair haul come July 31. Perhaps of more interest to those reading new GM Dayton Moore's tea leaves, the Royals trade for Joey Gathright, upgrading the team's defense (maybe). Meanwhile, Zack Greinke isn't faring so well down on the farm (8.47 ERA through four starts); the Royals will keep him in Double-A Wichita now that his rehab stint has ended.


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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