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April 17, 2009

Prospectus Hit List

Small Sample Version

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Dodgers
7-3
-
.712
Up
Dodger Dog: Orlando Hudson hits for the cycle, becoming the first Dodger to do so since Wes Parker in 1970, and helping the team beat Randy Johnson in LA for the first time in the Big Unit's 22-year career. The O-Dog is hitting .366/.435/.659. Meanwhile, Clayton Kershaw (7 1 1 1 1 13) one-ups Chad Billingsley (7 5 1 1 0 11) against the hapless Giants' lineup as the rotation holds opposing hitters to a .195 batting average through the first 10 games.

2


Marlins
8-1
-
.689
Up
Flying Fish: Picked for 26th on the season-opening Hit List and facing the majors' toughest schedule, the Marlins aren't taking the bait. Emilio Bonifacio collects 14 hits over the team's first five games; he's hitting .386 with 12 runs scored. Meanwhile, Josh Johnson is dominating hitters (15 2/3 IP, 1 ER, 15/1 K/BB). Since returning from Tommy John surgery last summer, he's put up a 3.13 ERA with 8.0 K/9 in 16 starts.

3


Cardinals
8-3
-
.661
Up
If I Were a Carpenter, I'd Have a Lot of DL Days: After a strong spring and a stellar start to his 2009 (7 1 0 0 2 7), Chris Carpenter strains his oblique while swinging a bat, an injury that could cost him six weeks. Meanwhile, Albert Pujols and Ryan Ludwick continue to bop (a combined seven homers thus far), and Tony La Russa gets serious about his closer-by-committee, mothballing Jason Motte after one blown save while dishing out save opportunities to three other relievers.

4


Blue Jays
8-3
-
.638
Up
Forecast to score the fewest runs in the league, the Jays' offense is instead pounding out 7.0 per game, second in the majors, while hitting a combined .317/.374/.540. Scott Rolen, Adam Lind, and Aaron Hill are all hitting above .350 and slugging above .550. On the other side of the ball, it's a mixed bag, as 2005 first-round pick Ricky Romero strings together a pair of strong starts, but Jesse Litsch suffers a forearm strain, an uncomfortable reminder of the recent arm troubles of Dustin McGowan, Shaun Marcum, and Casey Janssen which have decimated the team's rotation.

5


Tigers
5-4
-
.601
Up
Picking up where his 2008 second half (.302/.350/.601/21 HR/70 RBI in 68 games) left off, Miguel Cabrera continues to crush, going 17-for-35 with four homers and 12 RBI in the team's first nine games. Alas, he's not the only Tiger rekindling memories of last year, as Justin Verlander is shelled, and Brandon Lyon shows that he brought his gas can from Arizona. Speaking of yesteryear, a fond but far too premature farewell to Tigers' phenom and 1976 AL Rookie of the Year Mark Fidrych, who passed away this week at the age of 54.

6


Mariners
7-3
-
.583
Up
Grand Returns: In his first game as a Mariner since 1999, Ken Griffey Jr. hits his 612th home run. Junior adds another-his 400th as a Mariner, in case you lost track-for the hometown fans, but it's overshadowed by Ichiro Suzuki's grand slam in his first game back from a bleeding ulcer. Another strong return: Erik Bedard (8.1 3 0 0 1 7) in his second start.

7


Mets
4-5
-
.575
Up
No Jack Citi? The Mets open their new park in the same manner they closed their old one-with a loss-but it's hardly as consequential as the previous defeat. The real question is how Citi Field will play; increased distances and taller fences could make homers scarce, which of course would help the pitching staff as much as it could hamper the offense. Early returns-seven homers in the park's first three-game series-suggest this place is no Petco Park.

8


Padres
7-3
-
.557
Up
Rebounding from a nightmare 2008 and a spring in which he was torched for a 12.96 ERA, Chris Young is reaping the benefits of a minor mechanical tweak made just before the season opened. He allows just two runs in 13 innings across two starts while whiffing 12. Meanwhile, the early returns on the team's waiver-bait bullpen are promising; they lead the league in WXRL, just as if Trevor Hoffman and Scott Linebrink never left.

9


Cubs
5-4
-
.550
Down
This Ain't No Cakewalk: Despite being forecast for the NL's highest win total while playing the majors' easiest schedule, the Cubs aren't without their early concerns. Milton Bradley is off to a 1-for-18 start and missing time with a groin strain (and perhaps another suspension), Geovanny Soto is just 1-for-14 while dealing with shoulder impingement, and Kevin Gregg's been scored upon in three of his five appearances and bypassed for a save; despite his strong spring, his velocity still hasn't returned to normal following knee surgery.

10


Rays
4-6
-
.543
Down
Long and Short: Evan Longoria bashes a league-leading five homers in a five-game span en route to a .441/.457/1.000 showing thus far, part of a 16-homer outburst the Rays put together over the season's first nine games. Just one of them comes in two series-closing losses against the Yankees, however, in a pair of games characterized by shallow-positioned Rays outfielders unsuccessfully chasing balls hit over their heads.

11


Braves
5-4
-
.526
Down
Jordan Schafer and Derek Lowe make strong first impressions on Opening Day, the former by homering in his first major league at-bat, the latter by tossing eight scoreless innings of two-hit ball against the defending Wold Champions. The revamped rotation has been the story thus far, putting up a 3.40 ERA and allowing just two homers in 45 innings. While there's talk that Tom Glavine's latest setback may send him into retirement, top prospect Tommy Hanson is accelerating his own ascent to the majors, with 17 Ks and just one run allowed in 10 innings at Triple-A Gwinnett, wherever the hell that is.

12


Royals
5-4
-
.522
Up
Despite some Opening Day bullpen follies and a predictably awful Horacio Ramirez start, the Royals' pitching has been outstanding, with Zack Greinke, Kyle Davies, and Gil Meche combining for a 1.91 ERA and 41/10 K/BB ratio in 37 2/3 innings and the staff as a whole allowing an MLB-best 3.2 runs per game. Alas, the offense is hitting just .215/.291/.373 and ranks last in the league in scoring, with four regulars stuck below the Mendoza Line. Alex Gordon will remain there awhile, as he needs arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn hip labrum, but at least that returns Mark Teahen to a familiar position.

13


Yankees
5-5
-
.517
Down
Wrong Foot: Despite no shortage of pomp, the new Yankee Stadium is inaugurated with its Bronx-dwelling denizens on the short end of a 10-2 bombing. Neither laboring CC Sabathia (10/10 K/BB in 17 2/3 innings) nor struggling Mark Teixeira (4-for-25 plus time missed with wrist tendonitis) has made a strong first impression, but not every new Yank has disappointed. A.J. Burnett no-hits the Rays for six innings while playing some chin music, and Nick Swisher hits .406/.486/1.000 and pitches a scoreless inning in a blowout; with Xavier Nady out for the year, the right-field job is his.

14


Rangers
4-5
-
.498
Up
Crooked Numbers: Ian Kinsler goes 6-for-6 while hitting for the cycle as the Rangers roll up 19 runs on the Orioles. Kinsler's hitting a gaudy .474/.524/.947, while the Rangers are scoring 7.9 runs per game. Of course, they're allowing 6.9, but don't hang that on Kevin Millwood, who's yielded just one run over his two starts.

15


White Sox
5-4
-
.494
Up
Return of the Pod People? DeWayne Wise's separated shoulder frees the White Sox of a free-swinging out machine for a couple of months, but it may pave the way for a less-than-promising Scott Podsednik revival. Ranking just 10th in the league in scoring so far, that's not exactly what the doctor ordered.

16


Pirates
4-5
-
.484
Up
The Bucs Stop Here: Among the early-season anomalies playing at Small Sample Theater is the Pirates' league-leading 2.87 ERA-this from a team that finished with a league-worst 5.10 ERA last year, one that hasn't even broken through to the upper half of the league in that category since 1999. Leading the way is Zach Duke, who shuts out the Astros, not that it takes much. Duke's ERA over his last eight starts going back to August 27 is a slim 2.02, rating as the best thing he's done since his 2005 rookie season.

17


Rockies
4-4
-
.475
Up
The Marquis of Blake Street: While he's yet to make any progress on the combined homers list, Jason Marquis has driven in as many runs as he's allowed over his two starts (three), including a pair that helps him defeat his old club. Meanwhile, Dexter Fowler is climbing home-run lists with his first two major league shots; he's hitting .333/.400/.722 through 18 at-bats.

18


Athletics
4-5
-
.474
Down
The arrival of Matt Holliday, the return of Jason Giambi, and better health from Eric Chavez were supposed to provide punch for a team that finished last in the league in slugging percentage, but thus far... not so much. The entire offense is slugging just .325 with three home runs, both major league lows, with Jack Cust going yard twice and Nomar Garciaparra once. As for Chavez, he's on the board with his first MRI of the season, which is something.

19


Angels
4-5
-
.473
Down
Mere hours after pitching six scoreless innings in just his fourth major league start, top pitching prospect Nick Adenhart is one of three people killed in a DUI hit and run, kicking off the Angels' season on a note of senseless tragedy, and making the team's other rotation woes pale by comparison. Our deepest condolences to the Adenharts and the rest of the Angels' family.

20


Red Sox
3-6
-
.444
Down
Beantown Shutdowns: Daisuke Matsuzaka's World Baseball Classic efforts may have come back to bite him, as he hits the disabled list with shoulder fatigue. While the team has the depth to cover for what should be a relatively brief absence, the situation at shortstop is more troublesome, as Jed Lowrie could miss a month due to a wrist sprain at a time when Julio Lugo is still rehabbing. Nick Green: heir to Cronin, Pesky, Burleson, and Garciaparra?

21


Orioles
6-3
-
.440
Down
Though they start the year by taking series from the Yankees, Rays, and Rangers, the O's are allowing 7.7 runs per game and have been outscored 44-11 in their three losses, stirring uncomfortable memories of drubbings past. Jeremy Guthrie appears to have shaken off an ugly spring, but the rest of the ad hoc rotation is 0-for-7 in quality starts while posting a 6.75 ERA. Good luck with that.

22


Reds
4-4
-
.433
Down
Wee Willy, Won't He? The Reds rank last in the league in batting average (.222) and slugging percentage (.359), with four of their eight regulars-Ramon Hernandez, Edwin Encarnacion, Jay Bruce, and Alex Gonzalez-stuck below the Mendoza Line. Don't blame Willy Taveras, though; he's hitting .333/.462/.476 while walking and collecting extra-base hits at double the frequency of last year. It won't last, of course, but that's the point of these Small Sample Theater productions.

23


Indians
3-7
-
.427
Down
Slow Starters: With memories of 2006 and 2008 still lingering, the Indians stumble out of the gate once again. This time Cliff Lee is part of the problem instead of the solution (12 earned runs in 16 innings); while last year may not have been a fluke, his ugly spring suggests the question isn't settled. Not helping is the fact that Fausto Carmona remains lost in the wilderness (10 earned runs in 10 innings). If there's good news, it's Travis Hafner's resurgent power: Pronk's already konked three homers, just two off of last year's season total.

24


Diamondbacks
3-6
-
.426
Down
Webb Worries: Brandon Webb lasts just four innings on Opening Day and winds up hitting the disabled list due to bursitis, while a report surfaces that the team withdrew a contract extension last year due to insurance concerns. The Snakes' staff as a whole has been bombed for a 6.04 ERA, but don't blame Dan Haren, who's allowed just three runs while being hung with two losses.

25


Phillies
4-4
-
.414
Down
No Phun: The defending World Champions' season starts on a series of down notes. First, the homer-happy version of Brett Myers gets rocked on Opening Day, then ace Cole Hamels is shelled while demonstrating diminished velocity if not more elbow pain. Finally, legendary announcer Harry Kalas, who with his gravelly, resonant voice called the team's World Series victory-not to mention nearly every other memorable moment in Phillies history since 1971 and a fine body of work for NFL Films-passes away in the booth before Monday's game. Our deepest condolences to the Kalas and Phillies Phamilies.

26


Brewers
3-6
-
.391
Down
No Wallbanging: The Brew Crew has demonstrated little power thus far, as top sluggers Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, and J.J. Hardy are hitting a combined .189/.304/.358 with just three homers, though Reed Johnson's effort to bring a potential Fielder grand slam back into the yard didn't help matters. That trio clearly needs more help from Yovani Gallardo, who becomes the first pitcher to homer off of Randy Johnson in his 22-year career (tough week for the Unit).

27


Nationals
1-7
-
.363
Down
Panic on the Potomac: The Nationals get off on the wrong foot, with their starters being torched for an 8.20 ERA, and Lastings Milledge (4-for-24, 10 Ks) scapegoated to Syracuse, though that at least gives the remaining outfielders some elbow room. Speaking of scapegoats, Manny Acta's job may be in jeopardy, and given this (dis)organization, we can't help but want better for Mind Game's most prominent fan.

28


Twins
4-7
-
.347
Down
They're eking out a meager 3.4 runs per game (and just 1.0 in Francisco Liriano's starts) and Joe Mauer's absence isn't the only problem. The five-man outfield/DH logjam-Denard Span, Delmon Young, Carlos Gomez, Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel-is hitting a combined .211/.269/.324 with three home runs.

29


Astros
3-6
-
.340
Down
The good news is Mike Hampton stifling the Pirates-no, not those guys-while striking out eight, more than in any start since mid 2003. The bad news is a rotation with a 7.21 ERA excluding that start. We're not sure where Scuffy Moehler hitting the DL due to a sprained MCL and a swollen ERA fits along the spectrum, but if you leave your name and number, we'll get back to you.

30


Giants
2-7
-
.309
Down
Swinging Free in SF: The Giants' "offense" whiffs 27 times while walking just once against Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley en route to a 71/16 K/BB ratio thus far. Meanwhile, Tim Lincecum, Randy Johnson, and the rest of the rotation are tattooed-no, not you, Justin Miller-for a 6.98 ERA, while making just one quality start in seven and averaging less than five frames per start.


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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