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June 13, 2008

Prospectus Hit List

Comebacks, Snappy and Otherwise

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Cubs
43-24
4-2
.629
Flat
So Sori: Rough stuff for the Cubs, who may lose Alfonso Soriano for six weeks due to a broken metacarpal. Since coming back from a calf strain on May 1, Soriano had been on a .323/.368/.639 tear with 13 homers, but with an offense that's leading the NL at 5.6 runs per game, the Cubs at least have plenty of players to pick up the slack. Aramis Ramirez, Mark DeRosa, Geovany Soto, and Kosuke Fukudome have all put up EqAs as good or better than Soriano's .285, and it's hardly a stretch to expect Derrek Lee's .276 to rise towards his PECOTA-projected .302.

2


Red Sox
42-27
4-2
.613
Up
It's Manny's World, the Rest of Us Just Live In It: Manny Ramirez faces down Kevin Youkilis over the latter's post-at-bat temper tantrums, and right now, whatever he says goes. Despite battling hamstring problems, Ramirez reels off a 15-game hitting streak (.386/.470/.789) that includes seven homers. Also streaking is J.D. Drew, who's hitting .500/.604/1.194 in June with hits in all 12 games, picking up the slack for the injured David Ortiz.

3


Phillies
40-28
4-2
.582
Up
Reversal of Fortune: The Phillies' lead atop the NL East tightens as Cole Hamels' 13-strikeout performance goes for naught when Tom Gordon surrenders a walk-off grand slam to the Marlins' Dan Uggla. While Hamels has pitched well enough to rank fourth in the league in SNLVAR, the Phils have been getting more value from their bullpen as a whole than from their rotation. The starters have combined for a 4.74 Fair Run Average as compared to the bullpen's 2.95.

4


White Sox
37-29
4-3
.574
Up
Wizard of Oz: The White Sox reel off seven wins in a row following Ozzie Guillen's latest tantrum, as the team's much-maligned offense hits .347/.407/.634 with 19 homers. Joe Crede knocks five homers over a three-game span; he's hitting .344/.432/.875 this month, and Nick Swisher (.351/.400/.757) is hot as well, but the team's biggest boost is coming from Alexei Ramirez. Since taking over as the starting second baseman in mid-May, the Cuban Missile is hitting .363/.398/.549, a huge improvement over Juan Uribe's .198/.262/.328.

5


Rays
38-28
3-3
.569
Flat
Maddon As Hell and We're Not Gonna Take It Any More: With six losses in their last nine games, the Rays are ill-tempered these days. Their feisty week kicks off with a bench-clearing brawl with the Red Sox that results in 23 games' worth of suspensions for five Tampa Bay players. Two days later, batterymates Matt Garza and Dioner Navarro scuffle mid-game, and finally Joe Maddon and Scott Kazmir blow their stacks over umpire Derryl Cousins' strike zone despite Kazmir's 10-K performance in a losing cause.

6


Athletics
35-31
2-4
.566
Down
The A's slide further after losing a pair of series to the Angels and Yankees while at home; playing .500 ball for the past four weeks has cost them five games in the standings. Since Frank Thomas went to the sidelines and Eric Chavez, Carlos Gonzalez, and Travis Buck joined the lineup, the offense has been an exercise in mediocrity, scoring just 4.1 runs per game on puny .254/.326/.390 hitting. Worse, they've been held to three runs or less in eight of those 14 games.

7


Cardinals
40-28
4-2
.561
Up
Somebody Get Me a Doctor: Though the Cards continue to press the Cubs for the NL Central lead, three of their four most valuable players thus far are dealing with injuries. Albert Pujols suffers a moderate calf strain that could shelve him for at least three weeks, Todd Wellemeyer misses a start due to elbow inflammation, and Adam Wainwright goes on the shelf with a finger sprain that could cost him a month. Expecting three-hit shutouts from Braden Looper is not a sustainable strategy, though it doesn't hurt.

8


Diamondbacks
36-31
4-3
.560
Flat
The Diamondbacks post their first winning week since the beginning of May as far as the Hit List's Friday-to-Thursday framework is concerned, and it's an odd winning week at that. The Snakes are outscored 29-28, while their big offensive star, Mark Reynolds, hits .333/.346/.917 with four homers, all in losses. Beggars can't be choosers, however, and given an offense that's scored more than five runs just once in the past 17 games and a team that's just 16-23 since the beginning of May, the Diamondbacks will take what they can get, particularly while the Dodgers putter.

9


Braves
32-35
0-6
.538
Down
Unlucky: Not only do the Braves have a 3-17 record in one-run games, but they continue to deal with an injury plague of Biblical proportions. Just as John Smoltz undergoes surgery, Jair Jurrjens misses a start with an ankle sprain, Tom Glavine hits the DL due to elbow inflammation, and Rafael Soriano and Chipper Jones cope with more minor aches and pains. Chipper's still hitting .420, and Nate Silver (Poblano to some folks) places his shot at a .400 season at about one in eight, but others differ with that notion on both practical and theoretical levels.

10


Blue Jays
34-34
2-4
.535
Down
Shannon Stewart's ankle sprain pushes Vernon Wells back into action early, and the Jays' center fielder goes 7-for-20 with two homers in his first week back, allaying fears that his broken wrist may not be fully healed. With the Jays scoring a meager 3.2 runs per game since that return, the team will have to hope Alex Rios rediscovers his swing upon returning to right field; filling in for Wells, Rios hit an anemic .248/.302/.299 while patrolling the middle pasture.

11


Angels
41-26
4-2
.525
Up
Return of the Impaler: A week after his struggles were noted in this space, Vlad Guerrero bangs out three homers and eight hits in a four-game span while helping the Angels expand their AL West lead. Guerrero's hitting .458/.533/.875 in limited duty this month, DHing in all of his appearances due to knee problems. Though he disdains the DH, he's hit .315/.441/.741 with seven homers in 68 PA in that role, compared to .254/.296/.387 with three homers in 186 PA as a right fielder.

12


Yankees
34-33
4-3
.511
Up
Bombs Away: While the Yanks appear to be continuing their relentless pursuit of mediocrity--they haven't been more than two games above .500 since April 23--they've gone 14-9 since Alex Rodriguez's return from the DL while scoring 5.4 runs per game. A-Rod's hitting .349/.446/.663 in that span, and he isn't even the hottest hitter in the lineup, as both Johnny Damon (.440/.485/.582 ) and Jason Giambi (.377/.463/.739) have been en fuego. Not everybody's joined the party, however; Derek Jeter's batting a sickly .195/.297/.264 in that span. Probably jealous of the attention...

13


Marlins
36-30
4-3
.509
Flat
Dan Uggla's walk-off grand slam steals the thunder from Jorge Cantu's second two-homer game in a week, but Cantu's been providing plenty of that lately, hitting .469/.485/1.156 with six knocks in six games. He's got 14 dingers on the year, a total that brings up the rear in the mighty Marlins' infield behind Hanley Ramirez (15), Mike Jacobs (15), and Uggla himself (19). That unit is nearly halfway to the 2002 Rangers' mark of 131 homers from their starting infielders, and they're even closer to becoming the fifth infield in which all of the starters top 20 homers.

14


Brewers
35-31
3-3
.507
Down
With Rickie Weeks felled by a knee sprain, Corey Hart moves into the leadoff role and goes yard twice, while Mike Cameron shakes off of a dreadful slump (4-for-34 with 19 strikeouts) and a recent benching with his own homer, one of five on the day for the Brewers. Thanks to that outburst, the Brew Crew now rank third in the league in long balls, but they're just seventh in slugging and 12th in both batting average and OBP.

15


Dodgers
31-35
3-3
.501
Flat
Fool Rushes In Without Fearing Where Angel Treads: The Dodgers are just 13-21 since Rafael Furcal went on the DL, and in the face of his latest setback and a dearth of other options--unless you count Chin-Lung Hu, Luis Maza, and about 10,000 other professional ballplayers--the Ned Colletti regime reaches a new low by trading precious organic matter for the undead Angel Berroa. Since winning 2003 AL Rookie of the Year honors, Berroa has hit just .255/.292/.364 while fielding at a clip 55 runs below average, showing so much promise that the Royals chose to have him spend his age-29 season in Triple-A so that they could avoid another 100-loss season. Stupid Flanders may not be done wreaking havoc, as there's word via the grapevine that he's considering trading Matt Kemp again.

16


Mets
31-34
1-5
.498
Down
Can't Get No Relief: The misery continues for the Mets, whose brief respite from a five-game losing streak is overshadowed by the second of three straight blown saves by Billy Wagner. He's not the only arsonist in a bullpen that's fallen to 13th in the league in WXRL. Despite a 2.34 ERA and six innings per start from the Mets rotation this week, the relievers allow 19 earned runs in 23 innings and take five out of the six losses.

17


Rangers
34-34
3-3
.496
Flat
Fat, Drunk and Stupid is No Way to Go Through Life: Despite their current rotation failures--last in the league in SNLVAR, business as usual--the Rangers axe Sidney Ponson for on- and off-field issues. This is hardly a case of a team cutting off its nose to spite its face, however; Ponson's performance actually weighs in at -1.2 VORP and 0.1 SNLVAR; his superficially impressive 4-1 record and 3.88 ERA conceal an insane level of offensive support (7.8 runs per game), a high number of unearned runs (12, a third of his overall total) and a low K rate (4.0 per nine).

18


Indians
31-36
4-3
.488
Up
Elbowed Out: Jake Westbrook will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the rest of the season, while Victor Martinez hits the DL due to elbow inflammation. Martinez has already been dealing with hamstring issues since Opening Day, and is hitting .278/.332/.333 without a single home run, while the rest of Cleveland's offense has failed to pick up the slack for his lack of production. Six other regulars are carrying EqAs below .260, and Grady Sizemore is the only hitter with a VORP above 8.1.

19


Astros
33-34
2-4
.479
Up
Losers of 11 out of 14, the Astros have plummeted from second to fifth in the NL Central, and with a rotation where Brian Moehler is pitching more like Roy Oswalt than Oswalt (and vice versa), did you expect anything more? Emblematic of the strugglin' 'Stros is Shawn Chacon; after putting up a 3.53 ERA with six quality starts in his first eight, he's delivered three disaster starts in his last five while sending eight homers into orbit in 23 1/3 innings.

20


Orioles
32-33
3-3
.473
Flat
Wouldn't It Be Adequate? Given that the current Orioles are more or less a .500 team, it's only fair that instead of busting their (Baltimore) chops or picking on their glaring weaknesses every single week in this space--and always at the 11th hour--I ladle out a bit of praise. So today we'll note that the Orioles are getting above-average production from three regulars (Nick Markakis, Luke Scott and Brian Roberts); that the rotation, finally shorn of Steve Trachsel, may aspire to remain middle of the pack; and that their bullpen may be just a bit better than that, and stands a half-decent shot at generating positive returns at the trade deadline either in shed salary or prospects. Oh, and Erik Bedard's 6.67 ERA over the past month ain't their problem.

21


Tigers
29-37
5-2
.470
Up
Justin Verlander tosses his first complete game since his no-hitter exactly a year ago, and while the Tigers post a winning week and gain some ground in the AL Central, there's enough bad news to go around. Jeremy Bonderman will likely miss the rest of the year due to Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, rough stuff given that he'd been on a roll with four straight quality starts. With their rotation depth already tested, the team sends Dontrelle Willis down to A-ball to iron out his mechanical woes (something this pundit spent all spring suggesting) after a particularly awful outing (1.1 3 8 8 5 2).

22


Reds
32-36
3-4
.468
Down
Junior Achievement: Ken Griffey Jr. ends a nine-day wait by hitting his 600th home run, becoming just the sixth player in baseball history to reach that plateau. While some have estimated that the 500-plus games Junior missed due to injuries may have cost him 80 to 130 homers, the upper reaches of the all-time home run list are filled with similar what-if gaps: Willie Mays' and Ted Williams' military service, Frank Robinson's devotion to duty as the game's first black manager, Mickey Mantle's injuries, Jimmie Foxx's alcoholism, Willie McCovey's bad knees, and so on. Far better to celebrate the heights that Griffey and company have reached, for such greatness is rare enough as it is.

23


Giants
30-37
5-2
.461
Up
No Complaints: Tim Lincecum's seven scoreless innings go for naught when the Giants fail to score a run, but Lincecum's got nothing to gripe about; prior to that start he'd been receiving 5.2 runs per game of support, 33 percent higher than the team's 3.9 average in other games. Likewise, the Giants have little to complain about when it comes to Lincecum; he's second in the league in SNLVAR, ERA, and strikeouts, and shaping up as a pretty good Cy Young candidate.

24


Pirates
33-34
4-3
.454
Flat
Rounding into Shape: Ryan Doumit caps his first week back in action with three homers in two days, while Tom Gorzelanny and Ian Snell both deliver their first quality starts in a month (give or take a few days). It's been an ugly season for the two hurlers, who both finished with ERAs under 4.00 and among the league's top 15 in VORP; they've combined for a 5.93 ERA and -9.5 this year.

25


Padres
30-38
5-1
.436
Up
O, Brother, Where Art Thou? Undeterred by last year's disastrous Marcus Giles experiment, the Padres have turned to another sibling of one of the team's few productive hitters to fill their vacancy at the keystone. With Tadahito Iguchi out due to a separated shoulder, the Pads call upon Edgar Gonzalez (older brother of Adrian) and in his first week in the lineup, the 30-year-old rookie hits .375/.423/.542 including his first major league homer. With an offense that's 15th in the league in both runs per game and EqA, it's only a matter of time before the Padres start hosting Bring Your Family's Best Hitter to Work Day.

26


Twins
32-35
1-6
.427
Down
A Call to Arms? After beginning the year as the toast of Minnesota's makeshift rotation, Livan Hernandez is simply toast these days. He's put up four disaster starts out of his last five, allowing 30 earned runs and 56 hits in 24 1/3 innings while proving yet again that man cannot succeed on less than three strikeouts per nine. The rest of the rotation is faltering as well; since May 30, the team's starters have yielded a 7.82 ERA while averaging less than five innings per start, with just two quality starts in that span. With Francisco Liriano stringing together three strong starts in a row down in Triple-A, even the belt-and-suspenders Twins organization might consider a change.

27


Rockies
26-40
4-2
.418
Up
Reynolds Rapped: As noted earlier this week, the Rockies are where they are in part because the young pitchers who keyed last year's stretch run have been unable to match that success. Their newest babe in the woods, Greg Reynolds, isn't helping much either. After being pounded for eight runs by the lowly Giants, Reynolds is carrying a 6.69 ERA and a 9/21 K/BB ratio, and the Rox have overtaken (or is that undertaken?) the Marlins for last place in SNLVAR.

28


Royals
26-41
3-4
.399
Flat
Jose Guillen smacks his fourth home run in a three-game span, a game-winning shot off of Mariano Rivera that gives the Royals a split in the Bronx. In an offense that would generate more energy by burning their bats than swinging them--they're last in the AL in EqA and scoring--Guillen's been a one-man wrecking crew, hitting .387/.401/.672 since May 7.

29


Mariners
24-42
3-3
.392
Up
The Mariners' season goes from bad to worse as J.J. Putz departs a game with elbow soreness. After leading the league in WXRL last year, Putz is below replacement level this time around because he's walked 17 hitters in 19 innings, but his absence won't help much, either since the Mariners' bullpen ranks second-to-last in WXRL with or without him. Meanwhile, with the offense puttering along at 3.9 runs per game, the team cans hitting coach Jeff Pentland in favor of Lee Elia; while he may not have much more success than his predecessors, Elia's equipped with the perfect vocabulary to describe the Mariners' current situation.

30


Nationals
26-42
1-6
.358
Down
Put Up Your Dukes: Elijah Dukes and skipper Manny Acta exchange heated words in the dugout during a rare Nats victory. While Dukes hasn't exactly been a choirboy in his new surroundings, the Nationals brass has downplayed the incident. Perhaps not coincidentally, the controversial outfielder has hit .291/.403/.455 since May 24 after opening the season in a 2-for-32 rut.


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 Sunday.

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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