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June 15, 2007

Prospectus Hit List

June Swoons and Happier Tunes

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Red Sox
41-24
3-3
.624
Down
Sox Rocked: the June swoon continues for Boston, which has seen the 14.5-game lead they held over the Yankees on May 29 trimmed to 7.5. The Sox scrape together just five runs in a three-game set against Colorado, symptomatic of a larger slump which has seen the offense slow to just 3.7 runs per game this month; David Ortiz (.409/.519/.659) and Manny Ramirez (.410/.558/.487) are getting their hits, but Kevin Youkilis (.250/.382/.341) has come back to earth, and Coco Crisp (.200/.234/.200) and Julio Lugo (.140/.185/.220) have joined the ranks of the undead. The week closes on an unsettling note as Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett are hit hard, with the latter taking his first loss of the year. Suddenly, this team looks vincible.

2


Padres
38-27
2-4
.591
Down
Fresh off a sweep of the Dodgers, the Padres get whacked with the other end of the broom by the Mariners, but end the week in sole possession of first place in the NL West. Jake Peavy combines with the pen to shut out the Devil Rays; that's his fourth combined shutout of the year, and the sixth time he's departed without allowing an earned run. Justin Germano runs his record to 5-0 with a 2.36 ERA; he's put up six quality starts in seven outings. Think the Phillies (who waived him in March) and the Reds (who traded him back in February for a guy now retired) could use him in their rotations?

3


Angels
42-25
4-2
.590
Up
A 24-9 run carries the Angels to their highest Hit List ranking ever. As usual, pitching leads the way. John Lackey becomes the first pitcher to notch 10 wins this year; he's third in the league in SNLVAR and second in ERA. Kelvim Escobar punches out 14 in a losing cause, but he's sixth in both SNLVAR and ERA. Meanwhile, Chone Figgins heats up; he's hitting .466/.483/.534 during a 13-game hitting streak.

4


Athletics
36-29
5-1
.585
Up
Seven-Year Itch: Billy Beane earns a lengthy contract extension, while the banged-up A's continue to scrap; they've won eight out of 10. Four of those victories are by shutouts, including back-to-back blankings of the Giants; the team leads the AL with seven zeroes overall, and they're now nearly three wins ahead of any other team in the Support Neutral rankings. Meanwhile, Jason Kendall snaps a 157 game, 618 at-bat streak without a homer, his second-longest ever. Even with 11 hits this week--including a game-winner--Kendall has the lowest VORP of any catcher this year (-11.3), perhaps prompting the arrival of catcher of the future Kurt Suzuki.

5


Tigers
37-28
3-3
.580
Up
Justin Verlander tosses the season's second no-hitter, blanking the Brewers while striking out 12, and still reaching triple digits on the radar in the ninth inning; he's now sixth in the AL in VORP. More than that, it's the offense driving the Tigers up the Hit List ladder. They continue to pummel opponents, scoring 7.3 runs per game in June via a searing .337/.402/.529. Brandon Inge (.452/.528/.806 this month), Gary Sheffield (.367/.475/.776) and Magglio Ordonez (.465/.538/.651) are killing the ball, with the latter continuing to outpace Alex Rodriguez atop the AL VORP leaderboard.

6


Mets
36-28
1-5
.573
Down
Road to Nowhere: a 1-5 road trip--including a sweep by the Dodgers--sees the Mets score first each time, only to surrender the lead in the last five games. Their skid has now reached nine out of 10, a span during which they've been outscored 59-30. At the plate, the only thing going Wright is the third baseman (.359/.419/.718 with four homers), while the rest of the team is hitting just .228/.270/.324 and walking once for every 18.4 at-bats, compared to once for every 9.3 at-bats prior. On the hill, the bullpen bears the brunt of the attack by allowing two baserunners per inning pitched and posting a 7.68 ERA; they've fallen to a middling eighth in the league in WXRL.

7


Indians
39-26
3-4
.569
Down
Gone Sowers: with the back of the rotation failing to hold up its end of the deal, the Indians tell Jeremy Sowers to shuffle off to Buffalo. He's allowed a 9.09 ERA over his last seven starts and is currently suffering from Zach Duke's Disease (ZDD), an affliction that drains the early promise from young southpaws who can't manage to strike out three batters per nine. Replacing Sowers is TJ survivor Jason Stanford, who hurls a gem (6 6 1 1 0 7) in his first major league appearance since April 15, 2004 while helping the Indians avenge that heartbreaking 1997 World Series loss with the drama that only a random interleague pairing can produce. Along the way, Casey Blake runs his hitting streak to 23 games, a span during which he's batting .326/.426/.620.

8


Yankees
33-31
6-0
.567
Up
They're Baaaack: winners of nine straight--by a combined score of 67-24--and 12 out of 14, the Yankees climb above .500 for the first time since April 20. Roger Clemens makes a solid debut (6 5 3 3 2 7) against the hapless Pirates, Alex Rodriguez launches three more bombs (that's 25, with 68 RBI to boot), and Bobby Abreu extends his hitting streak to 13 games (.440/.548/.720). While they've got a pulse, the Yanks are tied for fourth in the Wild Card hunt, 3.5 games behind the Tigers and carrying just a 28 percent chance of making the playoffs. Off the field, Bud Selig continues to strongarm Jason Giambi, setting up a showdown which promises to do little but increase acrimony between players and the commish.

9


Dodgers
38-28
4-2
.558
Up
Code Blue: amid a 1-5 skid that sends them tumbling into third place in the NL West, the Dodgers recall James Loney and Matt Kemp to fortify a flagging offense that's second-to-last in the league in homers; they've gotten just one from Nomar Garciaparra and none from Rafael Furcal, a duo that combined for 35 last year. The moves pay off as the Dodgers sweep the swooning Mets, with Wilson Betemit, Kemp, and Hong-Chih Kuo--the lineup's 7-8-9 hitters--homering on three straight pitches. In addition to adding a Bonds-like flourish to his longballs, Kuo's pitching in on the mound, yielding just two runs in his last 13 innings while striking out 12.

10


Cubs
30-35
4-3
.532
Up
Can't We All Get Along? Despite Alfonso Soriano's three-homer game, it's another week that tries the Cubs' collective patience. Ted Lilly is ejected for plunking Edgar Renteria just 10 pitches into an outing against the Braves; he'll be fined but not suspended. Michael Barrett engages in his second dugout tiff in as many weeks, this time with Rich Hill, and while the spat over pitch selection doesn't escalate, Lou Piniella says Barrett needs a bit more rest. But even with Aramis Ramirez going down, the Cubs have the NL Central's best run differential by a wide margin, not to mention the means to solve at least some of their problems.

11


Brewers
36-30
3-3
.522
Flat
Despite being no-hit by Justin Verlander, the Brewers tame the Tigers for just their second series win out of their last ten. Despite their six-game lead in the NL Central, their run differential stands at a paltry +1. Ben Sheets' 23.1-inning scoreless streak is snapped, but he notches his 1,000th career strikeout. Carlos Villanueva's solid spot start makes the Brewers the last team in the majors to expand beyond their front five. Scratched starter Chris Capuano heads to the DL with a groin strain as Yovani Gallardo--#14 on our Top 100 Prospect List is recalled from Triple-A, where he's put up a 2.90 ERA with a 110/28 K/BB ratio in 77.2 innings. He'll debut Monday against the Giants.

12


Mariners
35-28
5-2
.521
Up
Winners of 16 out of 21, the Mariners are showing more life than at any time since 2003. Don't start printing playoff tickets yet; this team is just +15 in run differential, so some regression is in order. But the fact that they're 21-13 in games decided by three or fewer runs speaks highly of a bullpen that's third in WXRL; J.J. Putz now leads the league, while rookie Brandon Morrow is in the top ten. Whether they can continue to prop up a rotation that's been among the majors' worst is the real question. The answer includes a parachute and a life raft.

13


Braves
35-32
2-4
.509
Down
Tim Hudson outduels Johan Santana in a matchup that almost lives up to its Smoltz-Morris forebear. Alas, a ninth-inning collapse sends the Braves to defeat and a three-game sweep by the Twins, as they score just six runs along the way. Worse, the Braves have lost 20 of their last 31 while falling to third in the NL East, and even if Hudson (6.48 ERA in his previous six starts) has turned it around, the back end of the rotation has put up a 7.41 ERA during that span. Not helping matters--particularly in the absence of Chipper Jones--is Andruw Jones' disappearance; he's hitting .198/.256/.378 during that slide.

14


Blue Jays
31-34
3-3
.505
Flat
Roy Halladay returns to form in helping the Jays take a series from the Dodgers, while Dustin McGowan reels off his fifth straight quality start to prevent a sweep by the Giants. However, not all is sunshine in the Jays' rotation. A.J. Burnett is curiously hung out to dry, allowed to throw several pitches while in obvious pain. Worse, Burnett is coming off a heavy workload--376 pitches over his previous three outings, enough for him to take over the lead in Pitcher Abuse Points. For now the verdict is a mild shoulder strain and a missed turn; suffice to say we can think of better ways to protect a pitcher owed more than $40 million dollars, but then we're obviously not as smart as J.P. Ricciardi and John Gibbons.

15


Giants
30-35
2-4
.504
Down
It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's the most tedious all-time home run chase ever? Barry Bonds hits #747 but it's just his second homer since May 8. While Tony La Russa refuses to commit to choosing Bonds for a hometown All-Star Game, the slugger has at least resumed productivity; he's hitting .344/.500/.531 this month, and leads the league in OBP and OPS, ample grounds for a nod from his Geniusness. As for the 24 Dwarves, they lose more ground in a wild NL West after being swept by the A's. Tim Lincecum struggles for the third straight outing; he's allowed 16 runs in his last 14.2 innings, boosting his ERA up to 5.25.

16


Twins
33-31
4-2
.503
Up
A three-run ninth-inning rally sends the Twins to a three-game sweep of the Braves. The victory gets Johan Santana off the hook after a fine outing, but once again, the Twins have trouble supporting him; they've managed just 3.9 runs per game when he's pitched. In any event, the best news for the Twins is the return of Joe Mauer after a five-week absence due to a quad strain.

17


Phillies
35-31
4-2
.500
Up
Aaron Rowand slams his former team to seal a sweep and carry the Phillies to their ninth win in 12 games; they're now just two behind the slumping Mets in the NL East standings. Alas, the news isn't good for all of this team's former White Sox; Freddy Garcia may be done for the year after MRIs reveal fraying in the rotator cuff and damage to the labrum; he'll try rest and rehab before submtting to the knife. As for that starter surplus the team had in spring training, don't expect Brett Myers to take Garcia's slot; he's healing sloooowly and intends to remain in the bullpen when he returns. They'll need his help somewhere, as the Phils rank 13th in the league in both SNLVAR and WXRL.

18


Diamondbacks
37-30
1-5
.499
Down
The Snakes' first taste of interleague action this season turns into a cross between Whacking Day and Groundhog Day minus the soulful contributions of Barry White and Bill Murray. Particularly brutal is their manhandling in Yankee Stadium, where the D-backs are outscored 18-4 while holding a lead for a span of exactly one out. The drubbing drops their run differential into the red, suggesting that this team is not long for playing .560 ball. If there's good news, it's the return of Chad Tracy--the team's third most productive hitter from a four-week absence; manager Bob Melvin plans to keep Mark Reynolds (.312/.369/.559 in Tracy's stead, not to mention the team's top MLVr) in the mix as well.

19


Orioles
29-37
1-5
.495
Down
The Orioles cap a dismal 2-10 streak by gettin swept at home by the Nationals; call it an early Father's Day present for Peter "Big Daddy" Angelos, one that beats the new tie they got him last year. The O's have abandoned all semblance of plate discipline this month; prior to Thursday night's game, they'd walked once for every 19.4 at-bats this month--down from once every 10.3 at-bats over the first two months--while striking out three times as often. By comparison, their opponents walked once for every 8.5 at-bats and struck out only one-and a-half times more often. Not even the awesome prowess of staff VORP leader Jeremy Guthrie--producer of eight straight quality starts, three of them for naught in this streak due to just six runs of support--can overcome that.

20


Rockies
33-33
4-2
.484
Up
The Atkins Diet: Garrett Atkins' grand slam not only helps send Josh Beckett to his first defeat of the year, it enables the Rox to reach .500 for the first time since April 13; they've won 15 of their last 21. Atkins is a big part of the reason for the team's turnaround; he's hitting .333/.447/.615 in June after a cold .223/.297/.335 through the first two months. He's not the only hot Rock this month; Kaz Matsui (.375/.400/.563) and Matt Holliday (.388/.444/.612) are both tearing it up, with the latter continuing to run third in the league in VORP.

21


Marlins
32-35
2-4
.478
Down
Not So Fresh Fish: it's an ignominious week for the Marlins, who drop a series to their cross-state rivals, then fall short against the Indians on a night when the team pays tribute to its 1997 World Championship club (where have you gone, Wayne Huizenga?). Offense is the problem, as the Marlins take the week's last five games to match their 14-run outburst in the opener against the Devil Rays. Aside from Miguel Cabrera (.381/.438/.810) and Hanley Ramirez (.358/.404/.472), the rest of the offense resembles guppies this month (.209/.286/.321).

22


Reds
26-41
3-3
.439
Flat
Homer Bailey is wobbly in his debut and the sequel, but the Reds emerge with a split on the week by beating the Indians but bowing to the Angels--not bad for a team that had lost 25 out of 35. Elsewhere in the rotation, Official Hit List Whipping Boy Eric Milton heads for Tommy John surgery, leaving the Reds with 4.3 WARP and a 5.83 ERA over 370.1 innings for their $25.5 million. Meanwhile, trade vultures encircle slumping Adam Dunn--an annual tradition in Cincinnati--but don't hold your breath; any trade negates his $13 million 2008 option, making him an expensive rental.

23


Devil Rays
29-35
3-3
.428
Up
Trouble With the Young 'Uns: it's a bad week for the blue chips in Tampa Bay. Team VORP leader B.J. Upton heads to the DL with a strained quad. Designated psychopath Elijah Dukes gets a day off after reports surface that his family manners are even less charming than previously believed; he's 2-for-33 this month, so at least the Rays are paying something for their kid-glove treatment. Not content to be left out of the fun, Delmon Young complains about being moved to center field in the absence of Dukes, Upton, and Rocco Baldelli.

24


Astros
27-39
3-4
.414
Flat
Brad Lidge regains the closer role and promptly blows his first save opportunity by surrendering his first run in 11 outings; luckily for him, the Astros come back to win. Displaced closer Dan Wheeler tries to outdo Lidge by blowing both a lead and his stack, and this time the 'Stros aren't so lucky. Lost in the latter debacle is the seventh consecutive quality start by Chris Sampson, who's put up a 2.89 ERA in that span, though the Astros have won just three of those starts because they've backed Sampson with only 23 runs. When they engrave the tombstone on this Astro season--forget 2005; there's no sense in waiting this year--remember that it's the four-runs-or-bust output and not the struggles at the back of the pen which spelled this team's doom. Late note: we could have suggested gentler ways of improving the offense than breaking Adam Everett's leg.

25


Nationals
29-37
5-1
.410
Up
The Nats take a pair of interleague series from the Twins and Orioles; they're now on a 20-12 tear, good for the second-best record in the league in that span. Despite injuries to practically every Washington starter this side of Walter Johnson, the rotation has been solid within that run, putting up a 4.75 ERA--or 3.98 if you discount Levale Speigner's 10.62 showing. At the plate, Dmitri Young is, dare I say, en fuego; he's hitting .483/.516/.655 over the last four weeks and now has a higher VORP than either of last year's MVPs.

26


Rangers
24-42
3-3
.408
Flat
With the early returns on manager Ron Washington mixed at best and their season already DOA, the Rangers' summer looks to get even longer--and not in a good way. A severe quad strain sends Mark Teixeira to the DL for the first time in his career, especially bad news given that he's by far the team's most productive hitter, not to mention an attractive trade commodity for team that needs a new blueprint.

27


Cardinals
28-35
2-4
.408
Down
Jeff Weaver may be gone, but the Cardinals have their own vortex of suck in Kip Wells. After touching off a 17-run shellacking by the Royals--the Royals, people--Wells has produced a disaster start in seven out of his last ten outings while raising his ERA to 6.93. This from the one Cardinal starter who actually spent time in a major league rotation last year, which helps explain why the Cards are last in the league in SNLVAR. Lost in the deluge: Adam Wainwright's gem (8 1 0 0 2 3), which includes 5.2 innings of no-hit ball one night after Justin Verlander achieves the feat.

28


White Sox
27-35
1-5
.407
Down
White Out: losers of five straight series and 15 out of 18 games, the Sox continue their downward spiral. They're scoring just 3.1 runs per game in that span while hitting .227/.286/.340, but that shouldn't be a surprise on a team that still has exactly one hitter with a VORP above 5.0 and has been below replacement level at every position but DH, first base, and--thanks only to Darin Erstad's injury--center. The rotation continues to maintain an air of respectability (4.62 ERA during the slide), but the bullpen has put up an 8.86 ERA in that span and is now third-to-last in the league in WXRL. As bad as things are, Nate Silver is much more optimistic about the big picture for the Southsiders.

29


Pirates
28-38
2-4
.402
Down
Steamrolled by the Yanks, the Pirates salvage a bit of dignity against the Rangers. Zach Duke turns in his first quality start in a month. He's carrying a 5.54 ERA and negative VORP, not surprising given that he's striking out just 2.88 per nine innings. On the other side of the coin, Ian Snell A< HREF="http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/boxscore?gameId=270613123">goes the distance; he's third in the league in VORP and fourth in SNLVAR, while Tom Gorzelanny is fourth and seventh, respectively. Meanwhile, Salomon Torres' struggles come into focus as the deposed closer hits the DL with an inflamed medial collateral ligament.

30


Royals
26-41
4-2
.396
Up
Brought to You By the Number 17: the Royals drop two touchdowns and a field goal on their opponents not once but twice, murderizing both the Phillies and the Cardinals. They're now 6-3 in interleague play while averaging 8.0 runs per game. Heating up is Alex Gordon, who's hitting .423/.464/.808 over his last seven games, carrying his batting average above the Mendoza Line for the first time; as John Perroto reports, the team's much less concerned with his numbers than his mental state.


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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