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April 29, 2010

Prospectus Hit List

Big Boppers

by Jay Jaffe

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RkTeam
Overall W-L
Week W-L
Hit List Factor
Comment

1


Cardinals
14-7
4-2
.629
Up
Pretty Penny: Brad Penny tosses 7.2 innings of shutout ball to stop the Giants and nip a Cardinals losing streak in the bud. Penny's got an 0.94 ERA through four starts. While he undoubtedly still grunts like he's Magnús Ver Magnússon pulling a bus uphill with every pitch, the latest Dave Duncan reclamation project is relying on his fastball much less than previously, generating tons of groundballs but whiffing just 4.7 per nine.

2


Giants
12-9
4-2
.612
Up
Buster Who? Sure, top prospect Buster Posey is hitting .361/.447/.486 at Triple-A but at least for the moment, you can't blame the Giants for being quite happy with Bengie Molina's .350/.412/.433 showing, one which includes a 4/5 K/BB ratio. Then again, a working definitions of "small sample size" is "few enough plate appearances to paint Bengie Molina as a handsome fellow and a patient hitter." The Giants could find room for Posey in their lineup if they were willing to sit Aubrey Huff, whose .227/.314/.373 line ain't cutting it at first base, but on a team that's allowing 3.0 runs per game while scoring 4.6, it won't surprise if they take an ain't broke/don't fix attitude.

3


Rockies
11-11
4-3
.575
Up
Catcher Controversy: Miguel Olivo homers in three straight games, all Rockies wins, taking over the team lead with five. His .314/.357/.647 performance and handy ability to pass a kidney stone mid-game (!) has caused manager Jim Tracy to bury Chris Iannetta once again. Off to a 4-for-30 start, Iannetta is optioned to Triple-A Colorado Springs, putting him one burial shy of Melquiades Estrada, at least on Jim Tracy's watch. Iannetta's .219/.334/.448 line since the beginning of 2009 is no shame despite the low batting average, and while Olivo's .256/.298/.510 showing in that timespan isn't without its uses, particularly given his 28 homers in 471 PA, the latter's .240 True Average pales in comparison to Iannetta's .274.

4


Padres
13-8
4-2
.564
Down
Going, Going, Gonz: The Padres maintain their surprising hold on first place in the NL West as Adrian Gonzalez homers in four straight games. The well-timed showing takes place against the backdrop of the Ryan Howard extension, a coincidence not lost on Gonzalez's agent, who's eying a big payday at a point beyond Petco. For what millions it's worth, Gonzalez, a free agent after the 2011 season, is 30 months younger than Howard, a better defender, and holds a .320-.312 edge in True Average over the past three full seasons.

5


Phillies
12-9
3-4
.549
Down
Big Man, Big News: Amid a rough patch which sees them lose four out of five, the Phillies shock the industry by signing Ryan Howard to a five-year, $125 million extension. It's a deal that might pay off if salaries begin escalating again-and how could they not, at least for big boppers like Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez given the market-setting paramaters of this deal-but one that was made well in advance of the point where it had to be done. In any event, Howard breaks out of a 7-for-40 funk with his first homer since April 10 to help the Phils halt a three-game slide.

6


Mets
13-9
7-0
.549
Up
Wait, What!?! Having created the lowliest of expectations due to injuries and organizational buffoonery, the suddenly surprising Mets reel off seven wins in a row to complete a 9-1 homestand and place them atop the NL East. They do it on the backs of a pitching staff which yields just 13 runs across that seven-game stretch, with Mike Pelfrey extending his scoreless streak to 24 innings and Johan Santana blanking the Dodgers for six frames. Santana's yielded just one run over his last three starts, with a 20/4 K/BB ratio in 19.1 innings.

7


Cubs
10-12
4-3
.538
Up
Look What I Found: Marlon Byrd makes a no-look snag of a ball he'd lost in the sun, one all but defies the Infinite Improbability Drive. The play, which comes in a loss to the Nationals in the rubber match of a three-game series, caps a strong stretch in which Byrd collects multiple hits in five straight games; he's hitting .333/.352/.548, albeit with just two walks in 84 PA. Meanwhle, after overcoming shoulder surgery Ted Lilly spins six shutout innings in his 2010 debut, a game which also marks a more uneven bullpen debut for Carlos Zambrano (1.2 1 1 1 1 1).

8


Marlins
11-11
3-4
.490
Down
This Just in: Fish Don't Graze: The Marlins lose four out of five, but they do get a slightly encouraging sign as Chris Coghlan goes 7-for-21 in that span. The 2009 NL Rookie of the Year is experiencing a sophomore slump thus far, hitting a limp .179/.220/.179-a dramatic contrast with the .372/.423/.543 showing he made after last year's All-Star break. He's not the only one struggling to carry the offensive load; the team's entire outfield, including Cody Ross, Cameron Maybin et al is hitting just .237/.281/.322 with the third-lowest OPS among Senior Circuit pasture dwellers.

9


Brewers
9-12
2-5
.486
Down
Hoff's Off: All-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman blows back-to-back save opportunities against the lowly Pirates, helping to extend the Brewers' skid to five losses in six games. The 42-year-old Hoffman's blown four of seven save opportunities in this young season, allowing 13 runs and six homers in nine innings; oh, mama, can this really be the end? Meanwhile, announcer Bob Uecker-after 40 years with the team, as identified with Brewers baseball as any current announcer is with any team (Vin Scully excepted)-will take a leave of absence to undergo heart surgery. Here's hoping for a speedy recovery to the guy with the best seats in the house.

10


Braves
8-13
0-7
.477
Down
The Braves stumble into the NL East basement by scoring just 13 runs across an eight-game losing streak. Three regulars-Melky Cabrera, Nate McLouth, and Yunel Escobar-are mired below the Mendoza Line, with Troy Glaus still flirting with it as well. Cabrera, McLouth et al are giving the team just a .112/.192/.169 showing out of the leadoff spot (hell, John Smoltz can give you that), and the outfielders-including a suddenly chilly Jason Heyward-are providing a none-too-robust .189/.291/.295 line.

11


Diamondbacks
10-11
4-2
.476
Up
Seven and Seven: Kelly Johnson and Mark Reynolds hit both hit their seventh homers of the year amid a five-run fifth inning that helps the Diamondbacks win a seesaw battle to complete a series win against the Phillies. For Johnson, it's his fourth homer in three games; he's now part of a four-way tie for the league lead, with one less than he hit in 346 PA last year. As for Reynolds, it's his second homer of the series; he's cut his strikeout percentage from 33.7 to 29.3 thus far, and is on a sub-200 strikeout pace for the first time since his 2007 rookie campaign.

12


Nationals
12-10
4-3
.472
Up
Git R Dunn: It's a big week for the Nationals' biggest slugger, Adam Dunn. Stuck below the Mendoza Line (.176/.364/.294 with one homer through April 22), he goes yard twice to carry the Nats past the Dodgers, then hits a decisive blast which gives the team back-to-back series wins over the Cubs and marks the first time since April 16-17 that the Nats had won or lost consecutive games back-to-back. They haven't been two games above .500 at this point since 2003, when they were still Les Expos.

13


Dodgers
8-13
1-6
.454
Down
Losers of seven out of nine, the Dodgers slip into last place in the NL West after being swept in New York. Injuries have the team looking quite threadbare; who'd have thought that a winter plan of scrimping could go so horribly awry? They score just 13 runs in their first six games after losing Manny Ramirez to a calf strain, force struggling knuckleballer Charlie Haeger into starting on three days' rest after Vicente Padilla is felled by an irritated radial nerve, generate a war of words between Ned Colletti and Matt Kemp's agent, Dave Stewart (a man who knows from chin music), and confront the fact that the injure Jeff Weaver (!) has become a pillar of their bullpen. Jeff Weaver?

14


Reds
10-11
4-2
.421
Up
Aaron Harang subdues the Astros for his best start of the year, lowering his inflated ERA to 7.31. That puts him slightly ahead of Bronson Arroyo (7.43) after the latter was lit by the Padres. The two pending free agents, who take up about one-third of the team's $75 million payroll, might make for attractive midseason offloads if the Reds don't contend-particularly with Aroldis Chapman looming in Triple-A-but they'll have to do better than their combined three quality starts out of nine to make that a reality.

15


Astros
8-12
3-3
.392
Up
Keeping Perspective: Roy Oswalt stops the Bucs to help the Astros win eight out of 11 since their season-opening debacle. Rolling to the tune of a 2.42 ERA with four quality starts, Oswalt passes the legendarily tragic J.R. Richard on the franchise's all-time strikeout list, then departs for central Mississippi, where his childhood home is destroyed by a deadly tornado.

16


Pirates
9-12
2-5
.307
Down
It's the Pitts: A 20-0 rout by the Brewers caps a three-game sweep in which the Pirates are outscored 36-1. It's just one more loss amid a seven-game skid in which they're outscored 72-12, one which also includes a 17-3 pounding in Milwaukee. Through their first 20 games, the team has allowed 150 runs, the eighth-highest total since 1901, with the 1998 Rockies (156) and 1994 Twins (154) the only others since 1955 to surrender more in that span.


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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