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June 19, 2009

Prospectus Hit List

Rising and Falling

by Jay Jaffe

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RkTeam
Overall W-L
Week W-L
Comment

1


Dodgers
44-23
4-2
.626
Down
The Dodgers continue to sit pretty even as their offense has cooled off in Manny Ramirez's absence thanks to the strong performance of their bullpen. They're 37-8 when leading or tied after five innings, second in WXRL, and first in Fair Run Average, with Jonathan Broxton leading the league and Ramon Troncoso-who's saved four games while giving Broxton the night off-ranked fourth. The team is winning more than its share of the close ones: 16-6 in one-run games and 10-7 in two-run games.

2


Red Sox
40-26
4-2
.595
Up
Penny for Your Thoughts: Brad Penny tosses 11 innings against the Yankees and Marlins without allowing an earned run, but even so, he's only put up a 4.94 ERA and a .465 Support Neutral Winning Percentage. That's mainly due to his 40.5 percent ground-ball rate, about 10 percent lower than last year. With the June 15 deadline for trading last winter's free agents without their permission having passed and John Smoltz slated to debut next Thursday, Penny's the subject of trade rumors, but for the moment, the team will cycle through a six-man rotation.

3


Rays
35-33
4-2
.592
Up
Carlos Peña's four home runs frame a season-high six-game winning streak, while Gabe Kapler homers in four straight appearances as the Rays skate back across the .500 threshold. They're 10-5 this month, and mashing opponents into submission with the majors' top offense in EqA; they've outscored them 91-53, and out-homered them 28-15. Peña's quartet gives him an AL-best 21, while Ben Zobrist's six blasts have pushed his slugging percentage to a league-leading .665.

4


Blue Jays
37-31
3-3
.561
Down
Oh, Doctor: Like the Three Stooges wedged in a doorway, ace Roy Halladay, closer Scott Downs, and sick-noter Casey Janssen all crowd the disabled list in the same week. That runs the Jays' total of DL stints for pitchers to eight this year (including two off-season surgeries), though repeat-offender Janssen's is this trio's only arm injury. It's adding up, however; since they were a season-high 13 games above .500 on May 18, the Jays are carrying the league's second-worst record.

5


Yankees
37-29
3-3
.555
Up
The Yanks top the Mets in the Subway Series thanks to the gift of a game-ending error on an Alex Rodriguez popup and a shellacking of Johan Santana. Amid the series, Brian Bruney gets into a war of words with Francisco Rodriguez over the latter's "tired act" on the mound. The bigger news is Bruney's return to bolster a bullpen that's improved to sixth in the league in WXRL thanks to a 2.91 ERA and 2.9 K/BB this month.

6


Mets
33-31
2-4
.536
Down
The Mets literally drop the Subway Series thanks to a walk-off Luis Castillo error, but it's Johan Santana's beating (3 9 9 9 2 3) which generates more concern. Despite a 6.50 ERA over his last six starts, he's shaking off reports that his woes are attributable to knee or blister problems, claiming it's just location, location, location. Meanwhile, Jerry Manuel celebrates one year on the job, and the smart money says he's not guaranteed another.

7


Cardinals
36-31
3-3
.534
Down
Stroke of Genius, or Maybe Sunstroke: With their third basemen hitting a combined .226/.298/.335, the Cardinals hatch a plan to use Khalil Greene-carrying a robust .200/.287/.295 line of his own while on the DL for anxiety issues-at the hot corner despite his lack of major league experience there. For his part, Greene says he played the position in college, though "[the] sample size wasn't huge." Meanwhile, Colby Rasmus is seeing the ball: .392/.392/.686 in June.

8


Rangers
37-28
3-3
.533
Flat
Ruw the Day? Released by the Dodgers in the spring, Andruw Jones exacts a modicum of revenge by homering twice against them-one less than his 2008 total-though the Rangers drop both games and thus the series. Jones is hitting .245/.355/.504 but is just 4-for-30 in June; he's started in the field just 12 times, none in center, even with Josh Hamilton missing so much time.

9


Angels
35-29
6-0
.529
Up
Shields Down: Even as they run the table this week, you'd think things couldn't get much worse for the Angels' bullpen, which is working its way into the historic ineptitude discussion. You'd be wrong, as Scot Shields is done for the year due to patellar tendonitis, not that his 6.62 ERA and -0.6 WXRL weren't part of the problem. As if to prove that bad luck comes in threes, both Ervin Santana and Kelvim Escobar return from whence they came due to further arm injuries; the latter may be confined to the bullpen when (if?) he returns.

10


Phillies
36-28
1-5
.527
Down
Not a stellar week for the Phillies, who not only drop five out of six but lose Raul Ibañez to the disabled list with a groin strain. Thanks to a perfect storm-moving to the easier park in the easier league and getting some favorable weather-Ibañez is second in the league in homers, and while he's hitting .254/.299/.571 in a June he'd just as soon forget, he's only two games removed from a 13-game hitting streak.

11


Twins
34-34
4-2
.525
Up
You're Up, You're Down, I Can't Work You Out: Anthony Swarzak's seven shutout innings against the White Sox aren't enough to prevent him from being optioned to Triple-A due to injuries to Michael Cuddyer and Denard Span. Given just five starts, Swarzak is third on the team in SNLVAR and second in Support-Neutral Winning Percentage, well ahead of Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano. As for Span, chalk up the dizzy spells which have sidelined him since June 9 to an inner-ear infection and note that every game in which Delmon Young plays in his stead is costing the team 0.35 runs per game of offense according to MLVr.

12


Brewers
37-29
4-2
.520
Flat
Prince Fielder's eighth-inning grand slam-the first of his career-caps a six-run comeback, kicking off a three-game sweep of the Indians in which the Brew Crew pounds out 30 runs. Fielder's hitting .302/.430/.595, ranking in the top five in the latter two categories. Furthermore, he's sixth in EqA, and along with the league lead in RBI, he's driving in the second-highest percentage of runners on base.

13


Tigers
35-31
2-4
.511
Down
Addition by Subtraction? Dontrelle Willis pitches his way out of the rotation and onto the DL with an eight-walk performance; his ERA and walk rate both stand at 7.49. He's got company on the sidelines in Jeremy Bonderman, who's lost until at least September due to continued shoulder woes after just one not-so-pretty outing. Bonderman's prognosis might also apply to Carlos Guillen, a problem given that the team's left fielders and DHs are hitting just .263/.327/.408 in his absence.

14


Rockies
33-33
5-1
.510
Up
Rox Climbing: The Rockies run their winning streak to 11, helping them work their way back to .500 for the first time since April 15. They're 14-5 since Jim Tracy took over, and now in contention for the Wild Card. Ubaldo Jimenez grinds through a 127-pitch complete game to avoid the perils of the bullpen, then stifles the Rays in an interleague rubber match. He's now in the league's top 20 in SNLVAR, as is Jason Marquis; both are thriving thanks to ground-ball rates above 55 percent.

15


Cubs
31-31
2-3
.504
Down
And the Lame Shall Hit Clutchily: Back-to-back homers by Derrick Lee and Geovany Soto plus a walk-off single by Alfonso Soriano help the Cubs claw their way back to .500 by beating the White Sox. With three teams ahead of them in the NL Central standings, the Cubs particularly need Soto (.220/.328/.329) and Sori (.229/.293/.446, but just .146/.214/.252 over the past month) to revert to their usual selves so they can focus on their myriad other problems.

16


Giants
34-31
3-3
.480
Flat
The Big Three: The Giants sweep the Bay Bridge Series, holding the A's to a piddling four runs behind a Tim Lincecum shutout, a Matt Cain complete-game four-hitter, and seven strong from Randy Johnson for win number 301. Cain leads the league with nine wins, and his 2.39 ERA ranks third; he's also third in the league in SNLVAR. Lincecum's seventh in that category, while pacing the circuit with 112 strikeouts and running fourth with a 2.72 ERA.

17


Reds
33-32
2-4
.479
Down
Micah Owings drills a three-run homer and pitches six strong innings to beat the Braves. He's hitting .278/.297/.583 with two home runs, and his .250 EqA is better than five Reds regulars. Also homering in that game is Jay Bruce, who despite 16 homers is hitting just .214/.305/.463 thanks to a .206 BABIP, the lowest among the 92 batting-title qualifiers. While you'd expect that to be a simple case of bad luck, Bruce's 14.8 percent line-drive rate is well below the league average of 18.2, not to mention his 2008 rate of 22.3 percent.

18


Braves
31-34
2-4
.478
Down
Losing six of seven knocks the Braves below .500 again and pushes them a season-high 6½ games out of first place. Their offense is grinding to a halt, averaging just 3.7 runs per game this month on .236/.302/.363 hitting, with Kelly Johnson in an 8-for-54 tailspin and the Anderson/Diaz/McLouth/Francoeur suckfest combining to slug .345. Their only wins since June 10 come courtesy of Tommy Hanson, who scuffles his way past the Orioles, then blanks the Reds for six innings, his strongest major league outing to date.

19


Pirates
31-35
3-3
.478
Up
Multiball: Andrew McCutchen collects three straight multi-hit games, highlighting the latter with his first major league homer. With knocks in 12 of his first 14 games, he's hitting .333/.373/.476. Also in the groove is Delwyn Young, who reels off multi-hit games in six straight starts. He's 16-for-33 this month, and is now hitting .360/.418/.438.

20


Indians
29-39
2-4
.473
Flat
The Arsonist: The Tribe's four-week attempt at living up to their PECOTA projection (14-10) crashes to a halt with a three-game sweep by the Brewers. Rafael Perez surrenders a grand slam to Prince Fielder on his first pitch, thus immolating the last vestige of a five-run lead; he then allows two more hitters to reach, with another run scoring. Despite Perez's 11.09 ERA, 2.41 WHIP and the AL's lowest WXRL, manager Eric Wedge calls his number so often you'd think the two used to date. Also pouring gas: Jensen Lewis, with 11 runs allowed in his past 11 innings.

21


Mariners
32-34
2-4
.471
Down
Today's Plan or To Morrow's Plan? As the injury bug bites Erik Bedard (shoulder inflammation, DL) and Jarrod Washburn (bad back, turn delayed), the Mariners return Brandon Morrow to the rotation less than three months after deciding he was their closer, the latest example of the team's poor handling of their 2006 first-round pick. Kept on a short leash, Morrow tosses seven innings over two starts, yielding three runs but whiffing 10.

22


Diamondbacks
29-38
3-3
.467
Up
Maxin': Though the Diamondbacks continue to go nowhere, Max Scherzer is carving a place for himself among the game's best young pitchers. He's yielded just two runs in 18 2/3 innings over his last three starts, and now ranks seventh in the league in strikeout rate (9.1 per nine) and 20th in SNLVAR, keeping company with Dan Haren (first) and Doug Davis (23rd). The Snakes are sixth in the league in that category, but they shouldn't hold their breath for Brandon Webb, whose first mound session since April is cancelled.

23


Marlins
33-35
4-2
.467
Up
I Demand Satisfaction: Despite sweeping the Blue Jays, Hanley Ramirez rips his teammates for not retaliating after he was hit by a pitch. Perhaps Ramirez is feeling a little powerless these days; he's hitting "only" .325/.393/.506, having lost about 60 points of isolated power off last year's stellar line. He hasn't homered since May 22, a span of 92 plate appearances, and has just eight on the year.

24


Royals
29-36
4-2
.465
Up
Cut Zack Slack: The Royals reel off four straight wins after going more than three weeks without back-to-back victories but fall when Zack Greinke is roughed up by the Diamondbacks. After going 8-1 with an 0.84 ERA through his first 10 starts, Greinke has hit a slump, yielding a 5.19 ERA (plus five unearned runs) over his last four turns, all Royals losses. Don't blame his five complete games, however, as Greinke's just 22nd in Pitcher Abuse Points, well behind teammates Gil Meche (second) and Kyle Davies (13th). He still leads the league in SNLVAR and ERA while running second in strikeouts.

25


White Sox
31-35
3-2
.464
Up
Au Contraire: Jose Contreras stifles the Brewers, his second stellar outing since returning from the minors; he's shaved nearly three runs off of his ERA via 16 shutout innings, across which he's yielded just three hits and three walks while whiffing 11. His presence helps cover for the loss of Bartolo Colon, whose superficially solid 4.23 ERA camouflages a 2.0 HR/9, not to mention the fact that 33 percent of his runs allowed are unearned. Colon's roster replacement is top pitching prospect Aaron Poreda, who Ks three of six hitters in his debut out of the bullpen.

26


Astros
30-34
3-3
.446
Down
Pudge Match: Playing in front of an Arlington crowd that enjoyed his best years, Ivan Rodriguez ties and then surpasses nicknamesake Carlton Fisk for the most career games caught at 2,227. Alas, the 'Stros lose both games, with Rodriguez making two errors which lead to runs. While his Hall of Fame credentials are rock solid-he's second among catchers in JAWS-he's mired in a .187/.184/.240 slump over the past month, with 77 PA since his last walk.

27


Athletics
28-37
1-5
.438
Down
The A's squander whatever momentum they'd built up from their recent six-game winning streak thanks to their continued offensive decrepitude. They're hitting .217/.293/.372 this month, and they remain last in the majors in EqA (.236) as well as batting average (.235) and slugging percentage (.359). Of their 11 players with at least 90 PA, only four have EqAs above .240. Amid this grim calculus they receive the bad news that Eric Chavez will undergo yet another back surgery and may be capital-D Done.

28


Orioles
29-37
4-2
.436
Up
Fourteen games and 47 at-bats into his major league career, Matt Wieters clubs his first home run and notches his first two RBI. Two days later he keys a two-run, game-winning rally against the Mets with a leadoff double off of K-Rod. Though he's hitting just .259/.298/.407 thus far, Wieters is 10 for his last 26. Meanwhile, fellow rookie Brad Bergerson goes the distance to beat the Braves. His 3.79 ERA and 1.5 SNLVAR lead the rotation, but his 4.2 K/9 suggests his margin for error is slim.

29


Padres
29-36
1-5
.410
Down
No Dumping Allowed: Jake Peavy may be done for the year due to a strained tendon in his ankle, an injury which ends any chance of him being traded this season. Luckily, Peavy's salary is partially insured, and while the team is over their payroll budget, GM Kevin Towers maintains that they won't trade the affordable Adrian Gonzalez or Chris Young to make up for their failure to move their ace. No word on how much Towers regrets picking up Brian Giles' $9 million club option given his league-worst VORP and .191/.277/.271 showing.

30


Nationals
18-46
2-4
.379
Down
Acta Out? With the Nationals still playing footsie with the 1962 Mets' futile pace, rumors of Manny Acta's impending firing surface. Acta remains on the job, possibly because the team is hoping for a splashier hire than interim candidate Jim Riggleman. Meanwhile, Ron Villone's 17-inning scoreless streak comes to an end as he not only surrenders runs in four straight outings but takes the loss each time, a reminder that the sucker who takes over from Acta will have one of history's worst bullpens on his hands.


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

23 comments have been left for this article.

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