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September 10, 2010

Prospectus Hit List

AL: September Song

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Yankees
87-53
3-3
.613
Up
Problems of the Rich and Famous: The Yankees' winning streak reaches a season-high eight games to push their Playoff Odds into the 99-percent range, but they're not without their anxieties. Nick Swisher is limping (somewhat heroically), Jorge Posada has a concussion scare, Derek Jeter is hitting .234/.307/.313 since July 1, and the rotation now features three starters with ERAs above 5.00 since the break (Phil Hughes, 5.47; A.J. Burnett, 5.91; Javier Vazquez, 6.10). Andy Pettitte's nearing a return, but the real question is whether the team will need rookie Ivan Nova to take the ball in the postseason; at the very least, his performance (2.92 ERA, .562 SNWP) merits consideration.

2


Rays
84-55
2-4
.585
Flat
Well, We Like the Pants Idea: Joe Maddon is a smart guy, but he's all wet when it comes to wanting a balanced schedule, an historically awful idea which was rightly scrapped for preventing AL rivals from playing each other down the stretch. While the current strength of the AL East is obviously a huge factor in Maddon's thoughts, does he think his team (ninth in the league in attendance) would draw better with fewer games against the Yanks and Red Sox? In their fight for first place, the Rays have relatively little to complain about these days. Their remaining opponents have a weighted winning percentage of .489 and their final three series come against the Mariners, Orioles and Royals; the Yankees' remaining opponents have a .540 winning percentage, and their last three series come against Boston (twice) and Toronto.

3


Twins
83-57
6-0
.582
Up
Just Twin, Baby: A six-game winning streak helps the Twins stave off the White Sox, pushing their Playoff Odds well above 90 percent. Francisco Liriano's rolling, yielding just four runs over his last 21 innings, with a 17/2 K/BB ratio to boot; he's fourth in the league in SNWP (.588) as well as strikeouts (182). In the lineup, Jim Thome continues to fill the void left by Justin Morneau's absence, bopping four homers in three games to pass Mark McGwire and tie Frank Robinson on the all-time home run list, further burnishing his Hall of Fame credentials.

4


Red Sox
78-62
2-4
.563
Up
Something for the Kids: With their Playoff Odds in low-fat milk territory and some of their biggest bats shelved for the year, the Red Sox turn playing time over to prospects such as Lars Anderson, Ryan Kalish, Josh Reddick and Yamaico Navarro, and the youngsters help rout the Rays. Kalish-who's got the most big league experience of the bunch, albeit with just a .252 TAv-connects for a grand slam in a 12-5 drubbing, and he, Reddick and Anderson combined to go 6-for-14 with three runs and two RBI in an 11-5 win two days later.

5


Rangers
77-63
2-5
.551
Flat
Banged Up: With the Rangers enjoying a 7.5-game cushion in the AL West and a 98-percent chance of making the playoffs, they've got time to heal, but injuries to their biggest stars are a concern. AL WARP leader and MVP candidate Josh Hamilton is dealing with bruised ribs and more after crashing into a wall, sidelining him amid a .392/.461/.657 second half. Cliff Lee skips a turn due to a back strain-one that's lingered without his informing the team, to Nolan Ryan's dismay-after putting up an 8.28 ERA over his previous five starts. In happier news, Ian Kinsler returns to the lineup after missing all of August, connecting for a pair of homers in his first five games back.

6


White Sox
77-63
4-3
.551
Up
Sagging Sox: Manny Ramirez starts his South Side career by going 7-for-16 amid a seven-game winning streak which helps the Sox keep the pressure on the Twins. Alas, the streak comes to a crashing halt when the Sox are outscored 20-5 during three straight losses in Detroit, bumping their Playoff Odds down into the single digits. Missing the three Motown losses is Gordon Beckham, who's out with a hand injury. After a dreadful first half (.216/.277/.304), Beckham has hit .323/.391/.529 in the second half; among Pale Hosers, only Paul Konerko (.346/.419/.607) has been hotter.

7


Blue Jays
72-68
3-4
.534
Flat
A Bridge Too Far: Having announced their intention to shut Brandon Morrow down for the season due to an innings limit, you'd think the Blue Jays could do a better job of timing his final outing. He's chased after yielding five runs in three innings against the Yankees, who had battered him for 10 runs in 11.1 innings over his previous two starts. He finishes the year with a 5.93 ERA and 1.0 HR/9 in five starts versus the Bronx Bombers, and a 4.15 ERA and 0.6 HR/9 against everyone else. Though he currently leads the league with an 11.0 K/9, he won't have enough innings to qualify for the crown when all's said and done.

8


Athletics
69-70
4-2
.519
Up
Young Guns: Trevor Cahill rebounds from a shellacking by the Yankees to toss six scoreless innings against the Angels, the eighth time in nine starts he's allowed three runs or less. He's third in the league in both SNWP (.615) and in ERA (2.72). Meanwhile, Brett Anderson beats the Mariners while getting more than three runs of offensive support for the first time in six starts. While his ERA since returning from elbow woes is a run higher than it was before the injury (3.38 to 2.35), his 3.3 K/BB ratio during the latter span is a reassuring sign he's healthy.

9


Tigers
71-70
5-2
.517
Up
Stringing Along:: A 5-2 run pulls the Tigers above .500 for the first time since July 31, bringing an end to the White Sox's seven-game winning streak in the process. Leading the way over the Sox is Johnny Damon, who snaps out of a .183/.310/.197 slump over his previous 84 PA to go 8-for-13 with a walk , his first homer since July 28, and a four-hit game. Meanwhile, Miguel Cabrera falls into a 3-for-20 slump and sits due to shoulder inflammation, which won't help his slim MVP chances.

10


Angels
67-73
2-4
.459
Down
Nosedivers: A 6-15 skid sends the Angels seven games under .500, their furthest deficit since May 2006. The offense is shut out four times during the span and hits just .223/.294/352 while averaging 2.7 runs per game, with Bobby Abreu (.130/.266/.278), Erick Aybar (.154/.185/.173), Juan Rivera (.114/.205/.143) and Jeff Mathis (.133/.182/.167) falling on particularly hard times . Faring worse over a longer stretch is rookie Peter Bourjos (.194/.240/.367); the Angels are 10-18 with him in the lineup. Add it all up and you've got a team which ranks 12th in the AL with a .252 TAv, their lowest mark since 2001.

11


Indians
57-83
3-3
.415
Down
Cliffhangers? Rocked for an 8.87 ERA in five starts last year, Carlos Carrasco-one of the keys to the Cliff Lee deal-delivers his first two major league quality starts, whiffing 10 and yielding five runs in 13.1 innings. Meanwhile, another player in that trade, Lou Marson, hits a grand slam against the Angels. Alas, Marson is not making anybody forget Carlos Santana; he's hitting just .188/.267/.280 in 245 PA.

12


Mariners
55-85
3-3
.408
Down
Cy-zing Up? A 3-9 belly flop undoes the initial burst of enthusiasm under interim skipper Daren Brown, though it's not stopping Felix Hernandez's longshot bid for a Cy Young. He reels off 15 scoreless innings against the Angels and Indians, and has now yielded just one earned run (and seven unearned runs) over his last 45 innings. He leads the league with a .642 SNWP, and is tops in innings (219.1) and strikeouts (209) as well, with his 2.30 ERA second. Is it too much to expect the voters to overlook his low win total (11) as they did last year with Zack Greinke?

13


Royals
57-82
1-5
.405
Down
Slaughterhous Four: Losers of 11 out of 15, the Royals are getting the stuffing beaten out of them lately. Their rotation has been blitzed for a 6.78 ERA in that span, with just six quality starts (if you count 8 IP/4 ER, which one should certainly do in this day and age) and six disaster starts. Getting particularly lit of late are Sean O'Sullivan (6.90 ERA in eight starts since being acquired from the Angels) and Bryan Bullington (6.11 ERA overall, 10.67 in three starts since shutting down the Yankees), while a five-week absence does nothing to help Brian Bannister in his abbreviated return from shoulder woes. Not surprisingly, the Royals are last in the league in SNLVAR, and their 5.69 Fair Run Average ... well, it's still better than their 2004, 2005 and 2006 marks, and it would be 6.11 if not for the contributions of Zack Greinke. Eeeugh.

14


Orioles
53-87
4-2
.384
Down
Still Bucking: Now 21-14 under Buck Showalter, the Orioles take a series from the Yankees, beating up on CC Sabathia, who'd gone 13-1 with a 2.59 ERA against them in 18 career starts. Alas, they miss their first sweep in the Bronx since 1986 when Koji Uehara surrenders a walk-off homer to Nick Swisher. Driving in the runs for the O's in that loss is Matt Wieters, who's hitting .276/.356/.483 since the All-Star break after batting just .245/.315/.357 prior. His BABIP splits are basically even, but he's cut his K rate from 19.5 percent to 14.8 percent while nearly doubling his isolated power.


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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