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May 25, 2007

Prospectus Hit List

Busting Out from Below

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Red Sox
31-15
3-3
.661
Down
Despite dropping a series to the Yankees in the Bronx, the Sox continue to enjoy a large cushion in the AL East. Even with Manny Ramirez hitting a paltry .250/.332/.407 (at least he's up to Being Manny Jiminez), slumping J.D. Drew at .237/.346/.333 (belly laughs for Dodger fans), and Julio Lugo sputtering along at .236/.296/.354, the Sox continue to put runs on the board; they're fourth in the majors at 5.3 per game. Picking up the slack are Mike Lowell (.333/.387/.574) and Kevin Youkilis (.347/.429/.535), as well as David Ortiz (.319/.436/.596); the trio are eighth, seventh and sixth in the league in VORP, respectively.

2


Mets
29-17
3-3
.629
Down
All Wright Now: David Wright blasts four homers in four games; the first two give the Mets the jump in claiming the first leg of the Subway Series, while the last keeps them ahead of the Braves in the NL East. After slugging just .311 in April, Wright's crushing at a .671 rate this month. Benefitting from those homers in besting both rivals is Oliver Perez--he's put together three straight quality starts while allowing just 11 hits and three runs in 23 innings, helping the Mets rotation to second in the league in SNLVAR.

3


Indians
28-17
4-3
.575
Flat
Back-to-back beatings by the Royals knock the Tribe out of first place in the AL Central. If only they didn't have to play those pesky road games; the Indians are 17-4 at the Jake (and Miller Park) while outscoring opponents by two runs a game (6.0 to 4.0). They're just 11-13 on the road while being outscored (5.5 to 5.3). Most extreme splits: Jhonny Peralta is at .360/.437/.720 eight homers at home versus .195/.272/.329 and two bombs on the road, while Jeremy Sowers is at 4.74 ERA and a 1.5 K/BB versus 7.27 ERA and a 0.6 K/BB.

4


Tigers
29-17
5-1
.574
Up
Andrew Miller blanks the reeling Cardinals for six innings in his first big-league start--setting off a sweep of the defending champs--but is sent back to Double-A upon Jeremy Bonderman's return from blister problems (and quite a return it is). At the plate, Magglio Ordonez continues to rake (.361/.441/.710), widening his AL VORP lead over Alex Rodriguez to more than five runs.

5


Padres
26-21
4-2
.569
Up
Kouz Cruise: Kevin Kouzmanoff caps a Herculean effort to raise his average from .113 to .202 with a 438-foot homer that slays the Cubs. Though he's still carrying a negative VORP (-2.0), Kouzmanoff is hitting .356/.421/.644 this month, with 14 hits in his last 10 games. The Pads are 7-3 in that span, pressing the slumping Dodgers for the NL West lead.

6


Braves
28-19
3-3
.563
Up
John Smoltz wins his 200th game in timely fashion, beating former teammate Tom Glavine in the rubber game of a series with the NL East leaders. Smoltz ranks fourth in VORP, while teammate Tim Hudson is second. At the other end of the rotation, the Braves lose Anthony Lerew to a nerve irritation, and cut bait on Mark Redman, providing young children with yet another cautionary tale about the importance of proper toenail care.

7


Athletics
23-23
3-3
.561
Up
Stellar starting pitching continues to keep the A's afloat in the AL West, even as the offense sputters and the body count soars. Milton Bradley goes back on the DL with another hamstring injury, which comes as a surprise here--we weren't even aware he'd been activated. Bradley's the 10th Athletic currently on the DL; number nine is setup man Justin Duchscherer, whose arthritic hip prevents him from fulfilling interim closer duties in Huston Street's absence. That Alan Embree has the team's lone save since May 6 speaks volumes about the magnitude of the problem.

8


Brewers
28-19
2-4
.556
Down
Going Flat: since getting off to a 24-10 start that had them ranked #3 here just two weeks ago, this young and restless club has gone 4-9 while dropping four series in a row, all of them to contenders. The rotation has been getting hit hard, yielding a 5.76 ERA while surrendering 1.6 HR/9 during the slide. Chris Capuano's put up three disaster starts in a row, allowing 14 runs in 13.1 innings; the team's been outscored 22-3 in those games. Claudio Vargas (7.20 ERA) and Jeff Suppan (5.68 ERA) have been cuffed around as well, and while staff ace Ben Sheets (3.15 ERA) has been the exception to the rule, he's got blister problems related to gripping his curveball... Late note: the team finally recalls Ryan Braun (.342 with 10 homers at Nashville) to replace the struggling Tony Graffanino/Craig Counsell platoon at third base (.214/.320/.273 combined).

9


Angels
28-20
4-2
.552
Up
The Angels smother the Dodgers by a combined score of 19-3 in their three-game sweep, and run their winning streak to six straight before getting mauled by a Tiger. Kelvim Escobar leads the way (8 3 0 0 2 5); he's 12th in SNLVAR (1.7) despite having spent time on the DL in mid-April. Reggie Willits (.342/.422/.378) sparks the offense from atop the lineup while Chone Figgins breaks out of an 0-for-22 slump. You can still count Figgy's hit total on both hands, which puts you one up on him given how his broken fingers helped generate that .133/.198/.187 line.

10


Dodgers
27-20
2-4
.545
Down
Martinized: Russell Martin drives in six of his team's eight runs over a two-game span, helping the Dodgers rebound from a sweep by the Angels with a series win over the Brewers. Martin not only leads Dodger hitters in VORP (16.8), he's the league's most productive catcher. On the hill, while Brad Penny gets the attention, Randy Wolf has more than regained his pre-surgical form. He's allowed five runs in his past four starts (29.1 innings) and is third in the league in both strikeouts (66) and strikeout rate (9.9).

11


Cubs
21-24
3-3
.542
Down
Ryan Dempster goes from closer to starter and back again (not to mention over the river and through the woods) in the space of one Lou Piniella meltdown. But while the Cubs are still smarting from Dempster's five-run meltdown against the Mets, the closer's been the most effective (1.097 WXRL) of a lousy lot of relievers (0.087 WXRL, 13th in the league). In happier news, Derrek Lee makes a grand return from his neck spasms, but since then he's 1-for-12.

12


Yankees
21-24
3-3
.540
Up
The Yankee Clippard: Tyler Clippard--the seventh rookie starter to take the hill for the Yankees--sparkles in his major league debut (6 3 1 1 3 6), helping the Yanks salvage some dignity in the Subway Series before taking two out of three from the Red Sox. Still, it's a rough week for the Bombers, who hover on the precipice of a double-digit deficit in the AL East standings. Jason Giambi's comments about steroids draw an audience with the Commish while setting off rumors about voided contracts and failed amphetamine tests; Joe Sheehan has a must-read column about the flap. Meanwhile, Carl Pavano will undergo Tommy John surgery, a procedure which Yankee fans hope will be performed by Dr. Octagon. Final tale of the tape: $35 million per marginal win, making the $13.1 mil per win on Darren Dreifort's deal seem like sound economics.

13


Giants
24-22
4-2
.525
Up
Barry Bonds remains stuck on 745 home runs; since his last one on May 8, he's hitting .152/.451/.182, and the most likely date for the big splashdown has shifted from June 15 to July 5. Meanwhile, Tim Lincecum baffles the Astros in consecutive starts (15 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 14 K); he's helped the Giants climb to third in the league in SNLVAR.

14


Blue Jays
21-25
3-3
.500
Up
Frank Thomas snaps out of a 4-for-38 slump with career home run #493, tying Lou Gehrig and Fred McGriff for 21st on the all-time list. The Big Hurt is still hurting for hits; he's batting .227/.348/.383 with a 0.4 VORP. Considerably hotter is Matt Stairs, who homers in three straight games as the Blue Jays drop their interleague series to the Phillies, who used to be called the Blue Jays back when you could get five bees for a quarter and a turkey was known as a walking bird.

15


Phillies
23-24
3-3
.499
Down
Brett Myers strains his shoulder amid a wild ninth inning that sees the Phils blow a four-run lead against the Marlins. Things get even wilder the next night, when benches clear after Jon Lieber hits Aaron Boone and throws behind Dontrelle Willis. Through it all, the Phils reach .500 for the fourth time in a week and a half, only to fall back under after losing their next game.

16


Orioles
21-26
3-3
.496
Up
Erik Bedard fans a career-high 12--his third double-digit strikeout game in five starts--but the $41.5 Million Bullpen squanders his efforts against the Hit List's lowliest team. While the O's rotation is fourth in SNLVAR, the remade bullpen is a less-impressive ninth, and with Sam Perlozzo assuming the crash position, there's question as to whether Leo Mazzone will get to see his plan through. At the plate, Miguel Tejada briefly joins the illustrious Column Reversers when his slugging percentage drops below his OBP, but a homer--his first in 100 at-bats, and his first extra-base hit since April 25--brings him back from the edge.

17


Twins
22-24
4-2
.491
Up
With Sidney Ponson tossed over the side for ballast, Scott Baker wins his 2007 debut, but Ramon Ortiz gets beaten like a rented fifth starter; the latter has put up an 11.76 ERA over his last four starts while averaging less than four innings a pop. Meanwhile, Dennys Reyes and Glen Perkins land on the DL, further weakening a bullpen that's second in the league in Reliever Expected Wins Added (3.330), and already minus Jesse Crain for the year. In other news, say it ain't so, Batgirl. We hate to see you go.

18


White Sox
23-20
3-3
.487
Up
Thome's Home: Jim Thome--the only Sox hitter with a VORP above 6.0--returns from a four-week absence just in time to help the Sox pile up a week's worth of runs (28) in a three-day span. Still, the Sox have the lowest OBP (.308) and SLG (.373) in the AL by a wide margin. Meanwhile, A.J. Pierzynski's comments about Toby Hall induce a profanity-laced tirade from Ozzie Guillen, about which we ask: who hasn't been moved to curse by something Pierzynski did? Or by watching Hall play?

19


Marlins
23-24
5-1
.481
Up
Fish Fight: in a battle that may have interested no one outside the Sunshine State, the Marlins sweep the Devil Rays, with Aaron Boone hitting... eh, nobody cares. With a .395/.447/.651 run since May 14, Hanley Ramirez takes over the NL VORP lead, and he leads the league in runs scored as well. Also reeling off a hot streak of sorts is Sergio Mitre, who's had four straight quality starts since coming off the DL, allowing five earned runs in 28.2 innings to lower his ERA to 2.25.

20


Diamondbacks
26-23
4-3
.474
Up
Carlos Quentin caps a six-run comeback against the Pirates, then bashes two. He's still lost on the interstate, hitting just .194/.296/.333, which makes him one of numerous struggling youngsters on a team that's 14th in the NL in scoring (3.9 R/G) and 13th in EqA (.247).

21


Mariners
21-22
3-4
.471
Up
Felix Hernandez struggles with his command, but still whiffs nine Padres in five innings in his second start back from the DL. Still, the M's rotation has underachieved considerably; they're 12th in the league in SNLVAR (-1.8), and while some of that is the dead weight of Jeff Weaver (-1.4 SNLVAR), the efforts of Miguel Batista (0.2 SNLVAR, 6.26 Fair Run Average) and Horacio Ramirez (-0.2 SNLVAR, 7.38 FRA) flatter GM Bill Bavasi about as well as a Speedo would.

22


Reds
18-30
2-5
.446
Down
Big Bellyache: a case of gastroenteritis lands Josh Hamilton on the DL. After a .266/.365/.609 April, he's cooled off to .255/.300/.418 in May. Just barely cooled off is Brandon Phillips, whose hitting streak ends at 22 games, one shy of Torii Hunter's season high; Phillips hit .351/.366/.588 during the tear. On a streak that's far less flattering is Kyle Lohse, who's reeled off three straight disaster starts while seeing his ERA increase in six straight outings; his ERA is 8.59 in that span.

23


Astros
21-26
1-6
.443
Down
Disastro: with six losses in seven games, Phil Garner's club makes sure its stay above .500 is a brief one. The offense manages just 15 runs in that seven-game span while hitting .184/.252/.250. More troubling than the continued presence of Adam "Automatic Out" Everett, Craig "Mr. 3,000" Biggio, and Brad "Wet Newspaper" Ausmus in the lineup--mules that have been repeatedly flogged in this space--are the power outages of Lance Berkman (.368 SLG) and Morgan Ensberg (.345). With the team hitting as though they're pining for those rainbow-clad Astrodome days, the impending return of Jason Jennings should improve things on the other side of the ball by bumping Matt Albers (6.35 ERA) from the rotation.

24


Rangers
18-29
3-3
.440
Up
Hank Blalock undergoes rib-removal surgery to correct for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Third on the Rangers and fourth among AL third basemen in VORP (9.2), Blalock will miss 12 weeks. Replacement Ramon Vazquez goes 9-for-15 with a double and two homers while keying a pair of 14-run outbursts, the first of which clinches the Rangers' claim as the Tallest Midget Baseball Team in the Lone Star state.

25


Royals
19-29
4-2
.410
Up
Shealy Dealy: Ryan Shealy keys a five-run 12th inning against his former team; he's hitting .429/.484/.607 since coming off the DL May 16. More importantly, the Royals have won three series in a row; their 8-2 run is KC's hottest streak since the beginning of 2003. The rotation is, um, Meche-ing; they're eighth in the AL in SNLVAR, ahead of the Indians, Yankees and Blue Jays.

26


Rockies
20-27
3-3
.407
Flat
Jeff Francis blanks the Diamondbacks to run his career record against them up to 7-1 with a 3.35 ERA, not too shabby in a rivalry played out in the league's two top hitter's parks. He's 26-28 with a 5.08 ERA against everybody else, but more importantly, the outing is Francis' fourth quality start in a row, helping him shave his ERA from 6.19 to 4.11. Offensively, the Rox continue to struggle, scoring just 3.2 runs per game since May 6. Garret Atkins is hitting a feeble .143/.210/.214 in that span, but he's hardly the only offender on a team that's getting sub-replacement level production at third base, second base, catcher, and center field.

27


Devil Rays
19-27
1-5
.404
Down
Reports that Elijah Dukes threatened to kill his wife and their two kids surface, further blackening the reputation of a troubled prospect whose rap sheet includes five arrests, numerous restraining orders for domestic violence against multiple women, and countless suspensions. Perhaps wary of having a grievance filed against them (noooo, not a grievance!), the Rays don't act with the unilateral swiftness of the Diamondbacks or Mariners in recent domestic violence cases. While they refrain from letting Dukes play ball for a couple days, he remains in uniform, and the team's words and actions suggest they're content to keep him in the mix of their glutted outfield. In light of that, I'll refrain from happily charting the progress of this compelling young team until the smoke clears. But I'm done rooting for Dukes, period.

28


Cardinals
19-25
3-3
.401
Up
Sweeps Week: blanked by the Tigers in a hollow rematch of last year's World Series, the Cardinals snap out of a 6-14 slump by taking three from the oh-so-sweepable Pirates. Adam Wainwright, Kip Wells, and Braden Looper all make encouraging starts, though the team is still 15th in the league in SNLVAR. Perhaps more importantly, Albert Pujols is showing signs of life, hitting .424/.500/.636 over his past eight games. So long as his VORP remains in the single digits, these Cards are for the birds.

29


Nationals
19-29
4-3
.384
Up
Jason Bergmann becomes the fourth member of the Nats' season-opening rotation to hit the DL. Volunteers to take his turn should email Manny Acta. In happier news, Ryan Zimmerman is finally showing signs of life, hitting .310/.375/.759 with three homers since May 16. We're not sure which is worse: that his VORP thus far is 4.12, that that's good enough for third among the team's hitters, or that Matt Chico and Shawn Hill are seventh and eighth.

30


Pirates
19-27
1-5
.382
Down
Gorzelanny and Snell and the Rest is Hell: the Pirates are getting great work from their top two starters; Tom Gorzelanny and Ian Snell rank sixth and ninth in VORP while combining for a 2.92 ERA and 14 quality starts out of 20. The rest of the rotation... eh, not so much: (6.26 ERA, -0.4 SNLVAR, 7/26 quality starts). Staff whipping boy Tony Armas (8.46 ERA, 3.9 IP/GS) is being replaced by Shawn Chacon, who spent all of last year proving he can take a pounding.


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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