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June 8, 2007

Prospectus Hit List

Padres Riding High

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Red Sox
38-21
2-5
.635
Down
No No-No: Curt Schilling comes within one out of a no-hitter before Shannon Stewart breaks it up. Nonetheless, he wins the 1-0 duel, snapping Boston's season-high four-game losing streak and preventing the club's seventh loss in eight games. Earlier in the series, Daisuke Matsuzaka is outpitched by former Red Sock Lenny DiNardo. Matsuzaka's ERA has climbed to 4.63 despite decent peripherals, though his .323 BABIP is a bit high and his 40.8 GB% and .416 SLG allowed hint that he's been hit harder than anticipated. Also surprising is the team's other Japanese import, Hideki Okajima, who's third in the league in Reliever Expected Wins Added and third on the staff in VORP. However, he's been scored on in three of his last six appearances after going 19 games between allowing runs.

2


Mets
35-23
1-5
.614
Down
Would the Last Outfielder to Get Hurt Please Turn Out the Lights? With Moises Alou and Shawn Green on the DL, and Carlos Beltran only just returning to the lineup after a three-game absence, Endy Chavez strains his hamstring. There's no truth to the rumor that Omar Minaya has calls in to Cleon Jones and Art Shamsky, but it's true the Mets have lost four straight for the first time this year. The outfield mayhem is doing the offense no favors; the team scored just 17 runs over a seven-game span. Carlos Delgado goes just 3-for-28 during that slump, erasing hope that last week's four-homer, nine-RBI barrage was a sign of things to come. He's hitting just .231/.304/.407 with a 0.7 VORP.

3


Padres
36-23
5-1
.602
Up
Trevor Hoffman becomes the first closer to collect his 500th save, but he's only the anchor leg of a stifling bullpen that's allowed just eight out of 52 baserunners to score; at 57.4 Adjusted Runs Prevented, they're more than halfway to the single-season record. Benefitting the most from that bullpen performance is Chris Young, none of whose 11 bequeathed runners have scored. After contributing six shutout innings to a game in which the Pads win 1-0 despite collecting just two hits, Young is riding a 16-inning scoreless streak. He's put up a 0.96 ERA since May 1, good enough to move him into second in the league behind Jake Peavy.

4


Indians
36-22
3-3
.581
Down
The Tribe maintain a solid 2.5-game cushion in the AL Central despite dropping the final two games of their four-game series against the Tigers. C.C. Sabathia rolls out to a 9-1 record; he's eighth in the AL in VORP while Fausto Carmona is sixth. The other end of the rotation isn't so keen; Cliff Lee, Jeremy Sowers, and the rehabbing Jake Westbrook are a combined 19 runs below replacement level. Even with Paul Byrd flying high on a 43-inning walk-free streak going back to April 26, that's not going to cut it in a pennant race.

5


Angels
38-23
5-1
.580
Up
A monster showing by Vladimir Guerrero (.414/.514/.690) helps the Angels win seven games out of eight, including a walk-off Impaling of the Orioles; Vlad's second in the league in VORP. Casey Kotchman drills three home runs in that eight-game span; he's now hitting .315/.390/.536 and is third among AL first basemen in VORP while slugging at a .536 clip that's far beyond PECOTA's 90th percentile dreams. Hot only as in under the collar is Shea Hillenbrand, who's been so awful (.241/.261/.324, -8.4 VORP) he's losing at-bats at DH, and he could be DFA'ed as the team gets healthier.

6


Tigers
34-25
4-2
.575
Up
Gary Sheffield stirs the pot with his comments to GQ about race in baseball. Like much of what the controversial slugger says, there's more than a little truth in there, and while some pundits dismiss his comments out of hand, Shef's peers on both sides of the minority divide weigh in favorably. Shef punctuates his comments with a quartet of homers this week, running his season total to 16; he's hitting .333/.428/.660 since April 23. Meanwhile, the staff shuffles the deck; Nate Robertson lands on the DL, prompting the return of Andrew Miller while Kenny Rogers steps up his rehab, and the depleted bullpen decides that Jose Mesa is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

7


Athletics
31-28
5-2
.562
Up
The A's win five straight--including three over the Red Sox--before coming within one out of being no-hit by Curt Schilling. Mark Ellishits for the cycle on his way to a .391/.417/.739 week. Eric Chavez pounds three home runs, including an 11th-inning walk-off during the same game as Ellis' feat. Despite a strong week, Chavvy's hitting only .239/.299/.432 with a 2.8 VORP, but he says he's feeling healthy for the first time in ages. Mark Kotsay's healthy, or at least in the lineup after two months of back woes, but his 2-for-21 start suggests he's still got a ways to go before he can help the A's.

8


Dodgers
34-26
3-4
.545
Down
Am I Blue? A three-game sweep by the Padres knocks the Dodgers well out of first place in the NL West. With current WXRL king Takashi Saito sidelined by minor hamstring issues (if the aches and pains of a contender's 37-year-old closer can ever be considered minor), Jonathan Broxton struggles to fill his shoes, blowing a four-run ninth-inning lead and walking in the winning run. Broxton's allowed 11 earned runs over his last 5.1 innings and tumbled out of the WXRL top 10 down to 34th; with 30 appearances thus far, he could probably use a vacation. Happier news comes from Jason Schmidt's inspiring return (6 1 0 0 3 4) after a seven-week absence. With the Dodger offense sporting just one hitter among the NL's top 40 in VORP (Russell Martin, profiled this week by Marc Normandin), the onus is on the pitching staff to hold down the fort until bigger bats like Nomar Garciaparra (-1.6 VORP off an anemic .342 SLG) heat up or someone has the good grace to drag Juan Pierre (-1.7 VORP via an unacceptable .298 OBP) out to Death Valley for a picnic.

9


Yankees
27-31
5-2
.534
Up
Alex Rodriguez's ninth-inning home run off of Jonathan Papelbon lifts the Yankees to a series win over the Red Sox and caps a brutal week under the microscope for A-Rod. Thus redeemed, he adds two more ninth-inning shots, running his season total in that inning to six. He's not the only one hitting as the Yanks have won six out of eight. Robinson Cano reels off an 11-for-21 stretch with 20 total bases, while Bobby Abreu hits .480/.606/.800 and reaches base three times in every game except one, homering for the first time since May 16 in the exception. Aside from Doug Mientkiewicz's collision injuries--addition by subtraction in the Yankee lineup, but no fun to watch even for Minky's detractors--the only sour note is Bud Selig's cynical strong-arming of Jason Giambi to cooperate with the Mitchell Investigation before facing punishment that will almost certainly be overturned by an arbitrator.

10


Diamondbacks
36-25
4-2
.530
Up
Young and Old: Chris B. Young follows up his walk-off blast with a homer that provides the game's only run, helping the Snakes take their 11th win in 12 games. Randy Johnson strikes out his 4,605th hitter to move into second place on the all-time strikeout list. Johnson's 61/8 K/BB ratio in 47.2 innings--good for the top K rate in the majors--suggests he'll be able to stay ahead of Roger Clemens once the latter returns.

11


Braves
33-28
3-5
.525
Down
Buddy System: journeyman Buddy Carlyle notches his first major league win since 1999 with a gem of an outing (7 1 1 1 3 5) but is demoted for his trouble. Backing Carlyle with a two-run homer is catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who's hitting .304/.373/.478 in 46 at-bats. Earlier in the week, the 6'4" Salty debuts at first base, a move that may have deeper ramifications on a team where Scott Thorman is hitting just .226/.260/.393 and is dead last among 22 NL first basemen in VORP.

12


Brewers
33-27
3-3
.523
Flat
The Brewers take three of four from the Marlins to win their first series in four weeks, and with five wins in nine games, they've stopped the bleeding induced by a 4-13 freefall. Providing some muscle in the lineup is Ryan Braun, who's hitting .319/.365/.574 with three homers in 47 at-bats, while Prince Fielder (21) and J.J. Hardy continue to rank 1-2 in longballs. Alas, the Brew Crew lose Rickie Weeks to the DL over scar tissue issues in his wrist, but the offense gets promising returns from installing Corey Hart in the leadoff spot: .346/.467/.538 in his first seven games there.

13


Orioles
28-32
1-5
.523
Down
The O's follow up their six-game winning streak with a five-game losing streak, knocking them back out of the Hit List top ten after their first appearance there in nearly two years. A pair of bullpen implosions from the high-priced principals--Danys Baez, Chad Bradford, and Jamie Walker--contributes to the skid; the Orioles' much-vaunted remade pen is now second-to-last in the league in WXRL, ahead of only Tampa Bay.

14


Cubs
26-32
4-3
.521
Up
Men Behaving Badly: Carlos Zambrano and Michael Barrett bring new meaning to the term "batterymates," while Lou Piniella kicks up a storm and is suspended for four games, leaving the club to interim skip Alan Trammell. Fortunately for Piniella, the Cubs snap their six-game losing streak, but they're just 6-11 since May 19. Zambrano's yielded 17 earned runs in 25 innings during that span, while Ted Lilly's allowed 16 in 16.1 innings. On the bright side, Sean Marshall stops the slide, and has yielded a 2.25 ERA with a 22/5 K/BB ratio in 20 innings since being recalled.

15


Giants
28-31
3-4
.520
Up
Another homerless week for Barry Bonds, who sits out two games with shin splints. He has just one homer in his last 21 games, and if you think he's moving backwards on that pace, now Hank Aaron says he can't even spell Bonds' name (oh, snap!). Elsewhere, the Giants cut bait on Armando Benitez after two losses in a row, including a balk-o-rama triggered by Mongo's balky knees. Brad Hennessey is slated to take over as closer for a unit that's been rather icky, but the struggling Giants, who've lost nine out of 13, haven't been flush with opportunity.

16


Mariners
30-26
4-2
.510
Flat
The Mariners reach five games over .500 this week, their high-water mark since the 2003 season. So instead of dwellng on the negatives--the undead Richie Sexson (.200/.295/.389), the continued roster presence of Wee Willie Bloomquist, the refusal of Jeff Weaver to go on a rehab assignment, or the rotation aside from Jarrod Washburn, about which James Brown said from beyond the grave "People, it's bad!"--we'll accentuate a few positives. Ichiro Suzuki leads all centerfielders in VORP, while Kenji Johjima is third among AL catchers. J.J. Putz is second in the league in WXRL. Jose Guillen (.284/.352/.458) hasn't been the total vortex of suck he was last year, and while Jose Vidro pretty much has (.291/.346/.359 only comes out to a .252 EqA, from a DH no less), you'll once again only Chris Snelling on a milk carton.

17


Blue Jays
28-31
3-3
.505
Down
This Ain't No Halladay: it's a rough week for the Jays. Roy Halladay reverts to his pre-appendectomy form as he's scorched by the Devil Rays; excluding the seven shutout innings he threw in his comeback, he's yielded 23 runs in his last 13.2 innings, surrendering 35 hits. Shaun Marcum departs his latest start after three innings due to back spasms. Later in that game, Lyle Overbay breaks a bone in his hand on a hit by pitch; he'll miss four to six weeks. Adding insult to injuries, A.J. Burnettt's 13-strikeout performance goes for naught when Jeremy Accardo surrenders two runs in the ninth.

18


Phillies
31-29
5-2
.496
Down
Pat Burrell snaps a 5-for-42, 0 XBH slump with a game-tying homer off of Billy Wagner, then adds an RBI double in the 10th to help the Phils sweep the Mets. That's the third time this week Philly wins it in their last at-bat; Shane Victorino belts a walk-off homer against the Giants and Chase Utley pokes an 11th-inning homer to start things off on the right foot against the Mets.

19


Twins
29-29
2-4
.493
Down
With Ramon Ortiz finally mothballed, Kevin Slowey makes a solid major league debut and notches his first W despite a shakier encore. In between the Twins drop four straight and slip even further from the AL Central lead. Less successful than Slowey among the rotation patches is Scott Baker, who's been bombed for 11 runs and 18 hits in 8.2 innings over his past two starts. But the award for the Twin Torching of the Week goes to rookie reliever Jason Miller, who allows eight runs in one-third of an inning. Not struggling: Johan Santana, who despite the 6-5 record is seventh in VORP and is still blowing away 10.4 hitters per nine.

20


Marlins
30-31
4-3
.484
Down
The Holland Hammer: Rick Vanden Hurk tosses six no-hit innings and notches his first major-league win; he's just 286 behind countryman Bert Blyleven but only two behind Win Remmerswaal (whose surname is apparently Dutch for "three times in your career"). The Marlins remain fourth in the NL East, but they've won seven out of 11, allowing just 3.3 runs per game in that span while scoring five per. Nonetheless, the patchwork rotation is second-to-last in the NL in SNLVAR, with gimpy Sergio Mitre the only pitcher who's at least one win above replacement level.

21


Rockies
29-31
4-2
.462
Up
They're having a tough time gaining ground in the hypercompetitive NL West, but the Rox continue their roll; they've won 11 out of 15. At the plate, Matt Holliday goes 4-for-5 to run his hitting streak to 15 games despite a self-inflicted head injury. He's 26-for-62 during the streak, leading the league with a .361 batting average while running third in slugging at .607. On the hill, Jeff Francis stifles the Reds to run his quality start streak to six; he's put up a 1.63 ERA in that 44-inning span.

22


Reds
23-38
2-4
.440
Flat
In the Red: losers of 25 out of 35 since May 1, Cincinnati looks like a team that's already been mathematically eliminated in the underwhelming NL Central. Bronson Arroyo continues to struggle; he hasn't notched a victory since May 6 and has allowed 26 runs and five homers in 17.2 innings over his last four starts. Aaron Harang's been better than that, with four quality starts out of his last five, but his plunking of Gary Bennett has Tony La Russa haranguing the powers that be for a suspension (and yes, I've been waiting over two years to fit those homonyms in a sentence). The focus on the rotation continues--anything to avoid talking about that wretched bullpen--with Friday night's arrival of 2004 #1 pick Homer Bailey, #4 on our Top 100 Prospects list. He's put up a 2.31 ERA with a 51/24 K/BB ratio in 58.2 innings at Triple-A.

23


Devil Rays
26-32
4-3
.424
Up
The Price is Right: One day after Bob Barker retires, the Rays surprise no one by tabbing Vanderbilt's David Price with the first pick of the 2007 draft. He can't arrive quickly enough for a team whose back three members of the rotation--Edwin Jackson, Jae Seo, and Casey Fossum--have combined for a 7.88 ERA. Not that the Rays can't find other ways to lose; take the six-run ninth their bullpen--worst in the league in WXRL despite Al Reyes' leadership in that category--coughs up against the Blue Jays. Nonetheless, winning weeks for Joe Maddon's bunch are rare enough, so we'll close on that high note.

24


White Sox
26-30
2-5
.421
Down
Drooping Sox: Ozzie Guillen offers to take the fall amid a 2-10 slide that drives home the fact that these are not your 2005 World Champions. Amid the carnage, the team demotes David Aardsma and Mike MacDougal, two of the underperformers in a bullpen that's been the league's worst when it comes to inherited runners. Meanwhile, Joe Crede faces season-ending surgery for a pair of herniated discs; the third baseman is hitting just .216/.258/.317 and is 9.3 runs below replacement level (the team as a whole is 13.2 runs below zero). Taking Crede's place will be Josh Fields, who's #72 on our Top Prospect list and hitting .283/.394/.498 in Triple-A.

25


Cardinals
26-31
4-2
.418
Up
Phat City: with four homers in seven games, Albert Pujols powers the Cardinals to a 6-1 tear as they take over second place in the NL Central. Pujols is certainly rounding into form; he's hitting .387/.453/.707 since May 15. Juan Encarnacion hits .308/.345/.769 during the run and hits a trio of homers himself, helping to cover for injuries to Chris Duncan and Preston Wilson. On the hill, Adam Wainwright's put together three good starts in a row since overcoming his elbow soreness; he's yielded five runs in 19.1 innings while striking out 18 in that span.

26


Astros
24-35
2-4
.414
Down
The Astros halt their 10-game losing streak, alternating wins and losses until a ninth-inning meltdown by Dan Wheelerbreaks the rhythm. Wheeler had converted his previous 10 save opportunities, but he's allowed nine runs over his last four appearances, jacking his ERA up to 5.60. Meanwhile, exiled closer Brad Lidge has allowed just two earned runs over his last 23.1 frames, lowering his ERA to 2.51; a role change may be in the offing there. At the plate, Lance Berkman homers three times in seven games, but he's still slugging just .373 and facing a suspension for leaving his toys on the field. Pounding the pill is Hunter Pence, who's hitting .467/.467/.767 over his last 30 at-bats. He's leading the team in VORP despite spending the first four weeks of the season in the minors.

27


Pirates
26-34
3-4
.407
Up
Song of Salomon: after coughing up a multi-run ninth-inning lead for the third time this season, Salomon Torres loses his job as closer to Matt Capps. Trouble continues to find Torres at every turn; he loses one from the setup role, then another on a game-ending wild pitch. With Capps facing a four-game suspension for throwing at Prince Fielder, Torres might hope that Jim Tracy calls somebody else's number against the Yankees, but the manager maintains that fatigue is good for his rubber-armed setup man's sinker and splitter action.

28


Rangers
21-39
2-4
.407
Down
Boeing Boeing: once again, there's trouble in the Texas rotation, where the ERAs are often confused with jet airliners (we know Tom Hicks is made of airports, but...). Kevin Millwood's latest thrashing raises his ERA to 7.57; he's averaging less than five innings per outing and hasn't put up a quality start since before your taxes were due. Kameron Loe goes nine, but not in a good way; that's nine runs in 2.2 innings. Vicente Padilla skips a turn due to triceps irritation, which is just as well, as he's allowed 22 earned runs in his last 18 innings; the Rangers win without Padilla even though John Rheinecker puts up an ugly outing of his own (3 7 4 4 4 1). As a unit, the rotation is managing a bare five innings per start while carrying a 7.68 Fair Run Average, and they're a whopping 4.1 wins worse than the 29th-worst team in the majors in the Support Neutral department.

29


Nationals
24-36
2-4
.385
Down
Guz Cruise: Cristian Guzman hits .519/.536/.741 over a seven-game stretch--check local listings for fire and brimstone coming down from the skies, rivers and seas boiling, forty years of darkness, earthquakes, volcanoes, the dead rising from the grave, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria--and scores the winning run in both of the Nats' victories on the week. He collects four hits in the first game, helping the team outlast Jake Peavy and company, then scampers home on a wild pitch to prolong Salomon Torres' week from hell. Guzman is third on the team in VORP, about a 25-run improvement over his nightmarish 2005 campaign. Which only goes to show that when Guzman is your third-best hitter, you're not going to win too often.

30


Royals
22-39
3-4
.368
Up
Brian Bannister combines on a two-hitter to help the Royals break out of their seven-game freefall, and he follows up with another excellent outing five days later. The Royals' rotation remains solidly in the middle of the Support Neutral pack; it's the offense--second to last in the majors with a .240 EqA--which continues to drag them down. Even cutting ties with Angel Berroa only calls attention to the fact that replacement Tony Pena Jr. is hitting a Berroa-like .262/.290/.342; that wouldn't be quite such a big deal if they were getting better than sub-replacement level production at three of the four corner spots as well.


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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