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May 2, 2008

Prospectus Hit List

Overwhelmingly Neutral, Like Switzerland

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Diamondbacks
20-8
4-2
.688
Down
Already clicking on virtually every cylinder and threatening to make the NL West race a laugher, the Diamondbacks recall Max Scherzer, who retires all 13 hitters in a sparkling debut (4.1 0 0 0 0 7). Scherzer, #90 on our Top 100 Prospects list, will slot into the back of the rotation in place of Edgar Gonzalez, though for how long is a question, since Doug Davis isn't too far from a return. Meanwhile, Micah Owings knocks a pinch-homer; he's now got five jacks in 84 major-league plate appearances, with a .354/.373/.671 line.

2


Cubs
17-11
2-4
.623
Down
Burning Wood: Despite the return of Alfonso Soriano and a homer from Carlos Zambrano, the Cubs cap the week with a bitter defeat brought on by Kerry Wood's latest act of arson. After converting his first three save opportunities, Wood has blown three of his last four, dropping his WXRL below zero; the team is second-to-last in that department. As for Zambrano, his 13th career homer ties him with Ferguson Jenkins for the team record among pitchers and places him 35th on a pretty cool all-time list.

3


Cardinals
18-11
4-2
.607
Up
One reason the Cards continue to win is the production they're getting from their mix-and-match outfield. Rick Ankiel, Chris Duncan, Ryan Ludwick, Skip Schumaker, and Brian Barton--just nod politely if you're familiar with all five--all have EqAs of at least .299 and are hitting a combined .310/.401/.513. Meanwhile, Cardinal pitchers continue to throw strikes; they have the league's third-best K/BB ratio despite a K/PA that's 12th.

4


Athletics
18-12
4-3
.607
Flat
Frank Thomas hits a triple, the Big Hurt's first in just over six years. Meanwhile, the Oakland offense continues to overachieve, scoring an AL-best 18 runs more than their run elements would suggest thanks to a torrid .322/.420/.436 performance with runners in scoring position, which explains why Emil Brown (26 RBI in 28 games) is the toast of the town.

5


Rays
16-12
5-1
.588
Up
James Shields' two-hit shutout caps a three-game sweep of the Red Sox and a six-game winning streak in which the team surrenders just 15 runs. While the rotation is just ninth in the league in SNLVAR, they can look forward to Scott Kazmir's first start of the year on Sunday against Boston, a team he's held to a 2.66 ERA in 101 1/3 career innings.

6


Dodgers
15-13
6-0
.587
Up
The Dodgers reel off a six-game winning streak, one that includes a 10-run first inning against the Rockies and a five-hit game from Rafael Furcal, who's hitting .371/.459/.586 and is second in the league in VORP. Meanwhile, the baseball world loses one of its legends, as Buzzie Bavasi, the architect of four world champions as Dodger GM, passes away at 92.

7


White Sox
14-12
2-3
.574
Down
All Wet: It's a watery week for the White Sox, as one of their games is postponed, forcing a doubleheader, and another suspended in the 12th inning. While the offense continues to lead the league in scoring, the rotation is turning in good work as well; every starter except Mark Buehrle has an ERA below 4.00 and ranks in the league's top 35 in SNLVAR.

8


Braves
12-15
1-4
.546
Down
The Mike Hampton Injury of the Month Gift Basket arrives again (eight-year subscriptions are available for just $15 million a year), and he's not the only hurting hurler on the Braves' staff. Just a week after notching his 3000th strikeout, John Smoltz hits the DL with shoulder woes that may threaten his future as a starter, at least in his eyes; Smoltz offers to return to the bullpen once he's healed. For what it's worth, that's by far the staff's weaker unit; they rank 14th in WXRL, while the rotation is third in SNLVAR.

9


Phillies
16-13
4-2
.541
Down
Losing His Punch? Brett Myers' failure to crack 90 mph with his fastball has the Phillies concerned; he's been cuffed for 10 runs in his past 12 innings, and has allowed an MLB-high 10 homers as well. As a unit, the Phillies rotation is just 13th in the league in SNLVAR, with the starters besides Cole Hamels netting out right at replacement level, and Jamie Moyer the only other one carrying an ERA under 5.00.

10


Red Sox
17-13
2-4
.539
Down
The Sox pull out of a five-game skid with a pair of low-scoring wins (1-0 and 2-1) but their offense nearly grinds to a halt as they score just 17 runs in an eight-game span on .205/.275/.278 hitting. The team is experiencing something of a power imbalance; while they're fourth in the league in SLG overall, most of that is because of their league-leading batting average; they're eighth in Isolated Power. Individually, only Manny Ramirez is slugging above .462, but the welcome return of Mike Lowell's bat and David Ortiz's power stroke (three homers in five games despite missing a pair due to injury) still bodes well going forward.

11


Tigers
14-15
4-2
.528
Up
Clawing Back: With eight wins in 10 games, the Tigers continue to climb towards .500. Since their opening 2-10, the offense has roared to life, averaging 6.9 runs per game while hitting a collective .290/.378/.517, with the return of Curtis Granderson (.310/.459/.793 through eight games) a big part of the reason why. The Tigers lead the league in both SLG and OBP while running second in homer and walks, but if they're to sustain this success, the pitching staff will have to stop issuing free passes, as they've walked more than all but one AL team.

12


Mets
14-12
3-2
.526
Down
Bad Vibes: Carlos Delgado refuses a curtain call after hitting his second home run of the day, returning the chilly reception he's gotten from fans amid what's become a 7-for-56 slump. Meanwhile Billy Wagner calls out Oliver Perez after the latter walks five (and gets only five outs) to set up a 13-1 blowout. Despite the fact that the Mets are over .500 and within a whisker of first place, fans, media and players continue to generate so much negative energy that it would surprise no one if Bobby Bonilla came out of retirement and offered to show somebody the Bronx.

13


Angels
18-12
4-3
.519
Down
Not Ready for Prime Time: Nick Adenhart's debut doesn't go so well, as the Angels' top pitching prospect--#27 on our Top 100 Prospects list--lasts just two ugly innings against the A's (2 3 5 5 5 0). Relievers Dustin Moseley and Darren O'Day outdo him by allowing nine runs in the next 2 2/3 innings, setting up the A's second blowout of the Angels in a four-game series. Nonetheless, a split leaves the two teams tied atop the AL West.

14


Brewers
16-12
3-3
.504
Down
Mixed Returns: Mike Cameron collects three hits in his 2008 debut following a 25-game suspension for using a banned stimulant, while Ben Sheets, back after an 11-day absence due to triceps soreness, walks seven in five innings but collects the W nonetheless. The Brew crew hasn't taken full advantage of Yovani Gallardo's rebound from knee surgery; he's allowed just four runs in 20 innings, but the Brewers have won just one of his three starts, backing him with a meager seven runs overall.

15


Indians
14-15
4-3
.497
Up
Pronk Funk: Travis Hafner is benched amid a 7-for-51 drought, the latest indignity in a skid that's seen him hit .242/.358/.418 going back to last May 1. He's part of a larger problem that has the offense putting up just a .252 EqA, a mere 11th in the league, with seven of the lineup's 10 mainstays (including both halves of their left-field platoon) below even that meager figure, and Ryan Garko mired in an 0-for-24 slump.

16


Orioles
15-13
2-4
.496
Down
The Birds continue to hover above .500 despite being 10th in the league in scoring and 11th in run prevention. Their defense has something to do with it; the Orioles are the league's most efficient unit--trading Miguel Tejada hasn't hurt them in that respect--but it's unikely they can continue to hold hitters to a .261 BABIP. Coupled with a pitching staff that's 12th in both strikeout rate and strikeout/walk ratio, this team is just begging for a correction to come home to roost.

17


Blue Jays
12-17
2-4
.492
Up
Scott Rolen finally makes his Blue Jay debut and Adam Lind returns from the minors, but neither their presence nor the absence of Frank Thomas can do much to help the Jays' flagging offense, which manages just 22 runs during a 1-8 skid. Not even Doc Holliday can help; despite pitching his fourth consecutive complete game, the Jays' ace is on the losing end of a 1-0 squeaker, and he's won just one of those four because the team has backed him with a pitiful eight runs.

18


Reds
12-17
3-3
.474
Up
What's the Opposite of Neutral? The Reds can claim two pitchers in the league's top 10 in SNLVAR, but their fates have been very different thanks to the performance of the Reds' offense. Edinson Volquez is 4-0 with a 1.23 ERA and 10.1 K/9; he's barely needed the team's bountiful 7.0 runs per game of support, having allowed no more than a single run in any given out. Meanwhile, Aaron Harang is 1-4 despite a 2.98 ERA because he's gotten just 3.1 runs per game. Harang has six quality starts to Volquez's two. Go figure.

19


Mariners
13-16
2-4
.472
Up
M is for Makeover: Though their overall offense is more or less in the middle of the pack, the Mariners shake things up, designating Greg Norton and a totally cooked Brad Wilkerson (.232/.348/.304) for assignment and recalling both Jeff Clement and Wladimir Balentien, numbers 33 and 93 on our Top 100 Prospects list. Balentien will take over right field, while Clement will likely split time at catcher and DH, thereby cutting into the time of the two remaining regulars (Kenji Johjima and Jose Vidro) who are furthest below replacement level. It would all be enough to earn a bit of applause for Bill Bavasi if he hadn't just inked his 31-year-old backstop to a three-year, $24 million extension, or if he'd actually mandated some time at first base for Clement so as to supplant the desiccated carcass of Richie Sexson, but the times when Bavasi does no harm are rare enough that this one is probably worth savoring, particularly in a rough week.

20


Marlins
15-13
2-4
.471
Down
Bring Back Miggy: Thus far the Marlins' return on this winter's Miguel Cabrera/Dontrelle Willis trade isn't looking so hot. Down in Double-A, Cameron Maybin is hitting .225 with 37 strikeouts in 89 at-bats, while with the big club Andrew Miller is struggling with a 9.12 ERA while averaging less than five innings per start; a .450 BABIP isn't helping. Miller's woes are contributing to a rotation that's second-to-last in SNLVAR, with only Scott Olson and Mark Hendrickson above replacement level.

21


Yankees
14-16
2-5
.470
Down
Big Hurts: The Yankees lose Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez, Brian Bruney and Philip Hughes to injuries in the same week. Both Posada and A-Rod are gone after wavering between the bench and the lineup, likely prolonging their absence, and while some question the validity of Hughes' injury--particularly in light of dubiously timed reports of his night vision woes--the latest word is that a stress fracture of his ninth rib may sideline him until July. Adding insult to this spate of injuries, the team is swept by the Tigers in their return to the Bronx following a record 18 road games in April--18 in a 20-game span, no less.

22


Astros
13-16
2-4
.449
Down
Ranked 11th in the league in EqA at .250, the Astros offense is basically down to a two-man show. Lance Berkman and Miguel Tejada rank in the league's top 10 in VORP and are hitting a combined .322/.383/.603, while the rest of the team is hitting just .220/.276/.348, with only one other hitter (Carlos Lee) above a 2.0 VORP. Particularly mystifying is Hunter Pence, who's batting .250/.283/.370 after following a torrid 14-for-29 stretch with a chilly 2-for-15 one.

23


Rockies
11-17
1-5
.438
Down
If the 10-run first inning drubbing endured by Mark Redman were the lowlight of the Rockies' week, things would be a whole lot better here. They've lost nine of 11, wheezed through the equivalent of 18 games in 16 days, farmed out a struggling Franklin Morales and placed Kip Wells on the DL with another blood clot, and still none of that compares to losing Troy Tulowitzki until at least the All-Star break due to a torn tendon in his left quad. Though struggling with the stick (.152/.226/.238), Tulo's ability to anchor the defense--he was +35 runs last year--may be the biggest reason he's missed, particularly on a staff that's third to last in strikeout rate, and so that much more reliant on its defense to do most of the dirty work.

24


Twins
13-14
3-2
.431
Flat
Though they're just a game below .500, the Twins' offense is barely showing a pulse; they're scoring just 3.8 runs per game and are 13th in the league in EqA at .245. A lack of plate discipline is a major problem; the team is striking out 3.2 times for every unintentional walk, while no other AL team is above 2.4. Carlos Gomez has a 25/2 K/BB ratio, Jason Kubel is at 20/3, and only Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer are drawing one walk for every 10 plate appearances.

25


Giants
13-16
3-3
.406
Up
$126 Million Well Spent: The Giants bite the bullet and turn Barry Zito into the world's most expensive reliever after an eight-run bombing raises his ERA to 7.53. For a bittersweet reminder that the franchise's sole skill is developing starting pitching, consider that young guns Tim Lincecum and Jonathan Sanchez are tied for second in the league in strikeouts thanks in part to the latter's 10-K performance against the Reds. Lincecum is second in the league in VORP and third in ERA as well.

26


Royals
12-16
3-3
.401
Up
Royal Bust: The KC offense has been the league's worst by far, putting up just a .240 EqA while scoring 3.7 runs per game. Jose Guillen (.176/.212/.333) has been a key culprit, as he was expected to be a key middle-of-the-order hitter, whereas Tony "Automatic Out" Peņa (.152/.171/.203) came with no such illusions. Let's face it, when Sidney Ponson shuts you down, it's time to cry for help.

27


Rangers
11-18
4-2
.393
Up
The Rangers break out the lumber and score 40 runs for the week to snap a seven-game losing streak that jeopardized manager Ron Washington's job security. Though they've been outscored by an average of 1.6 runs per game--let's not talk about their pitching problems for one week--the offense is second in the league in EqA. Josh Hamilton (.326), Milton Bradley (.315), and Michael Young (.306) lead the way, though Hamilton has his skeptics when it comes to the sustainability of his performance.

28


Nationals
12-17
5-1
.386
Up
A 7-2 run has the Nationals looking like a real live major league team again, one that's getting pretty good starting pitching from some unlikely sources. Rookie John Lannan has combined for two consecutive shutouts and is riding a 19-inning scoreless streak that's lowered his ERA to 2.64, while Odalis Perez has risen from the dead to give the Nats four straight quality starts while yielding a 3.18 ERA thus far. The duo is 12th and 13th in SNLVAR, while the rotation is seventh in the league.

29


Pirates
11-17
2-4
.379
Up
The Bucks Stop... Well, Not Here, But at the Bottom of This Sunk Cost: The Pirates cut bait on Matt Morris, symbolically divesting themselves of the Littlefield Era's last grave mistake. Replacing him in the rotation is Phil Dumatrait, the fourth lefty to join the starting five; if nothing else, his caterpillar-crossing-the-highway quest to lower his career ERA below 9.00 (it's at 9.08, one out shy of glory) will be easier to follow.

30


Padres
11-18
2-4
.377
Up
Losers of 11 out of 14, the Padres have stopped hitting--.186/.274/.309 in that span--as though it were the middle of November; if only it were, they could cram their face full of yams and forget about this mess. Jim Edmonds (.153/.235/.222 overall) has been the lineup's worst hitter, but he's hardly the only one who needs carrying; among the lineup's top 12 hitters by plate appearances, only Adrian Gonzalez and Brian Giles have a positive MLVr.


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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