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May 11, 2007

Prospectus Hit List

McNasty as They Wanna Be

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Red Sox
23-10
5-1
.705
Up
Never a dull moment as the Red Sox take over the top spot on the Hit List. Manny Ramirez gets touchy-feely with Julian Tavarez, but with four homers and a .744 SLG over his last nine games, he can do whatever he wants. Not so for Curt Schilling and David Ortiz, who yap about Barry Bonds and steroids to the point that Terry Francona kindly suggests putting a sock in it. Meanwhile, Will Carroll's bird dog spots some mechanical anomalies in Jonathan Papelbon's delivery; pitching coach John Farrell refutes the report, saying Papelbon's lower arm slot is by design, not by accident.

2


Mets
21-12
4-2
.659
Down
Shear Madness: in a show of solidarity, nearly the entire team--including GM Omar Minaya--shaves their heads. While it's neither enough to help the Mets maintain the NL East lead nor a fifth straight week atop the Hit List, there's plenty to be abuzz about. Haircut holdout Jose Reyes--#7 on Nate Silver's 50 Most Valuable Players list--runs his hitting streak to 14 games (.381/.426/.540), Jorge Sosa provides some much needed rotation patchwork, while Tom Glavine beats the Giants despite surrendering his first homer to Barry Bonds in ten years.

3


Brewers
24-10
6-0
.624
Up
Funky McNasty: Chris Capuano unveils a new changeup that helps him shut down the Nationals amid the Brewers' run of six straight wins--by a combined score of 34-12--and 15 out of their last 18. The streak has the team's fans threatening to lose all kinds of control, to which we say DMY. J.J. Hardy's hitting streak ends at 19 games; he batted .418/.459/.835 with eight homers during that barrage, while Prince Fielder bashed nine in the same span, including some serious payback.

4


Cubs
16-16
4-2
.581
Flat
Alfonso Soriano's leadoff homer provides an entire night's worth of offense for both teams and extends his hitting streak to 17 games; he's hitting .364/.395/.584 during that span. More impressive is Jason Marquis' three-hit shutout to back Sori's jack. With Marquis ranked third in SNLVAR and Rich Hill ranked sixth, the Cubs can claim the league's most effective 1-2 punch. On the other hand, Carlos Zambrano is carrying a 5.83 ERA, a subzero SNLVAR and now the caution flag of a dropped arm slot. For all the talk about the delays with El Toro's contract, the possibility that he may be injured after years of heavy workloads is chilling.

5


Braves
22-12
5-2
.576
Up
Anthony Lerew stymies the Padres in an impressive first major league start (6 2 2 2 2 7), John Smoltz outduels Greg Maddux in the duo's first meeting since July 10, 1992, and Tim Hudson pitchesthe Braves into first place in the NL East. Hudson leads the majors in VORP (22.5) and SNLVAR (2.6). Also topping one of our leaderboards is temporary closer Rafael Soriano, with a 1.927 WXRL.

6


Tigers
21-12
5-1
.567
Up
I Am Tiger, Hear Me Roar: with eight straight wins, Detroit claws its way into the thick of the AL Central race. Gary Sheffield homers four times while hitting .333/.438/.815 during the streak, while Magglio Ordonez (.414/.500/.862) and Craig Monroe (.387/.424/.774) are hotter still. Alas, the bullpen will have to make do without guitar hero Joel Zumaya; a ruptured tendon on the middle finger of his pitching hand could sideline him for three months, and even then, functionality may be an issue. Though the pen has been among the league's best, Fernando Rodney, who will be picking up much of the slack, has struggled (-0.559 WXRL) thus far.

7


Indians
20-12
3-4
.566
Down
Fausto Carmona pitches another great game in his reprieve from the minors, and Cliff Lee tosses a three-hitter in his second start back from the DL, helping the Indians run their streak to 13 wins in 16 games. Walks are a major part of the team's success this year; the Tribe has drawn 1.6 for every one they've surrendered, the majors' best ratio, with the ones on offense helping them to second among all teams in scoring (5.4 per game). Joe Sheehan thinks their patience at the plate resembles a certain pinstriped team.

8


Athletics
17-16
4-2
.561
Up
The Cavalry Arrives: Jack Cust and Dan Johnson both homer twice in a 17-3 rout of the Royals, helping the A's finally cross that magical threshold of 4.0 runs per game. Cust has three homers in four games since joining the A's, while Johnson is hitting a robust .383/.500/.723 after returning from a hip injury that initially looked like it might cost him the first half. Also contributing some knocks is Nick Swisher, who's hitting .348/.464/.696 since returning from his hamstring injury.

9


Dodgers
20-15
3-4
.544
Down
Brad Penny whiffs 14 Marlins, one shy of his season total through 38.1 innings prior; he's second in the majors in VORP (18.6). Rotation-mate Derek Lowe knocks off VORP leader Tim Hudson in a dandy duel, but caps the week with a wrenching loss. Meanwhile, at the hot corner, .125-hitting Wilson Betemit responds to a benching by belting pinch homers in back-to-back games, while recalled rookie Andy LaRoche--#20 on our Top 100 Prospect List--hits .400/.588/.500 over his first four starts.

10


Yankees
16-17
4-3
.541
Up
Roger Clemens makes a surprise appearance at Yankee Stadium to announce that he'll be returning to pinstripes for the first time since 2003. Joe Sheehan figures the bill (including luxury tax) adds up to $26 million for a 4-to-6 win swing in the AL East race. The news, which is tied to the number of injuries the rotation has sustained--injuries which force the team to start its 10th pitcher and sixth rookie in 30 games--comes just as the battered Yankee rotation is turning things around. In April they managed just 4.7 innings per start while compiling a 5.94 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, and five quality starts out of 23. Since then: 6.2 IP/GS, 3.42 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and five quality starts out of nine.

11


Padres
18-17
3-4
.539
Down
Jake Peavy chases a no-hitter and thoroughly dominates the Marlins (7 1 1 0 2 10). Peavy has punched out 36 hitters while allowing just eight hits over his last 21 innings, but scoring just seven runs across the three starts cost the Padres the previous two games. Less impressive are the results at the wide back end of the rotation, where David Wells is sporting a hefty 6.32 ERA. David Pinto notes that Wells' four-walk start was his first since July 25, 2003

12


Angels
19-16
3-3
.525
Up
Between Bartolo Colon's triceps, Jered Weaver's biceps, and Chone Figgins' fingers, the Halos have had their share of injury troubles to contend with recently. And contend they have, pacing the AL West in spite of their infirmities. The latest is a bug, perhaps a virus, which lays out top reliever Justin Speier. With the rotation momentarily intact, Dustin Moseley continues to provide welcome relief, yet another reason why the Angels are third in the AL in WXRL.

13


Reds
15-20
2-5
.516
Up
Edwin Encarnacion's two errors help push the Reds' string of futility to seven losses in eight games, and the team decides to demote the second-year third baseman, who's hitting just .218/.301/.287, to Triple-A. Despite the slide, the Reds have outscored opponents by nine runs, but their third-order deficit is the largest in the NL thanks in part to a beleaguered bullpen that's now the league's worst. As for the rotation, Eric Milton's latest trip to the DL may mean an opening for Homer Bailey, #4 on our Top 100 Prospect list.

14


Orioles
17-18
5-2
.503
Up
Another week that's for the Birds. Adam Loewen is likely finished for the year by a stress fracture in his elbow, Rick Dempsey becomes the second Oriole broadcaster to put his foot in his mouth, and the Mitchell steroid probe requests the medical records of a flock of former Orioles. In brighter news, Jeremy Guthrie's latest effort gives a lift to a wounded rotation; he's allowed two earned runs in 11 innings as a starter, and nine in 10.1 as a reliever.

15


Giants
17-17
3-4
.501
Down
Tim Lincecum's major league career gets off to a shaky start--a two-run homer before he'd recorded his first out--though he does notch five K's before being pulled after 100 pitches. Meanwhile, Barry Bonds takes over the NL home run lead and pulls to within 10 homers of tying Hank Aaron; at this rate, our long national nightmare of round-the-clock coverage of the chase and its discontents will be over by mid-June.

16


White Sox
16-15
4-2
.498
Up
John Danks notches his first major-league win, and he can thank the offense, which erupts for six runs after averaging 2.0 through his previous five starts. Scoring remains a serious problem for the Sox, who are eking out just 4.0 runs per game. Paul Konerko (.209/.290/.365), Joe Crede (.221/.267/.319), Jermaine Dye (.208/.292/.406), and Juan Uribe (.215/.297/.392) are only the most high-profile offenders. They should get help soon from Jim Thome, who could return from a rehab assignment next Tuesday.

17


Phillies
15-19
2-4
.498
Down
Cole Hamels bests Tim Lincecum in a primetime battle of the pitching phenoms; Hamels' 52 K's are second in the NL. Ryan Howard helps Hamels' cause with a big blast, but his pinch-grande plays an even bigger part in a Phillies win while helping Howard across the Mendoza Line. The big slugger admits his swing has been affected by his strained quad and sprained knee.

18


Twins
17-17
2-4
.497
Down
A quad strain sends Joe Mauer--#2 on Nate Silver's 50 Most Valuable Players list at SI.com--to the DL at a time when he's hitting .353/.446/.480. With the Twins scoring only 12 runs in Michael Cuddyer's five-game absence, Christina Kahrl is appropriately concerned about the remaining offense's horsepower. Still, Torii Hunter's 23-game hitting streak has him raking at a .372/.400/.660 clip, while Justin Morneau is making opponents pay when they pitch around Hunter.

19


Astros
16-18
4-3
.495
Up
Roger and Out: the Astros lose the Rocket in their orbit, but winning five out of seven shows that the team does have a pulse. Big bats Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman finally come to life, with the latter doubling his season output of homers with timely bashes on consecutive days. Speaking of longballs, Hunter Pence makes his first one a grand affair, but he's hitting only .250/.283/.455 so far.

20


Marlins
16-18
3-4
.480
Flat
Ten starts after throwing a no-hitter last September 6th, Anibal Sanchez is demoted to Triple-A after walking 19 hitters in 30 innings. On the eve of his first minor-league start, he's diagnosed with shoulder tendonitis and thus becomes the fourth Florida starter to hit the DL this year, which helps explain why the team's support-neutral stats sleep with the fishes.

21


Diamondbacks
19-17
3-3
.469
Down
Randy Johnson whiffs the first six Phillies he faces, but Brandon Medders undoes 6+ innings of good work from the Unit with one pitch to Ryan Howard. Johnson's carrying a 6.00 ERA and a -2.1 VORP, but his 28/7 K/BB ratio suggests better things to come. Aside from him, walks are a serious problem for this rotation; they're averaging more than four per nine innings. On a more positive note, their 6.2 innings per start is fourth in the majors.

22


Blue Jays
13-21
0-6
.453
Down
Lyin', Cryin' and Ryan: GM J.P. Ricciardi picks an odd time to come clean about his misdirection play regarding closer B.J. Ryan. That back injury Ryan supposedly was dealing with in spring training? Bunk. He's done for the year after Tommy John surgery. As if to deflect attention from this little mess, the Jays lay a goose egg on their six-game road trip and stretch their losing streak to nine games, but at least Vernon Wells shows a sense of humor along the way.

23


Mariners
15-15
3-4
.452
Down
Six-Piece, Extra Crispy: Jeff Weaver's string of disaster starts--allowing as many or more runs as innings pitched, per our own Jim Baker--reaches six in a row with another pair this week. As scientists sift through the rubble of baseball history to determine if that in fact is a record, the good news is that Weaver's ERA dropped from 18.26 to 14.32 in that span. Given that the Mariner offense has scored just 13 runs in those six starts, one wonders if they've been in on the let's-all-mail-it-in plan all along. On the off chance that it's the Mariner uniform which is the source of the trouble--after all, Weaver has yet to pitch a non-disaster start in one--our fashion consultant suggests more appropriate attire for his next outing.

24


Rangers
14-20
4-2
.426
Up
A 14-2 pasting of the Yankees in the Bronx can't hide the fact that this team is among the majors' worst on the road, just 5-13 with a 5.79 ERA and a 31-run deficit. By comparison, in the ballpark in Arlington formerly known as The Balllpark in Arlington, or The House What Dubya Done Builded (or Ameriquest Field for you literal types), they're 9-7 with a 4.25 ERA and a seven-run advantage. Home or away, the rotation is as ghastly as armadillo pie, with a collective Fair Run Average of 6.69 and -0.1 SNLVAR.

25


Rockies
15-20
4-3
.423
Down
Play It Again, Sam: a pair of disputed home run calls against the Rockies leads manager Clint Hurdle to call for instant replay, but the Rox win both games nonetheless. Meanwhile, a hot streak has Todd Helton hitting .393/.514/.556, leading the league in batting average and running second in OBP thanks to an eye-popping 10/30 K/BB ratio, and reaching base 36 times over his past 13 starts.

26


Cardinals
14-18
4-2
.400
Up
Bad news continues to follow the Cardinals around, as Chris Carpenter goes under the knife for the removal of bone spurs. He's expected to miss three months, which won't help a rotation that's already in rough shape. Speaking of not helping, Juan Encarnacion hardly looks like the prescription to cure the majors' worst offense; he's just 8-for-48 in his Double-A rehab assignment, and that's after heating up.

27


Devil Rays
14-20
1-5
.391
Down
Roll over, Scott Kazmir, and tell Casey Fossum the news: the Devil Rays have a new ace in the making. Over his last four starts, including nine innings of three-hit shutout ball in a losing cause, James Shields has allowed just six runs and 18 hits in 32.1 innings, topping it off with a 33/5 K/BB ratio. He's fifth in the AL in both VORP and SNLVAR. In less sanguine news, Juan Salas becomes the first major leaguer of the year to be suspended for a positive PED test, thus reducing the number of reliable Rays relievers to one.

28


Pirates
15-18
2-4
.390
Down
Bust a Capps: setup man Matt Capps draws an ejection and a four-game suspension for headhunting Prince Fielder, while the rest of his team merely receives a butt-kickingA from Little Big Daddy. Capps has been one of the team's few productive players thus far; the Pirates are within sight of .500 despite being a dead-in-the-water 30th in OBP (.294) and EqA (.233), and an unimpressive 11th in the NL in SNLVAR. The thimbleful of credit for being 2.1 games above their third-order projection mainly goes to the bullpen, which is fifth in the NL in WXRL, with Capps by far the most effective (1.501).

29


Royals
11-24
1-5
.333
Down
Zack Greinke's latest shelling prompts a shift to the bullpen, and lets face it, the returns of Scott Elarton and Luke Hudson in his stead don't exactly spell must-see TV. Amid Greinke's struggles and those of Alex Gordon and Billy Butler, one bright spot has been David DeJesus, who's hitting .288/.369/.439 so far while scoring runs at a historic pace.

30


Nationals
9-25
0-6
.303
Down
"I Don't Think You Can Do This For Six Months," says Austin Kearns, and he's right. Nobody's gone through an entire season with fewer victories than you can count on your two hands, but with eight straight losses, that where the Nats have been stuck since John Patterson collected his first win in over a year last Tuesday. Patterson's back on the DL with elbow trouble, but the offense is an even bigger problem; the Nats are scoring under 3.0 runs per game while hitting just .227/.306/.327, with a VORP that's cumulatively below replacement level.


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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