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July 8, 2010

Prospectus Hit List

NL: Zero to Nine and Beyond

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Braves
50-35
4-2
.577
Up
Extra Help: The Braves beat the Phillies in 11 innings en route to a series win thanks to the contributions of a pair of players who otherwise haven't helped much thus far. Jair Jurrjens gives them his first quality start since April 24 in just his second start since returning from a two-month absence due to a hamstring injury. Matt Diaz goes 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles, the latter driving in the go-ahead run, then hits a two-run homer in the next day's win as well. Diaz is back from six weeks lost to a thumb injury, hitting just .202/.245/.326 but hoping to help a Braves outfield which has hit just .239/.322/.368 for the second-lowest OPS in the league.

2


Padres
49-35
3-3
.565
Down
More Zeroes:Mat Latos, Kevin Correia and their bullpen friends spin back-to-back shutouts of the Astros as the Padres maintain their NL West lead and move into a tie with the Mets for the most shutouts thrown this year, with 12. Latos is rolling, having allowed just one run across his past three starts and two or less in 11 of his past 12; he's got a 1.70 ERA since May 1 and ranks fifth in the league with a .642 SNWP. Correia's been scuffling during that same span, with a 5.61 ERA and four quality starts out of 11.

3


Rockies
46-38
5-1
.560
Up
Nine in the Ninth: A pair of three-run homers by Chris Iannetta and Seth Smith help the Rockies overcome a six-run ninth-inning deficit against the Cardinals. Runs haven't been hard to come by for the Rox lately; they're averaging 7.1 a game while winning seven of nine, with Dexter Fowler hitting .364/.512/.758 since being recalled from his Triple-A refresher course and Carlos Gonzalez homering five times and slugging .750 in that span. Iannetta's showing signs of life as well, homering in three straight games to double his season total. Watch to see if the Red Sox continue to try to pry him loose.

4


Reds
49-37
5-2
.549
Up
Homerism: Snubbed in the All-Star selection process, Joey Votto takes over the NL home run lead with a two-homer game against the Mets, giving him six homers in a nine-game span and 21 for the year. He also claims the league leads in both OBP (.417) and SLG (.588), making Charlie Manuel's guy, Ryan Howard, look like a puny little girlyman in the process; Votto's league-high .337 True Average trumps that of Howard (.293), and he's got a stronger track record against lefties as well. Speaking of homers, Drew Subbs hits three in one game on a day where the wind is blowing out at Wrigley Field; the Reds go yard seven times. They now lead the league with 104 longballs and six players in double digits.

5


Cardinals
45-39
2-4
.549
Down
Red-Faced: Losers of five out of seven, the Cardinals fall a season-high three games out of first place in the NL Central after some listless play, reaching the nadir as they blow a six-run ninth inning lead and allow the Rockies to score nine runs. It's the first time since 1901 that a team has allowed nine in the ninth to lose via walkoff. Collaborating on this spectacular act of arson are Dennys Reyes and Ryan Franklin; the latter gives up a pair of three-run homers and sees his Fair Run Average balloon to 4.11, though he still ranks sixth in the league in WXRL (the Cardinals as a team are eighth). No word on whether Tony "Teabag" La Russa's asked to see Reyes' papers.

6


Dodgers
46-38
3-3
.540
Up
Snapping Out of It: Out of the lineup for three days due to a slump and some totally lunkheaded play, Matt Kemp returns with a vengeance, homering four times and collecting nine hits and nine RBI in a six-game span as the Dodgers regain some lost ground. Also snapping out of his funk is Andre Ethier, who homers twice and collects nine hits during that span. The duo's offense is especially welcome as it coincides with the absence of Manny Ramirez, who hits the disabled list due to a strained hamstring but could start a rehab assignment as soon as this weekend. Speaking of heating up (not to mention the DL), Chad Billingsley (three runs in 12 innings) and Vicente Padilla (nine runs in 26 innings, with a 25/3 K/BB) are both pitching well in their returns to action.

7


Giants
44-40
4-3
.535
Up
No More Block-Busters: The Buster Posey era begins in San Francisco, as the rookie backstop makes more starts behind the plate in a single week (five) than in his previous month on the roster (two), outhomering displaced Bengie Molina by hitting more in that week (four) than Slow Mo' had in his previous month (one); two of those homers come amid a 4-for-4, six-RBI day off at first base. Adding insult to injury, news surfaces that GM Brian Sabean was so busy playing Ring Around the Rosy (y'know, to celebrate his lineupfulla...) that he failed to inform the outbound Molina he'd been dealt. Classy. Speaking of Giants rookies, Madison Bumgarner garners his first big-league win via eight innings of three-hit shutout ball and an RBI single.

8


Mets
47-38
3-4
.531
Down
Changin' It Up: Johan Santana throws a three-hit shutout against the Reds, hitting his first major league homer as well. It's the second strong start in a row for Santana after a four-start, 5.96 ERA stretch, a struggle that may have been caused by him tipping his changeup. Meanwhile, Jose Reyes returns to action after a six-day absence by limiting himself to batting from the right side, while Carlos Beltran is drawing ever closer to a return.

9


Phillies
43-40
2-5
.527
Down
Slipping Away: Losers of six out of eight, the Phillies fall a season-high six games back in the NL East. They take their lumps against even the Pirates, losing three out of four. Getting roughed up in one of those losses is Joe Blanton, whose season-high streak of three straight quality starts comes to a halt. Eric Seidman's favorite innings eater is still averaging above six innings a start, but his 6.27 ERA is downright unsightly and his .367 SNWP is the worst in the league. He's been bedeviled by the longball (1.7 per nine), and while his 4.53 SIERA suggests he's pitching better than his results indicate, the banged-up Phillies are pining for a chance to reacquire Cliff Lee or add another starter.

10


Marlins
40-44
3-3
.513
Flat
Double Standard: The Marlins slide further under .500, and they send Chris Volstad back to the minors after a disaster start against the Dodgers. The Fish had won just one of Volstad's last 11 starts, and while he hadn't pitched well during that span (5.22 ERA), his peripherals weren't terrible, and neither was his overall 4.42 SIERA. The real problem is that he'd gotten just 3.7 runs per game of support during that stretch, and 4.1 overall. Nate Robertson has got a higher ERA, higher SIERA, lower SNWP, fewer quality starts and a lower first strike percentage than Volstad, yet his position is safe. Three guesses as to which of the two has better run support, a 6-6 record and the crucial knowledge of how to win.

11


Cubs
38-47
4-3
.463
Flat
Return to the Land of the Living? After missing a couple of games over the weekend due to a recurrence of his thumb injury, Aramis Ramirez homers twice in a win against the Diamondbacks, then follows up with another shot the next day. Ramirez is hitting .279/.326/.581 since his return from the disabled list, which ain't Albert Pujols, but isn't the .168/.232/.285 line he'd put up prior to going down. Alas, the Cubs' offense is still sputtering of late, averaging just 3.5 runs a game over the past four weeks, with Derrek Lee (..231/.311/.374), Marlon Byrd (..250/.310/.315) and Ryan Theriot (.262/.311/.298) looking less than lifelike and Kosuke Fukudome (.174/.296/.304) and Xavier Nady (.209/.255/.233) stinking on ice.

12


Nationals
38-47
4-2
.456
Up
Walkoff, DC: After scoring just one run over the course of his previous three starts, the Nationals finally give Stephen Strasburg some support with a 6-5 walkoff win against Francisco Rodriguez and the Mets; they survive a replay-based decision that Adam Dunn's apparent grand slam in fact caromed off the wall. Strasburg is shut out of the All-Star Game, but a more deserving'and to date snubbed'candidate, Ryan Zimmerman, belts a walkoff shot of his own, his third homer in two days after hitting just two in June; he's batting .296/.384/.533, and his .321 True Average is nestled snugly between All-Stars David Wright (.329) and Scott Rolen (.312).

13


Brewers
37-48
2-5
.444
Down
Oh No, Yo! Named to the All-Star team just hours before, Yovani Gallardo leaves his start in the third inning with an oblique strain, likely costing him at least a month. Gallardo is second in the league in strikeouts, seventh in ERA and 11th in SNLVAR at 3.0. The next-highest Brewer is Dave Bush in 46th with 1.2, and the rotation as a whole ranks second-to-last in the league, so the question is whether this crippling blow will prompt the team to explore trades of Corey Hart, Prince Fielder and others in a quest to find some damn pitching already.

14


Diamondbacks
32-53
1-5
.398
Down
Snake Whacking Day: Stuck in last place at 31-48, the Diamondbacks clean house, firing both general manager Josh Byrnes and manager A.J. Hinch and naming Jerry DiPoto and Kirk Gibson to fill their jobs on an interim basis. For all of the kind words regarding Bynres' talents, the team put up a .480 winning percentage and just two winning seasons during his 4 1/2-year tenure. Brandon Webb's injury isn't the sole cause of that; the offense put up a cumulative .253 True Average and hit every rung between 11th and 15th in the league during that time, maxing out at .260 this year' a product of investing in too many low-wattage hitters like Chris Young, Stephen Drew, Conor Jackson and Chad Tracy, to say nothing of the $30 million Byrnes burned on Eric Byrnes (.218/.271/.382 under that pact before being released) while trading Carlos Quentin. In any event, Gibson's first two days on the job include minding Edwin Jackson's post no-hitter workload and absorbing a seven-error, 14-1 pounding, both at the hands of the Dodgers. We're guessing none of his players had the guts to eyeblack his cap after that one.

15


Astros
34-51
3-3
.360
Up
Rediscovering the Magic: Wandy Rodriguez whiffs a season-high 10 hitters in his third straight strong start. He's allowed just two earned runs in 20 innings with a 19/4 K/BB ratio in that span, shaving his ERA from 6.09 to 5.00, with his 4.24 SIERA suggesting it might sink even lower. Elsewhere in the rotation, Roy Oswalt rebounds from a pounding by potential suitor Texas, but his seven shutout innings go to no avail due to an offense that's shooting blanks. Word on the street is that the Astros are seeking three major-league-ready prospects and a dumping of the $33 million remaining on Oswalt's deal'yeesh, Drayton McLane might as well ask Ed Wade to build him a functioning offense AND pass a camel through the eye of a needle while he's at it.

16


Pirates
30-54
3-3
.306
Flat
The Swing of Things: After an inauspicious 4-for-35 start to his major league career, Pedro Alvarez reels off an eight-game hitting streak punctuated by his first two major league homers in back-to-back games. The second one provides some July 4 fireworks by igniting a six-run seventh-inning rally which helps the Pirates take a four-game series from the Phillies. The Bucs are 4-2 this year against the Phils, and 5-4 since halting a 2-18 slide.


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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Next Column >>
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Premium Article Under The Knife: Peavy... (07/08)

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