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August 27, 2010

Prospectus Hit List

AL: Over The Cliff Lee

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Yankees
78-49
4-3
.609
Up
Stepping Up: With Alex Rodriguez hitting the disabled list due to a calf strain, Robinson Cano takes over the cleanup spot and, well, cleans up. After homering in three conseuctive games, he adds his fourth in a six-game span via a grand slam against the Mariners. He's hitting .324/.439/.765 through nine games in the No. 4 spot (an idea suggested by one wag just a couple weeks back). Cano is hitting .322/.387/.563 overall and starting to earn a spot in AL MVP discussions; he ranks fifth in the league in WARP with 6.2, 1.2 behind Josh Hamilton.

2


Rays
78-49
4-3
.599
Up
Tender Young Arms: Not even a 9-3 run can give the Rays sole possession of first place in the AL East, though more disconcerting are the mixed results they receive from their injured starters coming back from shoulder woes. Wade Davis is solid, but Jeff Niemann is routed for 10 runs in 3.1 innings. Meanwhile, Jeremy Hellickson is farmed out after his latest turn despite a 2.05 ERA and 25/4 K/BB through four starts and 26.1 innings; he'll return to the Rays when rosters expand on September 1 and work out of the bullpen for the rest of the season due to workload concerns.

3


Twins
73-55
3-5
.574
Flat
Quick Work: An 8-2 roll over the A's, White Sox and Angels helps the Twins open up a season-high five-game lead in the AL Central before the team drops three straight against Texas, including near no-hitter. Taking a loss in one of the Rangers games is Carl Pavano; while he's not battered as he was in his previous turn against the Sox, he's now surrendered 49 hits in 33.1 innings this month while compiling a 5.13 ERA. At least he's working quickly; nine of his last 10 starts have clocked in under three hours, one of them under two.

4


Red Sox
73-55
4-3
.569
Flat
Pedi-Cure? Remember that cute story about what a gamer Dustin Pedroia was when he insisted upon taking grounders on his knees just days after breaking his foot? Funny thing about all that chest-thumping machismo: his return from the disabled list lasts just two games before he heads back from whence he came, as the foot's still healing; he could even face season-ending surgery. Fill-in Jed Lowrie is hitting .282/.393/.507 since his own return from injury oblivion, but the Sox can't make much headway in the standings; a 10-6 record over the past two weeks gains them just half a game in the standings, while their Playoff Odds drop from 26 percent to 18 percent in that span. Adding further insult to injury, they're spurned by Johnny Damon after claiming him off waivers.

5


Rangers
72-55
5-3
.563
Up
Running Out of Bullets: The Rangers take three from the Twins, one of which comes in a game where Rich Harden is pulled with a no-hitter in progress, having thrown 111 pitches but walked five in 6.2 innings; the bullpen gets within two outs of finishing the job before Neftali Feliz yields a single to Joe Mauer. Harden's 6.1 BB/9 is the majors' highest by more than a full walk among pitchers with at least 80 innings. At the other end of the spectrum, walkophobe (13.0 K/BB, still!) Cliff Lee is going through a rough patch, surrendering 23 runs and 34 hits in his last 24.2 innings. He says there's no reason to panic, but the seven complete games he's tossed may be taking their toll.

6


White Sox
69-58
4-3
.551
Up
Pen Problems: With an 11-13 month, the Sox find themselves further from first place than they've been in the past two months. They've actually outscored opponents 122-103 during that span, but they're 1-8 in one-run games, and 2-5 in extra-inning games. Their bullpen's been rocked for a 4.70 ERA while yielding 1.6 HR/9 this month, and life won't get any easier with both J.J. Putz and Matt Thornton hitting the disabled list with knee and elbow woes, respectively. Despite a 3.21 Fair Run Average, Putz's WXRL has fallen slightly below replacement level (-0.044) due to three blown saves in his last four appearances; Thornton, on the other hand, ranks fourth in the league in WXRL, the second consecutive year he's cracked the top 10. As a team, the Sox rank just 10th.

7


Blue Jays
66-61
3-4
.540
Up
All or Nothing: Aaron Hill snaps an 0-for-20 slump with a homer to help the Blue Jays past the Yankees. That's his longest hitless stretch of the season, but 0-fers have hardly been uncommon for Hill, who's hitting just .208/.280/.386 for a .237 TAv. He's got 19 homers, but his .199 BABIP is 25 points lower than any other batting-title qualifier, in part because he's popping up as often as he hits a line drive (13.7 percent of balls in play apiece); last year he hit 2.3 times as many liners as popups. Also adding homers against the Yankees is Jose Bautista, who knocks a pair to reach 40 for the season, an occasion which spurs some irresponsible speculation.

8


Athletics
63-63
4-3
.521
Up
Over the Cliff: After collecting game-winning hits on consecutive nights, Cliff Pennington "drives in" the winning run when he reaches on an error triggered by a hard-hit grounder. Alas, Pennington newfound offensive prowess soon departs, and he goes hitless in his next 13 at-bats, part of a longer saga in which he's hit just .231/.317/.306 since the break after batting .264/.333/.392 prior. Then again, that's about par for the course given that the A's as a team are hitting just .236/.312/.346 in the second half while scoring just 3.7 runs per game.

9


Tigers
64-64
6-2
.502
Up
Johnny on the Spot: In the midst of a five-game winning streak which only temporarily gets them back to .500, the Tigers place Johnny Damon on waivers, where he's claimed by the Red Sox; he ultimately turns down the opportunity to return to Beantown, citing his enjoyment of Detroit and his teammates. He hasn't been helping the Tigers all that much lately, hitting just .225/.303/.292 in August after carrying a .281/.373/.432 line into the month. Serving as the DH doesn't seem to be helping his cause; he's batting .249/.332/.375 in 324 PA in that slot, compared to .311/.405/.462 in 153 PA as an outfielder. At least Ryan Raburn, who's taking away time from Damon in left field, is on a tear, batting .307/.358/.580 this month.

10


Angels
63-65
3-4
.472
Flat
So Much Fail: Scott Kazmir gets knocked around by his old team, failing to qualify for a quality start for the seventh time in his last eight turns. He's got a 6.33 ERA with terrible peripherals (1.6 HR/9, 4.8 BB/9, 5.7 K/9) and the fifth-lowest SNWP of any AL starter with at least 100 innings, and his -1.1 WARP is more than three wins behind that of Sean Rodriguez, the one player he was traded for who's in the major leagues this year. All that for the low price of $8 million, with a minimum of $14.5 million remaining on his deal. Yeesh, where the hell is Victor Zambrano when you need him?

11


Royals
54-73
3-4
.412
Down
Wee Willie Waste of Space: In a lineup decision guaranteed to have repercussions for the rest of Ned Yost's tenure, futilityman Willie Bloomquist-a lifetime .262/.315/.332 hitter coming into the game-bats third and winds up hitting a game-winning homer in the 12th inning against the Tigers. Given that this gem of a lineup features just two hitters with OBPs above .322 (one of them batting seventh), is there any wonder why the Royals are scoring just 3.0 runs per game this month? On a happier note, Kila Ka'aihue homers in that game as well, his second in as many games. He's hitting just .183/.247/.296 overall, but is 9-for-36 with four extra-base hits in his last nine games.

12


Indians
51-76
2-5
.409
Down
Stinkin' Up the Joint: A 3-13 skid knocks the Indians from garden-variety mediocrity to 100-loss threat; the franchise hasn't reached the century mark since 1991. The offense is hitting just .238/.299/.342 and scoring 3.5 runs per game since Carlos Santana's season-ending injury on August 2. The heart of their problems are at the left of the defensive spectrum, as first baseman Matt LaPorta and the left field tandem of Shelley Duncan and Trevor Crowe are hitting a combined .160/.232/.238 in that span. The rotation hasn't exactly covered itself in glory, with a 5.48 ERA, a K/BB ratio all too close to their HR/9 (1.29 to 1.23) and five quality starts in 21, none since August 15.

13


Mariners
50-77
2-4
.409
Down
Regal Bearing: Felix Hernandez helps the Mariners snap a four-game losing streak, which is to say every start since his previous turn, a combined shutout of the Yankees. He whiffs nine Red Sox to become the third-youngest pitcher since 1952 to reach the 1,000-strikeout plateau; only Bert Blyleven and Dwight Gooden were younger. Hernandez leads the majors with 192 Ks in his 204.1 innings; he's third in the league with a .624 SNWP and a 2.47 ERA, and would be a strong Cy Young candidate if he weren't just 10-10 due to the second-worst run support in the league (3.1 per game). Four of the six lowest run support rates belong to Mariner starters, with Ryan Rowland-Smith the "winner" at 2.9 per game.

14


Orioles
45-83
3-4
.366
Down
Coming Around, Finally: Brian Matusz throws eight scoreless innings against the Rangers, then shuts down the White Sox as well. He's got a 2.32 ERA with four quality starts out of five this month, compared to a 5.46 ERA and 10 quality starts out of 21 prior. The key is his home run rate; it's 0.6 this month, compared to 1.1 prior, and it hasn't hurt that his BABIP has dropped from .314 to .275. Still, the Orioles are just 5-9 since the initial burst following Buck Showalter's arrival.


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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