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May 31, 2011

Prospectus Hit List

NL: The Valdez Non-Disaster

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Phillies
34-20
5-2
.565
Flat

If At Second: Wilson Valdez becomes the first position player since 2000 to garner a win when he pitches a scoreless 19th inning against the Reds in a six-hour, 11-minute epic; he does this after going 3-for-6, just his second game this year in which he's collected more than two hits. The .246/.281/.303-hitting futilityman hopefully won't see much more regular playing time, as Chase Utley is finally activated; after going 1-for-9 with a walk in his first three games, he clubs his first homer of the year—the first by any Phillies second baseman this year, so if you had them picking up the W first, collect your money—and two days later follows that with his first multi-hit game. The Phillies can use the offense, given that they scored just 3.75 runs per game in May, though their stingy staff held opponents to just 3.36 per game en route to a 16-12 record.

2


Cardinals
32-23
3-3
.560
Down
Wearing One: After surrendering just 14 earned runs in his first 10 starts, Jaime Garcia is rocked for 11 in a rough outing against Colorado. Pushed further than he might have otherwise been due to a short staff and a tight schedule, he throws 106 pitches and yields 15 baserunners without making it out of the fourth inning. The 15-4 loss knocks the Redbirds out of the catbird seat; they'd climbed atop the Hit List just last week thanks to a 9-2 run, with Garcia, Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday, and others picking up the slack for a team whose two biggest stars, Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter, have struggled nearly all season.

3


Braves
30-25
4-2
.557
Flat
When You're Hot, You're Hot: Jair Jurrjens tosses eight strong innings against the Reds, holding them to a single run; he now has a 1.51 ERA and hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in any of his nine starts, the majors' longest streak this year. Jurrjens has benefited from strong defensive support via a .268 BABIP, but he's been particularly lucky with runners in scoring position, as batters have hit just .093/.204/.140 in 49 plate appearances, with a .111 BABIP. At the other end of the temperature spectrum is Dan Uggla, who's mired in a 6-for-60 slump and is now hitting .178/.246/.322.

4


Brewers
29-25
4-2
.520
Up
Shaping Up: Zack Greinke puts together the best start of his short time with the Brewers (7 5 3 3 1 10), and accompanies his effort with a go-ahead home run, his first longball since 2005. Greinke has a 39/3 K/BB ratio in 28 innings, but he's been raked for a .358 BABIP and five homers in 28 innings. Meanwhile, Yovani Gallardo continues to roll with eight shutout innings against the Giants. Gallardo now has allowed just five runs in his last five starts (35 innings), lowering his ERA from 6.10 to 3.89, though his struggles, which may owe to overreliance on his four-seam fastball, actually date back to last summer.

5


Marlins
30-22
4-3
.514
Down
Fish or Foul? Anibal Sanchez tosses a five-hit shutout against the Giants to complete a three-game sweep in San Francisco, capping a series much more likely to be remembered for Scott Cousins' cross-body block on Buster Posey, which knocks the catcher into 2012. Sanchez has pitched scoreless ball in three of his last four starts, lowering his ERA to 2.60; he's sixth in the league in that category, and 12th in strikeouts per nine at 9.0. His effort comes in a weird week for the Marlins rotation, and not just because Javier Vazquez shows a rare burst of competence; manager Edwin Rodriguez turns to his bullpen to put in some overtime—starting with reliever Brian Sanches—in the absence of injured Josh Johnson, and then leaves Ricky Nolasco in to surrender an NL-high (and franchise record) 15 hits the following day.

6


Giants
29-24
2-5
.513
Down
Bustered: The Giants' hopes of defending their world championship take a huge hit as Buster Posey suffers a broken fibula and torn ankle ligaments in a home plate collision, a season-ending injury. The 24-year-old backstop undergoes surgery amid calls for rules changes to protect catchers and questions about whether he should shift positions. Though he's not producing at last year's level (.284/.368/.389, down from .305/.357/.505), Posey's hardly alone as an underperformer, with Aubrey Huff (.224/.280/.344) the most egregious offender. The team recalls catcher Chris Stewart, first baseman/outfielder Brandon Belt, and shortstop Brandon Crawford from the minors, and while manager Bruce Bochy sounds unclear on the concept when it comes to fitting Belt into the lineup, he wastes no time writing in Crawford's name, and the rookie merely belts a grand slam in his debut.

7


Rockies
25-28
2-6
.510
Down
Torn Up: The Rockies' postseason hopes take a major hit when Jorge de la Rosa departs his start against the Diamondbacks in the third inning with what turns out to be a complete tear of his ulnar collateral ligament; he'll undergo Tommy John surgery and be lost for the remainder of the first season of his two-year, $21.5 million deal. Adding insult to injury, Ubaldo Jimenez is rocked for six runs and 12 hits in six innings in his first turn after de la Rosa's injury; he's winless, and the Rox are 1-8 in his starts, and 24-20 in those of his teamates. The team does get a boost from 24-year-old rookie Juan Nicasio, a control freak with just nine starts above A-ball, but a career 4.5 K/BB ratio in the minors; he throws seven innings of one-run ball in his major league debut.

8


Diamondbacks
30-24
7-1
.505
Up
Slithering In: Zach Duke comes off the disabled list and makes a stellar debut for the Diamondbacks, hurling seven innings of shutout ball against the Astros and accompanying that effort with a three-run homer—this from a pitcher who was rocked for a 5.72 ERA last year while yielding 1.4 homers per nine himself. The win is the D-backs' 11th in 12 games; with a late rally the next day, they move into first place in the NL West for the first time since September 5, 2008 (excluding Opening Days). They've now outscored their opponents 87-54 amid their 13-1 tear, which includes a 6-0 record in one-run games.

9


Reds
28-27
3-4
.497
Down
They Call Him Bruce: Jay Bruce falls a double short of the cycle in a 7-3 win over the Brewers, a victory that helps the Reds shake off a 2-10 skid (2-8 on the road) that has bumped them down to .500. Bruce's homer is his eighth in his past 12 games; he now has an NL-high 16—12 of them in May—and is hitting .294/.358/.578. Alas, he hasn't been getting much help lately, as the Reds hit just .237/.306/.338 during that 12-game slide, with only two non-Bruce homers.

10


Mets
25-28
3-4
.458
Flat
Fred Wilpon is 65 to 70 Percent the Owner He Used to Be: There's never a dull moment in Queens, as the Mets' owner Fred Wilpon claims his team is "snakebitten" while dissing Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, and David Wright in a lengthy and controversial New Yorker profile that leaves little doubt that at the very least, the shortstop and the center fielder will be on the move this summer. Wilpon also tells Sports Illustrated the Mets are "bleeding cash" and could lose $70 million this year, and just when it appears as though he might drown himself in a sea of red ink, the team reveals that it's in negotiations with a new minority owner, David Einhorn, who apparently is getting such a sweetheart of a deal. The news provides a distraction from the team's on-field woes, though Reyes is on a 14-for-27 spree that raises his May line to .364/.421/.555.

11


Pirates
24-28
2-4
.444
Up
When it Rains, it Pours: Paul Maholm tosses a three-hit shutout against the Cubs, and finally gets the benefit of some run support; the Bucs rack up 10 runs, after scoring just 14 in his previous 10 starts, nine of them losses. Maholm has a 3.18 ERA and a .536 Support Neutral Winning Percentage, 16th in the league, but he's just 2-7 thanks to his NL-low 2.2 runs per game of support.

12


Dodgers
25-30
4-2
.439
Up
Everybody Hurts: Dioner Navarro's walkoff single drives in Casey Blake with the winning run in the third baseman's first game back in the lineup following a five-week absence due to an elbow injury. Blake rejoins the lineup just five days after Rafael Furcal's return from a broken thumb; the two hadn't played side by side since April 8, a span during which the Dodgers went 18-26 (.409) while averaging just 3.47 runs per game. They might have gotten away with it had it not been for a biblical plague of injuries to their bullpen, whose DL list (Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Kenley Jansen, Vicente Padilla, and Blake Hawksworth) includes every reliever they broke camp with save for Matt Guerrier and Lance Cormier, the latter of whom is finally run out of town after being pounded for 17 runs in 13.2 innings.

13


Cubs
23-29
3-4
.431
Down
For Starters, the Starters Have Been Crap: Back from the disabled list following a forearm strain, Randy Wells is pounded by the Pirates in his first start since April 4. With or without him, the Cubs' rotation—which looked good enough to make them a potential sleeper back in the spring—has gone to hell in a handbasket, with a league-worst 5.51 ERA and just 5.4 innings per start. At least Wells' activation exiles Casey Coleman (7.24 ERA and a league-low .399 SNWP) to Triple-A, and the Cubs can take further solace in the rebound of Ryan Dempster, who has a 3.09 ERA, 0.6 HR/9, and 4.7 K/BB ratio in six May starts, five of them quality, compared to a 9.58 ERA, 2.2 HR/9, and a 1.8 K/BB ratio in April.

14


Padres
23-31
4-2
.424
Up
Better Latos Than Never: Mat Latos snaps the Padres' five-game losing streak by shutting down the Cardinals (8 6 1 1 0 7), merely the league's second-highest scoring team. It's Latos' first quality start in five turns and just his second of the season; he's had a hard time living up to his rookie promise. His strikeout and walk rates have both deteriorated, while his homer rate has nearly doubled (from 0.78 to 1.35 per nine) thanks to a flyball rate that has has soared from 30.2 percent to 40.5 percent. Latos' start carries further significance for the sputtering Padres offense, as it marks the only time in an 11-game stretch in which they score more than two runs; they total just 15 in that stretch while hitting a craptastic .186/.231/.273.

15


Nationals
22-31
1-5
.419
Down
Dot Dot Dot Dot: Michael Morse hits a walkoff solo homer against the Padres, his fourth consecutive game with a homer; he adds another three days later in defeat. The binge helps boost Morse's line to .289/.319/.492, but he's got an appalling 34/5 K/BB ratio. The homer gives the Nats their lone win on a 1-7 road trip, and it's accompanied by a pair of diatribes from Jayson Werth, who—get this—is already tired of the losing. Werth's .255/.347/.438 doesn't look like much, but his .289 True Average is second on the team, making him one of four Nats regulars above .260.

16


Astros
20-34
2-4
.368
Down
What's a Guy Gotta Do? J.A. Happ hits his first major league homer and tosses six innings of two-hit, one-run ball, but the Astros bullpen blows another one. The team is now 12-8 when leading after seven innings, more than five wins below the major league average; meanwhile, the bullpen's 4.71 ERA ranks last. The news doesn't get any better for the rotation, as Wandy Rodriguez hits the disabled list with a sore elbow. He's riding a streak of five straight quality starts, and ranks 10th in the league in Support Neutral Winning Percentage.


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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Premium Article Clubhouse Confidential... (05/31)
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Prospectus Hit List: A... (05/30)
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Prospectus Hit List: A... (06/06)
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