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June 24, 2010

Prospectus Hit List

The Ax Effect

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Padres
42-29
4-1
.583
Up
Pads Not Patsies: Mat Latos tosses seven shutout innings against the Rays, the 10th straight start in which he's allowed three runs or less. The kid's got a 1.92 ERA and a 66/16 K/BB ratio in 65.2 innings during that span, and now ranks 10th in the league with a .611 SNWP. At 9-5, the Padres are one of just six NL teams with winning records in interleague play; they've gained two full games on the Giants and 5.5 on the Dodgers.

2


Braves
42-30
4-2
.581
Flat
Fivesies: The Braves win five in a row to maintain their spot atop theNL East; they're now 14-8 since capturing first place. Their streak comes to an end against the White Sox, when Brooks Conrad inadvertently tries a variant of the ol' hidden ball trick using his jersey, opening the door to a big inning. The loss ends an even longer and more impressive streak in which the Braves had won 42 straight games (31 this year) when scoring at least five runs, tying the major league record. The other four teams who equaled the multi-year task won a World Series in at least one of those years.

3


Cardinals
40-31
4-1
.576
Up
Busting Out: Matt Holliday collects 11 hits, 10 RBI and five homers over a four-game span, falling one short of doubling his season total in the latter category. One of the homers comes in a 9-4 rout of the Blue Jays, a game in which Yadier Molina (0-for-19) and Colby Rasmus (0-for-17) snap out of hitless streaks with their own homers. After going yard just 19 times in all of May-including a nine-game homerless drought-the Cards have a league-best 24 this month and are tied for fourth in the NL with 71.

4


Giants
39-31
2-3
.563
Down
Little Timmy Gets Right: Tim Lincecum bests Roy Oswalt and the Astros for the third time this season as the Giants climb into second place in the NL West. Lincecum's put his four-start May slump in the rearview mirror via a 2.17 ERA and 30/9 K/BB ratio in four starts this month, albeit against less-than-imposing Houston, Baltimore, Oakland and Pittsburgh lineups each averaging less than 4.0 runs per game. Lincecum leads the league in strikeouts (113) and is back up to ninth in SWP (.613). Meanwhile, Mark DeRosa is done for the year; he'll undergo season-ending wrist surgery next week after hitting just .194/.279/.258 in 26 games.

5


Rockies
38-33
5-1
.554
Flat
Bad Break: Ian Stewart and Jason Giambi both hit towering homers off Jonathan Papelbon to help the Rox climb into third place in the NL West. Though they've won eight out of 11, they lose Troy Tulowitzki for six weeks due to a broken hamate caused by an HBP. He's hitting .306/.375/.502 , with a team-high .298 True Average, so losing him in favor of a Jonathan Herrera/Clint Barmes middle infield is a devastating blow to a team ranked 14th in the league with a .255 TAv. Barmes is hitting just .225/.287/.363 in full-time duty, while Herrera is 10-for-40 with one walk and zero extra-base hits even after an 8-for-21 binge this week.

6


Mets
41-30
4-2
.551
Up
Jerry Manuel, Comedian: For the second time this season, Hisanori Takahashi tosses six shutout innings against the Yankees. His effort helps the Mets win their seventh straight game, though it's their only win in the Bronx leg of the Subway Series. Takahashi and fellow fill-in R.A. Dickey have combined for 13 starts with a 2.68 ERA and a .614 SNWP, compared to a 6.04 ERA and .407 SWNP across 16 starts by Oliver Perez and John Maine, neither of whom are likely to throw for Jerry Manuel anytime soon. Asked where he'd slot the latter into the rotation, the manager suggests he would "pitch him on off days." Far less funny is the skipper's mishandling of Jon Niese, who tosses three scoreless innings before a rain delay, then is pummeled for six runs upon returning after the 58-minute stoppage, and blamed by the guy managing to the stat sheet instead of the mutual best interests of player and team.

7


Phillies
37-32
4-2
.528
Up
Over the Wall: After scoring just 51 runs and hitting seven homers over their previous 21 games, the Phillies erupt for 32 runs and 11 jacks in a four-game span, winning a pair in the Bronx and then clobbering the Twins as Ryan Howard goes 4-for-4 with a double, a triple and two of his four homers for the week. Chase Utley, Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino also go long in that four-game set, and Jimmy Rollins caps the week with his first career walkoff shot, but the real story for the week-particularly in the homer department-is Jamie Moyer. The 47-year-old subdues both the Yankees and Indians, allowing just five hits and three runs in 16 innings, with the runs all coming via solo homers, as Moyer ties Robin Roberts' all-time record for dingers allowed at 505.

8


Reds
40-33
4-3
.526
Up
Righting the Reds: Ramon Hernandez, Joey Votto and Scott Rolen each hit 10th-inning homers against the A's, helping the Reds snap a 39-inning homerless streak and a 1-6 skid that costs them first place in the NL; they right the ship by sweeping the A's to remain close in the Central race. Votto's hitting .308/.409/.552, ranking third in the league in OBP and fourth in TAv (.329); he's in the top 10 in batting average, slugging percentage, homers (15) and walks (40). Meanwhile, the team may be getting some pitching help soon, with Edinson Volquez throwing 98 MPH in a rehab start and Aroldis Chapman auditioning as a reliever.

9


Dodgers
38-33
0-6
.520
Down
Dodgers to Earth, Earth to Dodgers: Manny Ramirez gets a mixed reception in his return to Fenway Park, where he goes 5-for-12 with a homer as the Dodgers are swept amid a six-game losing streak and 2-9 skid which knock them down to third place in the NL West. Ramirez's .299/.381/.509 showing isn't a problem, but Matt Kemp's .258/.314/.460 is. He compounds a .188/.236/.325 June swoon by making one of the dumber plays in the history of stupid, getting picked off second base in the ninth inning while representing the tying run. Alas, that gaffe is soon eclipsed by Russell Martin overrunning second and getting tagged out just as the tying run approaches, inducing Joe Torre to birth a litter of kittens.

10


Marlins
35-36
4-2
.519
Up
Blow It Out Your Vuvuzela: Josh Johnson pitches the Marlins past the Rays in the rubber match of the Miami leg of the Citrus Series. It's his eighth straight start allowing one run or less, joining Johan Santana (2004), J.R. Richard (1979), Bob Gibson (1968) and five Deadball Era hurlers in an exclusive club. Alas, his accomplishment is overshadowed by a pair of uncool moves, namely the team's giveaway of 15,000 vuvzelas and the axing of manager Fredi Gonzalez, who kept the club competitive-with a high of 87 wins last year-despite payrolls which made for the equivalent of fishing for Marlins with a 1-pound test line. If there's good news, it's that Bobby Valentine is the top candidate to replace Gonzalez, who himself may be the heir apparent for Bobby Cox in Atlanta.

11


Cubs
31-40
2-4
.473
Down
Los Dos Carlos: Carlos Zambrano tosses his first quality start since returning to the rotation (7 8 1 1 1 7), going 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI to boot. He's got a 3.63 ERA in his second go-round as a starter, though his .416 SNWP remains nothing to write home about. Meanwhile, the team's most effective starter (3.01 ERA, .576 SNWP) Carlos Silva-yeah, Carlos Silva-is forced to miss a turn against the team for which he went 5-18 with a 6.81 ERA in 2008-2009 due to a minor hamstring strain. Milton Bradley says hi...

12


Nationals
33-40
2-5
.454
Down
Control and Contrast: Stephen Strasburg pitches a gem ( 7 4 1 1 0 10) against the White Sox with none other than President Barack Obama in the house, but winds up on the short end of a 2-1 loss, then experiences déjà vu all over again when the Nats fail to support a nine-K effort against the Royals. Nonetheless, the kid's been as advertised, and his 1.78 ERA and 41/5 K/BB ratio give the Nats a chance to win nearly every time out; he's been so dominant that the question of whether he should make the All-Star team has been raised. Not going to the All-Star Game is former "ace" John Lannan, who's  demoted after his third straight disaster start. He's been rocked for a 5.76 ERA and .388 SNWP, which is what happens when you're whiffing 2.9 per nine and walking 4.4.

13


Brewers
31-40
3-2
.445
Up
Get the Ax: As the Brewers continue beating their path to nowhere, manager Ken Macha suggests that Trevor Hoffman may return to the closer role he lost last month. Hoffman's strung together eight scoreless outings out of nine, lowering his ERA from 13.15 to 9.00, but for Macha it's more about nursing the all-time saves leader towards his goal of 600 saves; he's been stuck on 596 since May 7. In any event, Hoffman's -2.0 WXRL is still the second-worst mark in the league, while replacement closer John Axford's 1.1 mark ranks 21st. The Ax-Man has whiffed 21 in 18 innings, with a 2.56 Fair Run Average.

14


Diamondbacks
28-45
2-5
.408
Flat
Up Again: Justin Upton goes 3-for-3 with a pair of homers and four RBI as the Snakes trounce the Yankees in the first game of an interleague set. After hitting just .213/.314/.360 with three homers in April, Upton's hit .286/.355/.511 with 10 homers since. The bad news is that he's striking out in 31 percent of his PA, a significant tick up from last year's 23.3 percent. Speaking of Ks, Mark Reynolds sits after racking up 13 of them in 16 PA over a four-game span, then belts two homers over the next three days. His 17 dingers are second in the league, though he's on a record-setting 229-K pace... not that it really matters.

15


Astros
27-45
1-5
.328
Down
Castro the Astro: With their backstops hitting a combined .230/.269/.353, the Astros promote their second-best hitting prospect coming into the year, Jason Castro, though he's hitting for just a .230 True Average in Triple-A. He goes 1-for-4 against Tim Lincecum, scoring the team's lone run in his debut. As bad as the Astros' catchers have been, the team is actually getting lower OPSes from their second basemen (590), shortstops (552) and third basemen (540); the loss of Tommy Manzella (.212/.259/.254) to a broken finger won't hurt a bit. There, I said it.

16


Pirates
25-46
2-4
.302
Flat
Freedom of Pierogi Speech: The Pirates fire one of their Pierogi Race employees after he criticizes the contract extensions of GM Neal Huntington and manager John Russell, then rehire him after a wave of bad publicity and a sudden discovery that the manner of his dismissal violates company policy. So the kid get to keep earning $25 a night after all. Meanwhile, $6.4 million bonus baby Pedro "Big Pierogi" Alvarez is off to just a 3-for-24 start in the majors, though his first extra base hit, an RBI double, helps the team defeat the Indians.


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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