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April 30, 2010

Prospectus Hit List

Raising Expectations

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Rays
17-5
5-1
.680
Up
Kicking Ass, Taking Names: The Rays are punishing opponents, outscoring them by over three runs per game. Having scored at least eight runs in six of their past eight games, they're averaging an MLB-best 6.5 per game and yielding a meager 3.3. Ben Zobrist (.250/.330/.369) has yet to get into the swing of things, though he does receive an extension which could run five years and around $30 million, or stop short at about $18 million if the first of two club options isn't exercised. Some may raise an eyebrow given the manner in which the Zorilla's 2009 stats echo "Fluke!" in an empty ballpark, but at a going rate of more than $5 million per win via the new MORP, he won't need MVP-caliber production to justify the deal.

2


Yankees
14-7
3-3
.657
Down
The Microwave: It's not the Yankees' best week as they endure a 1-4 mini-slump, but they're hardly in bad shape given that they've been getting almost nothing from their number two and three hitters, Nick Johnson (.143/.385/.232, albeit with an AL-high 20 walks) and Mark Teixeira (.139/.292/.266). Picking up much of the slack is Robinson Cano (.407/.444/.790), who's first in the league in batting average, slugging, and True Average; he's got four homers in his last four games, including a pair on Thursday night. Always a streaky hitter, Cano's hottest months have never exceeded an OPS of 1053, but right now he's in the stratosphere of Alex Rodriguez's April 2007 start (.355/.415/.882).

3


Twins
14-8
3-3
.581
Down
M&M Boys: Joe Mauer's five-hit-night helps the Twins overcome a 4-0 deficit against the Royals to win in extra innings. Though he's got just one homer, Mauer's .342/.407/.494 line is no shame at this point. Also helping in that comeback is Justin Morneau, whose game-tying seventh-inning homer is the first of a pair on consecutive days amid a 10-for-21 binge with six extra base hits. Morneau's en fuego (.352/.495/.620), but he's dealing with oblique woes, though the good news is that they're unrelated to his 2009 season-ending back injury as initially feared.

4


Athletics
12-11
2-4
.526
Down
Double Bummer: Despite tossing six innings of one-run ball, Brett Anderson ends up with the short straw in a 6-1 loss to the Indians. Through four starts, Anderson's got a 2.35 ERA and just four walks and no homers allowed in 23 frames, but the A's have scored just 3.0 runs per game in his starts. Alas, it will be awhile before the offense can support him properly, as he'll be out until June due to an elbow strain that's worse than initially thought. Also bitten by the injury bug: Justin Duchscherer, who departs a start due to soreness in his hip that feels "identical" to the injury which required a pair of surgeries in 2007-2008.

5


Tigers
13-10
4-3
.525
Up
Train Round the Bend: Scratched from his previous start due to a stomach ailment and limited to an ugly relief appearance as his only outing in the previous nine days, Dontrelle Willis tosses six shutout innings against the Twins (6 4 2 0 2 6). The D-Train has the lowest ERA of any Tigers' starter (3.75) , nearly two runs per nine better than Justin Verlander, and more than three better than Jeremy Bonderman and Rick Porcello. That said, his 15/12 K/BB ratio in 24 innings is shaky, and his 5.54 SIERA is the rotation's highest.

6


Red Sox
11-11
5-1
.486
Up
Double Zero: Carrying an 8.44 ERA through his first three starts, Jon Lester tosses 12 2/3 innings of scoreless ball for the week, including a gem (7 1 0 0 2 11) against the Blue Jays. The efforts help the Sox win seven out of nine to claw their way back to .500. Not every Sox starter is faring so well; Josh Beckett has been tagged for 15 runs in 10 innings over his last two starts, and Tim Wakefield is practically biting his knuckles over heading to the bullpen to make room for Daisuke Matsuzaka after a strong start.

7


Blue Jays
11-12
2-5
.484
Down
North of the Border, South of the Mendoza Line: The Blue Jays bash their way out of a five-game losing streak in which they score just 16 runs, 12 in one game. John Buck (.194/.239/.468) homers three times and Travis Snider (.147/.266/.324) breaks out of an 8-for-64 start with two hits and a homer himself. Both are among the Jays' four regulars-Lyle Overbay and Aaron Hill being the others-with batting averages below .200. The offense's woes come whether they hit the ball or not; they're first in the league in strikeouts by a wide margin, and second-to-last with a .261 BABIP.

8


Mariners
11-11
2-4
.483
Down
Meandering: The Mariners continue to flirt with the .500 mark, and to struggle offensively, hitting a thin .244/.316/.350 while averaging just 3.7 runs per game. Chone Figgins is batting a paltry .200 .337 .280, though his 17 walks rank fourth in the league, while Jose Lopez, the man with whom he swapped positions in the spring, is batting an even less useful .236/.258/.303. The move isn't hurting the team's defense however; the Mariners rank third in the league in Defensive Efficiency (.719) and run prevention (3.6 per game).

9


Rangers
10-12
4-3
.472
Up
Wild Thing: Hardly as entertaining as Ricky Vaughn or even Mitch Williams, Rich Harden overcomes walking five White Sox in six innings to notch his first win as a Ranger. Free passes have been a continued problem for Harden; he has 23 in 23 2/3 innings, compared to 22 strikeouts, and he's lasted five innings or more just twice in five starts. Making himself more welcome in Texas is Colby Lewis, who's racking up the Ks; after whiffing 10 for the second time in three starts, he's got 28 in 23 2/3 frames.

10


White Sox
9-13
4-2
.463
Up
Peavish: Jake Peavy is rocked for five first-inning runs, and while he hangs on to retire 16 of his next 18 hitters, the Sox fall to the Rangers. Peavy's been a mess thus far this year, with a 7.85 ERA keyed by an astronomical 6.3 BB/9, which includes 12 walks over his last 12 2/3 innings. Elsewhere in the rotation, Gavin Floyd avoids the dubious honor of maintaining an ERA worst than Peavy's thanks to some good old regression to the mean; his BABIP falls from .452 to .357 as he makes just his second quality start of the year.

11


Angels
12-11
4-2
.462
Up
A Nice Pair: Kendry Morales bops two big late-inning homers to help the Angels take a series from the Yankees; the first breaks a 4-4 deadlock in the eighth inning, the second, a three-run blast, breaks open a 5-4 game in the seventh as Joe Girardi suffers a braincramp in deciding and then un-deciding to intentionally walk the Angels' slugger. Morales is getting a jump on proving that last year was no fluke, hitting .298/.352/.536 with six homers; he's second among the team's regulars with a .302 True Average.

12


Indians
9-12
2-4
.438
Down
The Curse of Chief Wahoo: A Nielson study declares the Indians the most hated team in baseball when it comes to brand association. It's tough to disagree at the moment, given an offense which features five regulars-Lou Marson, Luis Valbuena, Jhonny Peralta, Grady Sizemore, and Travis Hafner-with batting averages below the Mendoza Line and a fill-in closer who sounds like a cross between Dallas Braden and Emily Post as he complains about being beaten by a bunt. Sack up and shut up, dude.

13


Royals
8-14
2-5
.409
Down
What's a Guy Gotta Do for a W? Zack Greinke pitches seven innings of shutout ball (7 6 0 0 0 5) against the Mariners, but the Royals go down in defeat nonetheless. It's an all-too-familiar problem for Greinke this year; despite a 2.56 ERA and 27/7 K/BB ratio in 31 2/3 innings, he's winless, and his team is just 1-4 in his starts, having provided just 3.2 runs per game of support.

14


Orioles
4-18
2-4
.344
Up
Blind Chicken Finds Kernel of Corn: Cesar Izturis drives in three runs to help the Orioles win back-to-back games for the first time all season. With the notable exception of Ty Wigginton (.323/.403/.661 with six homers), the Oriole offense has been hitting like a gaggle of lesser Izturises (Izturi?), with a combined .241/.303/.372 showing that's bad enough to rank them last in the AL with a .236 True Average.


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

Related Content:  The Who,  10 Runs To A Win

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