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May 5, 2010

Prospectus Hit List

Runaway Redbirds

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Cardinals
18-9
4-2
.647
Up
The Fifth Wheel: Jaime Garcia shuts down the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park as the Cardinals extend their run to 8-1 and threaten to run away with the division flag. On a staff which leads the league in ERA, it's the rookie fifth starter's 1.13 mark which ranks best in the class, and third among qualified NL starters. Four Cardinal starters-Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Brad Penny being the others-have ERAs under 3.00, and all rank among the league's top dozen in SNLVAR.

2


Giants
15-10
3-1
.627
Up
Surprisingly Lifelike: Aubrey Huff homers three times in a five-game span, helping the Giants claim series wins over the Phillies and Rockies. After a cold start, Huff's now hitting .278/.365/.489 while leading the team in homers (four) and walks (11). With seven regulars currently above .260 in True Average, the Giants' offense as a whole is registering an actual pulse, with a .265 TAv which ranks eighth in the league. Given their recent history of punting offense, it's a strange place for the Giants to occupy; they haven't finished above .260 (league average) since 2004, and haven't been above .250 since 2006.

3


Padres
17-10
4-2
.590
Up
Home Field Advantage: Wade LeBlanc, Clayton Richard, Jon Garland, and the league's best bullpen hold the Brewers scoreless three times in a four-game series as the Padres maintain their hold on first place in the NL West. The team has been absolutely dominating at Petco Park thus far, going 11-4 while outscoring opponents by a combined score of 71-33 (4.7 to 2.4 on a per-game basis), and outhitting them .263/.363/.401 to .206/.279/.300. If they weren't hitting a Petco-like .232/291/.366 on the road, they'd be running away with the division.

4


Phillies
15-11
3-2
.554
Up
Their Phil of Drama: Jamie Moyer's bases-loaded walk and Shane Victorino's subsequent grand slam key a nine-run fourth inning-off Johan Santana, no less-which helps the Phillies reclaim first place in the NL East. The good times aren't exactly rolling, however, as J.A. Happ and Jimmy Rolllins suffer setbacks in rehab, and Ryan Madson breaks a toe kicking a chair after blowing a save; surgery to implant pins and plates will cost him eight weeks. Adding to the bad vibes, a police officer tasers a 17-year-old fan who runs onto the Citizens Bank Park field, though the real question is how the cops stopped at Tasing just one Phillies' fan.

5


Rockies
13-14
2-3
.550
Down
Rocking, Not Reeling: For a team with three-fifths of its projected rotation on the DL, the Rox are staying afloat with some impressive pitching. Ubaldo Jimenez whiffs 13 Pads and runs his record to 6-0 with an 0.87 ERA. He's allowed just one run over his past four starts, including his no-hitter, and leads the league in SNLVAR. Meanwhile, Jhoulys Chacin-the team's top pitching prospect going into last year, before suffering a case of the wilds-tosses seven innings of one-hit shutout ball in his 2010 debut.

6


Cubs
13-14
3-2
.536
Flat
Sori, Sori, Sori: Alfonso Soriano homers in four consecutive games, producing five dingers, two doubles, and 11 RBI. The much-maligned left fielder is healthy, hitting .321/.376/.690, and working well with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, who tutored him in Texas. Another former Ranger during Jaramillo's tenure, Marlon Byrd, homers twice during Soriano's binge and continues to rake at a .343/.370/.588 clip. In fact, along with Kosuke Fukudome (.338/.433/.622), the Cubs have the league's most productive outfield, hitting a combined .324/.388/.622 with 21 homers thus far.

7


Mets
15-12
2-3
.514
Down
Nice Niese: The Mets' 9-1 homestand becomes a distant memory as they take their show on the road and get blown out of first place by-who else?-the Phillies, as Santana surrenders four homers and 10 runs in 3.2 innings in the series rubber match. Despite that double-digit outburst, which comes amid a three-game losing streak, the Mets are yielding just 3.7 runs per game and getting particularly good work not only from Mike Pelfrey but also Jon Niese, who subdues the Phils in the series opener (7 4 1 1 1 7); he's allowed just two earned runs over his past 18 innings and ranks 24th in the league in SNLVAR, with Pelfrey (10th) and Santana (17th) ahead of him.

8


Braves
11-15
3-2
.504
Up
The Stopper: Tommy Hanson's eight strong innings help the Braves halt a nine-game losing streak. Hanson has picked up where he left off as a rookie, with a 2.17 ERA and 33/10 K/BB ratio in 29 innings, though he's lasted at least six innings only twice in five starts due to pitch counts. The rest of the Braves' rotation, projected to be one of the league's best, hasn't been up to snuff; Tim Hudson has a 2.87 ERA, but the other three starters are well above 5.00, and Jair Jurrjens is nursing a hamstring strain as well.

9


Marlins
13-13
2-2
.498
Up
Hanliess is Next to Godliness: After homering just twice and slugging .395 in April, Hanley Ramirez goes yard four times during the first three days of May, part of a nine-hit binge that lifts his line to .327/.414/.554. While he and his Marlins mates aren't exactly run-starved (5.0 per game), their outfield's meager showing (.237/.294/.325, for the second-worst OPS in the league) raises the question of if and when they'll recall top prospect Michael Stanton, who's got 13 homers at Double-A Jacksonville, including nine in his past 10 games, and is now hitting .360/.504/.884.

10


Diamondbacks
13-14
3-3
.488
Up
Going to Extremes: The good news is that the Diamondbacks lead the league in runs scored, thanks in part to a .348 OBP, which would be a franchise record, not to mention a whopping 16 points higher than anything they've done since 2002. The bad news is that they're nonetheless being outscored, and rank ahead of only the Pirates in runs allowed. They've got the league's worst bullpen, and they're 12th in SNLVAR. Ian Kennedy leads the rotation with a 3.65 ERA, having yielded just seven runs (six earned) in his past 27 2/3 innings, four of them on a Fukudome grand slam surrendered with a 12-run lead.

11


Brewers
11-15
2-3
.475
Down
Yarrgh, Where Be the Pirates? The Brewers manage just two runs in a four-game series in Petco Park, one of them coming courtesy of a Yovani Gallardo homer, his fifth career shot; he pulls double duty by punching out 11 Pads. The Brewers skid to losing eight out of 10 while averaging just 3.1 runs per game, or 1.6 if you exclude a 17-run outburst against Pittsburgh; they're just 7-13 with a minus-39 run differential against non-Piratical opponents.

12


Dodgers
11-15
3-2
.469
Up
Hooray for Dre: Andre Ethier goes 7-for-13 with four homers and two doubles in a three-game span, as the pitching-thin Dodgers break out of a 1-7 slump by beating up on the Pirates. Ethier is hitting .360/.424/.708, leading the league in slugging percentage, homers (nine, tied) and RBI (26), and he's second to injured teammate Manny Ramirez in True Average. Alas, the Dodgers will be down one of Ethier's table-setters for awhile, as Rafael Furcal's ailing hamstring forces him to the DL. It's an all-too-familiar scenario regarding the shortstop, who seems able only to provide the Dodgers with a torrid month (.309/.378/.420) here or there between injuries.

13


Nationals
14-12
2-2
.463
Down
Zim Zam: Dogged by hamstring woes which limited him to two at-bats in an eight-day span and just 10 starts in the team's first 20 games, Ryan Zimmerman homers twice in his return to the lineup to help the Nationals defeat the Marlins. Though Zimmerman has only four homers now, he's hitting .345/.397/.724. Also making a strong showing in Zim's two-homer game is Scott Olsen, who runs his scoreless streak to 13 innings. Coming off of last summer's labrum surgery, he's got a 4.35 ERA and an 18/8 K/BB ratio in 20 2/3 innings thus far.

14


Reds
13-14
3-3
.431
Up
Comeback Kids: Laynce Nix's 11th-inning walk-off against the Mets gives the Reds their sixth victory in eight games and their eighth in their final at-bat. Nix, who popped 15 homers while hitting an uneven .239/.291/.476 in 337 plate appearances for the Reds last year, could be in line for more playing time in an outfield that's hit a combined .202/.268/.344, for the lowest OPS in the league, one where Chris Dickerson is out four to six weeks due to wrist surgery, and Drew Stubbs is hitting just .184/.280/.299. Guess which spot in the order he's occupying?

15


Astros
8-18
0-6
.337
Down
Mo' Houston, Mo' Problems: The Astros' lineup grinds to a halt, producing just 13 runs across an eight-game losing streak, one not to be confused with the team's season-opening bellyflop. Emblematic of a team averaging just 2.8 runs per game overall, Carlos Lee is hitting just .198/.245/.250 without a homer, not a great sign from a player for whom the team is paying $57 million from 2010-12. The considerably less expensive Hunter Pence is struggling as well (.215/.240/.301), and Lance Berkman is doing far more aching than raking (.200/.308/.400).

16


Pirates
11-15
2-3
.309
Flat
The Choking Kind? Garrett Jones doubles twice in his return to the lineup following a trip to the hospital because of food lodged in his esophagus. Since homering three times in the season's first two games, Jones is hitting just .213/.360/.300 with one homer. That's several steps in the wrong direction for a team that ranks second-to-last in the league in scoring (3.4 runs per game) and last in runs allowed (6.8 per game)-yes, they're essentially being doubled up on a daily basis.


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 Streak,  The Who,  Three Homer Game,  Four Homers

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