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July 1, 2010

Prospectus Hit List

Comebacks and Comedowns

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Padres
46-32
4-3
.573
Down
Paltry Punch: Will Venable homers four times in a seven-game span as the Padres go 6-1 to stretch their NL West lead to a season-high 4.5 games. The outburst doubles Venable's season total for dingers; he's hitting .242/.315/.422, which doesn't look like much, but his .275 True Average is second among the lineup's regulars behind Adrian Gonzalez (.327). In fact, with a .250 TAv which ranks third-to-last in the league, the Pads are winning in spite of their offense, getting above-average production from just two other spots via Scott Hairston (.270) and the catching duo of Nick Hundley (.264) and Yorvit Torrealba (.263).

2


Braves
46-33
4-3
.572
Down
Rookie Racket: The Braves give Stephen Strasburg his first taste of the difference between the contenders and the pretenders, but hopes of a marquee matchup between two of the game's most heralded rookies are dashed when Jason Heyward hits the DL due to a deep bone bruise in his thumb. Heyward had been attempting to play through the injury-Chipper Jones, but his .181/.287/.245 June culminated in a 3-for-26 flatline. As for Jones, he reels off an 11-game hitting streak (.385/.457/.615) after returning from his own maladies, including a big three-run homer which helps 0-9 Kenshin Kawakami earn his first W of the year.

3


Cardinals
43-35
3-4
.564
Down
Birds of a Feather: After allowing three earned runs or fewer in each of his first 15 major-league starts (including 2008), Jaime Garcia is tagged for five runs by the Royals and forced to depart after two-plus innings. Even so, Garcia still ranks third in the league in ERA (2.27), with Adam Wainwright (2.34) and Chris Carpenter (2.70) fifth and eighth, respectively. All three are in the top 10 with SNWPs above .600 as well, with Wainwright's .640 ranking fifth. Not surprisingly, the Cardinals' rotation ranks second in the league in SNLVAR.

4


Rockies
41-37
3-4
.542
Down
Him Again? Already with this season's top fashion accessory, a no-hitter, under his belt, Ubaldo Jimenez takes another bid into the sixth against the Padres. The bid fails, but he withstands a four-run outburst as the Rockies gain a bit of ground in the crowded NL West race; with eight wins in 12 games they climb a season-high five games above .500. Jimenez is now 14-1, but he's yielded 18 baserunners and 10 runs in his last 11.2 innings to push his league-leading ERA from 1.15 to 1.83. Nonetheless, his Support-Neutral Winning Percentage is still a searing .705; only 11 pitchers have topped .700 in a Retrosheet-era season, none since Pedro Martinez in 2000.

5


Phillies
41-35
4-3
.538
Up
Out in the Infield: Chase Utley and Placido Polanco combine to go 7-for-8 in a sweep-capping rout of the Indians, but five days later they both hit the DL due to a thumb sprain and elbow inflammation, respectively. Utley is 19th in the league in True Average, but had endured a power outage in June (.368 SLG, .092 ISO), and may need surgery. The injuries come just as the Phillies' offense was starting to roll, averaging 6.5 runs per game over their last 12 while going 8-4. The infield of Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and the sidelined duo have started just 12 games this season; the Phils are 10-2 in those games, 31-32 otherwise.

6


Dodgers
43-35
5-2
.537
Up
The Real Raffy: Rafael Furcal goes 4-for-5 with a homer to cap a sweep of the Giants, erasing the sting of a disappointing visit by the Yankees in which Joe Torre allows Jonathan Broxton to fritter away a four-run ninth-inning lead in the rubber game. After missing five games-all Dodger losses-due to the death of his father, Furcal is on a 16-for-34 tear, including a 14-hit, nine-run binge in his last five game; he's hitting .333/.382/.488. The Dodgers need his offensive spark more than ever, as Manny Ramirez (.366/.441/.598 this month) is sidelined by a hamstring injury during a month in which the entire offense outside of the dynamic Raf-Man duo hits .251/.322/.342 in June prior to the Giants finale, with Andre Ethier (.229/.280/.333) and Matt Kemp (.208/.262/.333) especially lost.

7


Mets
44-34
3-4
.534
Down
Kept at Bay: Jason Bay homers twice and drives in three runs against the Marlins in the opener of their San Juan, Puerto Rico series, but that's just about all the offense the Mets get as they fall 10-3. For all the talk of Bay's difficulty adapting to Citi Field, he's hitting .300/.394/.507 at home and just .250/.338/.375 on the road, with three homers in each split. Elsewhere in the outfield, Carlos Beltran starts his rehab just as Angel Pagan is sidelined by an oblique strain. Pagan has been a godsend for the Mets, with a .295 True Average which ranks only behind David Wright (.325) and Bay (.303).

8


Reds
44-35
4-2
.531
Up
Ballad of a Comeback Kid: Jay Bruce's eighth-inning homer off Roy Halladay sends the Reds to a series win over the Phillies and a slim lead in the NL Central thanks to their seventh win in nine games; it's also their 25th come-from behind win and the 14th in their final at-bat. Dismissed by many as a bust coming into the year, the 23-year-old Bruce is hitting .281/.355/.473 with a .285 True Average that's right on target with his PECOTA weighted mean projection. Also homering in the Reds' win is Joey Votto, his third in four games; he's fourth in the league in AVG (.313), second in both OBP (.413) and SLG (.574), and tied for first in homers (18)-the kind of across-the-board showing that could win a guy an MVP award if the Cards fall just right.

9


Giants
40-37
1-6
.531
Down
Everybody Was Kung Fu Slumping: A 1-7 slide knocks the Giants from second place to fourth in the NL West as the team's offense returns to earth with a resounding thud. At the center of the struggle is Pablo Sandoval, who's hitting just .234/.289/.341 since May 1, is on pace to ground into 38 double plays, topping Jim Rice's single-season record of 36, and is compounding his woes with baserunning mistakes. His .269 TAv ranks just sixth among Giants with at least 100 plate appearances. Also hitting a rough patch is Buster Posey, who's got seven hits in his last 48 at-bats; he strikes out pinch-hitting for Sandoval to end a loss against the Dodgers. Posey has just two freakin' starts behind the plate, but the trade of Bengie Molina appears to clear a path for him.

10


Marlins
37-41
2-5
.515
Down
Rico Suave: The Marlins fail to reach an agreement with Bobby Valentine to fill their managerial vacancy, a move which appeared imminent only a few days before. Whether the deal was scuttled over money, power, or Lorian-Samsonian idiocy is unclear at this point. Interim skipper Edwin Rodriguez gets the job for the remainder of the season, becoming the first Puerto Rico native to manage in the majors and being treated to a three-game series in San Juan, with Hanley Ramirez delivering a grand slam and Dan Uggla a walk-off single to celebrate his elevated status.

11


Cubs
34-44
3-4
.466
Down
Anger Management: Carlos Zambrano erupts into a mid-inning tirade over his defense's perceived lack of effort following a four-run first. Manager Lou Piniella-no stranger to angry outbursts--pulls Zambrano from the game. Performance-wise, the Big Z may have a point, as he's been strafed for a .373 BABIP while putting up a 4.05 SIERA, but for his actions he's suspended without pay, placed on the restricted list, directed to make sacrifices to Jobu therapy, and won't be back until at least the All-Star break. Despite having about $45 million remaining on his deal through 2012, he'll return as an expensive toro in the pen, as Tom Gorzelanny rejoins a rotation where he'd hardly shamed himself (3.66 ERA, .511 SNWP).

12


Brewers
35-43
4-3
.457
Up
Still Royalty: Prince Fielder clubs four homers in a six-game span, including a pair against the Astros, pushing him to an MLB-best 10 for the month and 17 for the year. Fielder is earning $10.5 million this year and will be arbitration-eligible for the final time this winter. The Brewers aren't actively negotiating with Scott Boras for an extension, so the question of whether they'll consider dealing him has arisen. Thus far it sounds as though owner Mark Attanasio is more inclined to try one more run rather than hold a fire sale given fan support in Milwaukee; the Brewers are on pace to draw 2.8 million, a drop from 2008-09 but still with the possibility of being the third- or fourth-largest gate in team history.

13


Nationals
34-45
1-5
.447
Down
Mama Said There'd Be Days Like These: Stephen Strasburg pitches well but islet down by both his offense, which has given him just one run of support over his last three starts, and his defense, with Ian Desmond muffing a potential double-play ball en route to a five-run seventh. Despite Strasburg's arrival, it was been a brutal month for the Nats; level at 26-26 entering June, they went 8-19 while averaging just 3.4 runs per game on offense and 4.6 on defense, or 3.5 and 5.0 on days Strasburg wasn't pitching.

14


Diamondbacks
31-48
3-3
.409
Flat
America's Ugliest Zeroes: Edwin Jackson hurls the season's fourth official no-hitter, blanking the Rays 1-0. It's hardly a gem, as he racks up eight walks (seven in the first three innings) and lasts 149 pitches as manager A.J. Hinch avoids his steaming pile of a bullpen in favor of a shot at individual glory. The walks are the most in any no-hitter since A.J. Burnett yielded nine in 2001, while Jackson's pitch count is the highest on record for such a game, and the highest in any game since 2005. Such overexertion doesn't guarantee he'll get hurt or become ineffective, but given Jackson'a 6.03 ERA prior to June and 2.11 mark since, you can bet many a narrative will be spun.

15


Astros
31-48
4-3
.346
Up
Reasons to Be Glum: What do you get for a team that has everything in the way of the worst Defensive Efficiency (.655) and PADE (-5.66) in the majors? That's right, a 37-year-old with a .217 True Average playing shortstop-something he did only five times in 2008-09-while Tommy Manzella is out with a broken whatever: Geoff Blum. What, Rafael Landestoy wasn't available?

16


Pirates
27-51
2-5
.303
Flat
79 Style: The Pirates break out the pillbox hats reminiscent of their last world championship team to divert attention from a 2-18 skid and enliven an otherwise dull interleague series with the A's. Alas, they run their road losing streak to 17 games as they're swept in Oakland, and worse, they lose Neil Walker to a concussion sustained in a collision with Ryan Church, a man who knows more about bell ringing than the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Walker is hitting .295/.325/.464 for a .282 True Average, good for third on the team. Whether he'll go on the DL remains an open question, but in the meantime, at least Paul Maholm halts the road slide with a win at Wrigley Field.


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

5 comments have been left for this article.

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