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July 27, 2007

Prospectus Hit List

The Eve of Reshuffling

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Red Sox
62-40
6-1
.628
Up
Happy Returns: Jon Lester caps his comeback from lymphoma by beating the Indians in his 2007 debut (6 5 2 2 3 6). His arrival bumps struggling Julian Tavarez back to the bullpen, and in conjunction with a solid showing from Kason Gabbard and the pending return of Curt Schilling, may allow GM Theo Epstein to focus on other needs. Meanwhile, David Ortiz's "shamu dive" costs him a few days, but his shoulder appears to have escaped major damage.

2


Tigers
60-41
3-5
.582
Down
A meltdown throws this team's need for bullpen help into sharp relief. Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya are on the comeback trail , but on a team that's 10th in the league in WXRL, that may not be enough. Eric Gagne can block a trade to Motown; to woo him, they'll need to guarantee he'll replace Todd Jones (5.51 Fair Run Average) as closer. Todd who?

3


Yankees
54-47
6-2
.576
Up
Godzilla on a Rampage: Hideki Matsui leads the way as the Yanks ravage the Rays' and Royals' staffs, scoring 63 runs over a five-game span--an outburst they haven't equaled since 1931. Matsui is hitting .337/.396/.683 with 10 homers in July, and the Yanks have won 20 out of 28 going back to June 29, doubling their playoff odds to around 28 percent in that span. Deadline-wise, bet on them to be buyers for upgrades around the margins (Jose Molina, yeehaw).

4


Mets
57-44
4-2
.562
Flat
Break a Leg: Jose Valentin fractures his tibia while fouling off a pitch, but while the injury could end his season, it's not all that dire for the Mets. At .241/.302/.373, Valentin's been below replacement level, and while expecting Ruben Gotay to continue his searing .333/.358/.491 performance is folly, slotting him into the long half of a platoon with Damion Easley should give the moribund Mets offense (4.2 runs per game since June 1) a needed lift.

5


Dodgers
57-46
3-4
.559
Flat
Lowe Blow: Derek Lowe makes a costly between-starts relief appearance in an effort to help a bullpen left shorthanded by Takashi Saito's absence. Lowe strains a groin and threatens to join Randy Wolf and Hong-Chih Kuo on the DL, ratcheting up the need for Ned Colletti to trade for some rotation help. Where's Cesar Izturis when you need him?

6


Indians
59-43
3-4
.551
Down
Cliff Lee's battling both a case of The Sucks (20 runs in his last 16 innings) and his batterymate Victor Martinez, while Jake Westbrook's given up 17 runs in his last 24 frames; the dynamic duo both sport ERAs higher than their average innings per start, and are a combined 10.9 runs below replacement. With potential replacement Jeremy Sowers not exactly lighting up Buffalo (4.72 ERA since demotion), and prospect Adam Miller dealing with a sore elbow, count the Tribe as another team that needs to bolster their rotation.

7


Cubs
53-47
3-3
.543
Down
And Then There Were Two: even with a split on the week, the Cubs shave the Brewers' lead yet again. Kerry Wood's impending return is generating buzz, reality is setting in on the extra crispytude of Jason Kendall, and the need for another outfielder is glaringly obvious given the myriad maladies of Cliff Floyd. But one thing is clear: Matt Murton must never, ever be allowed to succeed in Chicago.

8


Brewers
56-46
2-5
.541
Down
Pushed to the Brink: with the Cubs closing the gap, the Brewers make an effort to bolster an already-good bullpen--fourth in the league in WXRL--by trading for the Padres' Scott Linebrink. While he's been part of the league's best bullpen, not to mention 23rd in WXRL himself, Linebrink's peripherals are all going in the wrong direction and his flyball tendencies will be magnified outside of Petco. Not Doug Melvin's finest hour in Milwaukee.

9


58-42
2-4
.538
Down
Reverse Halo Effect: the Angels fall on hard times with a 3-7 slide, but they actually gain ground to the Mariners thanks to the latter team's struggles. Nonetheless, there's cause for concern here, as an elbow injury ends Bartolo Colon's season. Colon wasn't helping (-11.0 VORP), but with Ervin Santana shipped out due to crapulence, Joe Saunders is already filling a rotation slot, and the next alternative, Dustin Moseley, has been torched for a 12.00 ERA this month.

10


Blue Jays
51-50
5-1
.531
Up
The Jays reel off five straight wins by a combined score of 35-5 to climb above .500 for the first time in four weeks. With the youth movement continuing to pay dividends in the rotation (now fifth in SNLVAR), Josh Towers and Troy Glaus are drawing a bit of interest, but the Jays appear inclined to buy rather than sell. Except for the resounding rejection of Jack Wilson, things could be quiet on the Canadian front, though it's tough to take any team with John McDonald as its starting shortstop seriously, E-I-E-I-O.

11


Padres
54-47
1-6
.530
Down
Dealing from strength, the Pads ship Scott Linebrink to the Brewers in exchange for a nice return of pitching prospects. But this team has bigger worries; not only have they lost six out of their last seven, they've been outscored 80-42 in their 13 games since the All-Star break. Brian Giles and Milton Bradley have been torrid (.352/.452/.568 combined), but the rest have been horrid (.220/.265/.347), and if that's not bad enough, there's always Chris Young's oblique strain.

12


Braves
54-49
3-4
.526
Flat
They've emerged as the leading suitors for Mark Teixeira based on the possibility of dealing Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Elvis Andrus. While the Braves could probably stand to bolster their pitching staff, they have three starters in the Support Neutral top 10, plus excellent work from journeyman Buddy Carlyle: four quality starts out of his last five, with three shutout innings in a rain-curtailed appearance the lone exception.

13


Phillies
52-49
5-1
.520
Up
Decimated rotation blah blah blah, Brett Myers Tom Gordon blah blah blah--for all of the attention paid to the Phillies' pitching woes, few have noticed that the Phils have taken over the NL lead in scoring with a 6.6 run per game outburst this month; they also lead the circuit in hitting VORP. Four hitters have put up OPS's north of 1000 this month; Ryan Howard is hitting .312/.412/.707 with 23 homers since returning from the DL in late May, but Chase Utley's broken hand is a serious blow.

14


Athletics
49-53
4-3
.517
Up
You know it must be a weekday, because Bobby Crosby is back on the DL with a broken hand. Crosby hasn't topped 96 games since 2004 thanks to a bewilderingly endless string of injuries. Seriously, does he sleep on an ancient Indian burial ground? Read the Necronomicon on the john? Drink nothing but MALK to ensure his bones stay brittle? Not that his .226/.278/.341 was doing the lineup any favors, but then that kind of non-production blends into the scenery here.

15


Orioles
47-53
5-1
.513
Up
Miguel Tejada starts his rehab assignment, and if all goes well, he could be back with the big club by Friday. Whether that means the O's will deal him is another story; he hasn't come up in many rumors, and his value is likely lessened by the injury. Speaking of injuries, a bone spur claims closer Chris Ray; he's one of many disappointments in a bullpen that's collectively below replacement level.

16


Twins
51-50
2-4
.511
Down
There's No Win in Twins: not only have the Twins lost seven of nine, they've been swept twice within that skid while scoring just five runs over a three-game series. They're now nine back in the AL Central, 7.5 back in the Wild Card chase, and anyone thinking they're just a Ty Wigginton deal away from contending ought to have their credentials revoked. Not that Wiggy wouldn't help a club that's gotten just three homers and a .357 SLG from the DH slot, it's just that the Minneapolis Department of Transportation can't possibly handle the volume of potholes reported in this lineup.

17


Rockies
51-51
3-4
.504
Flat
Short Order Cook: Aaron Cook tosses a complete game victory over the Padres with just 74 pitches; that's not a record, but it matches Carlos Silva's 2005 effort. It also provides a bright spot during somber times for the Rockies, as Double-A affiliate Tulsa first base coach Mike Coolbaugh was tragically killed by a line drive earlier in the week.

18


Mariners
54-46
1-7
.498
Down
A seven-game losing streak provides a touch of Pythagorean-flavored rough justice while costing the M's ground in both the AL West race and Wild Card scrum. The team is trying to drum up interest a Richie Sexson deal, a tough sell given that he's below replacement level, a frigid 11-for-61 this month, and guaranteed $14 million next year. Hey, who wouldn't want that?

19


Diamondbacks
56-48
6-1
.484
Up
After pitching to batters for the first time in nearly four weeks, Randy Johnson acknowledges the end may be nigh. He's in his third DL stint of the season and facing the necessity of pitching through a herniated disc, just as he did last year before undergoing offseason surgery. That's not the only trouble in the rotation; Micah Owings has put up a 6.02 ERA since June 1, and has made it through five innings just twice in his last five starts.

20


Giants
43-57
4-3
.471
Up
No homers for Barry Bonds this week; he goes 3-for-18, trades jabs with Bob Costas and finally wins Bud Selig's audience. The good news is that the team posts a winning week for the first time in two months, and Tim Lincecum is dealing: four earned runs and 41 K in his last 34.1 innings, with four of those five starts against contenders.

21


Marlins
48-55
3-4
.471
Up
Stun Gun Dumdum: mere hours after he bests the Reds in his first game since returning from a brief suspension for insubordination, Scott Olsen is arrested for driving under the influence, resisting an officer with violence, and fleeing and eluding a police officer; the cops needed a Taser to subdue him. Olsen's strikeout rate (K/PA) has fallen 28 percent from his solid rookie-season effort, while his walk and homer rates have risen, and his VORP is skirting the replacement level. More bad news: Hanley Ramirez's shoulder injury.

22


Rangers
46-56
5-2
.454
Up
As the deadline approaches, all eyes are on the Rangers, particularly because the club is apparently determined to deal Mark Teixeira, with the Braves and Dodgers the most probable partners. Regarding their relievers, Akinori Otsuka's elbow problems and Eric Gagne's contract may throw a couple wrenches in the works. Even with time missed due to injury, Gagne's 10th in WXRL, while Joaquin Benoit--the likely closer if both are traded--is 11th.

23


Reds
44-59
3-4
.453
Down
The sage Homer wasn't referring to Wayne Krivsky when he observed, "Anything's possible with Commander Cuckoo-Bananas in charge." But let's face it, nobody knows what the Reds might do come deadline; an Adam Dunn deal for a gaggle of sore-armed relievers would be no more out of place with his track record than an astute value play on some Josh Hamilton or Brandon Phillips type whose once-shining prospect status had waned. One certainty: no need to wake me if they deal Jeff Conizzzzzzzz...

24


Cardinals
46-52
3-3
.450
Up
Scott Rolen returns from a four-day absence with a bang, but he's once again warring with Tony La Russa over the state of his shoulder. Rolen's still slugging under .400, and he's just 12th on the team in VORP, trailing even the lumber-wielding Adam Wainwright and Kip Wells. There's no cortisone shot for that kind of pain.

25


Astros
45-57
5-2
.438
Up
A fractured wrist knocks Hunter Pence out of action for at least six weeks; he's second among rookie hitters in VORP, but his shot at Rookie of the Year honors is likely over. Meanwhile, Craig Biggio celebrates his retirement announcement in grand fashion, and while he's still hitting a miserable .252/.297/.397, he rates as the ninth-best second baseman of all time according to JAWS.

26


Royals
44-57
3-4
.426
Flat
The Scott Elarton era comes to a sharp and nasty end, and as the deadline looms, it's likely the Octavio Dotel era will as well. However, Dotel won't command the sun, moon, and stars in a deal; he's just sixth on the team in WXRL while walking 4.1 per nine innings. Also generating interest: Mark Grudzielanek, who's hitting a sizzling .424/.443/.508 this month

27


White Sox
46-56
3-5
.426
Down
At His House They Call Them 'Uh-Oh's': Jose Contreras' value continues to plummet; not only has he tossed three disaster starts in his last four, but his ERA over his last eight starts is a whopping 9.32. On a more positive note for Kenny Williams' trading hopes, Jermaine Dye is showing signs of life at the right time, hitting .288/.373/.643 over the last two weeks. Between the Mets, Cubs, Angels, Brewers, Red Sox, Mariners, and Padres, somebody's likely to bite.

28


Pirates
42-58
2-4
.406
Flat
They won nine of 13 leading up to the All-Star break, but the Bucs apparently stopped there; they lost nine out of their next 10. Ian Snell's been pounded for 18 runs in his last 15 innings, and his mouth has been just as erratic. Meanwhile, GM Dave Littlefield divorces reality by trying to pawn Jack Wilson off on the Blue Jays for Troy Glaus. No truth to the rumor of his attempt to expand the deal to include Alex Rios and a half-eaten tuna sandwich, but at this point would it surprise anyone?

29


Nationals
43-58
3-3
.402
Up
On the (Meat)Hook: as the deadline looms, the Nats are close to a two-year, $10 million deal with their most tradeable hitter, Dmitri Young. In the short term, that's probably a good thing; without Young's 28.9 VORP, the offense would evaporate into nothingness, but its commentary on the state of Nick Johnson is a bummer. Still, the fact that the Nats are 34-33 since their dreadful 9-25 start suggests this team may be more interested in adding the likes of Adam Dunn than conducting a fire sale.

30


Devil Rays
38-63
1-6
.387
Down
Bottoming Out: the Rays return to the Hit List cellar after yielding 49 runs to the Yankees over a four-game span; even staff ace James Shields gets pounded for 10 runs. This club is an astonishingly awful 9-28 since May 12, and while the rotation has certainly been lousy, the bullpen's atrocity is taking on historic proportions. Their 7.38 Fair Run Average is more than half a run worse than any team since at least 1959, and if they trade Al Reyes, Bud Selig may need to invoke a mercy rule.


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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<< Previous Article
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<< Previous Column
Premium Article Prospectus Hit List: G... (07/20)
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Premium Article Prospectus Hit List: P... (08/03)
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