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May 22, 2009

Prospectus Hit List

Can't Anyone Here Play This Game?

by Jay Jaffe

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RkTeam
Overall W-L
Week W-L
Comment

1


Dodgers
29-13
5-1
.666
Up
Life Without Manny: Clayton Kershaw no-hits the Marlins for seven innings; he's allowed just six runs and 13 hits and zero homers over his last four starts, and batters are hitting just .205/.313/.333 against him overall. The Dodger rotation has picked up the slack since Manny's suspension via a 2.81 ERA and just three homers in 80 innings despite the presence of both Jeff Weaver and Official Hit List Whipping Boy Eric Milton, two pitchers who survived the fly-ball pitcher's hell of Albuquerque to return to the majors.

2


Blue Jays
27-17
4-3
.606
Down
Adam Lind's three-run homer helps the Blue Jays to a four-game sweep of the White Sox. Lind (.303/.375/.515) is only one of the three Jays with EqAs above .300 (Aaron Hill and Marco Scutaro are the others) whom PECOTA forecasts to have at least a 10 percent chance of finishing the season at that level. Nonetheless, the team is second in the league in that category, and they remain atop the AL East despite going 1-5 against he Yankees and Red Sox over the past two weeks. You know what they say about the team in first place on Victoria Day...

3


Brewers
26-15
5-1
.588
Up
Weeks, Months, Year: Amid a seven-game winning streak, the Brewers incur a loss of a different sort, as Rickie Weeks suffers a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist, ending his season at a point when he was hitting .272/.340/.517 while tied for the team high with nine homers. Given that the injury is in the opposite wrist as his 2006 season-ender, this only perpetuates the concern that he'll never be durable enough for full-time duty; he's topped 100 games only twice in five years. For the moment, the Brewers will patch from within via Craig Counsell, Casey McGehee, Hernan Irribaren, and perhaps Alcides Escobar.

4


Tigers
23-16
6-0
.581
Up
D Train Rolling: With six wins in a row, the Tigers take over sole possession of first place in the AL Central. Dontrelle Willis notches his first win in nearly 20 months via a combined one-hitter (6.1 1 0 0 2 5) which stops the Rangers' seven-game winning streak in its tracks. Justin Verlander is rolling as well, allowing just four runs in his last 35 1/3 frames, with a 52:10 K/BB rate in that span. Meanwhile, Jeremy Bonderman is working toward a return, though his velocity remains a concern.

5


Mets
21-19
2-4
.578
Down
Can't Anyone Here Play This Game? The Mets' 10-2 run grinds to a halt with a four-game losing streak lowlighted by a five-error loss to the Dodgers. In the 11th inning alone, Ryan Church misses third base to negate the go-ahead run, while Angel Pagan and Jeremy Reed both make errors to abet the winning run. Both players are pressed into service amid injuries which knock Carlos Delgado (torn hip labrum) and Jose Reyes (calf tendonitis) out of the lineup and result in the frightful sight of Fernando Tatis playing shortstop during a game that exasperates Mets fans even more.

6


Red Sox
25-16
4-2
.560
Up
Long Red Sox Nation-al Nightmare Over: David Ortiz homers for the first time since last September 22, a span of 177 plate appearances between dingers. Ortiz is hitting just .210/.319/.326, but defense and starting pitching have been Boston's real woes. Epitomizing both problems is Jon Lester, who's been bombed for a 6.51 ERA , a product of both a .385 BABIP and a 1.9 HR/9 rate.

7


Rangers
23-17
3-3
.559
Down
The Rangers' seven-game winning streak comes to a crashing halt via a one-hit shutout and a three-game sweep by the Tigers. Still, they're 13-6 this month, and for all the talk about their upgraded defense masking a pitching staff whose performance hasn't improved radically, the staff has put up a 3.30 ERA with 11 quality starts this month. Of course, striking out a hair under five per nine during that span doesn't bode terribly well for a repeat.

8


Cardinals
24-17
3-3
.552
Down
It's Not Easy Being Greene: Khalil Greene loses his starting job. He's hitting just .202/.281/.303, and is suffering from an anxiety disorder dating back to last season. In happier news, Chris Carpenter returns from the DL and tosses five scoreless innings to help the Cardinals regain lost ground in the NL Central. He's allowed just 10 baserunners and a lone unearned run in 15 innings this year.

9


Royals
21-20
3-3
.539
Flat
Curse of the Mexicutioner? Since Joakim Soria last pitched on May 7, the Royals are 3-9, but it's tough to argue that the absence of their closer is causing the slide. Their bullpen's ERA is 4.15 in that span, but only after Thursday's six-run pounding, while the starters are at 4.19. The real problem is an offense that's scoring just 3.6 runs per game while hitting .248/.317/.381 with only eight homers, four by Mike Jacobs.

10


Yankees
24-17
7-0
.531
Up
Walkoff... Walkoff... Walkoff! The Yankees win three straight games in their final at-bat against the Twins via Melky Cabrera's two-run single off Joe Nathan and homers by Alex Rodriguez and Johnny Damon. A-Rod homers in four straight games, and with their nine-game winning streak, the team is now 11-2 since his May 8 return from surgery. Benefiting the most from the third baseman's presence is Mark Teixeira, whose .354/.439/.833 since the return includes his own quartet of homers this week.

11


Angels
21-19
3-4
.531
Up
Tacky Lackey: The Angels are swept by the Rangers in a three-game series accompanied by the fireworks of John Lackey being tossed for plunking Ian Kinsler two pitches into his 2009 debut. Lackey returns two days later to grind through an ugly five-inning start. Elsewhere in the rotation, Ervin Santana yields just one run in his second start off of the DL, but the Angels' offense draws a blank, and they wind up the week in worse shape in the AL West than when they started.

12


Rays
21-22
5-2
.530
Up
Pull Your Head Out of That Camus Book and Manage a Ballgame: Joe Maddon's lineup card error costs the Rays the DH and forces them to bat Andy Sonnanstine third, but his RBI double caps a five-run rally on the way to a win, and the skipper closes in on a three-year extension. Despite the good vibes, Sonnanstine and Scott Kazmir are racing to see who can inflate their ERA the highest (7.36 for Sonny, 7.69 for Kaz) by the time David Price arrives. Kazmir has been battered for 29 earned runs in his last 23 innings, but he says the results aren't health-related.

13


Cubs
21-18
1-4
.516
Down
He'll Be Sori: With Mike Fontenot's 2-for-36 slump dragging him below the Mendoza Line, manager Lou Piniella is pondering the possibility of returning Alfonso Soriano to second base, a position he hasn't played regularly since 2005. The move would provide more at-bats for Micah Hoffpauir, who's hitting .314/.372/.557, and while it would also compromise a defense that ranks first in the league in Defensive Efficiency, the staff does have the league's best strikeout rate as well.

14


Phillies
22-17
6-1
.515
Up
Out of Park: Chan Ho Park's third disaster start out of seven prompts manager Charlie Manuel to bump him from the rotation in favor of J.A. Happ. Park's hardly the only problem for a unit that's 15th in the league in SNLVAR, though three straight quality starts from Cole Hamels do provide at least one bit of good news.

15


Reds
21-19
1-5
.512
Down
An inner ear infection sidelines Joey Votto amid a four-game losing streak that knocks the Reds from first to fourth place in the tightly-packed NL Central. Votto's .366/.470/.589 performance has him ranked third, first, and sixth in the league in those categories, respectively, and the Reds' lineup absolutely needs him. They're 13th in the league in EqA, and he's one of just three regulars above .260.

16


Braves
20-20
3-3
.504
Down
Oh-No-Mar: The Braves lose superutilityman Omar Infante to a broken bone in his hand; he could be out up to two months. Infante's been one of the middling offense's few bright spots thus far, hitting .349/.389/.430, primarily from atop the lineup, and he'd been sharing time at second with slumping Kelly Johnson (.239/.315/.376) while also making spot starts at short and third and dabbling in the outfield.

17


Pirates
19-22
5-2
.498
Up
The President Will Meet With You When You Have a Winning Season: The Bucs stop by the White House for a tour amid a week in which Barack Obama greets both the World Champion Phillies and Steelers squads. Alas, the President has no time to make small talk with Craig Monroe and his sub-.500 mateys despite their five-game winning streak. Yearrrrrghh, and even with a run differential that's in the black.

18


Twins
19-23
1-6
.478
Flat
Escape From New York: The T's (that's Twins minus wins) fall back below .500 via six straight losses, including four in a row in the Bronx, the first three of which come via walk-off hits. They finally halt their slide with a 20-run outburst, but the losses highlight the fact that the team's bullpen is second to last in the league in WXRL, though with a rotation that hasn't been much better, Twins pitchers are in the bottom three in both home-run rate (1.4 per nine) and ERA (5.16, their highest since 2000).

19


Indians
16-26
2-4
.463
Flat
Shifty Dealings: With the Tribe in the bottom half of the league defensively-a major problem for such a contact-oriented staff-the team is switching things up by shifting Jhonny Peralta to third, Asdrubal Cabrera to shortstop, and Mark DeRosa to first base, with Luis Valbuena and Jamey Carroll manning the keystone. The move may foreshadow dealing the slow-starting DeRosa (.255/.322/.427) , but despite the vultures circling in search of the next Sabathia-sized deal, the team has little incentive to part with Cliff Lee or Victor Martinez given their affordable 2010 club options ($9 million and $7.2 million, respectively).

20


Rockies
16-24
3-4
.462
Down
Go Grab Some Bench: Manager Clint Hurdle sits Troy Tulowitzki for a day due to the shortstop's first-pitch GIDP in an 8-1 loss. The benching aside, Tulowitzki's been on a modest roll, hitting .286/.347/.492 in May after a .200/.324/.400 April. He's seeing more pitches per plate appearance and walking more frequently, but his 0-for-24 slump with runners in scoring position has Hurdle irate-a further sign that the skipper is on the hot seat.

21


Astros
18-21
2-3
.458
Up
Ortiz Finally Homers! Russ Ortiz beats Big Papi to the punch by a day with a two-run shot, his first homer since 2003. With a 5.81 ERA and a 21/22 K/BB rate, he ought to consider a career move, as he hit .252/.301/.403 with four homers in 2002-2003, numbers that outdo more than one current Astros lineup regular. On the other side of the coin, Wandy Rodriguez allows his first home run since last August 10, a span of 88 1/3 innings. He's second in the league in ERA and fourth in SNLVAR; the Astros are 7-2 in his starts.

22


Diamondbacks
17-24
4-2
.444
Up
To the Max, Finally: Twenty-three games and 14 starts into his big-league career, Max Scherzer bags his first W via a combined shutout of the Braves. Though pitch counts are limiting him to just 5.4 innings per start, he's put up a 3.35 ERA and is third on the team in SNLVAR. The Diamondbacks' rotation has been the least of their problems despite the loss of Brandon Webb and the upheaval in the dugout. Alas, the tragic sudden death of Scott Schoeneweis' wife is hardly the thing to break this team's funk.

23


Marlins
19-23
2-5
.443
Down
Crouching Tiger, Rotting Fish: Andrew Miller returns from the disabled list and notches his first win in 11 months, but it's the Marlins' only victory in an eight-game span. The Miguel Cabrera/Dontrelle Willis deal hasn't turned out well for the Fish thus far, as Miller's put up a 5.88 ERA in 124 innings, Cameron Maybin's been sent back to Triple-A after a .202/.280/.310 start, and Mike Rabelo, Burke Badenhop, and Eulogio de la Cruz have all been below replacement level as well.

24


Giants
19-21
1-5
.438
Down
The Big Something: Randy Johnson is turning his pursuit of 300 wins into more of a plod. After win number 298 last week, he's rocked for seven runs by the Mets, his second disaster start out of three and his third for the year, not to mention part of the 1-6 skid which pushes the Giants below .500. Johnson's ERA is now 6.86, raising the question of which pitcher had the highest season ERA at the point of his 300th win. My helper monkey will provide the answer at the appropriate time.

25


Padres
19-22
6-0
.428
Up
Jake at Stake: The Padres work out a deal to send Jake Peavy to the White Sox for four players including Aaron Poreda, but Peavy invokes his no-trade clause while his agent reiterates his client's desire to stay in the NL. It's a smart move given the hit that the fly-baller would suffer in moving from the seventh-toughest park to homer in last year to the easiest. Lit up for a 5.75 ERA through his first five starts, Peavy's posted a 1.80 ERA and a 37/6 K/BB over the last four, taking over the league strikeout lead in the process.

26


Mariners
19-23
3-4
.421
Down
Rattling the Throne: Felix Hernandez yields a six-pack of runs for the third time in four starts and is called out by manager Don Wakamatsu for his lack of consistency and failure to control the running game. Hernandez is still sporting a 4.13 ERA on a staff that's fourth in the league in same, but his four starts frame a 3-12 slide in which the rotation is lit for a 6.15 ERA. Then again, with Carlos Silva, Jason Vargas, Garret Olson, and Chris Jakubauskas taking six of those starts, what the hell did anyone expect?

27


Athletics
15-23
2-5
.407
Down
As Chavvy Goes: As the A's continue their slide, Eric Chavez moves to the 60-day DL after discovering that he's got a herniated disk, which could threaten his career. Chavez has played just 131 games over the past two-plus seasons, hitting .233/.293/.415 while making $32.5 million, more than double what they've paid any other player. Not coincidentally, the A's have played just .463 ball in that span.

28


Nationals
12-28
1-7
.399
Down
Bellyitching Would Be a Welcome Improvement: The Nationals lose nine out of 10 during a stretch in which they hit .299/.383/.504 and score at least five runs in every game, and that's because their own staff yields 8.6 runs per game on a .317/.406/.500 line during that same time. Jordan Zimmermann has allowed at least five runs in four straight starts, but he'll remain in the rotation, while Scott Olson lugs his 7.24 ERA to the DL, and Daniel Cabrera is exiled to the bullpen with cause: an 0-5 record, a 5.95 ERA and a 16/32 K/BB rate. Not that the pen, which finds a creative way to lose despite the string of slugfests ending, needs his kind of help.

29


White Sox
17-23
2-5
.392
Down
Cuban Missile Crisis: Alexei Ramirez's woeful performance (.213/.261/.276 with just one homer) epitomizes the pitiful Sox offense, which is 29th in the majors in EqA while averaging just 3.1 runs per game this month en route to a 6-13 record. The infield trio of Ramirez, Chris Getz, and Josh Fields all sport EqAs below .215, which could prompt the Sox to reconsider their plan to keep last year's #1 pick, Gordon Beckham, in the minors all season.

30


Orioles
16-25
1-5
.389
Down
Rich Hill returns to the majors throwing strikes (5.2 7 2 2 2 6), and he chalks up his first win in 13 months. The Orioles could use the help, as they're last in the league in both SNLVAR and run prevention, and they haven't had a quality start since Koji Uehara did so on May 10. Uehara leads the team in SNLVAR, but they've scored just 17 runs over his last six starts, all losses.


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

16 comments have been left for this article.

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