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September 16, 2010

Prospectus Hit List

NL: Do The Tighten Up

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Braves
83-64
3-4
.576
Down
The Trouble with J.J.: The Braves slide three games out of first place in the NL East as their Playoff Odds slip below 70 percent for the first time since the All-Star break, and to 6-9 on the month, but don't blame Jason Heyward (.365/.515/.500 in September). Jair Jurrjens is knocked around by the Nationals, his second straight subpar outing in a row; he yields four homers over those two starts, compared to nine in his previous 18. Jurrjens has a 7.09 ERA over his last five starts, a performance not dissimilar from the 6.38 ERA he put up through his first five, in that his walk rate is well above 4.0 and his homer rate above 1.0 in both stretches; by comparison, he was down at 2.4 BB/9 and 0.7 HR/9 during his middle 10 starts en route to a 3.02 ERA.

2


Rockies
80-66
5-2
.562
Up
Rocktober, Part II? A 10-game winning streak pulls the Rockies to within 1.5 game of the NL West lead, upping their Playoff Odds to 34 percent, but despite the amazing work of Troy Tulowitzki - nine homers in a 10-game span, including three multi-homer games - their chances take a significant hit when they drop two out of three to the division-leading Padres. Also taking a severe hit is Aaron Cook, who suffers a fractured fibula on a comebacker; he's had a rough season (5.08 ERA, .426 SNWP), but his loss forces the team into a bullpen start. The rotation still has Jorge De La Rosa, who's got a 3.11 ERA and 9.0 K/9 while having allowed three runs or less in each of his last 10 starts, but as with that of Tulowitzki, his prolonged midseason absence could leave the Rox wondering what might have been should they come up short.

3


Padres
82-63
3-4
.559
Down
Part-Time Help: After frittering away a six-game lead via a 10-game losing streak which helped turn a two-team NL West race into a three-team one, the Padres restore some order by taking a three-game series from the Rockies. Key to the series is Aaron Cunningham, who goes 5-for-9 with four runs scored in the first two games. He's hit .327/.366/.485 in limited duty-.441/.500/.735 vs. lefties-while shuttling between Triple-A and the majors this year. Also going 5-for-9 in those two games is Miguel Tejada, who snaps an 0-for-16 slump by homering and driving in four runs in the opener. Tejada has a .274 True Average since being acquired, compared to a .241 mark with the Orioles.

4


Phillies
86-61
5-1
.556
Up
Old King Cole: Cole Hamels strikes out a season-high 13 Marlins, helping the Phillies open up a three-game lead in the NL East, their largest since May 25. While his 25-inning scoreless streak comes to an end in the process, Hamels' performance gives him a career-high 201 Ks, temporarily putting him into a three-way tie for second in the league with Clayton Kershaw and Roy Halladay (then Doc whiffs nine). Also rolling is Chase Utley, who's hitting .327/.449/.600 with four homers this month, three of them in the past week, to shake off the sluggish showing he made in his first two weeks off the disabled list following a thumb injury.

5


Reds
83-63
4-3
.555
Flat
Winning Ways:Jay Bruce returns from a two-week absence due to an oblique strain and collects three hits including a pair of homers in his first game back. The blows help the Reds to their 82nd victory, thus clinching their first winning season since 2000, though with a eight-game lead and Playoff Odds above 99 percent, they've got bigger game in store. The homers give Bruce seven in a five-game span sandwiched around the injury; he's hitting .275/.344/.474 this year, good for a career-best .286 True Average.

6


Giants
82-64
4-2
.543
Up
In or Out? A 10-4 run temporarily pulls the Giants into a tie for first in the NL West; their Playoff Odds have ping-ponged around the 50 percent mark for most of the past week. Their chances take a hit as they lose Andres Torres to an appendectomy, which could sideline him for the remainder of the regular season. The 32-year-old journeyman is hitting .269/.346/.476 in 540 PA this year, having never gotten more than 185 PA in a single season prior. His performance helped mothball the dead bat of Aaron Rowand (.229/.282/.372), though the latter is inexplicably back in the lineup despite going 1-for-27 since August 15, thus negating the pickup of Cody Ross, who's gone 2-for-20 since his August 31 acquisition. While we're picking outfield nits, manager Bruce Bochy would do well to get over his obsession with Jose Guillen, who's hitting .280/.318/.366 while starting 23 of the team's last 27 games; the Giants are just 12-11 with him in the lineup.

7


Cardinals
74-70
2-5
.531
Down
Waining: The Cardinals' post-season hopes continue to fade; they've blown past lowfat milk territory. While there's plenty to complain about regarding the offense, the recent work of Adam Wainwright (4.91 ERA with one quality start out of his last five) hasn't helped, nor will shutting down skipping Rookie of the Year candidate Jaime Garcia. Both pitchers are high on the league leaderboards in ERA and SWNP; Wainwright is fourth with a 2.50 ERA and sixth with a .623 SNWP; Garcia is sixth (2.70) and 14th (.557). Meanwhile, Albert Pujols' pair of homers give him four in a five-game span; his 39 jacks lead the league by four, and while they help his MVP case, that rampage has pretty much eliminated the possibility of a Triple Crown winner.

8


Marlins
73-72
3-3
.511
Flat
Taking Flight: Dan Uggla becomes the first second baseman to reach the 30-homer plateau for four straight years; only Rogers Hornsby, Jeff Kent, Alfonso Soriano and Chase Utley had even done so three times. Mike Stanton bashes two homers to become the youngest player to reach 20 since Alex Rodriguez in 1996. Stanton does so in just 81 games; validating the notion of his 40-homer potential. Meanwhile, a Josh Johnson down for the year; his 2.30 ERA leads the league, and his .638 SNWP is third.

9


Dodgers
72-74
3-3
.506
Flat
Stringing Along: The blues overtake the Dodgers amid their lost season, but there's still time for simple satisfactions. Clayton Kershaw tosses his first major league shutout, not to mention his first complete game (9 4 0 0 0 4). It comes against the hated Giants, no less; the Dodgers beat them 1-0 while collecting just one hit. Kershaw's 201 strikeouts are tied for second in the NL; he's 10th with a 2.85 ERA and eighth with a .604 SNWP. Elsewhere, after 16 seasons in the minors, 33-year-old John Lindsey gets called to The Show; his first opportunity to swing a bat is protracted by circumstance, but he finally gets to play and collects his first big league hit.

10


Mets
73-73
4-2
.485
Up
Mo' Mets, Mo' Problems: Yet another a rough week for the Mets as they lose Johan Santana for the season and maybe much longer; he undergoes surgery to fix a tear in his shoulder capsule and may not be ready to start the 2011 season. While he finishes the year with a 2.98 ERA and a .610 SNWP, his 6.5 K/9 is his lowest since 2001, 21 percent off last year's clip. Meanwhile, Francisco Rodriguez gets himself into even more trouble by violating a protection order preventing him from contacting his girlfriend; as the likelihood of Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel returning continues to dwindle, it's worth remembering that K-Rod's $37 million deal was necessary in part because Minaya erred so badly in trading Heath Bell for a bag of broken fungo bats.

11


Brewers
67-78
2-4
.458
Flat
Wallbanging, 1982 Style: Rickie Weeks snaps an 0-for-17 slump with a leadoff homer to help the Brewers get by the Astros. It's the 27th of the year for Weeks, by far his career high but not enough to crack the league's top 10; he's 11th, with teammates Prince Fielder (30, 6th) and Corey Hart (28, 10th) ahead of him. Add Ryan Braun and Casey McGehee (22 apiece) to the picture and you've got five Brewers reaching the 20-homer plateau for the third time in four seasons; only the mighty '82 Crew had done so before that. The Brewers lead the league with 169 bombs; alas, they're second in bombs allowed (159).

12


Nationals
62-84
2-4
.456
Down
Livan Keepin' On: The Nationals snap out of a six-game losing streak just in time to give the Braves' postseason chances a good tomahawk chop. First Livan Hernandez clubs a double and a homer while tossing eight shutout innings; while his ERA has ballooned to 3.66 after a three-start, 20-run rut, the mark would still be his best since 2004. The second win comes via a silver-hammered grand slam by Justin Maxwell, who comes into the game hitting .132/.290/.250. Maxwell has got three grand slams in just 225 major league plate appearances, two more than Derek Jeter has in over 10,000 more PA.

13


Cubs
65-81
5-1
.448
Up
Wait 'Til Next Year: After spending all but the first two weeks of the season in the minors, Jeff Samardzija returns to the Cubs and tosses 5.2 innings of shutout ball against the Cardinals in his first start of the year. Samardzija's numbers in Triple-A (4.37 ERA, 5.4 BB/9, 8.2 K/9) aren't terribly impressive, but he's used his time by focusing on developing off-speed pitches in an effort to crack the team's 2011 rotation. Also looking ahead: Aramis Ramirez, who quells speculation he'll opt out of his $14.6 million deal for next year; while his overall numbers are lousy, he's hit .299/.346/.577 with 17 homers in 254 PA since his mid-June DL stint.

14


Astros
70-76
4-3
.434
Up
Half Measures: Hunter Pence's three hits, including a two-run homer, help the Astros salvage a split in their series with the Dodgers. It's Pence's 12th homer since the All-Star break, matching his first-half total, albeit in 30 fewer games. He's hitting .317/.350/.548 in the second half, compared to 263/.316/.427 in the first; among the Astros, only Chris Johnson (.335/.370/.540) has been hotter. Houston's 34-23 record since the break remains the fourth-best in the NL.

15


Diamondbacks
58-88
1-5
.423
Down
Early Impressions: Dan Hudson continues to roll, tossing eight shutout innings against the Reds. All nine of Hudson's turns for the Snakes have been quality starts; he's got a 2.58 ERA, 8.2 K/9, 3.2 K/BB and 0.8 HR/9, and he's done it against tougher competition than Dan Haren or Ian Kennedy have faced. Not faring as well is Barry Enright; after not allowing more than three runs in any of his first 12 big league starts, he's been klonked for 11 runs over nine innings in his past two.

16


Pirates
48-97
1-5
.317
Flat
Duked Out: Pummeled for 11 runs over 4.1 innings in a pair of disaster starts, Zach Duke prompts the team to consider removing him from the rotation. What the hell kept them? Duke put up a 5.49 ERA while surrendering 1.3 homers per nine through his first 14 starts before going on the DL due to an inflamed elbow; since returning, he's at 6.16 and 1.6 HR/9 while averaging just 5.1 innings per start. His .375 SNWP is the lowest in the majors among pitchers with at least 140 innings. Alas, he won't catch Paul Maholm or even Charlie Morton on the disaster start leaderboard; he's got six, they've got eight and seven, respectively, with Maholm in a three-way tie for the major league lead.


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

1 comment has been left for this article.

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