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May 9, 2008

Prospectus Hit List

Walking a Fine Line

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Diamondbacks
23-12
3-4
.651
Down
It Still Beats the Spankings: Conor Jackson's 26th birthday is a rough one, as he departs the game after a nasty collision at first base; he may have a concussion. Jackson's been enjoying a breakout year so far, hitting .339/.417/.574 and cracking the league's top 15 in both VORP and EqA. Elsewhere on the injury front, Orlando Hudson's hamstring may send him to the DL; he's started just two of the last seven games.

2


Red Sox
23-14
6-1
.616
Up
Walkman: Daisuke Matsuzaka survives an ugly eight-walk outing to run his record to 5-0 and lower his ERA to 2.43. No matter how dicey his performance (sorry), the Red Sox have won all seven of Matsuzaka's starts, but he's been on shakier ground than his basic numbers would have you believe: 27 walks in 40 2/3 innings but just 22 hits allowed thanks to a .184 BABIP. That can't last forever.

3


Braves
18-15
6-0
.613
Up
The Braves bounce back from a four-game skid by sweeping a pair of series from a couple of the league's weak sisters. Despite a plethora of injuries, the pitching staff leads the league in runs allowed at just 3.8 per game. Tim Hudson and Jair Jurrjens have been particularly outstanding; both have ERAs below 3.00 and rank as the two stingiest starters in the NL when it comes to limiting the long ball, and they're 12th and 13th in SNLVAR as well... Finally, a fond Hit List farewell to Julio Franco, who officially retires after a 30-year career in professional baseball that took him from the East Coast to Mexico to the Pacific Rim--not to mention the entire era of baseball video games--and saw him collect no less than 4,229 hits (2,586 in the majors).

4


Athletics
22-14
4-2
.609
Flat
You Can't Have Too Much Pitching: The A's continue to shut down opponents, as they've won 13 of their last 19 while yielding just 3.26 runs per game on .225/.280/.322 hitting. The rotation has been so strong that the pending return of Rich Harden will send Chad Gaudin (3.75 ERA in six starts) to the bullpen. That can't hurt a unit that leads the league in WXRL, with four pitchers among the top 30.

5


Cubs
19-15
2-4
.595
Down
You Don't Have to Go Home But You Gotta Get the Hill Out of Here: Rich Hill's astronomical walk rate (8.2 per nine) earns him a demotion, while replacement Jon Lieber is tagged for four homers in a two-inning start. Despite generally solid work by the rotation--every starter except Ted Lillly has an ERA below 5.10--the Cubs have lost nine out of 13 and surrendered first place in the NL Central.

6


Dodgers
19-15
4-2
.577
Down
A 7.5 runs per game clip helps the Dodgers go on a 10-1 run that pushes them above .500 and within shouting distance of the NL West-leading Diamondbacks. Leading the way is NL Player of the Week Matt Kemp, who's hit .341/.375/.523 over the last 22 games, 20 of which he's started. Also swinging a hot bat of late is rookie Blake DeWitt (.306/.385/.471), who cracks his first two big league homers on consecutive days, the latter an inside-the-park job. DeWitt's play is keeping recently activated Andy LaRoche in Las Vegas, though make no mistake, PECOTA shows that the latter has far more upside.

7


Cardinals
22-14
4-3
.576
Down
The Redbird Seat: An 8-2 run puts the Cardinals atop the NL Central. The makeshift rotation continues to carry the team; they lead the league in SNLVAR and have put up a Fair Run Average of 3.87. The staff as a whole continues to succeed despite the league's fourth-lowest strikeout rate, because they've got the lowest walk rate, the second-lowest homer rate and the third-highest ground-ball rate.

8


Mets
17-15
3-3
.540
Up
Staff whipping boy Oliver Perez continues to struggle, having allowed 23 runs in his last five starts and 23 1/3 innings while walking 19. He's being out-VORP'd by Nelson Figueroa, which isn't exactly the road to riches that Scott Boras had in mind. Meanwhile, John Maine has become the anti-Perez; he hasn't allowed more than two runs in six straight starts, and his latest marks the first time since last May 13 that a Mets pitcher (Perez, ironically) lasts at least eight innings.

9


Blue Jays
17-19
5-2
.536
Up
New Blue Jay Way: Toronto wins six out of seven thanks to a stifling performance from the pitching staff, which yields just 12 runs in that span; their 3.7 runs allowed per game is the league's second-best, and the rotation now leads the league in SNLVAR. Despite the streak, there's plenty of cause for concern as the Jays go 20 games without topping five runs scored. Worse, they give Adam Lind just 20 plate appearances over a 10-day span before scrapping yet another plan to prop up their sagging offense.

10


Angels
22-14
4-2
.529
Up
While the exploits of Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders, now both 6-0 and among the league's top seven in SNLVAR, continue to get the attention, the Angel offense is worth a note. The Halos are second in the league in scoring and fourth in EqA. Casey Kotchman and Torii Hunter both rank in the league's top five in VORP, Mike Napoli leads the league in homers (despite having just 71 PA), and Chone Figgins is tops in times on base and second in OBP.

11


White Sox
16-17
2-5
.529
Down
The Blow Up: Ozzie Guillen lashes out at fickle Sox fans as though in tribute to Lee Elia, while the players' hijinx only incite more controversy. All of it overshadows a 1-7 skid redeemed only by Gavin Floyd coming within two outs of a no-hitter. That's the second time Floyd has gone at least seven without yielding a hit; thanks to a .144 BABIP he's got the majors' lowest hit rate.

12


Rays
18-16
2-4
.528
Down
Scott Kazmir is shaky in his first start of the season, though he's healthy at last. For all the Rays' early-season success, their rotation has been no great shakes thus far; they're second to last in SNLVAR--Andrew Sonnanstine and Edwin Jackson lead the club--and their Support-Neutral Winning Percentage (SNLVA_R + .5) is actually worse than last year. And nine of the franchise's previous 10 seasons, at that.

13


Phillies
20-16
4-3
.528
Down
With Jimmy Rollins sidelined for much of the month (he's nearing a return from his ankle injury) and Ryan Howard missing in action (a 1-for-23 slump lowers his line to .159/.280/.325), the Philllies have had to rely on different weapons in order to win. Save for Cole Hamels, the rotation has been subpar, but the bullpen ranks as the league's second best according to WXRL. Brad Lidge has yet to allow a run as a Phillie, and he's the indiviual league leader in WXRL, with Tom Gordon in the top 20 as well.

14


Marlins
20-14
5-1
.525
Up
Scott Olsen continues his resurgence, combining for a shutout for the third time this season and lowering his ERA to 2.22. Olsen's fourth in SNLVAR, but he's also pitching above his head; his success is founded on a .193 BABIP, in spite of a 23/19 K/BB ratio in 48 2/3 innings. He's not getting much help from his fellow Fish, as the team ranks second to last in SNLVAR.

15


Yankees
18-18
4-2
.509
Up
This Is How the Other Half Lives? Last year the Yankees claimed four of the league's top 20 hitters according to VORP, but with Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada sidelined and Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano struggling, things just aren't the same; since the first two went on the DL, the team is scoring just 4.2 runs per game. Jeter (.301/.331/.374) has yet to homer and has walked just four times in 131 PA, while Cano (.172/.226/.297) has been mired below the Mendoza Line all season long, as has Jason Giambi (.163/.324/.419).

16


Astros
18-17
5-1
.479
Up
Berserkman: Lance Berkman's 14-for-21 rampage (.667/.708/1.286) fuels a five-game winning streak that helps put the Astros over .500 for the first time in nearly a year. Berkman--whose run includes a 5-for-5 night with two steals--is third in the league in VORP, second in homers and RBI, and first in SLG and runs scored. He's had to do the work of several men, given that more than half of the Astros with 20+ PA are suffering from severe Ausmutism

17


Indians
16-18
2-3
.477
Down
Fausto-ian Bargain: Belying his 2.95 ERA, Fausto Carmona continues to struggle with his command; he's walked more hitters than he's struck out in five of his last six starts and is carrying a 15/31 K/BB. Cliff Lee, on the other had, is throwing almost nothing but strikes; he's put up a 39/2 K/BB ratio on his way to a 0.81 ERA and the league lead in SNLVAR. Lee blanks the Yanks in the Bronx, the third time this season he's been part of a shutout.

18


Orioles
17-18
2-5
.476
Down
Losers of five straight and seven out of eight, the O's find themselves in last place, an indignity they've thus far avoided since inspiring the Curse of Davey Johnson, but one that's a very real threat now that the Rays' days as division doormat may be at an end. The streak does have a silver lining in that the staff has put up a 4.22 ERA in that eight-game span, and while they're still in the second division of the Support Neutral rankings, at this point Steve Trachsel is the only starter with an ERA above 4.32.

19


Twins
17-16
4-2
.468
Up
A 6-2 run against the White Sox and Tigers propels the Twins into first place in the AL Central for the first time since last April 23. Carlos Gomez hits for the cycle, the first Twin to do so since Kirby Puckett in 1986, when Gomez was just eight months old. The kid is hitting .279/.302/.418, which ain't all that and a bag of chips, but his two homers are two more than Joe Mauer and Delmon Young combined; Mauer (.346/.420/.452) has been productive nonetheless, Young (.264/.308/.304) not so much.

20


Tigers
15-21
1-6
.460
Down
A five-game losing streak keeps the Tigers from getting over the .500 hump, and the offense's drought--scoring just 11 runs in that span--proves the final straw for the team to cut ties with Jacque Jones and return Gary Sheffield to the field. It's a risky move; Jones wasn't hitting (.165/.244/.253), but neither is Sheff (.202/.366/.315), and however much the latter dislikes DHing, it's not at all clear he won't wind up on the DL complaining of more shoulder trouble. Besides, the Tigers' troubles have less to do with offense (they're second in the league in EqA) than with a staff allowing more than 5.5 runs per game, next to last in the league.

21


Rockies
14-21
3-4
.452
Up
The reeling Rockies salvage a split against the Cardinals, but not before Mark Redman pitches his way out of the rotation with his second consecutive pounding, one that raises his ERA to an unsightly 7.84. Redman will be replaced, at least for the moment, by 2006 overall #2 draft pick Greg Reynolds, who's put up a 4.86 ERA with none-too-stellar peripherals at Colorado Springs. Meanwhile, Chris Iannetta has started behind the plate five straight times; his hot bat (.358/.426/.679) may mean a bigger slice of the catching pie relative to the struggling Yorvit Torrealba (.235/.287/.383).

22


Reds
14-21
2-4
.447
Down
Code Red: Joey Votto pounds three home runs amid a seven-homer, 9-0 drubbing of the Cubs. Votto's now hitting .302/.362/.583, but the Reds have lost 17 of their last 25, and rumors about trading Ken Griffey Jr. are starting to circulate. This team already needs a shakeup, whether it's cashing Junior in for prospects, recalling Jay Bruce (.320/.343/.531 at Louisville) to take the place of Corey Patterson (.200/.260/.421), or Homer Bailey (2.72 ERA and 39/12 K/BB in 46.1 IP) to do the same for... well, anybody besides Aaron Harang and Edinson Volquez, as the rest of the rotation has a 7.48 ERA.

23


Rangers
16-20
5-2
.443
Up
Look out, American League: the Ranger rotation has a new sheriff, and his name is Sidney Ponson. The bad boy of Aruba has allowed just one earned run in each of his three starts, albeit against the Twins, the Mariners, and the Double-A affiliate of the Little Sisters of the Poor the Royals. Also pitching well is Vicente Padilla, who's surrendered only one earned run in his last three starts and now ranks 12th in ERA. Such performances appear to be contagious for the Rangers, who have allowed more than three runs just once in the past seven games, though their overall rate is still the worst in baseball--the kind of thing that drives a team to employ Sidney Ponson in the first place, basically.

24


Brewers
16-18
0-6
.434
Down
Battered and Brewsed: Yovani Gallardo sufffers a torn ACL that will sideline him for the rest of the season. The rotation situation's especially dire given that Gallardo and Ben Sheets are the only Brewer starters with ERAs below 5.22. In the 4 1/2 months of play since Gallardo joined the team, the Brewers have made it through a five-man rotation that's included both just 10 times. Meanwhile, the bullpen continues to come under scrutiny, as Erig Gagne blows his fifth save and Derrick Turnbow is sent packing after walking 13 hitters in 6 1/3 innings.

25


Pirates
15-19
4-2
.425
Up
It's a day to remember for Phil Dumatrait, as he not only earns his first major league win, he also pushes his career ERA below 9.00 with 5 2/3 innings of scoreless ball against what's left of the Giants. Not to be outdone, Zach Duke claims his first W since last June 12. Winners of six out of their last 10, the Bucs have been getting good offense and pitching, outscoring opponents 65-39, and they now have three outfielders in the league's top 20 in EqA--Nate McLouth, Xavier Nady and Jason Bay--with catcher Ryan Doumit missing out only because he's five PA shy of qualifying.

26


Royals
15-19
3-3
.414
Up
They've split their last 12 games after a seven-game losing streak, but the Royals continue their attempt to subsist on a meager three runs per day. Alex Gordon's 4.8 VORP represents the team high, while Tony Peņa Jr. and Jose Guillen are two of the league's three least productive hitters, but the real question is what's going on with Billy Butler. Since April 15, he's hitting just .208/.271/.247, with three measly doubles representing the entirety of his power output, and he's got just one homer this year.

27


Mariners
14-22
1-6
.405
Down
M is for Misery: Even with Wladimir Balentien hitting two of the team's four homers since his recall, the Mariners' lineup shakeup gets off to an inauspicious start, as the team hits .188/.243/.265 and manages just 12 runs in seven games, the majority of them in one fell swoop. With a tourniquet on the bleeding caused by the bats of Kenji Johjima and Jose Vidro now in place, the next focus should fall on replacing second baseman Jose Lopez, who's continuing his grand tradition of empty batting averages (.291/.293/.383) and substandard defense. Then again, when the options to replace him revolve around Wee Willie Blooomquist and a reanimation of Vidro's corpse, all hail the .291 hitter!

28


Nationals
15-20
3-3
.398
Up
With eight hits in his last three games--including a two-homer night that goes for naught--Ryan Zimmerman is showing some signs of life with the bat. His teammates are starting to hit as well (.304/.362/.495 for the week), with more homers in their last five games (nine) than in their previous 20. Still, the offense ranks among the league's lowliest, because the usual warning about what it means when Cristian Guzman is the team's VORP leader still applies.

29


Giants
14-21
1-5
.392
Down
SSDD is Not a New BP Stat: With nary a relief appearance to show for his exile, Barry Zito returns to the rotation and puts up his best start of the year (5 5 2 2 2 5), yet the Giants still lose because their offense manages just one run against the mighty Phil Dumatrait. Indeed, the Giants are swept by the lowly Pirates, scoring just 11 runs in three games against the majors' most generous pitching staff. It's almost enough to make even this Dodger fan cringe... almost, but not quite.

30


Padres
12-23
1-5
.367
Down
Friar Freefall: The Padres' skid reaches 17 losses in 21 games, and they can thank their anemic offense, which now ranks dead last in the majors in EqA. The buzzards are circling Jim Edmonds (.178/.265/.233), but if they dine on Khalil Greene (.211 .266 .297), Josh Bard (.212/.305/.269), or Scott Hairston (.210/.257/.400) as well, that might improve matters.


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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