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May 18, 2007

Prospectus Hit List

La ciudad de los frijoles es suprema!

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Red Sox
28-12
5-2
.692
Down
Pulling Away: an avulsion on his middle finger prevents Josh Beckett from tying Babe Ruth and friends for the franchise record of eight wins in his first eight starts in a season. Beckett will miss two turns and go back three spaces. In spite of a few dings, the Sox widen their lead atop the AL East to 9.5 games. Third in the majors in scoring and first in run prevention, this is a balanced team whose performance is no fluke.

2


Mets
26-14
5-2
.656
Flat
Hip Hip Jorge: despite Mike Pelfrey (6.53 ERA) and Chan Ho Park (15.75 ERA) failing to provide help at the back end of the rotation, the Mets find a solution in Jorge Sosa, who's put up a 2.25 ERA in 20 innings over three starts thanks to a reworked delivery that creates more deception. The team is now third in the NL in SNLVAR (5.0). Not all the news is happy; NL VORP leader Jose Reyes gets a hamstring scare, Moises Alou is DL'd for the 15th time in his career, and Lastings Milledge is back to creating a bad rap for himself.

3


Brewers
26-15
2-5
.588
Down
Fizzling? A 2-5 eastern swing tempers exuberance about the Brewers, as Derrick Turnbow surrenders the winning run on consecutive nights, knocking him from sixth to 32nd in the NL WXRL rankings. Still, J.J. Hardy and Prince Fielder continue to crush a lot; they're 1-2 atop the NL home run leaderboard, with 13 and 12 respectively, while the team leads the majors at 55. We're calling it: Hardy's Wallbangers.

4


Indians
24-14
4-2
.574
Up
Fausto Carmona tosses a four-hit shutout, besting Johan Santana for the second time in four weeks while capping a sweep of the Twins. That's six straight quality starts for Carmona, who's been the team's most effective starter, and it's the Tribe's 18th win in 26 games. The 24 runs they scored against Minnesota help them take over the major league lead in scoring (5.50runs per game), even though Travis Hafner (10-for-61 going back to April 25) has been MIA of late.

5


Dodgers
25-16
5-1
.573
Up
With calls for the head of Juan Pierre resonating, Rafael Furcal snaps out of a slump with three straight four-hit games, becoming just the fifth player to do so in the last 55 years. The streak lifts Furcal's line to .295/.363/.371 while helping the Dodgers break the longest active team-versus-team losing streak in the majors, 10 games against the Cardinals. Meanwhile, Brad Penny lowers his league-leading ERA to 1.39; hehas yet to allow a homer and is sporting a career-best 2.26 G/F ratio.

6


Braves
25-16
3-4
.560
Down
Brave New Owner: the convoluted sale of the franchise from Time Warner to Liberty Media is finally approved. On the field, its more or less business as usual even though the team scuffles through the week. John Smoltz dislocates his pinky (it hurts just typing that), but he'll make his next start. The Unsinkable Chipper Jones is back after missing four games with hand and thumb injuries, but Mike Gonzalez is DL-bound due to muscle spasms in his elbow. And speaking of former Pirates, Craig Wilson is now a former Brave as well.

7


Padres
22-19
4-2
.559
Up
Jake Peavy's string of double-digit strikeout games ends at four, but the run is no less impressive: 35 innings, 21 hits, five earned runs, and a 51/10 K/BB ratio. Elsewhere in the league's top rotation, Greg Maddux goes the distance in less than 100 pitches--his first route job in 20 months--while Justin Germano pitches in with his second quality start while filling in for the injured Clay Hensley.

8


Cubs
18-21
2-5
.553
Down
Their +26 run differential is ninth-best in the majors, but the Cubs remain under .500 because it's feast (an 8-1 record in games decided by six or more runs) or famine (just a 2-9 record in one-run games) thanks to a lousy bullpen that ends the week with Exhibit A. Even with Carlos Zambrano finally pitching up to expectations, good news is tempered by neck spasms which sideline NL batting average leader Derrek Lee (.390).

9


Athletics
20-20
3-4
.553
Down
Jack Cust's four-game binge (five homers, 12 RBI) helps the A's storm the Hit List's top ten. Cust is hitting .281/.439/.875 since being acquired from the Padres for the Taco Cabana's Chimichanga Combo Plate #3. Helping the cause is a rotation that even without Rich Harden leads the majors in Fair Run Average (3.19) and SNLVAR (7.7), with top-ranked Dan Haren (2.2) joined in the top 20 by Joe Kennedy, Joe Blanton and Chad Gaudin. Alas, the not-so-effective bullpen will have to make do without Huston Street, who could miss two months with ulnar neuritis.

10


Tigers
24-16
3-4
.547
Down
Justin Verlander outduels Tim Wakefield, stopping a two-game skid and helping the Tigers extend their run to 12 wins in 15 games. Leading the way against Wakefield is Magglio Ordonez, who not only owns the knuckleballer (15-for-33 lifetime) but the rest of the AL; he's third in VORP (22.8) while hitting .331/.420/.634. Meanwhile, Jeremy Bonderman's blister problems cost him two turns and lead the team to recall Andrew Miller--the sixth pick overall from the 2006 draft and #17 on our Top 100 Prospect List--to start on Friday. Miller didn't dominate High-A (28/15 K/BB in 41 innings), but impressed in his first Double-A start (8 6 1 0 0 7).

11


Angels
24-18
5-2
.539
Up
Pair of Aces: John Lackey and Bartolo Colon each win twice, helping the Halos widen their AL West lead to a generous three games while maintaining the majors' second-best SNLVAR. Lackey's second in the AL in VORP (21.0) and SNLVAR (2.1), not to mention fourth in ERA (2.43). Colon's now 5-0 with a 3.69 ERA in his comeback from a rotator cuff tear, with peripherals that are right in line with his (dubiously deserved) 2005 Cy Young season.

12


Yankees
18-21
2-4
.523
Down
It Gets Late Early Out There: five losses in seven games drive the Yankees back under .500 and a whopping 9.5 games out of first place in the AL East, and with series against the Hit List's top two teams on deck, things aren't about to get easier. The offense hits like the Ghost of Joe Girardi for the week (.232/.286/.365), surrendering the scoring lead after cobbling together just 22 runs (luckily, they still lead the league in vaunting). While Jorge Posada (.375) and Derek Jeter (.368) are 1-2 in the AL batting race, Bobby Abreu (.236/.306/.304--he's finally hitting like Kevin Stocker), Robinson Cano (.234/.276/.324) and Alex Rodriguez (.237/.348/.303 with one homer since his initial binge) are all mired in slumps, and those 900 runs no longer look like Smooth Jay Jaffe's Lock of the Year (though it is a pretty big lock).

13


Giants
20-20
3-3
.520
Up
We're Through the Looking Glass, People: it's a bizarro week for the Giants. Barry Bonds goes homerless and makes fewer headlines than his brother, Bobby "Warning Track Power" Bonds, Jr. (hey, we coulda nicknamed him "Forklift"), not to mention a pair of Giant rookies. Tim Lincecum follows up his debut with a more impressive outing (7 7 3 2 1 6), while Fred Lewis hits for the cycle less than a week after being recalled and in just his 16th big-league game, the earliest any rookie has managed the feat since Gary Ward did it in 1980.

14


Phillies
20-21
5-2
.518
Up
Cole Hamels' six perfect innings help the Phillies garner their sixth win in seven games, finally reaching .500... only to fall back under with a loss the next day. Still, the run is impressive, particularly because it happens with Ryan Howard on the DL as he heals from his quad strain. Wes Helms and Carlos Ruiz cap a pair of late-inning comebacks against the Brewers, while Aaron Rowand backs Hamels with a three-run homer. Rowand is hitting a sizzling .340/.417/.527 and is tops in VORP among all center fielders (19.0).

15


Astros
20-20
4-2
.504
Up
With seven straight hits and 11 total--including three homers--over a four-game span, Hunter Pence helps the Astros climb back to .500. The rookie is hitting .348/.386/.652 through his first 17 games. Carlos Lee knocks three homers in that four-game span as well, including a game-winner to cap a 4-for-4, two-homer night and a six-game, 13-hit binge. Lee's 37 RBI rank second in the league, but that's a product of opportunity; he's ninth in the league in OBI percentage.

16


White Sox
20-17
4-2
.481
Down
Jon Garland throttles the Yanks, nailing down the Sox's fourth series win in a row. It's Garland's fifth straight quality start, and for all of this team's offensive woes, the rotation has been extremely solid. They're fifth in the league in SNLVAR, and John Danks' 4.10 ERA is the highest of the quintet. The bullpen's been even better, third in the AL in WXRL even though David Aardsma (13th at .887), Mike MacDougal (16th at .807) and Bobby Jenks (19th at .711) are lighting up the leaderboard

17


Orioles
18-23
1-5
.480
Down
Backsliding Fearlessly: on the heels of four straight wins that take them to .500, the Orioles drop five straight while plating just 14 runs. The O's are just 12th in the league in scoring (4.3 runs per game), 11th in slugging (.390), and 11th in home runs. As with their recent history, they're playing ciphers at the offense-first positions: 1B/DH Aubrey Huff (.391 SLG, 0.4 VORP), DH/1B Kevin Millar (.434 SLG, 5.5 VORP), LF/DH Jay Gibbons (.377 SLG, -2.3 VORP), and LF Jay Payton (.354 SLG, -0.9 VORP). Not helping matters is Miguel Tejada who at .309/.365/.383 has the lowest OPS of any qualifier hitting .300.

18


Blue Jays
18-22
5-1
.480
Up
Who Cuts the Doctor's Appendix? As if the Jays' injury troubles weren't already enough, an emergency appendectomy sidelines Roy Halladay after consecutive shellackings; he'll miss a month. Still, the team snaps its nine-game losing streak by winning five out of six. Halladay replacement Jesse Litsch enjoys a stellar debut, while Jeremy Accardo assumes the closer role while running his scoreless streak to 18 innings; he's ninth in the AL in WXRL (1.126).

19


Twins
18-22
1-5
.476
Down
The league's second-best bullpen takes a serious hit as Jesse Crain is diagnosed with a torn labrum and a torn rotator cuff. Meanwhile, Terry Ryan gets the memo that the rest of us received in late February: neither Sidney Ponson (6.93 ERA) nor Ramon Ortiz (15 earned runs in his last 11 innings) are fit for human consumption a contender's rotation. Lost in the interoffice mail is another memo showing that backing that patchwork rotation with replacement-level production at four positions--left field, designated hitter, third base, and second base--usually leads to bad things too. The Twins can remind themselves that they were 17-24 on May 18 last year before reversing course to win the AL Central, but betting on lightning to strike twice is hardly a recipe for success.

20


Reds
16-25
1-5
.476
Down
Ken Griffey Jr.'s12th-inning home run helps the Reds snap a four-game losing streak and win for just the third time in 14 games. Don't blame Griffey for the skid, which has knocked the Reds into last in the NL Central--with seven home runs over a 15-game span, Junior climbs within two of tying Harmon Killebrew for eighth on the all-time list at 573, and he's also supporting the team in other ways.

21


Diamondbacks
22-20
3-3
.470
Flat
Randy Johnson carves up the Rockies (6 1 0 0 0 9) for his first win of the year. With steadily improving command, Johnson has put up a 30/3 K/BB over his last three starts, but manager Bob Melvin says the Big Unit still isn't at 100 percent. Other than that, it's not a great week for the Snakes, who lose Chad Tracy--one of only three hitters with a double-digit VORP despite already missing a week earlier this month--to an oblique strain, and Alberto Callaspo to a domestic violence incident.

22


Mariners
18-18
3-3
.467
Up
Never a Dull Moment: Master of Disaster Jeff Weaver hits the DL with, um, tendonitis. Julio Mateo is arrested, suspended, demoted, scattered, smothered, covered, and chunked. Felix Hernandez shakes the rust off in an uneven return (3.2 7 3 3 3 5) from a four-week absence. Through all the excitement, the M's are off to their best start since 2003.

23


Marlins
18-23
2-5
.462
Down
Running Dry: after scoring a generous 5.6 runs per game through the season's first five weeks, the Fish offense has produced just 3.2 per while the the team has dropped nine out of 13. Aside from Hanley Ramirez (who's second in the league in VORP at 24.4) and Dan Uggla, the team is hitting just .202/.273/.318 in that span. Worse, they lose Mike Jacobs to a broken thumb. The good news is the return of Jeremy Hermida after a two-month absence due to a bone bruise on his kneecap; he's 7-for-14 with a homer since rejoining the team.

24


Devil Rays
18-22
4-2
.417
Up
I'm Going to Disney World! Delmon Young's second homer of the game caps a sweep of the Rangers in the Magic Kingdom. Despite the blasts, Young's been a disappointment so far, hitting just .244/.287/.397. More impressive has been B.J. Upton (.331/.401/.583), though as Joe Sheehan notes, he's struck out 39 percent of the time and his .547 batting average on contact is completely unsustainable, so pack a parachute. Meanwhile, in the Sun Rising in the East Times, the top story is Rocco Baldelli making a trip to the DL for--you got it--a hamstring strain.

25


Rockies
17-24
2-4
.405
Down
Rox Slide: outscored 34-17 for the week, reduced to a "my dungheap for your pile of manure" trade in the Byung-Hyun Kim-Jorge Julio swap, and facing a scintillating interleague series with the Royals (settling who won the Shealy Dealy once and for all)... Hey look, it's Tracy Ringolsby, and he's right about the postseason schedule changes.

26


Pirates
18-22
3-4
.399
Up
Ryan Doumit's modest 11-game hitting streak ends, but at .388/.453/.627, his bat's been too hot to keep out of the lineup, so manager Jim Tracy has been slotting him in right field. He's the only Pirate hitter putting up a double-digit VORP (12.4), which doesn't say nice things, and neither does their ranking 14th in the NL in EqA (.239). At least Adam LaRoche, who reels off six hits in three games--yes, we've been reduced to following baby steps here--and three for extra bases to raise his batting average to a searing .194.

27


Rangers
15-26
1-6
.398
Down
The Rangers go to Disney World and play Mickey Mouse baseball, getting swept by the Devil Rays to stretch their slide to 2-8; they've allowed 64 runs in that span. They remain last in the majors in SNLVAR, and aside from Robinson Tejeda, none of the starters has an ERA below 5.77. Worse, forearm soreness pushes Tejeda's start back three days, while Kevin Millwood returns to the DL from whence he came after just five outs.

28


Cardinals
16-22
2-4
.393
Down
Not that their solid performances haven't been welcome, but when Braden Looper (16.2 VORP) and Chris Duncan (10.2 VORP) are your stars-and-scrubs team's most productive players, you've got serious problems. And with the majors' lowest EqA (.233) and the NL's second-lowest SNLVAR (1.5), it's clear the Cardinals do. Scott Rolen (.217/.291/.333) and Jim Edmonds (.214/.282/.277) continue to hit like a pair of malnourished shortstops, and as a whole, the team is batting just .230/.298/.285 this month while being outhomered 11-2. The rotation isn't much better, particularly Kip Wells (6.75, along with a 1-8 record) and Adam Wainwright (6.34 ERA), though on the heels of a eight-run torching, the latter says he's throwing without elbow soreness for the first time this year. So they've got that going for them.

29


Royals
15-27
4-3
.380
Up
John Buck's ninth-inning homer helps the Royals win back-to-back games for just the third time all season; by week's end they've run it to four times. Buck's hitting .295/.393/.614 and is fifth among catchers in VORP (13.8), hanging with names like Posada, Martin, Mauer, and Martinez. Speaking of Buck, as in Bang For, the Royals are getting their money's worth out of Gil Meche so far: a 1.91 ERA, the AL's third-best VORP (19.3), and eight quality starts out of nine while putting up peripherals that don't scream fluke (.291 BABIP, 47/16 K/BB, 0.9 HR/9).

30


Nationals
15-26
6-1
.360
Up
What Do You Call That Opposite-of-Losing Thing, Again? Shawn Hill (5.0 innings) and Jason Bergmann (7.1 innings both chase no-hitters while helping the Nats shake an eight-game skid by winning six out of seven. Bergmann's performance was his first win as a starter but his sixth quality start in seven, and pushes him up to 12th in the NL in SNLVAR (1.6) but beware that low BABIP. On a darker note, Hill leaves with elbow and shoulder injuries that push him to the DL. Coupled with Jerome Williams' here today, gone tomorrow cameo, the rotation is now thinner than the gruel being served at Guantanamo Bay. In fact, you're starting on Saturday.


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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