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July 6, 2007

Prospectus Hit List

Pinch-Hitter's Edition

by Marc Normandin

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

1


Red Sox
53-31
5-2
.631
Up
Despite Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz stranding enough men to make Napoleon look like a good guy, the Sox managed to go 5-2 and extend their lead in first to 12 games over the Jays and Yanks. Jacoby Ellsbury makes his major league debut and lets the league know he's faster than they are before he's sent back down. J.D. Drew finishes up the month of June hitting .325/.404/.558 in 77 at-bats, forcing fans incapable of enjoying the 2007 ride to point all available fingers at Julio Lugo's craptastic performance. Speaking of Sox shortstops, Alex Cora hit .267/.312/.533 filling in most of the week. Daisuke Matsuzaka continues his recent streak of brilliance, spinning a 1.29 ERA with 10.9 K/9 in his past six starts, with the most recent gem an eight-inning effort with 9 punchouts versus the hapless Rays.

2


Tigers
49-34
3-3
.585
Flat
Detroit jumps up to second this week despite a so-so week. Placido Polanco mashed, hitting .423/.423/.731 for the week, as did Carlos Guillen with a .364/.375/.636 line. Marcus Thames posted an ISO of .466 for the week that included Sunday Night Baseball's game-winning homer. Kenny Rogers improved to 3-0 thanks to a few lucky breaks, including a nifty Thames diving catch, but overall he's been solid since returning from shoulder surgery that kept him out for 11 weeks. I'm pulling for the Gambler to pitch until he's collecting Social Security checks or improbably reaches 250 wins, whichever comes first. Magglio Ordonez has cooled off since June started--sort of. He hit .404/.492/.510 for the month, leaving him with an ISO of just .106 but with plenty of singles to make up for it. Based on a BABIP adjustment, Ordonez should be closer to .287/.366/.530; that's still wonderful and all, but hopefully the Tigers don't make a contract mistake in the future based on a lucky stretch in 2007.

3


52-33
3-3
.574
Down
The Halos drop from second to third this week with their 3-3 showing, and managed to avoid a sweep at the hands of the lowly Rangers Thursday night. Chone Figgins continues his fantastic hitting with a .360/.385/.480 line to close out his June where he hit .461 with 53 hits. That's the second-highest total since 1990, with only Ichiro's 56 hit August from 2004 ranking ahead of him. Vladimir Guerrero was the only other contributor in the lineup (.318/.400/.500). The pitching was unimpressive, as the team allowed opponents a .285/.333/.485 line; Escobar's start against the Rangers helped to keep those numbers down, but it was his poor start versus the Orioles to start the week that set the tone.

4


Padres
48-36
4-3
.573
Down
Padres pitchers held opponents to just .257/.316/.366 for the month of June, including a .242/.296/.357 road line. The pitching has been ridiculous in 2007, and the offense has been better than advertised for various reasons. Josh Bard led the offense this past week with a .357/.438/.571 showing, and has hit .297/.369/.486 since June 1. Khalil Greene has hit just .243/.280/.472 this season, but that's a .229 ISO and 9.6 VORP; his .265 EqA is above average, and his defense is well above, meaning Greene is potentially an above-average player who gets on base less than 30% of the time. Chris Young and Jake Peavy both made the All-Star team and rank near the top in league ERA. Peavy's 2.19 ERA isn't too far off from his 2.61 DERA, thanks to a return to his grounder-inducing ways. Young may have helped his case Wednesday night, striking out nine Marlins over seven shutout innings, earning the win when Mike Cameron scored on an error.

5


Indians
51-34
5-2
.564
Up
Cleveland surges to fifth (up from eighth), the lone smear on a great week being their consecutive losses to their divisional rivals, including an ugly C.C. Sabathia beating last night. Victor Martinez (.417/.481/.708) continues to dish out punishment to opposing pitchers, and Ben Francisco even got in on the act with a .500/.526/1.111 showing in 18 at-bats. Josh Barfield continues to struggle in his transition to the AL, hitting just .154/.214/.192 this week and .317/.315/.365 for the month of June. Jacobs Field is roughly as difficult to homer in as PETCO, and more difficult for right-handers, so the drop in Barfield's HR/FB isn't all that surprising. Fausto Carmona shocked everyone by striking out a career-high eight batters in six innings, while Joe Borowski managed three saves and a win from his four appearances without surrendering a walk or a homer.

6


Dodgers
48-38
3-4
.561
Flat
The Dodgers pitching and offense were both on their games for the most part this week. Juan Pierre (.367/.387/.533) and Matt Kemp (.632 SLG) led the attack on offense, with Pierre contributing seven steals to boot. James Loney and Luis Gonzalez did their best to keep the offense down, slugging .192 and .208, respectively. Even with the solid overall stats, the Dodgers only managed to play .500 ball due to a few implosions here and there, even though they snuck out a win in the poor Wolf start--his last before making a trip to the DL--thanks to Wilson Betemit's three hits, and four RBI. The Dodgers remain within striking distance of the Padres, and opened up some room between second and third with the D'backs going just 2-6 since the last edition of Hit List.

7


Brewers
48-37
2-5
.559
Down
Even though they hit .270/.330/.455 as a club, the Brewers went just 2-5 for the week thanks to some poor pitching and some hard luck. Yovani Gallardo threw 8.2 innings, but gave up five runs and lost. Ben Sheets took home two losses in two starts despite not pitching terribly either time, and both Claudio Vargas and David Bush went winless as well. Ryan Braun has added to the talented rookie class of 2007 in his fledgling career, and hit .387/.424/.645 in 31 at-bats this week. Corey Hart continues to rock, with a .281/.303/.500 week to close up his .336/.421/.618 June that also included 10 steals at a 77% success rate. J.J. Hardy restarts his hot-hitting ways and mashes at .368/.455/.526 after a rough June with a 685 OPS. Rickie Weeks would probably prefer I don't publish his line for the week, while MLB leader Prince Fielder extended his homerless streak to eight games.

8


Mets
47-37
4-4
.558
Down
It was a rough week for Mets fans, but thanks to John Maine, there were a few bright spots. His 6/29 start against Philadelphia was excellent, as he went eight innings with four hits allowed for the win. Last night he snapped the Mets' four-game losing streak with a career-high nine strikeouts in 7.2 innings, a necessary win given their recent struggles and the Rockies domination of them in their last series. Carlos Gomez broke a bone in his hand on a check swing, which can't make the Mets happy, especially with Endy Chavez already on the DL. Carlos Delgado slugged .774 this week, although he seems to be developing a habit of beating up on bad pitching and scuffling against the better guys. Shawn Green has hit much more like you expect after returning from the DL, posting just a .209/.244/.349 line since. Guillermo Mota should ask for a mulligan on his last week, although he's not the only problem pitcher in an inconsistent Mets pen.

9


Athletics
44-41
4-3
.555
Flat
At first glance A's pitching on the week looks great, as they held opponents to .252/.331/.365 on the week, while the offense hit .273/.335/.445. In reality, there was an even mix of excellent and awful performances on both sides of the ball that averaged out to those quality lines above. Joe Kennedy only lasted 6.2 innings combined in two starts, and Lenny DiNardo was also cuffed around. Chad Gaudin held the Yanks to one hit though, and Joe Blanton tossed a one-run complete game against Toronto. On offense, Shannon Stewart slugged .613, Eric Chavez slugged .524, Dan Johnson hit .240/.345/.600 with three homers, Jack Cust slugged .556, and even Jason Kendall hit a homer while even saving enough energy for another extra-base hit in the same week.

10


Yankees
40-42
4-3
.544
Flat
The Bombers stick in the tenth spot, although Alex Rodriguez's hamstring causes some concern in the Bronx. Bobby Abreu led the offense, posting a .381/.417/.571 week, whil Melky Cabrera more than just chipped in at .407/.467/.556. The Yanks had two solid starts by Mike Mussina along with a gem from Roger Clemens for his 350th career win to help them along to four wins, while Andy Pettitte took a beating from the A's. The Yankees high ranking in many run differential and Pythagorean standings has more to do with their ability to win big and lose small than it does to bad luck. They are a better team than what they have shown, but would you really take them over 20 other clubs? Losing small is a product of a terrible bullpen whose best WXRL figure is Kyle Farnsworth's 0.764; there's your culprit, not just bad luck and injuries.

11


Cubs
43-41
5-2
.538
Down
The Cubbies crawled over .500 this week with a 5-2 performance that puts them only 4.5 games behind Milwaukee. Aramis Ramirez (.783 SLG) and Ryan Theriot (.444/.474/.667) willed the Cubs offense to life by themselves, with most of the rest of the club trying to sabotage this entry into the playoff discussion. Jason Marquis threw seven innings of one-run ball for a win, and Ted Lilly did the same with Carlos Zambrano missing out on this "club" by one out in his start, although he did strike out eight batters. The bullpen avoided imploding, keeping the opposition down at .207/.270/.348, and have done well since June 1 at .227/.294/.349. It's like they're turning all of their opponents into Jacque Jones! Mark DeRosa has adjusted to Wrigley life well, increasing his flyballs while dropping his grounders in order to stay productive. It will be interesting to see if he can keep this up all year, or if he will fade like he did last season.

12


Blue Jays
41-43
2-4
.518
Down
The Jays pen was ugly this week, letting opponents stomp all over them (.321/.403/.518), helping ruin the starters' group effort of .276/.333/.324. It doesn't help that the offense only hit .267/.339/.388, with only Vernon Wells (.731 SLG), Alex Rios (.391/.483/.478), and Matt Stairs (.643 SLG) doing anything interesting. Adam Lind continues to struggle at .230/.274/.383 for the year, although his BABIP is low given his line-drive rate. Shaun Marcum has been great since he was placed into the rotation, and shut out the Mariners over 6.2 innings for his fourth run-less start of the year. Although he didn't pitch all that well, Josh Towers earned consecutive wins for the first time since 2005 by going five innings and giving up four runs on a homer, five hits, and a pair of walks. The Jays find themselves 12 games back of the Red Sox, and seem to be running in place.

13


Braves
45-41
4-3
.511
Up
Atlanta should be kicking themselves right now for going 4-3 during the Mets' struggles, although they are just three games back of a team that just can't seem to get it going. Andruw Jones had a nifty ISO of .241 this week, but his .207 average kept his production down. Chipper Jones reached base at a .457 clip and brought his slugging up to .621 for the week with two dingers against the Dodgers Thursday. Jeff Francoeur showed some signs of life, hitting .387/.394/.581 and adding a home run Thursday as well. Francoeur's plate patience has regressed since the promising beginning to the season, and his power output has been disappointing with just a .142 ISO and .432 SLG for the year. Apparently, John Smoltz won't be able to help out until at least after the All-Star break, as the results of his recent tests may not be known until Monday.

14


Mariners
46-36
4-3
.509
Flat
The Mariners somehow slugged lower than their on-base this week, hitting .283/.346/.333 as a club. Although that would have made them kings as recently as 1968, they only managed a 4-3 record with it here in the present. From the looks of it, Jose Guillen (.500/.548/.714), Ichiro Suzuki (.379/.419/.448), and Ben Broussard (.533/.611/.533) decided the Mariners had to win at least a few games, but no one else helped out, with the next-best performance coming from Adrian Beltre and his .292/.379/.333 line. Felix Hernandez had himself a quality start against the Royals, but the Mariners lost the game in extras to snap their eight-game winning streak, while Jarrod Washburn threw 14 innings while giving up just two runs and two walks. However, Miguel Batista won a game he should not have (five walks and hits apiece, but just one run); those things just seem to happen when you're winning.

15


Twins
43-41
3-4
.506
Flat
The Twins have been stuck around .500 the past few weeks, but with no help from their offense this past week. As a team they hit just .218/.288/.346, with everyone not named Justin Morneau or Joe Mauer mailing it in. The pitching was bad, but they did a better job of contributing to wins than the offense did. Torii Hunter slowed down some in June, hitting .267/.306/.491 for the month, although he did have 13 extra-base hits. I'm going to go out on a limb and say the Twins can't compete with the big boys in the AL Central playing both Jason Tyner (.279/.327/.333) and Nick Punto (.202/.303/.260) on a near-daily basis. These are problems they will need to address at the deadline if they plan on competing for the rest of 2007.

16


Rockies
42-43
4-2
.497
Up
The Rockies beat the Mets up pretty badly, but even that just put their run differential for the season at -9; their record isn't a poor reflection of the team's performance so far. They went 4-2 for the week, but their offensive performance is worth taking a look at: .341/.423/.521 in 217 at-bats with 10 homers and 32 walks. They destroyed the starters they faced (.316/.408/.504) but went just as crazy against the relievers (.381/.448/.548). Garrett Atkins did the most damage of any Rox hitter, posting a .417/.429/.958 line for the week with four homers. It's a good thing the offense went nuclear too, because the pitching was basically meh. Colorado gets to take on the Phils this weekend, so chances are good the offensive explosion can continue unabated through the weekend.

17


Orioles
37-47
3-4
.495
Down
Garrett Olson made his major league debut, but pitched just 4.2 innings thanks to five walks and five hits, but just two runs. Stop me if you've heard this one, but Steve Trachsel pitched poorly against a top offensive club, earning as many outs as runs allowed on nine hits without a walk or strikeout; Trachsel was working in the zone, apparently. The O's hit a very good .286/.330/.476 as a team, but the pitching gave up extra-base hit after extra-base hit, finishing at a .251/.336/.485 line. Melvin Mora had the most productive June on the O's, putting together a .319/.393/.543 line with six homers. Brian Roberts wasn't far behind at .340/.402/.509 with 6/7 steals and 10 extra-base hits. There are still too many weak offensive options and poor pitching options on the club for them to do much besides maybe finish close to .500 if everything falls right for them, which never seems to happen.

18


Phillies
43-42
2-4
.493
Down
Their 2-5 record the past week dropped them back a few spots in the rankings, and things might get worse before they get better if the Rox stay hot. Check the Rockies line from the past week again, and then take a look at the .282/.375/.502 line Philly pitchers gave up during their past eight games, and the .283/.355/.468 staff line from June 1 to now. You hope that the Phillies' bandbox teaches teams not to build their new stadiums for the benefit of hitters, but who knows. I would rather build myself a neutral or pitcher's park if it was my choice, but home runs must sell more tickets than wins.

19


Giants
36-47
3-3
.487
Up
At 36-46, the Giants will fade from the news as soon as the All-Star Game and Barry Bonds' quest for the home run record are over if they don't start to win some more games. They are 6-6 in the past two weeks, which is sort of like progress. Speaking of Bonds, he hit number 750 and 751 in the past week, moving him up to four shy of tying. Considering the Giants hit .276/.357/.467 as a team their past six games, it's surprising they only went 3-3. They had solid starts out of multiple pitchers, including a gem from Tim Lincecum. San Fran is 11.5 games out in what is an otherwise close division, and I'm not sure they have the horses to mount a comeback given the teams in front of them.

20


Diamondbacks
47-40
2-5
.481
Down
The Diamondbacks are right with the Giants in Hit List, but they also sit nine games ahead of them in the standings as the third-place team in the NL West. They have scuffled a bit in their last 10, going just 3-7, but neither the Padres or Dodgers have done much better during that time frame. The Big Unit heads to the DL again, with Yusmeiro Petit taking his place in the rotation and pitching decently enough in his stead. After a promising start to the season, Micah Owings has had his issues lately, with only 4.7 K/9, and he put up a stinker against the Giants on Sunday (seven runs in four innings against Lincecum). Stephen Drew found his groove and hit .346/.370/.577 for the week, but just .209/.284/.395 in June as a whole. Mark Reynolds struggled as well, hitting .162/.222/.297 in 74 at-bats. Chad Tracy didn't do much better in his playing time, but at least his slugging cracked .440. It looked like the wheels were coming off the Livan Hernandez Lucky Ride in June, but he's rebounded with two solid starts in a row, despite terrible peripherals. There's really no reason for 4.4 K/9, 1.1 K/BB, and 1.3 HR/9 to equal a league average ERA, but it has. If things even out in the second half, it won't be pretty.

21


Marlins
40-46
3-4
.462
Flat
Somehow, they're giving up 5.2 runs per game with half of their games coming in a severe pitcher's park, and they won't consistently win until that problem is solved. Josh Johnson might not be part of that solution for a bit longer, as he heads back to the shelf with further forearm tightness. Dontrelle Willis took a few classes at the Livan Hernandez School of Good Luck, because he's walking almost four batters per nine and more than a hit per inning, so it's amazing he's done as well as he has. Sergio Mitre has struggled to strike out hitters lately, and his ERA is starting to creep up while his peripherals look worse and worse. The Marlins stadium issues aren't getting any less confusing, as they may somehow find themselves without a place to play come the end of 2010.

22


Rangers
36-49
4-3
.448
Up
Texas went 4-3 this week, just missing a sweep of the Angels and beating the Red Sox pretty handily over the weekend as well. Jamey Wright pitched 15 innings and only allowed four runs during that span, Kevin Millwood threw a beauty in the same game, Brad Wilkerson hit three home runs, and Kameron Loe threw six innings allowing only a run against the Sox for a win. Overall, the pitching held opponents to .247/.341/.350, with most of the damage coming from Robinson Tejeda and Brandon McCarthy. Besides Wilkerson, Marlon Byrd had himself a fun week, posting a .500/.607/.818 line. The Rangers are still a ways off from respectability, but they are moving further away from the title of "worst team in baseball."

23


Cardinals
39-43
5-2
.445
Up
The Cardinals went 5-2 this last week despite the pitching staff serving up 11 homers. Mike Maroth's second start as a Red Bird did not go nearly as well as the first. Albert Pujols has returned to form, as he's hit .339/.464/.587 since June 1 with seven balls reaching the bleachers. Chris Duncan has kept his production up as well, hitting .288/.409/.616 for a Cardinals team that desperately needs consistency from their hitters. David Eckstein has slugged .622 since June, which you can guess won't last. The season is only half over though, and the Cards find themselves just 7.5 in back of the suddenly struggling Brewers. They're obviously a better team than they have shown given their injury problems, so we'll see how they do as far as closing the gap.

24


Reds
33-52
3-3
.442
Flat
Homer Bailey has really struggled in his last few starts, lasting just 5.1 innings while giving up 13 runs, eight walks, and earning just three outs via strikeout. He's far from the only Reds pitcher struggling, though. Josh Hamilton (.357/.500/.786) and Ken Griffey Jr. (.353/.577/.647) provided most of the offense, with Adam Dunn not helping his trade value any with a .095/.200/.095 week. Griffey recently passed Mark McGwire for seventh place on the all-time home run list, and was also featured in a comparison piece with Bonds during the week. This is all far more interesting than the drubbings the Reds took at the hands of their opponents this week, I promise you that.

25


White Sox
37-45
4-3
.431
Up
The Mark Buehrle saga continues, with the pitcher's camp claiming he will be a rental player for whoever deals for him, rather than working on an extension. This is the Buehrle team's answer to Kenny Williams refusing to put a full no-trade clause into Buehrle's potential extension. As Joe Sheehan mentioned earlier in the week, Buehrle's peak has been equivalent to Greg Maddux's decline phase; what exactly does that mean Buehrle will be during his own decline phase? Whatever it is, I don't think I'd spend over $10 million per year on it, even with the pitching market the way it is.

26


Astros
37-49
4-3
.431
Up
Houston seems to finally have something decent going on offense, with 4.7 runs per game, but they have lost almost all of their ability to pitch effectively, giving up 5.3 runs per game. Whatever kept Lance Berkman from hitting well the first two months of the season seems long gone after Berkman hit .292/.385/.584 the past month-plus, and Hunter Pence continues to tear up the league in his rookie season, hitting .382/.400/.676 this week with three homers, one of them a game-winner against the Phillies. Carlos Lee has been a general disappointment in his first year as an Astro, which doesn't make the future look any more attractive. May is the only month where he has excelled, and he hasn't hit all that well on the road either, just .250/.309/.482.

27


Royals
36-49
3-3
.417
Up
Alex Gordon hasn't figured out major league pitching yet, but Billy Butler has done all right for himself since returning to the majors on June 20. He's hit .306/.324/.556 since then; you'd like to see more patience, but .556 from a young hitter is pretty tasty. Esteban German hit .480/.519/.640 this week, and has hit .276/.365/.383 this year and .304/.397/.426 as a Royal; a nifty and inexpensive pickup, especially given his versatility and non-Bloomquistian performance. Did I mention that this is the first time the Royals have not been in last on Hit List when I've pinch-hit for Jay? You can thank Brian Bannister for that to some extent, as he had a solid June. Zack Greinke has flourished as a reliever, with opponents hitting .233/.276/.353 against him in that role rather than the .338/.390/.579 line he suffered as a starter this year.

28


Pirates
38-47
5-2
.414
Up
With the deadline approaching, I almost want to try a fill-in-the-blank game with the Pirates Hit List entry. Something like, "The Pirates will attempt to deal [insert potentially league average but shunned young player here], and will get $0.50 on the dollar for him. Meanwhile, they will keep [insert over-the-hill veteran here] on the club because of his experience and leadership" or "[insert over-the-hill veteran] was on his way to [insert team silly enough to take him here], but managed to hurt himself making a sandwich minutes before the deal was announced." It seems funny at first, but really it's just sad to think that I don't know of any other version of the Pirates. My baseball consciousness wasn't in full-swing until 1995-1996, and the Pirates were already well on their way to becoming a joke in the league then. With that in mind, they did move up a spot, thanks in part to Adam LaRoche, who bolstered the Pirates' normally decent pitching with his four homers. Ian Snell threw 15 innings and only allowed five runs. If the Pirates have an offseason epiphany, they could be able to do something in the weak NL Central before too much longer thanks to their strong base that their pitching provides.

29


Devil Rays
33-51
0-7
.390
Down
The Rays have now lost 11 straight, including a 15-4 smackdown at the hands of the Red Sox last night. They have been outscored 70 to 30 during the streak, and have hit a paltry .212/.277/.305 while allowing opponents to hit .319/.386/.491 over the same stretch. Starters have been hit the hardest, which isn't the Rays normal problem. Al Reyes hits the DL, and Carlos Pena is about the only Ray getting any hits during their losing streak; he hit .250/.400/.550 with two homers during the past week. Here are the pitchers' numbers during the losing streak in detail, if you're a sick person and you really want to look.

30


Nationals
34-51
2-5
.384
Flat
I could take this time to discuss how poorly the Nationals performed over the past week, but I would rather thank the Nats organization for hosting BP's recent ballpark event. It was my first time down in Washington for the game, and listening to team president Stan Kasten discuss the organization's plan for the future to devoted fans and BP readers was worth the trip, never mind tickets to the game. Thanks to the local fans who attended the event as well; it was good to meet some of you and field questions from the audience. The organization was put in a poor spot by the tough years beforehand, and Kasten and Co. have a lot of work to do in order to put a winning team on the field. Based on their ideas, Kasten's plan and the Nats actions the past 18 months or so, I have no problem believing they can eventually turn it around given a few solid drafts and free agent signings.


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.

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