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May 15, 2009

Prospectus Hit List

Mid-May Madness

by Jay Jaffe

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RkTeam
Overall W-L
Week W-L
Comment

1


Dodgers
24-12
3-3
.662
Down
Punchy Pierre: The Dodgers maintain the top spot despite a rough first week without Manny Ramirez, getting a good deal of help from replacement Juan Pierre, who goes on a 12-for-25 tear with five doubles. He's hitting .383/.439/.483 thus far, and his slugging percentage and isolated power dwarf those of Russell Martin (.289/.409/.342), Rafael Furcal (.243/.303/.307), and James Loney (.276/.355/.373), though the latter's first two homers of the year come in handy in beating the Phillies.

2


Blue Jays
23-14
3-3
.614
Down
Up With Downs: GM J.P. Ricciardi rarely fails to obfuscate, and might do no differently when it comes to his closer situation by declaring that Scott Downs will remain the team's go-to guy even after B.J. Ryan returns from the DL. However, Downs is 3-for-3 in save opportunities, and even more impressively he's posted a 21:1 K/BB rate in 171/3 innings. He's fifth in the league in WXRL, while set-up men Jason Frasor and Jesse Carlson are also among the league's top 20.

3


Mets
19-15
5-2
.584
Up
Tossing the Bad Apple: The Mets reel off seven straight wins to take over first place in the NL East, yielding just 20 runs in that span. The streak is part of a larger stretch of nine straight quality starts for the previously beleaguered rotation, which coincides exactly with Oliver Perez's exile. The offense takes a hit as Carlos Delgado is sidelined by hip woes just as he's heating up (.423/.516/.654 in May), but replacement Fernando Tatis (.328/.385/.517) has been no slouch.

4


Rangers
20-14
5-1
.579
Up
Regression Ahead, For Better or Worse: Josh Hamilton returns from a three-week absence and homers in consecutive games against the Mariners, raising his season line to a still subpar .234/.302/.429 and helping the Rangers claim first place in the AL West. They're second in the league in scoring despite just four regulars with EqAs above the positional average, and the real key to their success-aside from a soft schedule (.482 projected winning percentage) thus far-is a 45-point improvement in Defensive Efficiency that's disguising the pitching staff's backsliding in two of the three defense-independent categories: home-run and strikeout rates.

5


Brewers
21-14
5-1
.574
Up
Prince and the New Power Generation: Rickie Weeks homers in three straight games, while Prince Fielder bashes a trio of homers in a three-game sweep of the Marlins, two of them go-ahead shots. Fielder's hitting .341/.472/.659 this month, one of five Brewers-along with Weeks, Ryan Braun, J.J. Hardy, and Craig Counsell (!)-who are slugging above .600 in May. The Brewers are tied for the league lead in homers, and they're a major league-best 18-6 since their 3-8 start, helping them grab a share of the NL Central lead.

6


Cardinals
21-14
2-4
.561
Down
Sharing the Catbird Seat: A 3-7 slide opens the door for the Cardinals' NL Central competitors to make their moves, and now four teams are separated by just a half-game. While losing Ryan Ludwick on top of Rick Ankiel can't be helping, the rotation's shortcomings are becoming more apparent. They've managed just three quality starts out of 12 this month, and now rank 11th in the league in SNLVAR.

7


Reds
20-14
5-1
.550
Up
Johnny Cueto allows more than one run for the first time in six starts, but his efforts help the Reds capture a share of first place, the latest they've held that spot since August 2006. Cueto is third in the league in ERA and sixth in SNLVAR thanks to a home-run rate that's half of what it was last year and a ground-ball rate that's risen from 40 percent to 45 percent-a change that meshes well with the Reds' much-improved defense.

8


Red Sox
21-14
3-3
.547
Down
The Sox lose red-hot Kevin Youkilis (.393/.505/.719) to the DL due to an oblique strain, and while he'll be replaced by light-hitting Jeff Bailey (.159/.315/.318), the team's real problems remain their pitching and defense. Hurt by the absence of Jed Lowrie, they're 11th in the league in Defensive Efficiency, with the largest drop-off from last year of any team. With three starters carrying ERAs over 6.00, including Brad Penny-who isn't missing many bats-it's time to give Clay Buchholz another shot.

9


Cubs
20-14
4-2
.543
Up
A-Ram Scram: With nine wins in 12 games, the Cubs draw closer to a suddenly crowded top of the NL Central, but they lose Aramis Ramirez for at least six weeks due to a dislocated shoulder; surgery may be necessary. His absence will hurt the Cubs-hell, it already has, given the time he's missed with calf trouble-as he leads the team in MLVr, a whopping .832 runs ahead of de facto lineup replacement Aaron Miles.

10


Royals
18-17
0-6
.540
Down
Hochevar Hammered: Curiously exiled to Triple-A to start the year, Luke Hochevar is recalled and battered for eight runs in two innings in his 2009 debut. Meanwhile, Zack Greinke proves he can't do it alone, losing 1-0 to the Angels despite allowing just four baserunners. Losers of six straight, the Royals may soon have an easier time finding themselves in the AL Central standings.

11


Angels
18-15
5-1
.523
Up
Joe Saunders outduels Zack Greinke to win a 1-0 gem. He's picked up where he left off last year, going 5-1 with a 2.66 ERA while running sixth in the league in SNLVAR. Not to be outdone, Jered Weaver is fourth in that category while carrying a 2.46 ERA. With Ervin Santana and John Lackey returning to action this week, the Angels' rotation, which has been admirably solid amid injury and tragedy, gets even stronger. Their bullpen is a story for another day.

12


Tigers
17-16
3-3
.517
Flat
D-Train and E-Jax: Dontrelle Willis returns to the majors in shaky fashion (4.2 8 4 4 2 0), but the real story in the rotation is their three shutouts in a four-game span, including a two-hitter by Justin Verlander and a combined seven-hitter spearheaded by Edwin Jackson. Jackson appears to have finally turned the corner. He's got the rotation's best ERA (2.60), his 3.2 K/BB ratio is more than double his career rate, and he's getting an excellent double-play support for such an extreme fly-baller.

13


Braves
17-17
4-2
.516
Up
Initials JJ: Jair Jurrjens is third in the league in SNLVAR and fourth in ERA (2.06) after holding the Mets to two runs in 7 2/3 innings. That's the fifth straight start (excluding a rain-forced exit) in which he's allowed two runs or less in six innings or more, but he's gotten just 10 runs of support in that span; the Braves are 2-3 in those games. Jurrjens' overall support is in the bottom tenth percentile of the league, and less than half that of Derek Lowe or Javier Vazquez.

14


Rays
16-20
2-4
.510
Down
The Rays roll up 11 runs in a two-inning span against the Red Sox for their only win in a three-game series at Fenway. Taking an early exit between the two big innings is Scott Kazmir, whose ERA has ballooned to 5.92. His strikeout rate has fallen from 9.8 per nine last year to 7.1 this year, his K/BB ratio is just 1.4, and his pitches per inning is rising for the third straight year. He's made just one quality start out of his last five, and the Rays have just four in 12 games this month, a major reason why they haven't been above .500 since April 13 (4-3).

15


Yankees
17-17
4-2
.490
Up
Alex Rodriguez drills a three-run homer on the first regular-season pitch he sees, but he goes just 3-for-21 amid a stretch that sees Jorge Posada hit the DL and Derek Jeter and Hideki Matsui both miss time due to nagging injuries. The Yanks need A-Rod to hit like the guy in the catalog, and they need Mark Teixeira (.203/.333/.424) to heat up as well. Tex is getting his walks and homers (four of the latter in a seven-game span), but his .193 BABIP is the lowest among the league's 105 batting-title qualifiers.

16


Twins
18-17
5-1
.478
Up
Coupla Hot Joes: Joe Crede homers in back-to-back games, belting a walk-off grand slam in the latter, to help the Twins to a three-game sweep of the Tigers. Crede is hitting .237/.302/.454, which ain't much to write home about, particularly when compared to Joe Mauer, who homers three times in four days, all Minnesota wins. Mauer is hitting .455/.547/.795 since returning on May 1.

17


Rockies
13-20
2-4
.473
Down
Cooking: The Rockies continue to struggle, but at least a pair of their better pitchers are finally coming around. Lit for a 10.22 ERA in his first three starts, Aaron Cook has yielded a 2.67 ERA over his last four, all quality starts. Meanwhile, Ubaldo Jimenez has delivered a 2.14 ERA with a 15:3 K/BB rate over his last three starts following a 7.58 ERA and a 19:17 K/BB over his first four. He's one of three pitchers with at least 40 innings who have yet to allow a home run, along with Wandy Rodriguez and Zack Greinke.

18


Phillies
16-16
2-4
.473
Down
Moy Vey: After tasting the top spot in the NL East, the Phils drop six of eight, including a pair of disasterpieces by Jamie Moyer, who's carrying an 8.15 ERA via just one quality start out of seven. His Support Neutral Winning Percentage (SNLVA_R + .5) is 115th out of the 118 starters with at least 30 IP, and Chan Ho Park and Joe Blanton are also in the bottom 15. However, there's no truth to the rumor his fastball was arrested for failing to maintain the minimum speed on the freeway.

19


Pirates
14-20
2-4
.473
Down
The Bucs lose eight straight and 11 out of 12 before Zach Duke halts the slide with eight strong innings against the Cardinals. Duke's in the NL's top 10 in both ERA and SNLVAR, with Ross Ohlendorf and Paul Maholm also ranked among the top 25 in the latter category. The Pirates remain third in the league in run prevention, but they're fourth from the bottom in scoring.

20


Indians
14-22
3-4
.463
Up
Wedgie? With his team well into its third contention-snuffing start in four years, manager Eric Wedge receives the dreaded vote of confidence from GM Mark Shapiro. He survives to skipper another day, but between his bleeding bullpen and his curious choice to sit just-recalled Matt LaPorta for four days-including a three-game sweep by the Tigers in which the Tribe is held to three runs and shutout twice in a row-the temperature of his seat is rising.

21


Marlins
17-18
2-4
.459
Down
Fish Stink: Hanley Ramirez is putting up videogame stats in May (.488/.577/.884), but losing four straight and 19 out of 25 plunges the Marlins below .500 for the first time this year. Aside from the good work of Josh Johnson and Chris Volstad, the rotation is falling apart; they lose Anibal Sanchez to a shoulder sprain, resort to starting John Koronka (he of the 6.13 career ERA), and watch Ricky Nolasco combust yet again. Coming off of a career year, Nolasco's made just one quality start out of eight, and his 7.78 ERA is much worse than his peripherals thanks to a .377 BABIP and an inflated line-drive rate.

22


Giants
18-16
4-3
.457
Flat
The Giants gain ground on the Mannyless Dodgers, taking two of three in Chavez Ravine. Kicking things off is Barry Zito, who holds MLB's EqA leaders to one run in six frames. Thanks to a 1.9 K/BB ratio-his best since 2004-Zito has four quality starts in his last five and is 13th in the league in SNLVAR, but he's just 1-3 for his troubles thanks to 2.6 runs per game of support.

23


Athletics
13-18
3-2
.452
Up
Leveling Off: The A's post a winning record against a trio of over-.500 teams, snapping a four-game losing streak behind Trevor Cahill, who collects his first big-league win in the process. Though his K/BB rate still stands at an unappealing 14:20, Cahill has shown solid improvement over his last three starts, allowing just four runs (all on solo homers) in 19 innings. It's come in a timely fashion, with Brett Anderson laid up by a blister, Dallas Braden bruised by a line drive, and Dana Eveland shipped off to Sacramento for suckitude.

24


Astros
16-18
5-1
.452
Up
Bourn Again: Michael Bourn goes 10-for-22 for the week, collecting a pair of knocks in the Astros 24-hit onslaught and four more in a game where he also steals home. After last year's abysmal .229/.288/.300, Bourn is hitting .317/.382/.439 thus far, and he's improved his strikeout to walk ratio from 3.0 to 1.8.

25


Mariners
16-19
1-5
.426
Down
Morrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow: Brandon Morrow blows consecutive save opportunities and takes the loss in the final two games of a three-game sweep by the Rangers. That's 10 defeats in 13 games for the Mariners, who sink to third place in the AL West after spending more than three weeks in first. While Morrow is carrying a 9.72 ERA while walking 10.8 per nine, the real culprit is an offense that now ranks second-to-last in the league in EqA. Russell Branyan is the only M over .300, while Ken Griffey Jr. and Ichiro Suzuki are the only other regulars above .260.

26


White Sox
15-18
2-4
.425
Down
Shut out three times in their last nine games and ranked second-to-last in the AL in scoring, the White Sox can ill afford to give up runs by the bushel. They demote Jose Contreras to Triple-A Charlotte after his third disastrous start in his last four outings. He's put up an 8.19 ERA while walking 4.9 per nine, and his ERA since the beginning of 2007 now stands at 5.43. Also putting up three disasterpieces in four turns is Gavin Floyd, who's carrying a 7.32 ERA thanks to a BABIP that's risen from .259 last year to .368 thus far.

27


Nationals
11-21
3-3
.423
Up
Zero For Zimmy: Ryan Zimmerman's 30-game hitting streak comes to an end amid a nearly equally rare occurrence, a Nationals victory (oh, snap!). Zim hits .382/.427/.649 during that span-which dates to the third game of the year-but he becomes the eighth player out of the last 13 whose streak reaches 30 and stops right there. Though Adam Dunn can't claim such a streak, he's hitting .310/.444/.638 with 11 homers, including a quartet against his most recent team, the Diamondbacks.

28


Orioles
15-20
3-3
.422
Up
Jonesin': Adam Jones laces 10 hits in a five-game span, including a pair of homers to power the Orioles past the Rays. He's hitting .370/.426/.669, ranking in the league's top five in all three triple-slash categories and leading the league in runs. Alas, he strains his hamstring at a time when the team is already missing Luke Scott, but slumping Felix Pie provides a silver lining by homering in Jones' place.

29


Diamondbacks
13-22
1-5
.406
Down
Snakebitten: Not even a managerial change can snap the D'backs out of their slump; they've lost 10 of 12. Conor Jackson is sent to the DL amid a lingering illness that has him batting an anemic .182/.264/.253, opening the door for more Eric Byrnes, but at .200/.250/.400, that's not necessarily a good thing. Adding insult to injury, Micah Owings stifles his former teammates.

30


Padres
13-22
0-6
.381
Down
Blowing: After surrendering just one home run in his first seven starts, Chris Young is battered for four of them on a windy, rainy night at Wrigley Field. Young's been all over the map, with three disaster starts and three in which he's allowed no more than one run. Jake Peavy's been more consistent (five runs over his last 21 innings), but the Padres have supported him with just three in that three-start span, and they haven't won one of his starts since April 16. In all, the Pads have now lost six straight and 19 out of 23 following their 9-3 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 Thursday.

Jay Jaffe is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jay's other articles. You can contact Jay by clicking here

13 comments have been left for this article.

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