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May 1, 2009

Prospectus Hit List

Back to Earth

by Jay Jaffe

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RkTeam
Overall W-L
Week W-L
Comment

1


Dodgers
15-8
4-3
.637
Down
Nine-O? It's only Seven-O: Roughed up on a road trip, the Dodgers return to, uh, Dodgertown 90090 to complete their first undefeated April at home (7-0) since 1947. Chad Billingsley ranks in the league's top 10 in ERA, strikeout rate, fewest hits per nine, and SNLVAR after reeling off his fifth straight quality start, but the rest of the rotation is looking rather rickety. The team has otherwise gotten just four quality starts out of 18, three of them from Randy Wolf, and Clayton Kershaw's been bombed in his two starts (nine innings, 15 runs) since his 13-strikeout performance.

2


Cardinals
16-7
5-2
.624
Down
Winners of seven out of nine, the Cardinals take three straight series against teams forecast to win at least 87 games. The Albert Pujols-led offense leads the league in scoring and is running a close second to the Dodgers in EqA. The staff has the league's second-lowest ERA, and while they don't miss many bats (14th in strikeouts), they're second in walk and homer rates. The infield defense could use some help however; with converted outfielder Skip Schumaker at the keystone, they're 13th in Defensive Efficiency.

3


Blue Jays
15-9
3-4
.584
Down
Thanks in part to a soft April schedule, the Jays maintain their surprisingly lofty perch. Their offense leads the league in EqA and is third in homers, with Aaron Hill and Marco Scutaro tied for the team lead with five, and the entire infield hitting a combined .304/.381/.491.

4


Red Sox
14-8
5-2
.570
Down
The Red Sox run their winning streak to 11 in a row, including a three-game sweep of the Yankees in Fenway. Leading the way is Jason Bay, who collects 11 hits in a five-game span including a game-tying ninth-inning homer off of Mariano Rivera and a game-winning ninth-inning homer off of Kerry Wood. Bay's hitting .324/.490/.634 with a league-best 23 walks. Even hotter is Kevin Youkilis (.395/.505/.697), who seals the game Bay tied with a walk-off shot in the 11th.

5


Royals
12-10
4-3
.556
Up
Nobody's Perfect: Zack Greinke runs his scoreless streak to 38 innings and his streak without allowing an earned run to 43 innings, ending the month 5-0 with a 0.50 ERA and 44 strikeouts. He leads the majors in all three pitching Triple Crown categories as well as in BP's support-neutral stat, SNLVAR. The Royals top the AL in run prevention, but they're 11th in scoring, with three regulars (Mike Aviles, Billy Butler, and Miguel Olivo) all below the Mendoza Line.

6


Yankees
12-10
3-4
.541
Up
Lost In Boston: The Yanks surrender leads in three straight defeats at Fenway, and fall below .500 by losing their fourth straight the next night in Detroit. Righting the ship is a pair of big innings and bigger pitching performances by their heralded young hurlers. A 10-run seventh-inning outburst backs Phil Hughes' 2009 debut (6 2 0 0 2 6) and a seven-run fourth supports Joba Chamberlain's first win (7 3 1 1 3 6). Still, the staff's 6.2 runs per game allowed is 15th in the league, with both the rotation and the bullpen posting Fair Run Averages above 6.00.

7


Rays
9-14
3-4
.536
Up
Price Check: With the Rays 5½ games out of first and Andy Sonnanstine carrying a 7.78 ERA after getting cuffed around by the A's and Mariners—the two teams with the majors' worst EqA marks—the time may be right to add David Price to the rotation. The game's top pitching prospect has put up a 3.71 ERA and 20/8 K/BB ratio at Durham. The big club's starting five could use the shot in the arm; they had yielded a 5.08 ERA and 6.3 K/9 before Matt Garza tossed six perfect innings against the Red Sox, whiffing 10 and allowing just one hit before departing.

8


Pirates
11-10
2-4
.532
Down
After getting out to their best start since 2002, the Pirates get swept by the Brewers, running their losing streak against Milwaukee to 15 games dating back to last May 22. The Bucs still have the league's stingiest pitching, and their offense, which is sixth in scoring, has received a boost from the LaRoche brothers. Adam (.269/.352/.564) bops two homers at Petco Park, while Andy reels off an 11-game hitting streak (.366/.404/.512) after beginning the year 0-for-16.

9


Mets
9-12
3-3
.529
Flat
Panic in the Apple? The Mets lose seven out of 10 while Jerry Manuel offers signs that he's losing his grip, doing things like putting Oliver Perez on notice and attempting to ice the closer by bringing in backup catcher Omir Santos from the bullpen to pinch-hit. The rotation remains the biggest problem; while Johan Santana has put up a 1.10 ERA with a 12.1 K/9 and four quality starts out of five, the rest of the unit has fizzled with a 6.64 ERA, 5.8 K/9, and just three quality starts out of 22. Yeah, that will drive a manager crazy.

10


Mariners
13-9
3-3
.525
Up
Russell the Muscle: After missing five straight games due to lower back tightness, Russell Branyan returns to the lineup and collects 10 hits in a five-game span, including homers in consecutive wins over the Angels and a 5-for-5 night against the White Sox. He's hitting .333/.415/.614 with a team-high four homers. Meanwhile, Felix Hernandez runs his scoreless streak to 19 innings ( 8 4 0 0 1 9). He's second in the league in strikeouts and third in SNLVAR, while the staff as a whole leads the majors in combined win expectancy (SNLVAR + WXRL).

11


Brewers
12-10
6-1
.522
Up
Go-Yard-O: Yovani Gallardo becomes the first pitcher in seven years to homer in a 1-0 win—the Brewers' seventh victory in eight games—as he pitches a gem against the Pirates (8 2 0 0 1 11). It's the young hurler's second blast of the year and fourth in just 64 major league plate appearances; he's slugging .508. Brewer pitchers as a group are hitting .205/.222/.364 this year, outperforming Jason Kendall (.164/.294/.182) and J.J. Hardy (.164/.235/.301).

12


Marlins
14-8
3-4
.520
Down
The Marlins lose seven straight, but remain atop the NL East because they're 13-5 within the division. Jorge Cantu bashes four homers for the week, including three in a two-game span against the Mets, one of which triggers the first of back-to-back late-inning comebacks against their bullpen. He's hitting .362/.448/.741 and leading the league in slugging, but the rest of the offense is hitting a combined .234/.315/.366 and the team ranks 11th in the league in EqA.

13


Tigers
11-10
3-3
.519
Down
Routed Rookies: The Tigers' young pitching prodigies find themselves at the center of a pair of big innings against the Yankees. First, Ryan Perry opens the door to a 10-run inning; he's walked 10 in 7 2/3 frames. Then Rick Porcello is chased during a four-run seventh; he's made just one quality start out of four and is carrying a 6.23 ERA and 2.5 HR/9. Neither hurler had pitched above High-A before this year, but the team says it intends to stick with both despite the growing pains. Meanwhile, Joel Zumaya returns to the bullpen, tossing three scoreless innings in two outings.

14


Braves
10-11
3-3
.514
Up
Home runs may be up, but the Braves have so little to do with that you'd think they were playing in old Braves Field. They and their opponents have combined for just 0.67 per team per game, the league's lowest rate, and they rank 12th in the league in hitting them (18) but first in the majors preventing them (10). Kelly Johnson is the only player to hit more than two (he's got three), while Kenshin Kawakami is the only pitcher to allow more than one (five, ouch).

15


Phillies
11-9
5-1
.499
Up
Hungover and Hurting: The Phillies reel off five straight wins—one on the strength of grand slams by Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez—but the heros of their title run are still taking their lumps. Cole Hamels makes his second straight early departure due to injury, this time a sprained ankle, while the grind is already getting to Brad Lidge. Meanwhile, suspended reliever J.C. Romero sues the supplement company whose product triggered his positive test; yeah, good luck with that.

16


Cubs
10-11
2-5
.488
Down
Limping: Losers of seven out of nine, the Cubs are battling a multitude of injuries in their lineup. Geovany Soto's shoulder (or hand?) has limited him to a 5-for-46 performance thus far, Derek Lee's hitting .189/.253/.284 while battling a bulging disc in his neck, and Aramis Ramirez has been out since last Friday due to a calf strain that could send him to the DL. Good news: Milton Bradley triples his season hit total in his first start in six days.

17


White Sox
11-10
3-3
.479
Down
Struggling Alexei Ramirez's first homer of the year is a grand slam that breaks a game open against the Blue Jays. After starting the season just 5-for-40, all singles, he's hitting .333/.382/.500 over his last 10 games, striking out just once in that span. Meanwhile, Brian Anderson's oblique strain keys the season's least awaited blockbuster, The Return of Podzilla. "See him claw his way to a .300 OBP and level pitching staffs with the occasional double!"

18


Giants
10-10
4-2
.477
Up
On the heels of last week's 13-strikeout performance against the Diamondbacks, Tim Lincecum faces them again and whiffs 12. That's one run, one walk, 10 hits, and 25 strikeouts in 16 innings against the Snakes, and if it's not enough, he dominates the Dodgers in the rubber match of a three-game series. Backing Lincecum with homers in those latter two starts is Bengie Molina, who leads the team with four but has yet to collect a walk; he's hitting .329/.321/.592.

19


Angels
9-12
3-3
.472
Up
Hammerin' Halos: Torii Hunter's seventh-inning homer pushes the Angels' winning streak to three straight games, one day after they became the final team in the majors to win back-to-back contests this year. It's Hunter's eighth homer in 16 games; he now ranks second in that department while leading the league in slugging. Also hot is Kendry Morales, who swats three homers and collects multiple hits five times in a six-game span.

20


Rangers
10-11
4-2
.465
Up
I Fought the Wall and the Wall Won: Josh Hamilton is sidelined by a strained rib-cage muscle resulting from a collision; he may hit the DL, which won't help him snap out of an early-season funk (.242/.282/.379). Meanwhile, Ian Kinsler slips into a 4-for-33 funk of his own, though two of those hits are homers in consecutive innings. He's still hitting .326/.381/.663 thanks to a red-hot start.

21


Indians
8-14
2-4
.461
Down
The Indians continue to burrow their way further into the AL Central cellar. They've averaged just 3.2 runs per game over their last eight, scoring zero or one runs in half of those contests and hitting a combined .236/.303/.345. They'll be without Travis Hafner for the next two weeks as his surgically repaired shoulder is acting up; he's hitting a solid .270/.370/.540 overall but is just 6-for-25 with a lone double and zero RBI since the team's 22-run outburst against the Yankees on April 18.

22


Reds
11-10
2-4
.459
Down
Edinson Volquez combines on a one-hit shutout against the Astros, ending Houston's eight-game winning streak in Great American Ballpark. It's just Volquez's second quality start of the year, and the first time he's walked fewer than four hitters. The Reds have been getting good pitching all in all, though; they're second in the league in combined win expectancy (SNLVAR + WXRL) and fifth in ERA. Unfortunately, their offense is second-to-last in both scoring and EqA.

23


Athletics
8-11
3-2
.458
Up
Not only do the A's hit a 2-6 skid, they lose Mark Ellis and Nomar Garciaparra to calf injuries in the same game (a matched set with Ellis' left and Nomar's right, in case you're scoring at home). The offense continues its enfeebled ways (.233/.310/.314), but the pitching generates concern as well; the rotation has just six quality starts, and they're 10th in the league in SNLVAR. Rookies Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill are both sporting ERAs above 5.00, with the latter nursing an unsightly 7/15 K/BB ratio as well.

24


Padres
11-11
2-5
.452
Down
With eight losses in ten games, the Padres receive a rude awakening as to the caliber of their current squad. Particularly problematic is the rotation, whichranks 14th in SNLVAR. Chris Young and Jake Peavy are both carrying 5.74 ERAs, with the latter bombed for 11 runs in his last 11 innings by those juggernaut Pirate and Giant lineups.

25


Rockies
8-12
3-3
.450
Up
Pine and Fine: Benched for a night amid an 0-for-19 slump, Troy Tulowitzki responds by going 3-for-6 over his next two games, helping the Rockies win three out of four after losing seven out of eight. The team's run differential is even, but they're four games below .500 thanks in part to a sub-replacement level bullpen that's second-to-last in the league in WXRL, with Huston Street and Manny Corpas taking turns punting the closer role.

26


Diamondbacks
9-13
3-4
.447
Up
Off to a .205/.280/.386 start and thus contributing to an offense that's last in the league in EqA, Stephen Drew hits the DL due to a recurrent hamstring strain, but that's hardly the worst injury news the team gets this week. Brandon Webb will be shut down for three weeks due to shoulder tightness, pushing his return into June. The Snakes are sixth in SNLVAR, thanks to Dan Haren leading the league and Doug Davis in the top 10, but the way this team is hitting they'll need their ace ASAP.

27


Twins
11-11
4-2
.442
Up
Mauer Power, Activate: Though he's got short-term and long-term questions regarding his viability behind the plate, Joe Mauer's return to action is a welcome shot in the arm for the Twins. Despite their .500 record, they have the majors' fourth-worst run differential, with ugly numbers on both sides of the ball. They're hardly the worse for wear in the AL Central race, however, thanks to the job that rookie Jose Morales and wounded veteran Mike Redmond have done in Mauer's absence, hitting a combined .301/.363/.356.

28


Astros
9-13
3-3
.420
Down
P-U Puma and the Punchless Perjurer: A 1-for-22 slump sends Lance Berkman to the bench. He's hitting just .162/.326/.392 with only six hits since April 16, though four of them were homers. Also putting up an odd batting line is Miguel Tejada, who's hitting an empty .315/.351/.382 with six doubles and no homers. He hasn't homered in 37 straight games dating back to last year, his third homerless streak of at least 28 games since last June 20.

29


Nationals
5-16
2-5
.395
Up
The Continuing Adventures of the Zimmermen(n): Jordan Zimmermann stymies the Metsies in his second big-league start, and Ryan Zimmerman extends his club-record hitting streak to 18 games, but very little is going right regarding the Nats whose last names begin with the first 25 letters of the alphabet. The bullpen's been a particularly sore spot, last in the majors in WXRL, with Joel Hanrahan yielding to Julian Tavarez (eyew), who collects his first save since 2006.

30


Orioles
9-13
1-5
.387
Down
Home to Roost: Losers of 11 out of 14, the Orioles find themselves in an all-too-familiar spot (the AL East basement), and with an all-too-familiar problem (pitching). The staff is tied for last in the majors with just six quality starts, and they're allowing a league-worst 1.9 HR/9, with Mark Hendrickson spending lots of time with his pet gopher (7 HR in 18 1/3 IP). Adam Eaton's allowed just two homers in 21 2/3 innings, but any question about whether last week's quality start was an illusion has been answered... and not in a good way.


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 Thursday.

Jay Jaffe is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jay's other articles. You can contact Jay by clicking here

12 comments have been left for this article.

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