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May 9, 2011

Prospectus Hit List

The Hitless Parade

by Jay Jaffe

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Overall W-L
Week W-L
Hit List Factor



Feast or Famine: Hitting just .256/.315/.282 with three doubles and no homers through his first 29 games, Derek Jeter goes 4-for-6 with a pair of homers on Sunday against the Rangers. The homers snap a 62-game drought, the second-longest of Jeter's career, and they come as part of a five-homer onslaught; the Yankees are scoring 55.2 percent of their runs via the longball, a record rate. Jeter isn't the only one of the old guard who has been scuffling as of late; Alex Rodriguez is hitting .177/.267/.258 since April 15 in the wake of an oblique strain, while Jorge Posada is at .152/.257/.354 overall via a .138 BABIP, though Joe Girardi intends to stick with him as the regular DH.


Over the Limit: Shin-Soo Choo becomes the sixth major leaguer to be arrested for DUI this season; he blows twice the legal limit after asking for directions to his own residence. The spate of DUI incidents may prompt MLB to seek a means to discipline offenders in the next collective bargaining agreement. While his teammates run their winning streak to seven games, Choo plunges into an 0-for-18 skid; he has the lowest True Average of any Indians regular at .238, though the team leads the league at .286.


Shape Up, Sit Down, or Ship Out: Now 19-6 following their 1-8 start, the Rays climb into a virtual tie for first in the AL East. Evan Longoria returns from his oblique strain and goes 9-for-21 with three doubles and his first homer of the year. B.J. Upton's eventful week features a walkoff homer, a chocolate whipped cream pie, a golden sombrero followed by an ejection that earns him a two-game suspension, and a combined seven RBI in his next two games as he appeals. Meanwhile, rookie Brandon Guyer homers off Zach Britton in his first big league at-bat, only to be farmed out in favor of bullpen help before he can play a second game.


All Is Not Wells: Vernon Wells homers three times in a six-game span, though two of the shots come in losses. Even with the binge, Wells is hitting just .179/.220/.300. The Angels, though, are still in first place in the AL West, a perch where they spent just three days in 2010. Two of Wells' homers come in support of the suddenly slumping Jered Weaver, who after starting out 6-0 with a 0.99 ERA surrenders seven runs across his next two starts, more than doubling his season total; despite being tied for the league lead in strikeouts, Weaver fails to ring up a single K in a game for the first time since June 10, 2007.


Red Sox
Do You Know How Hard It Is to Break In a New Pair of Sox? Adrian Gonzalez celebrates his 29th birthday with a 3-for-5 day that includes his third homer in six games, and his fourth overall; he's hitting a healthy .314/.369/.504. Coming around, albeit at a slower pace, is Carl Crawford, whose 12-for-31 so far in May only raises his line to .211/.252/.297. Although the Sox are now 14-8 since their 2-10 start, they have yet to reach .500 this season. They haven't started this slowly since 1997, their last sub-.500 season.


Not Exactly Cruzin': Losers of 10 out of 14, the Rangers fall out of first place in the AL West. Worse, they lose Nelson Cruz to the DL with a quad strain, the fourth time in just over a year he's been sidelined by a leg injury. Not that he's been helping much of late: since homering in each of the Rangers' first four games, Cruz is hitting just .187/.272/.308 with three homers in 103 PA. That ties him for the team home run lead with Adrian Beltre, who's batting a none-too-robust .239/.283/.448 overall amid a 5-for-34 slump. Since losing Josh Hamilton on April 12, the Rangers are scoring a fairly ordinary 4.33 runs per game; the good news is that Hamilton is only 2-3 weeks away from a return from a broken humerus.


Lost in Translation: Hideki Matsui blasts a walkoff homer to beat the Rangers, while David DeJesus hits his first two homers for the A's en route to his first career multi-homer game to down the Indians. Both Matsui (.243/.298/.400) and DeJesus (.222/.298/.316) have disappointed thus far, but that's hardly the exclusive province of the team's newcomers; going into Sunday, three of the four starting A's infielders were below the Mendoza Line, including Daric Barton (.196/.326/.277), though with Chris Carter off to a .173/.323/.346 start at Sacramento, it's not as though Barton's job is in danger. Still, the A's are squeezing out just 3.43 runs per game, 13th in the league.


Repeat When Necessary: Justin Verlander throws the second no-hitter of the week and the second of his career, making him the only Tiger other than Virgil Trucks to rack up two no-nos. Verlander takes a perfect game into the eighth against the Blue Jays before issuing a 12-pitch walk to J.P. Arencibia, and is still throwing 100 mph heat in the ninth inning; though he only whiffs four, he ties Weaver for the league strikeout lead at 55. Collecting a team-high three hits in the game is Austin Jackson, who follows that up with another three-hit game. As predicted, the soph center fielder is learning the hard lessons of regression: his .322 BABIP is 74 points lower than last year, leading to a .224/.283/.336 showing, and he's striking out 30.4 percent of the time, third in the league behind teammate Ryan Raburn (33.6 percent, en route to an abysmal .229/.273/.398) and Chicago's Adam Dunn.


A New Day Begins: With Kila Ka'aihue hitting just .195/.295/.317, the surprising Royals dip into their rich system and aggressively promote Eric Hosmer, risking Super Two status for a 21-year-old 2008 first-round pick who's tearing up Triple-A (.439/.525/.582) because they believe they can contend in this upside-down AL Central. Hosmer goes 0-for-2 with a pair of walks in his debut, a KC loss, then collects his first base hit and his first intentional walk in a win the following day; the walk immediately precedes Mike Aviles' game-winning sacrifice fly. Elsewhere in the lineup, Jeff Francoeur homers in three consecutive games; he has a team-high eight while hitting .302/.345/.581 for the Royals, who are tied for second in the league in scoring and rank third in True Average.


Blue Jays
No Jose, No Way: The Blue Jays wind up on the wrong end of a no-hitter for the first time since May 1, 1991 (Nolan Ryan's seventh) as they're blanked by Justin Verlander. Not helping the situation is the absence of Jose Bautista, whose run at a repeat 50-homer performance is delayed by neck spasms; without him, the Jays' offense manages just 13 runs in five games while batting .216/.249/.302—and that's with Adam Lind on an 11-game hitting streak in which he goes 21-for-41 with six homers. Lind is tied for the AL lead in RBI (27), and his 17.9 percent OBI% is well ahead of Bautista's surprisingly low 10.8 percent.


I Used to Know How to Do This: Though still below the Mendoza Line, Brendan Ryan collects a walkoff single off Matt Thornton to lift the Mariners to their eighth win in 10 games, pulling Seattle within one game of .500. The M's hit just .249/.311/.362 during that run, but they eke out 4.5 runs per game while holding opponents to just 2.4. Felix Hernandez provides three quality starts during the stretch, while Erik Bedard chips in a pair himself, the first time in 23 months he's strung together back-to-back quality starts.


White Sox
No Wonder: The Sox suffer the indignity of being no-hit by a pitcher with a 9.13 ERA, namely Francisco Liriano, though it's hardly that surprising given a lineup littered with four sub-.300 OBPs and four sub-.300 SLGs. Getting the short end of the stick in the 1-0 contest is Edwin Jackson, who comes into the game with a 5.86 ERA himself and breaks a string of five straight non-quality starts. With six walks—three to Juan Pierre (!)—Liriano's no-hitter bears no small amount of similarity to Jackson's eight-walk no-hitter for the Diamondbacks last year, with a Game Score just two points higher. The loss comes amid a 4-18 White Sox skid, which ties a similarly bleak 2007 stretch as the worst during manager Ozzie Guillen's tenure.


Flightless Birds: After clawing their way back to .500 at 13-13, the Orioles are outscored 42-18 over their next seven games. The problems begin at the top, as leadoff hitter Brian Roberts is hitting just .221/.280/.359 amid a 1-for-29 slump. Number three hitter Derrek Lee is batting .233/.310/.349 despite homering three times this week, while cleanup hitter Vlad Guerrero is batting .267/.289/.389 after drawing his first four walks of the season (!) in a four-game span. Meanwhile, Luke Scott, the only regular with a slugging percentage above .421, is dealing with shoulder impingement and supposedly headed for an MRI—though we won't believe it until we see the long-form paperwork.


Liriano-No: Carrying a 9.13 ERA into his May 3 start against the White Sox, Francisco Liriano hurls the season's first no-hitter. With six walks and two strikeouts, it's hardly a masterpiece; by Game Score, it's the ugliest in 60 years. It's also the first complete game of Liriano's career, not to mention the first time he's gone more than seven innings since last July 16. Alas, it's one of the few positives for a team in the midst of a 3-8 slide in which they've scraped together more than three runs just twice while being thrashed by a cumulative 71-32 score. The Twins offense ranks last in the league in scoring, OBP, and slugging percentage, with Justin Morneau (.202/.269/.293), Delmon Young (.228/.286/.281), Alexi Casilla (.177/.233/.253), and the non-Mauer backstops (.112/.165/.150) the biggest drags.

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 On the Beat: Scherzer'... (05/09)
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