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June 26, 2009

Prospectus Hit List

Closing In

by Jay Jaffe

RkTeam
Overall W-L
Week W-L
Comment

1


Dodgers
47-26
3-3
.615
Down
Powering Up: The Dodgers take a Freeway Series from the Angels, one which includes both a Weaver vs. Weaver matchup (the eighth pair of brothers to square off), and the rediscovery of the long ball by a few players whose power strokes had gone missing. James Loney belts three bombs in four games, including two against the Angels, upping his season total to five, while Rafael Furcal hits his third of the year, and Russell Martin his first. The Dodgers are slugging less than .400 in Manny Ramirez's absence, but the countdown to his return has begun; his league-mandated minor league "rehab" stint generates predictable outrage from the Plaschkes and Ringolsbys, but a warm reception from fans flocking to see him.

2


Rays
39-35
4-2
.601
Up
The Rays take series from the Mets and the Phillies, and despite attendance trouble on the home front, their overall trend is up. They've outscored opponents by an average of 2.1 runs per game this month and are just five runs shy of the majors' largest run differential. Their pitching staff has put up a 3.38 ERA in the absence of the struggling Scott Kazmir and Troy Percival, largely a testament to a bullpen that's yielded a 1.88 ERA while striking out 8.9 per nine, helping the team work around a rotation that's provided just six quality starts in their last 21.

3


Red Sox
44-28
4-2
.591
Down
Six of One, Half Dozen of the Other: The Red Sox solve their rotation logjam by sending Daisuke Matsuzaka to the DL due to shoulder weakness, thus making room for John Smoltz's Boston debut. The 42-year-old is cuffed for four runs in a 34-pitch first inning before settling down (5 7 5 5 1 5). Elsewhere, David Ortiz's comeback continues with another pair of home runs. He's hitting .310/.388/.672 with six homers this month while working his way back to the cleanup spot.

4


Yankees
40-32
3-3
.561
Up
Mo' Money, Mo' Problems: A 4-9 skid pushes the Yankees back to five games out of first place as their highest-paid players provide them their share of scares. Alex Rodriguez is benched due to fatigue and a sub-.200 BABIP amid an 8-for-55 June slump; the team has failed to rest him in accordance with doctors' post-surgical orders, but they're finding religion now. Meanwhile, CC Sabathia departs a start in the second inning due to tightness in his biceps, though he won't miss a turn. Even with the early departure, the big man has put up a 3.00 ERA while averaging seven innings per start over his last nine outings.

5


Blue Jays
40-34
3-3
.557
Down
I Don't Need No Doctor: Even without Roy Halladay, the Jays continue to hang tough, winning six of eight to taste a share of second place for the first time in a month. Scott Rolen's riding a 21-for-48 hot streak over his last 11 games, hitting .329/.394/.477 overall to rank fourth in the batting-title race. Adam Lind has been tearing it up in June (.354/.436/.695 with seven homers); he's now in the league's top 20 in EqA, as is Lyle Overbay.

6


Mets
37-34
4-3
.542
Up
Knee Deep: A 4-9 skid goes from bad to worse when the Mets lose Carlos Beltran to the disabled list due to a bone bruise in his knee. He's hitting .336/.425/.527 and ranking in the top five of those first two categories as well as EqA; his .340 edges teammate David Wright's .338. Also suffering from knee troubles is Gary Sheffield, who gets a cortisone shot to alleviate some chronic pain. The 40-year-old has shown he's still got life in his bat, hitting .276/.389/.487; his eight homers are tied with Beltran for the team lead, with his four at Citi Field the most of any player thus far.

7


Cardinals
40-34
4-3
.540
Up
Greene Light: Khalil Greene returns to the lineup and homers in three straight games as the Cardinals sweep the Royals. Albert Pujols ups his season total to 26 by adding three as well, including a pair that helps Tony La Russa to win number 2,500 as manager, making him just the third skipper to reach that plateau after Connie Mack and John McGraw. All this winning-six out of eight, their best stretch since early April-pushes the Cardinals back into first place in the NL Central.

8


Tigers
41-31
6-0
.535
Up
Cancel Maggs' Subscription? The Tigers bench Magglio Ordonez for four games, a move which has agent Scott Boras up in arms. The 35-year-old Ordonez is only 204 plate appearances away from vesting an $18 million option for 2010, but he's hitting just .274/.348/.354 after connecting for his first home run since April 27; his GB/FB ratio has nearly doubled, while his line-drive rate has dropped 40 percent.

9


Twins
37-37
3-3
.529
Up
A Spanner in the Works: Following a 15-day DL stint due to an inner ear infection, Denard Span triples, walks three times, and scores three runs in his return to the lineup, sparking the Twins to win the rubber match of their series with the Brewers. Though they went 8-6 in his absence, the lineup without Span scored just 4.2 runs per game due to an overdose of Delmon Young (.251/.278/.316) and Carlos Gomez (.230/.286/.335). Meanwhile, Joe Mauer proves he's human by going hitless in back-to-back games for the first time since his return, knocking his batting average below .400. Still, .395/.465/.697 will play.

10


Rockies
37-35
4-2
.523
Up
He's Baaaaack: Todd Helton's walk-off homer caps a sweep of the Pirates, and the Rockies extend their tear to 17 wins in 18 games before finally losing back-to-back contests against the Angels. Helton's two homers for the week push him past last year's meager total of seven. He's hitting .325/.438/.558 this month, and his overall .512 slugging percentage is his highest since 2005.

11


Angels
38-32
3-3
.520
Down
Halo Effect: With a 13-8 record this month, the Angels briefly capture a share of first place in the AL West for the first time since Opening Day. Leading the way is Chone Figgins, who's hitting .407/.467/.580 with 21 runs scored in 21 games; he's third in the AL in batting average (.305), fourth in OBP (.405), runs (53), and steals (23), while the regular outfield of Juan Rivera, Torii Hunter, and Bobby Abreu is hitting a combined .301/.366/.568 with 13 home runs in that span.

12


Rangers
39-32
2-4
.517
Down
Swish Davis and Company: A 2-7 tumble, part of a 9-12 June swoon, knocks the Rangers out of the sole possession of first place that they'd enjoyed since May 5. They're hitting just .221/.282/.368 this month, with Hank Blalock (.182/.280/.318), Nelson Cruz (.183/.256/.394), and Chris Davis among the bigger bats stinking up the joint, though a four-hit performance snaps Davis out of a .200/.250/.333 showing. Davis has whiffed 22 times in his last 49 at-bats, and 103 times in 230 at-bats overall (against just 15 walks). He's crossed the halfway point to breaking the single-season strikeout rate-by mid-September.

13


Phillies
37-33
1-5
.503
Down
Not-So-Sweet Home: The Phillies hang on to first place despite a 1-8 homestand, part of an odd and potentially history-making split in which they've gone 13-22 at home but 24-11 on the road. Their fly ball-oriented pitching staff-last in the league in ground-ball rate, last in the majors in HR/9-is a poor fit for Citizens Bank Park, but it's been on the upswing even amid the losing streak. The rotation, though still just second-to-last in the league in SNLVAR, has put up a 4.26 ERA with a 3.1 K/BB ratio and 20 quality starts out of 34 since May 19, compared to a 6.35 ERA, 1.9 K/BB, and 13 quality starts out of 36 prior.

14


Cubs
34-35
3-4
.501
Down
The Cubs continue to putter around .500, falling upwards into third place in the NL Central only because of the Reds' offensive incompetence. The sad fact, however, is that the Cubs' .250 EqA is only two points better than that of the Reds, and they're averaging just 3.4 runs per game over their last 34 games. That's a much larger problem than the Kevin Gregg blown save which reignites a closer controversy, pitting his gopher problems (1.7 HR/9) against Carlos Marmol's control woes (9.3 BB/9).

15


Mariners
37-35
5-1
.499
Up
Spurred: With a 6-2 run, the Mariners climb above .500 for the first time since May 7 while closing to within striking distance of the AL West lead. Russell Branyan and Ken Griffey Jr. belt eighth-inning homers to help the Mariners erase a 3-0 deficit and kick off a three-game sweep of the Diamondbacks. That's the first of the week's three blasts for Branyan, who now has 18 along with a .302/.401/.608 line. Meanwhile, Adrian Beltre is hitting .329/.363/.500 in June despite needing surgery to remove bone spurs in his shoulder.

16


Brewers
38-34
1-5
.498
Down
The Brewers lose four in a row and fall out of first place, and with Manny Parra already farmed out, their rotation suffers an even bigger blow as they lose David Bush due to a micro-tear in his triceps sustained when he was hit by a line drive on June 4-a timeline that only partially explains why he's put up a 9.32 ERA in his last six starts. The team recalls 30-year-old journeyman Mike Burns from Triple-A to take his start, and they'll use Seth McClung to take Parra's turn, as GM Doug Melvin says he has no intention of dealing top prospects Mat Gamel or Alcides Escobar in another Sabathia-sized deal.

17


Giants
39-32
5-1
.492
Up
Giant Steps: Barry Zito takes a no-hitter into the seventh to cap a three-game sweep of the Rangers, and don't look now, but with 20 wins in their last 30 games, the Giants are the NL Wild Card leaders. While they've only scored 4.2 runs per game in that span, they're allowing just 3.2. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain have combined for five complete games and a 1.68 ERA in 12 starts during that span, while Brian Wilson hasn't allowed a run in 13 appearances.

18


Marlins
38-36
5-1
.482
Up
Winners of 14 out of 22 this month, including two out of three against the Yankees, the Marlins resurface above .500 for the first time since May 12, and they close in on the NL East lead thanks to the struggles of both the Phillies and Mets. The Fish have been getting outstanding work from Ricky Nolasco since he returned from the minors, with a 1.80 ERA and 5.0 K/BB ratio through four starts. Josh Johnson continues to roll as well, with 11 quality starts out of 12; he remains second in the league in SNLVAR.

19


Braves
34-38
3-4
.478
Flat
Getting it in the Neck: Kenshin Kawakami is forced from a start after three perfect innings when a line drive strikes him in the neck. Reliever Kris Medlen takes the perfecto into the sixth before all hell breaks loose via a three-run rally as the Braves fall to the Yankees. Kawakami will make his next start, and has been pitching well lately, with a 3.18 ERA and 0.5 HR/9 over his last 10 starts, compared to a 7.08 ERA and 2.1 HR/9 over his first four.

20


White Sox
35-37
4-2
.475
Up
Josh Fields' two home runs, including the go-ahead blast, are part of a six-homer onslaught that helps the White Sox beat the Dodgers for the first time since Bob Shaw bested Sandy Koufax in Game Five of the 1959 World Series. It's a rare burst of offense for the Sox, who are 12th in the league in EqA and averaging just 4.2 runs per game in June. One player who's not struggling is Alexei Ramirez; he's hitting .304/.360/.486 with seven home runs since May 17, compared to .214/.254/.265 with two homers before.

21


Pirates
33-39
2-4
.475
Flat
You Don't Have to Go Home But You Gotta Get the Snell Out of Here: The Pirates finally do lose their patience with Ian Snell, optioning him to Triple-A following an abbreviated outing (2.2 4 4 4 3 1) which was actually preceded by three straight quality starts. Snell's carrying a 5.36 ERA and a 52/44 K/BB ratio, and he's struggling to get strike one, doing so against just 53 percent of hitters, compared to 61 percent during his 2007 breakout campaign.

22


Reds
35-36
2-4
.469
Down
Can't Stop the Bleeding: The Reds slide below .500 and into fourth place in the NL Central thanks to Dusty Baker's stubborn insistence upon keeping Willy Taveras not only in the lineup but also in the leadoff spot. Taveras is just 4-for-54 in June without a walk or an extra-base hit, and as Geoff Young points out, his slump actually goes back to May 15; he's now at .104/.128/.113 in 111 PA since then. In an unrelated story, the Reds are averaging just 3.8 runs per game since May 15, the league's third-lowest rate. Late note: In the exception that proves the rule, Taveras goes 3-for-5 with a double.

23


Indians
30-44
1-5
.457
Down
Wedge Issue: The vultures are circling in Cleveland, as team president Paul Dolan prepares to meet with GM Mark Shapiro, with speculation that manager Eric Wedge's job is on the line. In happier news, Grady Sizemore returns to the lineup after a three-week absence due to bursitis in his elbow, and the team marks the occasion by breaking a six-game losing streak as he goes 2-for-5 with a triple. He's hitting just .227/.309/.435.

24


Diamondbacks
30-43
1-5
.453
Down
The Young and the Useless: A four-hit game lifts Chris Young above the Mendoza Line for the first time since April 29. Alas, he strains his groin while running out his final hit, and is out of the lineup for four days. That's still a better proposition than the one for Brandon Webb, whose season may be over due to a shoulder surgery that could knock him out of action for the first half of 2010 and affect whether the D'backs pick up his $8.5 million option this winter.

25


Royals
31-40
2-4
.450
Down
Coco No' Mo': Sidelined for the past week and a half, Coco Crisp undergoes season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum. He was hitting just .228/.336/.378, but even that's better than the .246/.302/.406 line former center fielder David DeJesus is putting up in left field; Crisp's EqA is 19 points higher (.264 to .245), and it's also higher than that of first baseman Mike Jacobs (.252). Small wonder the Royals are scoring just 4.1 runs per game while ranking 13th in the AL with a .243 EqA.

26


Astros
33-37
3-3
.446
Flat
Hunter Pence's decisive eighth-inning homer-his third bomb in four games-prevents the Astros from being swept by the Rangers in the six-game Lone Star Series. Pence is hitting .319/.395/.518 and ranking in the league's top 20 in EqA. Alas, the Astros not only continue to lose, they find new ways to do so, including having a game-ending double play reversed by the umpires.

27


Athletics
31-40
3-3
.443
Up
Out(ofaction)man: Josh Outman departs his start against the Padres in the second inning, and heads to the DL with a moderate elbow sprain, a shame given the good work he'd done since joining the rotation (3.58 ERA, .525 Support-Neutral Winning Percentage). Elsewhere in the rotation, the A's have won Trevor Cahill's last four starts, and he's strung together nine quality starts out of 11 with a 3.15 ERA and 1.9 K/BB ratio, reversing his early control problems.

28


Orioles
32-40
3-3
.438
Flat
The Five Hole: Jeremy Guthrie outduels Cole Hamels as the Orioles sweep the Phillies, their third straight series victory over an NL East team as they win seven of eight. Guthrie, the ace of the Orioles' ramshackle staff over the past two years, is off to a slow start, with a 5.09 ERA, 1.8 HR/9, and a .464 Support-Neutral Winning Percentage, fifth on the staff.

29


Padres
31-40
2-4
.409
Flat
Stacktastic: With Jake Peavy already out of action-perhaps for the year-the Padres lose Chris Young to the disabled list as well due to shoulder inflammation; he'd been hit hard in his past two outings, yielding 10 runs and five homers in 7 1/3 innings to raise his ERA to 5.21. With those two on the DL, the Pads' current rotation consists of Kevin Correia, Chad Gaudin, Josh Geer, Wade LeBlanc, and Walter Silva, a quintet that entered the season with just 105 big-league starts under their belts, 96 of them belonging to Correia and Gaudin. They've put up a 5.17 ERA and a 73 ERA+ combined.

30


Nationals
21-49
3-3
.389
Up
The Nats break out of a 5-25 nosedive with a season-high four-game winning streak, as manager Manny Acta hangs onto his job for the time being. They catch the Yankees flat-footed, with Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz John Lannan, Shairon Martis, and Craig Stammen holding the Yankees to seven runs in three games. While the Nats remain last in the league in both SNLVAR and WXRL, they've put up a 4.01 ERA this month, compared to 5.15 in April and 6.07 in May, with Lannan and Jordan Zimmermann both under 2.00.


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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