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August 26, 2010

Prospectus Hit List

NL: Down The Stretch They Come

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Padres
76-49
4-2
.592
Up
Padres Power Up: Adrian Gonzalez belts four homers in seven games, while Chris Denorfia adds one to back a strong Clayton Richard effort and continue a torrid second half. Gonzalez ranks sixth in the league with 26 homers and fifth with a .320 TAv. His team-high eight second-half homers are one more than Denorfia, who's hitting .317/.390/.615 in 118 PA since the break. Speaking of homers, Matt Stairs breaks the major-league record with his 21st pinch-homer; he's hitting just .203/.268/.392 this year but owns a .259/.364/.499 mark in 429 lifetime pinch-hit appearances.

2


Braves
73-54
2-5
.585
Flat
H&H: Tim Hudson is knocked around by the Rockies, yielding as many runs in six innings (four) as he had in his previous six starts (43.2 innings). Hudson's got numbers which might garner Cy Young support; he's 14-5 with a 2.28 ERA and a .668 SNWP, both good for second in the league. But as solid as his comeback from Tommy John surgery has been, his performance isn't likely to be sustainable, as he's been the beneficiary of a .243 BABIP (fourth-lowest in the league) while whiffing just 4.9 per nine (fifth-lowest); his SIERA is 3.83. Meanwhile, Jason Heyward snaps out of a 40-game, one-homer slump (.241/.347/.338) with a pair of dingers in Lou Piniella's final game as Cubs manager.

3


Cardinals
68-56
3-3
.566
Up
You Say Feliz, I Say Felipe, Let's Call the Whole Thing Off: Desperate for a third baseman due to extreme fidgetiness on the part of Tony LaRussa-Felipe Lopez having apparently worn out his hot corner welcome-the Cardinals trade for Pedro Feliz, owner of the lowest True Average in all of the majors among hitters with at least 300 plate appearances (.203). The move is sold as a defense-based one, though various metrics suggest Lopez has actually been average at third this year, with Feliz a few runs to the bad; it doesn't help that Lopez is hitting just .141/.273/.172 this month. Feliz, of course, quickly takes to his new surroundings with three straight two-hit games, though the Cards can't keep pace with the Reds in the NL Central race.

4


Reds
73-54
4-3
.553
Flat
Arms Race: A seven-game winning streak gives the Reds their biggest cushion of the year atop the NL Central, but the cracks are showing on their pitching staff, particularly after they surrender 38 runs in three nights against the Giants. Edinson Volquez is pasted for five first-inning runs while retiring just two hitters, his second disaster start in a row and fourth in eight turns since returning from Tommy John surgery; he's got a 6.17 ERA and a .438 SNWP, and may be bullpen bound. Elsewhere, the team may consider shutting down Mike Leake after he's bombed for six runs in one-third of an inning of "relief," but the team still has one high-profile arm in reserve in Aroldis Chapman, who's pitching so well out of Triple-A Louisville's bullpen that he could soon be recalled.

5


Phillies
70-56
2-5
.542
Down
Rusty: Four days after Chase Utley's return, Ryan Howard rejoins the lineup following his ankle sprain and goes 2-for-19 with 10 strikeouts. Five of them come in one 16-inning game, but he's not around for the end of it, having been tossed in the 14th over a checked swing call; his ejection forces Raul Ibañez to first base and Roy Oswalt into left field, the first Phillies pitcher to take a position in 39 years. As for Utley, he's hitting just .226/.351/.258 in 37 PA since his return, and the supporting cast isn't helping, scoring just 16 runs over their last seven games.

6


Rockies
66-60
4-3
.541
Up
It's Like Orange Julius, Except Purple: Jhoulys Chacin scatters three hits in 7.2 scoreless innings while whiffing nine Diamondbacks. Chacin has a 3.63 ERA and 9.3 K/9 in his 14 starts; his .499 SNWP is second on the team to Ubaldo Jimenez. The rest of the rotation beyond that duo has been a huge disappointment, compiling a 4.86 ERA and just a .449 SNWP, which explains why the Rox are four games out of the wild card and 10.5 out of the division lead, with just a 7.4 percent chance of making the playoffs.

7


Giants
71-57
4-3
.540
Up
Giant Steps? The NL wild card leaders attempt to upgrade their lineup before the waiver deadline, adding Jose Guillen (.266 TAv in KC) and Cody Ross (.262) to the fold, shifting Aubrey Huff back to first base and benching Travis Ishikawa (.270, higher than the new arrivals). The team sputters along in the first seven games of their new alignment (.219/.251/.356, 2.7 runs per game) before breaking out for 38 runs in a trio of games against the Reds, with Pablo Sandoval going 10-for-16 with two doubles, a homer and seven RBI. It's the Kung Fu Panda's fourth homer in 10 games; he's hitting .326/.354/.576 this month after entering August with a .264/.325/.382 line.

8


Dodgers
65-62
4-2
.518
Up
Coming and Going: Having fallen further from first place after taking on former Royals and Cubs, the Dodgers attempt the coup de grâce by adding a Met: Rod Barajas, who arrives via waivers to patch their catching position in the absence of Russell Martin. A Dodger fan in his youth, Barajas makes a strong first impression with two doubles and a three-run homer in his first three at-bats, nearly equaling his output since June 1 (.163/.223/.221 with three doubles, a homer and four RBI in 113 PA). Meanwhile, Manny Ramirez hits the waiver wire, as do Casey Blake, Scott Podsednik and Jay Gibbons. The White Sox are supposedly warm for the dreadlocked slugger, who's hit .313/.407/.513 with eight homers in 231 PA in between three trips to the disabled list; his .322 TAv would rank fifth in the league given enough playing time to qualify. The Dodgers are 32-22 with him in the lineup, 33-40 when he sits or is DLed.

9


Marlins
63-62
4-2
.510
Up
Maybe Maybin: The Marlins lose Cody Ross to the Giants, no great loss as he was hitting just .265/.316/.405. The move opens yet another opportunity for 23-year-old Cameron Maybin, who was sent down to the minors in early June while hitting just .236/.297/.346 and striking out in 28.3 percent of his plate appearances. After hitting .323/.379/.489 while striking out just 20.3 percent of the time at Triple-A New Orleans-good for a .297 TAv-he returns to the majors and goes 4-for-9 in his first two games, though he strikes out twice as well. Meanwhile, the Marlins' financial chicanery via revenue sharing comes to light, showing that the team could have taken on a considerably greater share of the cost of their new stadium.

10


Mets
63-63
3-3
.492
Down
Keystone Light: Luis Castillo's walkoff single sends the Mets past the Marlins, giving the sputtering offense (2.8 runs per game this month) the rare highlight. It's just Castillo's second hit since August 4; he's just 2-for-18 since then while starting five of 18 games, hitting .237/.337/.275 overall. As bad as that line is, it dwarfs the .167/.264/.203 performance of rookie Ruben Tejada, who's usurped Castillo's playing time because, you know, "youth movement." Throw in the mercifully released Alex Cora and you've got an execrable .218/.299/.269 performance from the team's second basemen, good for an OPS 55 points lower than that of any other major-league team. Castillo has still got one year at $6 million remaining on his deal; he's compiled all of 3.3 WARP through the first three years of his deal ($19 million).

11


Brewers
59-67
2-3
.454
Flat
Sub-Parra: As bad as the Brewers' rotation has been-15th in the league in SNLVAR, with a 5.44 Fair Run Average-manager Ken Macha reaches the inevitable conclusion that Manny Parra can't cut it. He's got a 6.19 ERA as a starter, not to mention a .368 SNWP, the second-lowest in the league among pitchers with at least 100 innings. The southpaw has become particularly incapable of retiring lefty hitters, who are batting a searing .358/.417/.642 against him in 143 PA this year, the first time in his career he's shown a reverse platoon split. Meanwhile, Bud Selig gets a statue in front of Miller Park, believed to be the first ever devoted to a used car salesman.

12


Cubs
54-74
4-3
.444
Up
Sayonara, Sweet Lou: A month after announcing his retirement at the end of the season, Lou Piniella accelerates his departure to tend to his ailing mother. With his team 23 games under .500 and on a 96-loss pace, who can blame him, particularly with such an ignominious sendoff? The team wins its first three games under interim skipper Mike Quade thanks to some solid starting pitching from Casey Coleman (in his own major league debut) and Carlos Zambrano, who's got a 2.25 ERA in four starts since returning to the rotation despite a 15/16 K/BB ratio in 24 frames.

13


Nationals
53-74
2-5
.440
Down
Going Down Again: Just three starts into his return from a bout of shoulder stiffness, Stephen Strasburg departs after 4.1 innings due to a strained flexor tendon. He is back on the disabled list and probably done for the season; if so, he finishes with a 2.91 ERA, 12.2 K/9 and a .572 SNWP. Team announcer Rob Dibble-who's having a great summer when it comes to inserting his foot in his mouth-tells the young phenom to "suck it up," though if there's anyone less qualified to discuss how to handle arm injuries it's the former Nasty Boy, who pitched through pain only to suck it up via a 6.75 ERA in 68 innings after his age-28 season, depriving him of big free agent dollars.

14


Astros
57-69
5-2
.412
Down
Getting Their Phil: The Astros dent the Phillies' wild card hopes by taking the first three games of a four-game series which at one point features the surreal sight of former ace Roy Oswalt playing left field against them in an extra-inning affair and making the final out of the game at the plate. Former Phil J. A. Happ tops Roy Halladay in the third game of the series, with another former Phil, Michael Bourn, hitting a solo homer off the Doc. Also homering in that game is Hunter Pence, who's tearing up the league (.331/.354/.571/8 HR) in the second half after slumping through the first (.263/.316/.427/12 HR).

15


Diamondbacks
49-78
2-4
.409
Down
Barry Good: Rookie Barry Enright outduels Ubaldo Jimenez, yielding just one run in 6.2 frames. Ten starts into his major-league career, Enright has yet to surrender more than three runs; he's got six quality starts, a 2.73 ERA and a .608 SNWP. Fellow rookie Daniel Hudson is the only teammate with an SNWP above .500; he's at .708 after seven shutout innings against the Rox, though his offense fails to get him a run. Hudson has a 28/3 K/BB ratio over his last three starts, but the Diamondbacks have won just one due to poor run support.

16


Pirates
43-84
3-4
.314
Down
Young Buc and Big Bucks: Jose Tabata's sixth-inning homer off Johan Santana pushes the Pirates past the Mets. The homer is part of a 14-for-30 tear for Tabata over his last nine games. He's hitting a scorching .362/.391/.477 since the break, tops on the team in all three triple-slash categories. Meanwhile, a leak of financial documents shows that the Bucs have been raking in big-dollar profits thanks to revenue sharing, news which won't sit well with any fan who's suffered through their 18 consecutive losing seasons while watching them scrimp and save.


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

Related Content:  Homer,  The Who,  First Month,  Three Homer Game

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