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June 12, 2009

Prospectus Hit List

Shuffling the Deck

by Jay Jaffe

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RkTeam
Overall W-L
Week W-L
Comment

1


Dodgers
40-21
3-2
.630
Down
Riding high in April (.306/.423/.553) but shot down in May (.211/.306/.295), Andre Ethier has picked himself up and gotten back in the race. Collecting walk-off hits on back-to-back nights against the Phillies, then bashing a pair of homers-his second two-fer in three days-against the Padres, he's hitting .400/.417/.914 with five jacks in June. That's a welcome power surge for an offense that's averaging 4.6 runs per game and hitting just .271/.341/.380 since Manny Ramirez's suspension, though they still lead the league in batting average and rank second in OBP.

2


Red Sox
36-24
4-2
.585
Up
Papi Pop? David Ortiz quadruples his season home-run total by connecting three times in five days, with the middle shot kicking off the scoring in Boston's three-game sweep of the Yankees, against whom they're now 8-0. That Ortiz is hitting .310/.394/.655 in June may be cause for optimism, but until Thursday night he was still below the Mendoza Line overall, and his numbers since his celebrated mid-May benching (.195/.262/.403) aren't much better than what proceeded them. Also interesting: Ortiz is hitting better against lefties (.233/.284/.425) than righties (.187/.306/.291) despite a career platoon split that's 139 points of OPS higher against the latter.

3


Rays
31-31
3-3
.575
Up
Go Zo: With Akinori Iwamura out for the year, Ben Zobrist is making the most of his opportunity, bashing four homers while hitting .367/.500/.867 this month. Zobrist has started at six positions for the Rays this year; he's hitting .316/.430/.677 overall while ranking third behind only Joe Mauer and Kevin Youkilis in EqA, and his 12 homers are third on the team behind the tallies of Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria. Less impressive is Reid Brignac, hitting .245/.260/.367 in the absence of Jason Bartlett, who will return from his ankle sprain next week.

4


Blue Jays
34-28
4-2
.565
Up
Halladays and DL Days: The Jays halt a 5-13 skid by winning three in a row, cued by Roy Halladay's complete-game shutout. Alas, they lose Jesse Litsch for the season to Tommy John surgery, the fourth Jays starter in the last two years to undergo major arm surgery. The rotation is fourth in SNLVAR, but Brian Tallet, Scott Richmond, Brett Cecil, and Ricky Romero ought to insure their elbows and shoulders pronto.

5


Phillies
35-23
3-3
.561
Down
Imperfect: Brad Lidge blows saves on back-to-back nights against the Dodgers, then hits the DL due to a knee sprain. After converting all 41 save opportunities last year while leading the league in WXRL, he's around 1.7 wins below replacement level, having blown six out of 19 opportunities and carrying a 7.27 ERA. Meanwhile, Raul Ibañez becomes the phastest Phil to 20 homers, an achievement that results in a kerfuffle surrounding accusations of PED use.

6


Mets
31-27
3-3
.558
Flat
All Wright Now: A pair of extra-inning losses to the Phils-the latter in which Jerry Manuel avoids using Francisco Rodriguez outside of a save situation-drops the Mets to just 3-6 this month. Don't blame David Wright, whose .515/.600/.758 this month pushes him into the league leads in batting average (.362) and OBP (.458). Oddly enough, he's also second in steals (17) on a leaderboard that includes Michael Bourn, Nyjer Morgan, and Juan Pierre, and he's only out-homering that slappy trio by three. Alas, resident speedster and three-time stolen-base champ Jose Reyes may not be back until after the All-Star break, and with multiple holes to fill in the infield, outfield, and bullpen, the rotation's woes come to the fore when John Maine goes on the DL.

7


Yankees
34-26
2-4
.551
Down
We Searched All of Recorded History But Couldn't Find Anyone Who Sucked Worse: Chien-Ming Wang fails to escape the third inning against the Red Sox amid a three-game sweep in Fenway. The Yankees are now 0-8 this year against the Sox, their longest season-opening losing streak against their rivals since 1912; they've been outscored 55-31 in those games. On the subject of pre-World War I factoids, Wang's 21.61 ERA through five starts is the highest since 1913, when baseball began tracking the stat. He's on a short leash as far as remaining in the rotation, with Phil Hughes awaiting another turn.

8


Cardinals
33-28
2-5
.537
Down
Lacking Lohse and Losing: The Redbirds get some bad news when they learn that Kyle Lohse-third on the team with a .523 Support-Neutral Winning Percentage-will be out at least four weeks and perhaps until after the All-Star break due to a strained flexor tendon. It's been all downhill for both Lohse and the Cardinals since May 23, when he was hit on the elbow by a pitch while combining to shut out the Royals; since then he's pitched just two innings, and the team, which was a season-high nine games over .500 at the time, has gone 7-11 since. Don't even start with the implications for the BP Kings Scoresheet League's El Maximo Jaffe entry, which (sadly) calls Lohse their ace.

9


Rangers
34-25
3-3
.534
Down
Despite a 3-6 skid, the Rangers continue to pace the AL West, but they get a double dose of bad medical news this week. Josh Hamilton, already on the DL with what was believed to be a sports hernia, undergoes surgery to repair an abdominal wall tear, which could sideline him for a month; he's hitting just .240/.290/.456 when not shelved by his injuries. Worse, Brandon McCarthy is lost for the year due to a recurrent stress fracture in his shoulder blade. His ERA's only 4.92, but his strikeout rate is tops in the rotation, which now lacks a single pitcher whiffing more than Kevin Millwood's 5.1 K/9.

10


Tigers
33-27
5-3
.529
Down
Bombedagain: Jeremy Bonderman is hit hard and chased early in his first major league outing in over a year (4 8 6 6 3 1), after which the team announces he'll find himself in the bullpen while Dontrelle Willis (8.53 ERA with 16 walks in his last 19 innings) will remain in the rotation. Nonetheless, with Justin Verlander (nine straight quality starts and the league strikeout lead) and Edwin Jackson (a 2.24 ERA, second-best in the league) continuing to roll, the team leads the league in SNLVAR, though their bullpen is just 10th in WXRL.

11


Cubs
29-28
3-3
.524
Up
Mucho Toro: After a six-game suspension for an altercation with an umpire, a missed charter flight, and a threat to retire once his $91.5 million contract is up (so much for 300 wins), Carlos Zambrano returns to toss six scoreless innings and belt a solo home run to boot. Then he winds up on the short end of a 2-1 pitcher's duel his next time out. Despite his misadventures-which also include a recent trip to the DL for a hamstring injury-the Big Z's strikeout rate is higher than it's been since 2006, his home-run rate is ninth-best in the league, and he's 18th in Support-Neutral Winning Percentage.

12


Brewers
33-27
2-4
.518
Down
Hall Pass: Thanks to a lingering inability to hit right-handed pitching any better than Bernie Brewer (.172/.246/.304 over the past two seasons), Bill Hall loses his starting third-base job to good-hit/no-field prospect Mat Gamel, who goes 5-for-20 with four extra-base hits for the week. They'll need even more from the youngster, as the offense outside of Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun is running on fumes (.190/.277/.267), leading to four straight losses and seven in 10 games since the calender flipped.

13


Twins
30-32
3-4
.508
Flat
Double Jeopardy: Nick Blackburn yields just four runs in 15 innings over two starts, but departs both games with tie scores, and can only watch as Sean Henn surrenders the go-ahead runs each time. Despite a piddling strikeout rate (4.0 K/9), Blackburn not only leads the team with a .594 Support-Neutral Winning Percentage, but he's one of just two Twins starters above .500 (Kevin Slowey being the other). With four quality starts this month, Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano lower their ERAs from the mid-sixes to the high-fives, and the lights may be with them for a while given one of the majors' easiest schedules the rest of the way.

14


Rockies
28-32
7-0
.503
Up
Rocky Road Trip: After starting an 11-game jaunt with three straight losses, the Rox win eight in a row, steamrolling opponents by a combined score of 55-20 and holding them to four runs or less in each of those victories, no mean feat for a staff that's 14th in the league in ERA and 15th in combined win expectancy (SNLVAR + WXRL). Leading the way are Ian Stewart  and Clint Barmes; the former snaps out of a six-week, 10-for-84 slump by hitting .349/.378/.767 with five homers, while the latter hits .419/.447/.628, including six straight multi-hit games.

15


Reds
31-28
3-3
.501
Down
Pitching In: Despite failing to win any of their last three series against NL Central rivals, the Reds continue to hang tough in the division race thanks to a staff that racks up seven straight quality starts en route to a 2.61 ERA this month. They're fourth in the league in ERA while ranking first in combined win expectancy (SNLVAR + WXRL). With Edinson Volquez tossing just one inning since May 16, Johnny Cueto is emerging as the staff ace; he's second in the league in ERA and third in SNLVAR, while reeling off nine quality starts out of 10.

16


Braves
29-30
3-4
.497
Down
Top prospect Tommy Hanson endures an uneven major league debut (6 6 7 6 1 5), with three ugly innings following three strong ones. He's backed by Chipper Jones, who kicks off a three-game, eight-hit binge by going 4 2 4 5 with a triple and a pair of homers just one day after leaving a game due to dizziness. Jones is hitting .320/.434/.538 and leading the team in VORP and EqA, but he's one of just three regulars with more than 150 plate appearances and an EqA above .260, which is why the team ranks 13th in scoring.

17


Angels
29-29
2-4
.486
Down
Fallen Angels: Though they can't make any headway in the AL West race, the Halos receive promising showings from a couple of recovering pitchers in a pair of 2-1 games split with Detroit. Ervin Santana comes within one out of a complete-game shutout (8.2 6 1 1 2 7) after allowing 15 runs in his previous two starts, then Kelvim Escobar makes a solid showing (5 4 2 2 4 5) in his first official appearance since October 5, 2007. Still, Santana, Escobar, and fellow rehabber John Lackey have combined for an ugly 6.43 ERA with four quality starts in their last 12.

18


Giants
31-28
4-3
.479
Up
Pablo Power: The Giants climb (briefly) to a season-high four games over .500 thanks to Pablo Sandoval, who hits a pair of decisive homers-half the team's long ball output for the month, and yeah, you'd better believe they're last in the league in home runs and slugging percentage. Don't blame Sandoval, who's hitting .322/.364/.500; instead, blame a lineup that features three regulars slugging .342 or less, and that has a grand total of eight homers from their first basemen and corner outfielders.

19


Pirates
28-32
3-4
.475
Down
The World's Stupidest Soap Opera: Backlash over the Nate McLouth trade leads players to vent and GM Neal Huntington to pen an open letter to the team's remaining fans as the local media stirs the pot. Amid the drama, and yes, the defeats, replacement Andrew McCutchen quietly jumps out to a .316/.333/.447 start, including a four-hit, two-triple game in a losing cause-against McLouth's Braves, of course.

20


Mariners
30-30
4-2
.474
Up
Unclutch: Over the past three weeks, Mariner starters have put up a 2.18 ERA while surrendering more than two earned runs just three times in 19 games, a performance that's helped propel Felix Hernandez, Erik Bedard, and Jarrod Washburn into the top 10 in SNLVAR. Yet the team is just 11-8 because the offense is scoring a mere 3.1 runs per game while hitting just .164/.274/.267 with runners in scoring position during that span. Not surprisingly, they've got the majors' third-lowest batting average (.232) and lowest OPS (679) with RISP.

21


Indians
27-35
4-2
.471
Up
Long Live the Jake: Dick Jacobs, the man who bought the Indians in 1987 and provided a template for how a new ballpark could revitalize a team, passes away; pity the scourge of corporate naming that's removed his moniker from said park. On the field, Carl Pavano tosses a three-hit shutout, his fourth quality start in a row, but is rocked for nine runs in his next outing. Despite his 5.40 ERA, Pavano leads the staff in wins and is second in SNLVAR. Meanwhile, the team finally shoots the horse, demoting Fausto Carmona (7.42 ERA and a league-leading walk total) to the Arizona Summer League. Outside of his stellar 2007 campaign, Carmona has a 5.91 ERA and 152/142 K/BB ratio in 256 IP.

22


Astros
27-31
4-2
.454
Up
The Punchy Perjurer and the Payroll Pigs: Miguel Tejada's 17-game hitting streak comes to an end, but the Astros' shortstop is hitting .376/.391/.604 since his razzing in this space back on April 29, and his .354 overall mark leads the NL batting race. He's drawing interest from the Cardinals, and given his $13 million salary, the team would be wise to cut a deal, particularly since he's the only one of the quartet earning 58 percent of the team's payroll who lacks a no-trade clause. Who's going nowhere? Carlos Lee.

23


Diamondbacks
26-35
3-4
.452
Up
Hitless Wonders: the Diamondbacks' bullpen combines for nine no-hit innings in an 18-inning saga which sees them break their own 11-inning scoreless streak only when Mark Reynolds bashes a three-run homer-his team-high 15th of the year-off of infielder Josh Wilson. Meanwhile, the team suffers a scare when EqA leader Justin Upton injures his shoulder on a swing, recalling both big brother B.J. and former D'back Richie Sexson, but apparently it's not as serious. Aside from Upton and Reynolds, the team is hitting a sorry .231/.299/.357 overall.

24


Marlins
29-33
3-4
.452
Flat
Sean West takes a no-hitter into the seventh in just his fourth major league start (8 2 0 0 1 6). Called up to replace injured Anibal Sanchez (who's back on the DL after suffering a setback), West's  2.22 ERA has been part of a revamped rotation that has put up a 3.35 ERA with 12 out of 19 quality starts since his arrival. Andrew Miller's aided that strong performance as well, with a 3.41 ERA and a 34/15 K/BB ratio in 34 1/3 innings since returning from his own DL stint.

25


Athletics
27-32
5-2
.449
Up
With seven straight wins, the A's start to show signs of life. They're 11-7 since May 23, a span which has seen Matt Holliday (.302/.436/.492), Jason Giambi (.220/.352/.508), and Adam Kennedy (.297/.366/.500) show up, even if the rest of the offense remains in bed. Also showing up during that time is their four-rookie rotation, which has combined for a 3.19 ERA and 14 quality starts out of 18.

26


White Sox
28-33
3-5
.448
Flat
We'll Meet Again: Ozzie Guillen erupts at his team's lack of execution and threatens plenty of face time: "Good teams win games. Horse**** teams have meetings." Alas, things only get worse for the Sox amid a 2-8 skid as Carlos Quentin is diagnosed with a tear which will sideline him through the All-Star break. He was hitting just .229/.325/.458, and hasn't homered since April 29.

27


Royals
25-34
2-4
.446
Up
Human, After All: Zack Greinke is hit hard for the first time all season (5 9 7 5 1 3), an outing which inflates his ERA to 1.55. It's a game of firsts which show just how far Greinke has come; the two homers he surrenders are the first he's allowed since last September 2, and the first multi-homer start since last June 8. It's also the most runs he's surrendered since last July 18. Greinke still leads the AL in SNLVAR, but he and his teammates have lost 23 out of 30.

28


Padres
28-31
3-3
.439
Down
Down 6-0 after six and a half innings, the Padres rally back and force the Diamondbacks into an 18-inning contest, only to lose after going hitless through nine extra frames against four relievers. They fall with reserve infielder Josh Wilson surrendering a three-run homer in the final frame, the third time in three partial seasons in which Wilson has taken the hill (including once for the Snakes earlier this year). With Chad Gaudin thrown off schedule by his relief work in that epic, Kevin Correia helps salvage the week by beating Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers on three days' rest.

29


Orioles
25-35
1-5
.407
Down
Nolan and the .000s: Rookie Nolan Reimold's homer and two RBI key the Orioles' first victory in a week. Recalled in mid-May, Reimold is hitting .271/.326/.541, but the Oriole offense has scored just 17 runs in their past 10 games and are hitting a collective .222/.252/.310 in June. Not helping much: Matt Wieters (.229/.250/.343 with just one walk in 36 PA).

30


Nationals
16-42
2-4
.384
Up
As expected, the Nationals select Stephen Strasburg with the draft's first pick, then begin the delicate dance with Scott Boras toward a deal that will certainly shatter Mark Prior's 2001 record of $10.5 million (while also serving as a reminder that even the most heralded young pitchers carry no guarantees). Meanwhile, the Nats slow themselves to the pace of infamy set by the 1962 Mets as their offense takes a week off, scoring just 14 runs in a seven-game span, half of them in their lone win.


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

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