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June 1, 2007

Prospectus Hit List

Down From Olympos

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Red Sox
36-16
5-1
.662
Flat
Greek God of Hits: Kevin Youkilis runs his hitting streak to 22 straight games, even collecting an inside-the-park homer against the Indians. He's batting .429/.462/.745 during the streak, and now ranks fourth in the league in VORP. Meanwhile, everything seems to be coming up roses for the rotation. Curt Schilling whiffs 10 and walks none as he rebounds from a drubbing by the Yankees, Josh Beckett takes down the Tribe in his return from the DL, and Daisuke Matsuzaka guts out a stomach ailment against the Rangers. With their odds of winning the AL East around 90 percent, the Sox have no pressure on them as they host the Yankees this weekend.

2


Mets
34-18
5-1
.642
Up
OK Duque: Orlando Hernandez sparkles in his return from the DL (6 2 0 0 0 4), helping to fortify a rotation that's third in the league in SNLVAR. El Duque is 21st in the NL despite his month-long absence, joining John Maine, Tom Glavine, and Oliver Perez on the leaderboard. The Mets' outfield could use that kind of patchwork, given that the surprisingly effective (.314/.373/.485) Shawn Green's first-ever trip to the DL accompanies injuries to Moises Alou, Lastings Milledge, Carlos Gomez, and now Carlos Beltran. Perhaps they can clone Endy Chavez, who's hitting .315/.360/.446 in limited duty to top last year's surprising .306/.348/.431.

3


Indians
33-19
5-2
.594
Up
Hold That Tiger: the Indians bookend their week with four wins over the Motor City Kitties, though a pair of defeats by the Red Sox keeps them grounded. Leading the way against Detroit is Casey Blake, who hit .308/.397/577 in May. Also hot is Ryan Garko, who hit .380/.431/.630 during the month. On the hill, C.C. Sabathia continues to roll; he's allowed more than three runs only once in his last six starts, and is running third in the league in strikeouts while sporting a 73/13 K/BB ratio.

4


Padres
31-22
5-1
.590
Up
Outscoring their opponents 109-67 on the month (or 4.0 to 2.5 on a per-game basis), the Pads continue to climb the Hit List even if they've fallen to third in the tight NL West. Jake Peavy nails down a sweep of the Brewers with another stifling performance (7 2 0 0 1 8); he finishes the month with a 0.79 ERA in five starts, and is at a Bob Gibson-esque 1.13 over his last seven. The rest of the Padre rotation has been nearly as stingy. They've put up a 2.14 ERA, with Chris Young (1.12) and Justin Germano (1.08) standing out as well, with the latter on the verge of Pipping Clay Hensley.

5


Dodgers
31-22
4-2
.557
Up
How tight is the NL West? The Dodgers win six of seven and gain just one game cumulatively (the sum of the Games Behind of the other four teams) before ending the week in a three-way tie atop the division. The offense isn't scoring much (4.3 runs per game in May), though the expected flip-flopping of red-hot Rafael Furcal (.462/.514/.585 amid a 15-game hitting streak) and Juan Pierre (.281/.312/.335 while upping his flyball rate, negating his sole asset) in the batting order seems to have been staved off despite the latter's four extra-base hits (all against Jason Simontacchi) in a spot appearance atop the lineup. Of more concern is Takashi Saito's shoulder stiffness; while the problem isn't thought to be serious, it's no fun contemplating the loss of the league leader in Reliever Expected Wins Added, a man who's amply filled Eric Gagne's sizeable shoes.

6


Athletics
26-26
3-3
.555
Down
Walking Wounded: the A's slip into third place in the AL West, but they have to be happy with a 14-13 effort during another injury-addled month. Travis Buck (.352/.413/.685), Jack Cust (.222/.411/.611), Nick Swisher (.333/.444/.563 ), and Dan Johnson (.323/.417/.566) cap torrid months at the plate, while Milton Bradley is a hit in his return from the DL. On the other hand, Justin Duchscherer may be headed down the Jason Isringhausen path, while Huston Street is showing no sign of improvement, suggesting that it will be a while before the A's are whole again.

7


Tigers
30-23
1-6
.554
Down
Top Shef: Gary Sheffield drives in five while homering twice in front of hometown Tampa fans, helping the Tigers snap a four-game losing streak. Sheffield's hitting .414/.500/.897 with four homers this week, upping his season total to 12, tied with teammate Magglio Ordonez (himself hot at .433/.419/.800 this week) for third-best in the AL. Still, there's concern as the team drops four to the Indians, who punish a shaky bullpen that's now minus Fernando Rodney as well as Joel Zumaya. The Tigers are just ninth in the league in WXRL, and lacking relievers who can deliver the knockout punch.

8


Angels
33-22
5-2
.553
Flat
We're not sure where these Angels fear to tread, but we know it isn't the Bronx. They sweep the Yankees there for the first time since 2004, running their record against the Joe Torre-era pinstripers to 64-54 (including playoffs). They trounce the Mariners in two out of three as well, maintaining up a 4.5 game lead in the AL West. Vlad Guerrero goes 10-for-23 on the week; he's hitting .552/.639/1.034 in 29 at-bats against the M's this year and is now tops in the league in VORP.

9


Braves
30-23
2-4
.546
Down
Old Aches and Pains: a thumb injury sidelinesChipper Jones, who for all of his usual maladies is hitting .300/.392/.625 and is eighth in the league in VORP. Pinky and shoulder issues force John Smoltz's early exit. We're guessing that weekend sweep by the Phillies didn't feel too good either, but they did give Bobby Cox ample opportunity to near the all-time ejection record.

10


Orioles
27-27
6-1
.537
Up
The O's fatten up on the Royals, outscoring them 18-3 in a three-game sweep that carries the Birds to second place in the AL East and into the Hit List's Top Ten for the first time since July 24, 2005. Erik Bedard finally gets a W for his hard work; he'd gone eight starts without a win, and had allowed just eight runs over 34 innings in his previous five. Jeremy Guthrie continues his success in the rotation; he's put up a 1.78 ERA in five May starts. The Spit Take of the Week Award goes to the rumor that Sam Perlozzo may be replaced by--wait for it--Davey Johnson, whose 1997 firing is the gypsy curse which haunts the Peter Angelos era of this once-proud franchise.

11


Diamondbacks
32-23
6-0
.526
Up
D-Back In It: with six straight wins and nine in their last 11, the Snakes make the NL West into the three-team race that some predicted all along. Mark Reynolds enjoys a 5-for-5 day with a triple and two homers amid a sweep of the Astros. He's hitting .420/.483/.780 since being promoted from Double-A to cover for the injured Chad Tracy, while the team is scoring 5.9 runs per game since his arrival. Meanwhile, Conor Jackson (.320/.420/.520 in May) and Chris Young (.329/.346/.507 for the month) appear to have recovered from slow starts, while Carlos Quentin has shown signs of doing the same, hitting .324/.426/.649 since May 18.

12


Brewers
30-24
2-5
.525
Down
Going Flat in Beer City: losers of seven out of eight and 14 out of 19--not to mention six consecutive series--the Brewers nonetheless maintain a 6.5 game league in the International League NL Central. Still, there's plenty to be concerned about here. Over that 19-game stretch, the starters have put up a 5.55 ERA while allowing 1.6 HR/9 , the offense is managing just 3.7 runs per game, and Derrick Turnbow's been lit up so often the neighbors are complaining that the Brewers should take down their Christmas lights. Undeterred, Prince Fielder homers four times to run his league-leading total to 18 while moving into the #2 spot in VORP.

13


Twins
27-25
5-1
.517
Up
Set off by an apparent spiking of Justin Morneau by former Twin A.J. Pierzynski, Minnesota opens up a three-game can of Whoop Ass on the White Sox. They respond with seven unanswered runs in the opener, while Torii Hunter's walk-off walk seals a six-run comeback in the finale. Winners of seven out of eight, the Twins will have to keep it up without Joe Mauer, who's replacing Ramon Ortiz with Kevin Slowey, who's put up 1.54 ERA and jaw-dropping 57/5 K/BB ratio in 64.1 innings at Rochester.

14


Yankees
22-29
1-5
.515
Down
Desperate Times: a five-game losing streak sinks the Yankees to the bottom of the AL East standings before Alex Rodriguez takes a page from the McGraw Orioles by distracting Howie Clark from a popup. For all the bush league accusations (and who knows bush league better than John Gibbons?) and "Yankee Way" hoohah, you can guarantee former pinstripers such as Billy Martin and Leo Durocher would spike their grandmothers in envy of such gamesmanship. As for that other A-Rod story, it stinks of a smear job; since when does such alleged behavior among this demographic merit multi-tabloid, multi-news cycle coverage? How many times would Mickey Mantle or Joe DiMaggio have made the cover of the New York Post if such "reporting" had carried the day? ... Elsewhere, Jason Giambi endures a 4-for-44 slump amid heel problems of multiple varieties, and the Yankees strap in for a $28 million Rocket to Nowhere; they're just 8-14 and have fallen eight games in the standings since announcing the Roger Clemens signing.

15


Blue Jays
25-28
4-3
.510
Up
There's No Crying in Baseball, But There's Plenty of Whining: John Gibbons and company bemoan Alex Rodriguez's deception, but other than that, it's not the worst week for the Jays. They take two of three from the sinking Yankees, with both Shaun Marcum and Dustin McGowan making lemonade in the Jays decimated rotation. The former has a 2.16 ERA and 21/9 K/BB ratio through four starts this year; he's already third on the team in SNLVAR. The latter has put together back-to-back quality starts, the first two of his 15-start big league career. Even better, Roy Halladay returns from his appendectomy to combine on a shutout completed inside of two hours; yes, the Doctor is in.

16


Mariners
26-24
5-2
.507
Up
The M's complete a four-city, ten-game road odyssey with a 6-4 record, though five of those wins come against the Royals and D-Rays. The rotation's troubles continue, as Felix Hernandez is touched by the Angels for seven runs and three homers, Horacio Ramirez lugs his 6.47 ERA and his sore shoulder to the DL, and Jeff Weaver refuses a rehab assignment. (Dare we question whether it was Weaver's shoulder or his ERA that was inflamed?) As always in Seattle, good news comes in the form of Ichiro Suzuki, whose 24-game hitting streak (.411/.447/.505) surpasses Torii Hunter's for the longest in the majors; he's also playing a stellar center (112 Rate2).

17


Cubs
22-29
1-5
.505
Down
"Take a Memo: No More Losing!" The Cubs call a meeting, then endure a 9-0 rout that leaves them with eight losses in ten games. They've scored just 31 runs in that span, but the finger shouldn't be pointed at their big-money bats; Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, and Mark DeRosa are hitting a combined .306/.358/.505 amid the skid, while the rest of the crew is at .192/.263/.259. Not helping matters is the bullpen, which is carrying a 6.48 ERA over those 10 games and is now last in the league in WXRL. Lou Piniella just loves that kind of stuff.

18


Phillies
26-27
3-3
.504
Up
Ryan Howard returns from the DL and cracks a pair of homers in helping the Phillies sweep the Braves. He adds another the next day, but to no avail; the sweeper becomes the swept as the Phils roll over for the Diamondbacks. Amid all this, as Brett Myers joins Tom Gordon on the DL, his shoulder injury evokes comparisons to Chris Carpenter and Brad Penny. One thing's for sure: neither end of the pitching staff--13th in both SNLVAR and WXRL--is anything to write home about, regardless of Myers' whereabouts.

19


Giants
25-27
1-5
.503
Down
Barry Bonds ends a 15-game drought with his 746th home run, but it's not enough to prevent the Giants from posting the NL West's only losing record for the week. Nor does it keep Bonds from finding new ways to make friends by threatening to withhold his mementos from the Hall of Fame, and as for Barry Being Barry, he finishes the month hitting just .194/.449/.388. Speaking of Barrys, Mr. Zito shuts down the Mets with a season-high seven strikeouts. At 4.21, he's got the highest ERA of any Giants starter not named Russ Ortiz, which is one reason why the team is fourth in the league in SNLVAR.

20


Marlins
26-28
3-4
.488
Up
Dan Uggla slams a pair of homers to cap a sweep of the Cubs. Thanks to a hot month (.309/.395/.618), his numbers are back in line with his breakout rookie campaign. Among his fellow sophomores, there's more ugly than Uggla, particularly among the team's young pitchers. Scott Olsen, Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez, and Ricky Nolasco combined for 123.4 VORP last year, but thus far they're at -5.8, with Johnson and Sanchez both sidelined with arm troubles. Adding injury to insult, staff VORP leader Sergio Mitre departs the aforementioned Cubs game in the fifth inning with a hamstring injury.

21


White Sox
24-25
1-5
.446
Down
Six losses in seven games, including a sweep at the hands of the Twins, send the White Sox plummeting below .500. They should be lower than that, given their -33 run differential; according to their second-order winning percentage, which is based on run elements, they're a .429 ballclub, which is an even more bleak assessment than PECOTA gave them this spring. While the rotation has been solid, its performances are founded on unsustainably low BABIPs: Mark Buehrle (.232), Jon Garland (.242), and Javier Vazquez (.269) can all expect a visit from the Hit Fairy, while Jose Contreras (up 25 points to .294) and John Danks (up 13 points to .300) got theirs this week.

22


Rockies
25-29
5-2
.442
Up
Rox Roll: the Rockies run off a seven-game winning streak, but the rest of the NL West goes a combined 18-9 in that span to prevent them from gaining ground. Still, there are positives to be found in that span, starting with the rotation, which strings together seven straight quality starts while posting a 2.40 ERA. Among the hitters, Brad Hawpe bashes four homers and hits .391/.500/.957 during the streak, Troy Tulowitzki (.371/.405/.486) and Willy Taveras (.393/.414/.393) go crazy, and Matt Holliday rises to third on the NL VORP leaderboard. The magic eightball didn't see that one coming.

23


Reds
21-34
3-4
.439
Down
Eighth is Enough: through May 23, the Reds had allowed 41 eighth-inning runs in 47 games (0.9 per game). They make it through the week with just one such meltdown, but they're still second-to-last among NL teams in WXRL. Meanwhile, a scary collision sends Ryan Freel to the DL at a time the Reds are already missing Josh Hamilton. Filling in nicely is 28-year-old rookie Norris Hopper, who's hitting .362/.375/.468 this month; his back-to-back three-hit games help propel the Reds to a pair of one-run victories over the Astros.

24


Astros
22-31
1-5
.419
Down
Imperfect Ten: the Astros' losing streak reaches double digits, and if you think that's uglier than their old rainbow uniforms, note that they've been outscored 72-20 in that span while maxing out at four runs in a game. The good news is five sharp innings from Jason Jennings in his first start since April 8, but with Phil Garner oblivious to the rocket science needed to fix the offense, there's growing sentiment for a Coop d'état.

25


Rangers
19-35
1-6
.414
Down
Losers of eight out of nine, the Rangers already have taken on the stench of a manure pile baking in the August heat. The rotation not only hasn't pitched to expectations, it's chasing history with its 6.20 ERA. The offense features just one hitter with a double-digit VORP, and no, it's not the surprisingly adequate Sammy Sosa, it's Mark Teixeira, around whom the trade vultures are circling.

26


Devil Rays
22-29
3-2
.408
Up
The Elijah Dukes situation quiets down in disquieting fashion, with the troubled young slugger restored to the lineup after sitting out just two games in the wake of domestic violence allegations, but well before issuing a belated apology; D-I-V-O-R-C-E should be the least of what he has coming to him. Brighter Rays amid that dark cloud include the return of Akinori Iwamura, and the continued resurgence of Carlos Pena (.300/.365/.592 with 10 homers). Marc Normandin explores the basis of Pena's newfound success.

27


Cardinals
22-29
3-4
.400
Flat
From Yad to Worse: the Cardinals take another hit as they lose Yadier Molina to a broken wrist. While his bat's a little light, he's third among the team's non-pitching hitters in VORP, and if that sentence doesn't sum up the state of the defending champs, try "Todd Wellemeyer joins the rotation." The fourth reliever to be pressed into starting duty by the team this year, Wellemeyer lowers his career ERA to 5.54 in replacing Anthony Reyes, who's 0-8 with a 6.08 ERA despite respectable peripherals (7.0 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9, .297 BABIP). Luck is just not in the Cards.

28


Pirates
23-30
4-3
.396
Up
Ladies and Gentlemen, Your Second-Place Pittsburgh Pirates: taking advantage of a span during which the rest of the NL Central goes a combined 7-22, the Bucs slip into the #2 spot behind the Brewers in the division. They score 33 runs in a three-game span against the Reds, including an eight-run outburst in the 10th inning, a feat topped by only five teams since 1959. Leading the way is Jason Bay, who hits .462/.548/1.038 on the week while driving in eight of those runs. Meanwhile, Tom Gorzelanny returns from being struck on the thumb by a line drive; he's third in the league in ERA (2.39) and fourth in SNLVAR (2.4).

29


Nationals
22-32
3-3
.392
Up
Even with their starters dropping like flies, the Nats manage to run off a streak where they win 12 of 17. Hats off to Manny Acta for patching through a makeshift rotation which averages less than five innings per start and 1.3 HR/9 in this span. The Nats bullpen picks up the slack with a 2.86 ERA and just 0.4 HR/9; they're sixth in the league in WXRL, with Jesus Colome (!) sixth in the league himself.

30


Royals
19-35
0-6
.359
Down
Yeah, They'll Do That: the Royals wipe out that 8-2 run with seven straight losses by a combined score of 54-14. The rotation, lauded in this space last week, drops from eighth to 11th in SNLVAR after putting up five disaster starts in that span, including two apiece by Gil Meche and Jorge De La Rosa. The lineup is getting sub-replacement level production at five spots--left field, first base, DH, third base, and shortstop--with Alex Gordon (-7.3) continuing to flail away; he's hitting just .185/.301/.298 while striking out in 29 percent of his at-bats.


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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