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August 17, 2007

Prospectus Hit List

Flyover Flops Edition

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Red Sox
72-48
3-3
.618
Down
Gagne With a Spoon: shiny new bullpen acquisition Eric Gagne blows two leads and allows five runs in a full inning of work across a pair of losses to the Orioles. Since arriving from Texas, he's been a mess, scored on in four of six appearances with a -0.520 WXRL. Meanwhile, shoulder woes continue to eat into David Ortiz's production; he's mired in a 4-for-31 skid with just one homer and a .380 SLG this month. Big news: Friday afternoon's debut of Clay Buchholz, Boston's top prospect and perhaps the minors' top righty pitching prospect.

2


Yankees
67-54
4-3
.586
Flat
Jason Giambi returns from a two-month absence and homers twice, but he's fighting for at-bats on a team that's scoring 7.2 runs per game since the All-Star break. With Melky Cabrera (.341/.392/.561 since the break, with an 18-game hitting streak) staking a claim on center field, driving Johnny Damon (.294/.392/.404 in that span) to the DH role, the Big G may be forced onto the field, where he's played just three games this year. At least Bud Selig gives word that he won't further discipline Giambi thanks to his cooperation with the baseball inquisition.

3


Mets
67-53
3-3
.565
Flat
Caught Short: the Mets lose Paul Lo Duca to a hamstring strain, while backup Ramon Castro sits due to back stiffness, leaving the tools of ignorance in the hands of International Brotherhood of Backup Catchers Traveling Secretary Mike DiFelice (11 years, eight teams, .226 EqA). Meanwhile, Pedro Martinez's second rehab start yields improved results, though the pitcher thinks he needs three more starts before joining the rotation. For a unit that's seen Oliver Perez and John Maine surrender 29 earned runs in their last 29 innings, the waiting is the hardest part.

4


Angels
70-49
4-2
.557
Up
In Steven Goldman's most recent chat, one reader of the just-released It Ain't Over's chapter on Carl Yastrzemski (written by yours truly) asked if the Angels fit the bill as a team whose pennant chances might be hurt by the lack of a second superstar behind Vladimir Guerrero. To the contrary, the Halos appear to be in great shape on that front, since the correlation between winning percentage and WARP3 increases markedly the deeper one drills into the roster. Vlad (8.2 WARP3) is joined by Orlando Cabrera (9.4), Kelvim Escobar (8.5), andJohn Lackey (8.1) in terms of front-line talent, with Gary Matthews Jr. (6.9), Reggie Willits (6.6), and Francisco Rodriguez (6.4) in strong supporting roles... For results of last week's Rat-tastic contest see here.

5


Tigers
67-54
4-3
.543
Flat
Magglio Ordoņez leads the Tigers into first place with a four-homer week that includes two in one inning, not to mention 14 RBI in a five-game span. Maggs is a close second to Alex Rodriguez for the AL VORP lead, and he's joined by no fewer than four other Tigers in the top 15. Meanwhile, there's good news for the beleaguered bullpen, as Fernando Rodney's been lights-out in his return (6 2 0 0 2 10) and Joel Zumaya's rehab is off to a positive start.

6


Padres
65-55
4-2
.541
Up
After homering just twice through August 8, Brian Giles goes yard five times in a three-game span in Cincinnati. The binge lifts Giles' slugging percentage from .371 to .418, marking the first time since April 24 it's crossed the .400 level. Blame Petco, where Giles has "slugged" just .286, compared to .530 beyond. The Pads may want to think about peddling him to Cincinnati when they get the chance; in 186 career at-bats between Great American Ballpark and Cinergy Field, Giles has slugged .726.

7


Braves
64-57
3-3
.539
Down
Bobby Cox sets a major league record with his 132nd ejection, a total we're aware of thanks to the research of our late colleague Doug Pappas. While the ejection may be credited with sparking a rally, Cox really deserves credit for finding ways to get Yunel Escobar (.319/.356/.398) enough at-bats to stay hot amid a lineup where fellow infielders Chipper Jones, Edgar Renteria and Kelly Johnson all rank among the NL's top 20 in VORP.

8


Blue Jays
61-59
4-3
.535
Up
Roy Halladay goes the distance for an MLB-leading fifth time this year. Since 2001, only Livan Hernandez has thrown as many complete games (27) as the Doc. Elsewhere in the rotation, Shaun Marcum continues to roll, logging his fourth quality start in a row. He's taken over the staff VORP lead and is 13th in the league despite being the only pitcher among the top 15 to make a relief appearance.

9


Indians
66-54
1-4
.535
Down
A knee injury sidelines Travis Hafner at a time when the offense is limping; they're scoring a puny four runs per game on .249/.315/.380 hitting since the All-Star Break. Pronk's injury is just the latest frustration in a season that's seen him hit .254/.379/.437 with a .282 EqA, 66 points below last year, and fall from second in the league in VORP to the outskirts of the top 40. From 2004-2006, only David Ortiz out-VORP'd Hafner among AL hitters (214 to 211).

10


Phillies
64-56
4-2
.535
Flat
And Then There Were Two: from the Phils' six-starter logjam at the outset of the season, only Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer remain in the rotation after shoulder inflammation forces Adam Eaton to the DL. Not that he'll be missed-Eaton's carrying a 6.36 ERA and has just one quality start in his last nine, and one outing of six innings or more since the All-Star break. At least the bullpen's showing signs of life, putting up a 2.09 Fair Run Average and 2.027 WXRL in August, compared to 5.27 and 1.822 prior.

11


Rockies
62-58
3-3
.529
Flat
Come Back, Denny Neagle, All Is Forgiven: with Jason Hirsh and Rodrigo Lopez done for the season and Aaron Cook hitting the DL with a strained oblique, the Rox are reduced to dumpster diving to fill out their rotation. They sign Elmer Dessens (last seen putting up a 6.60 ERA at the butt end of the Brewers bullpen), trade a bucket of yak snot to the Twins for Ramon Ortiz (5.14 ERA while mathematically eliminating the Twins before Memorial Day), and commit ritual Harikkala with a journeyman who's completed one big league season in his 36 years. Fine line: Ubaldo Jimenez at Petco (6 1 0 0 2 9).

12


Dodgers
62-59
3-4
.527
Down
Stop the (Blue) Bleeding: Derek Lowe's first quality start since July 14 and first W since June 22 offers hope that his hip woes are behind him, and helps the Dodgers string together a pair of wins to shake off a nightmarish 7-18 stretch. Still, the offense is scoring just 2.8 runs per game in August on .237/.277/.341 hitting, to the point where even losing Nomar Garciaparra hurts, while Mark Hendrickson (8.56 ERA since the break) pitches his way out of a depleted rotation that has to regard Brett Tomko as indispensable.

13


Cubs
61-59
2-4
.523
Down
Thanks to their second four-game losing streak in as many weeks, the Cubs once again fail to capitalize on the Brewers' woes. Nonetheless, they remain a half-game out, and they get good news on the injury front, as Alfonso Soriano may not miss much more than the minimum, and Aramis Ramirez returns from a week-long absence due to wrist problems and goes 7-for-12 with two doubles and two homers. Alas, Carlos Zambrano's ugly start (7 13 6 6 2 0 with diminished velocity) fuels rumors that the Big Z has shoulder trouble, but that's trumped by news of his agreement to a five-year, $90 million extension.

14


Athletics
60-62
5-2
.522
Up
Just Cust: in a season full of bum notes for the A's, Jack Cust continues to provide some high ones while showing that Billy Beane hasn't entirely lost his touch. Cust homers three times for the week, the first amid a seven-RBI game, the other two in one game. He's hitting .270/.402/.539 and leads the team in VORP. Beane apparently plans to bring him back as the team's DH next year, foiling speculation that the A's might make a run at Barry Bonds or Jason Giambi.

15


Orioles
56-63
4-2
.511
Up
Kevin Millar's walk-off blast gives the Orioles a series victory over Millar's former team. Millar's reached base at least once in each of his last 44 games, the season's longest streak. He's hitting .302/.403/.491 in that span, but ranks just ninth among AL first basemen in VORP due to his lack of power.

16


Mariners
66-52
3-3
.508
Flat
Richie Sexson's walk-off homer helps the M's maintain their slim Wild Card lead. Sexson's second dinger in as many days comes amid a 10-for-25 binge, but he's still hitting a cringe-worthy .208/.299/.405, with a VORP south of Miguel Cairo-again, that's as a firstbaseman. Making a more impressive charge towards replacement level is Jeff Weaver, whose second shutout lowers his ERA to 5.64; since coming off the DL it's a much more acceptable 3.15.

17


Twins
60-60
2-4
.506
Down
Scraping together just 21 runs over an eight-game span-11 of those in one game-the Twins go 1-7 to fall below .500. Aside from torrid Torii Hunter (.347/.385/.551)-whose big day helps them claw their way back to sea level-the team is hitting just .244/.300/.319 in August. Colder than Duluth in January: Justin Morneau (.173/.173/.269), though he still leads all AL first basemen in VORP.

18


Brewers
62-59
2-4
.501
Down
Prince Fielder's ump bump earns him a suspension; pending an appeal, the Brew Crew stands to be without the NL's fifth-most productive hitter for three games. That's just the latest bad news in a month that's seen the team thrashed by a combined score of 112-56. The real trouble is in the rotation, where Dave Bush (5.45 ERA since the break), Claudio Vargas (5.71), Yovani Gallardo (5.79), and Chris Capuano (6.13) have all been dreadful; the Brewers have lost Capuano's last 15 starts dating back to May 13, most of them with good cause.

19


Diamondbacks
69-53
4-2
.493
Flat
Webb Gems: Brandon Webb's second complete-game shutout in a row (9 5 0 0 1 10) runs his scoreless innings streak to 33 innings, the longest since Pedro Martinez notched 35 in 2002. Meanwhile, the team cuts bait on recent waiver claims Byung-Hyun Kim and Joe Kennedy, both of whom threw more kindling on the run differential fire. They'll try their luck again with Yusmeiro Petit, who's put up a respectable 4.23 ERA but managed just two quality starts in seven because he's yet to exceed 89 pitches. Must-read: Joe Sheehan's close look at the contrast between the Snakes' winning record and their negative differential.

20


Cardinals
58-60
5-1
.472
Up
Card Charges: thanks to an 8-2 stretch, the Cardinals climb as close to first place as they've been since April 26. Though they're still 15th in the league in SNLVAR, the key to their turnaround is the rotation, which has put up a 3.21 ERA this month. Kip Wells has put together three quality starts in a row, Anthony Reyes three out of his last four, and Joel Pineiro has put up a 2.84 ERA since his arrival, beating the Padres and Brewers in his last two starts.

21


Marlins
56-65
3-3
.471
Up
D-Train Rides Again: Dontrelle Willis gets off the schneid thanks to a little help from his teammates, who score 14 runs in the first four innings, more than they'd gotten in Willis' previous five starts. Elsewhere on the staff, just as Scott Olsen returns to being a useful member of society and a rotation that's last in the league in SNLVAR, team president David Samson enters a pissing contest with the troubled pitcher's agent. "A lot of people think he's the reason a stadium hasn't been built in Miami," says Matt Sosnick; we like him in this best-of-three-flushes matchup.

22


Giants
51-70
2-6
.464
Down
Win Battle, Lose War: Barry Bonds continues adding to his brand-new major league home run record; he's got five in his last 10 games to run his total to 759. However, the jacks aren't helping the Giants much; dating back to May 8, the Giants have lost 11 of the last 14 games in which Bonds has homered; they're 41-45 during that span in games in which he didn't homer. The balance for the year is still in Bonds' favor; the split is 10-13 with a homer, 41-57 without.

23


Reds
52-68
3-3
.447
Flat
Just Joshin': Josh Hamilton returns from a month-long DL stint and makes up for lost time at the expense of the Cubs, the team that plucked him in the Rule 5 draft, with a three-hit game and a game-winning pinch homer. Even given his injuries, Hamilton ranks sixth among all rookie hitters in VORP and third in slugging percentage, behind only Ryan Braun and Hunter Pence.

24


Rangers
53-67
4-2
.444
Up
It's a rough week for Jon Daniels' high-profile pitching acquisitions. First, Kason Gabbard departs in the second inning of his third Rangers start with forearm stiffness; he's still expected to take his next turn. Then, Brandon McCarthy hits the DL with a stress fracture in his shoulder blade. Though his 4.79 ERA is still worse than league average, McCarthy's put up a 3.33 ERA since the beginning of June, and his 5.5 VORP is just 0.9 behind that of John Danks, for whom he was traded.

25


Astros
54-67
3-4
.436
Flat
This Is Going to Get Worse Before It Gets Better: with their organizational ranking already in the bottom three, their first- and second-round picks lost due to the free-agent signings of Carlos Lee and Woody Williams, and their lineup the second-oldest in the league, the Astros fail to sign their top two draft picks by the August 15 deadline. Apparently, the plan is to keep the Biggio-Bagwell-Ausmus nucleus intact until all three are eligible for AARP benefits, at which point GM Tim Purpura might coax Jose Cruz out of retirement.

26


Nationals
55-66
2-4
.430
Flat
Back to the Hill: though it comes in a losing cause, Shawn Hill is stellar in his first appearance in three months (6 1 0 0 1 7). Added to his five hitless innings in his previous start, Hill actually completes a hidden no-hitter before Aaron Rowand singles to lead off the fifth. Elsewhere in what's been a surprisingly competent rotation, Tim Redding's put up a 2.88 ERA in 50 innings since his early-July recall, though his peripherals (3.6 BB/9, 1.5 K/BB, .255 BABIP) suggest a correction down the road.

27


Royals
53-67
3-4
.429
Flat
Out With Drought: Mark Teahen homers for the first time since May 29, a span of 273 plate appearances. Meanwhile, a pair of recent call-ups helps the club considerably. Joey Gathright is 15-for-40 since being recalled earlier this month, and hitting .336/.395/.389 for the year; his MLVr is second on the club behind only Reggie Sanders, the man he replaced on the active roster. Leo Nunez, though kept on a short very leash, has yielded a 1.96 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in five starts.

28


White Sox
54-66
1-5
.425
Down
Jenks For Nothing: Bobby Jenks ties Jim Barr's major league record by retiring 41 consecutive hitters, a streak that dates back to July 17. The run provides one small highlight for a bullpen that's only recently returned to competence; they entered August with just 0.964 WXRL but have compiled 1.892 this month. Alas, Jenks tweaked his ankle, delaying his shot at breaking the record, and the Sox follow up a nice 10-5 stretch by losing six out of seven.

29


Pirates
50-69
5-3
.416
Up
After delivering just one quality start in five and making more headlines with his mouth than his pitching, Ian Snell puts together a pair of strong outings, but still loses. The Bucs have scored just 19 runs in Snell's last seven starts, all defeats, and they have given him more than four runs just once since June 13. In happier news, Tom Gorzelanny's shutout is his second good outing in a row; he appears to have shaken off a rough July (6.13 ERA) that ended with a scratched start due to shoulder stiffness.

30


Devil Rays
46-74
2-4
.397
Down
Devil Reyes: once upon a time, Al Reyes was the reliever Joe Maddon could count upon even given a bullpen bound for historical ignominy. No more; since the beginning of June-a point when he led the league in WXRL-the closer has put up a 7.29 ERA and allowed both of his inherited runners to score, reducing him to one in a crowd on a team with a bullpen Fair Run Average of 7.24. On back-to-back days, his arson costs the team one win and nearly another, and that's just this week.


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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