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September 17, 2010

Prospectus Hit List

AL: The Wheat from The Chaff

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Yankees
88-58
1-5
.606
Down
Don't Get Me Started: Swept in Texas and subdued in Tampa Bay, the Yankees lose four in a row for the first time all season-the last major league team to do so-and drop eight out of 10 to surrender first place in the AL East; five of the losses are one-run games, as are both wins. While there are plenty of mitigating circumstances-the absences of Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher due to minor injuries, the resting of some of the team's A-list relievers in an extra-inning loss in the Rays opener, the fact that the team still has Playoff Oddsabove 96 percent-the underlying problem remains the team's starting pitching. As they eagerly await Andy Pettitte's return, the starters besides CC Sabathia have a 6.31 ERA this month, with two quality starts out of 11, and just 5.1 innings per start-a recipe for a one-and-done playoff run if there ever was one. Amid the drama, Saint Derek Jeter shows some gamesmanship; won't somebody think of the children?

2


Rays
88-57
4-2
.588
Flat
Raysed Hopes: The Rays beat the Yankees in two out of three games-three thrilling one-run affairs-at the Trop to reclaim first place in the AL East. David Price battles CC Sabathia zero for zero over eight innings in the opener, which the Rays win in 11 innings via a Reid Brignac homer; Price is now third in ERA (2.75) and fourth in Support Neutral Winning Percentage (.594). In the finale, Dan Johnson hits a pair of two-run homers off Phil Hughes to supply all of the offensive firepower; he's hitting .221/.386/.471 with five homers in 88 PA since arriving from Triple-A in August. The difference between the two contenders' remaining schedules continues to grow: .462 for the Rays, .531 for the Yanks, with the Playoff Odds giving Tampa Bay a 64/36 edge in winning the division title.

3


Twins
88-58
5-1
.586
Up
Closing In: Joe Mauer'sthree-run homer helps the Twins sweep the White Sox, putting them nine games up in the AL Central and cutting their magic number to eight. Though he's only got nine homers this year, Mauer is hitting .384/.458/.547 since the All-Star break, which pairs nicely with the .319/.458/.726 they're getting from Jim Thome, whose latest longball provides the only run in a 12-inning win over the Indians and moves him past Frank Robinson on the all-time home run list with 587. The Twins are now 30-21 in one-run games, the most wins for any team under such circumstances, and their 42-16 record since the All-Star break has them closing in on the Yankees and Rays for the league's best record and, thus, home field advantage through the AL playoffs-not that postseason HFA has meant much over the past dozen years.

4


Red Sox
82-64
4-2
.562
Flat
Knee-Jerk Reaction: Adrian Beltre falls to one knee while walloping an upper deck blast at Safeco Field. It's Beltre's 28th homer of the season, his highest total since he hit 48 for the Dodgers in 2004; he's now fourth in batting average (.328), fifth in slugging percentage (.568) and 11th in OBP. His homer backs Clay Buchholz, who rebounds from a four-walk, five-run debacle in Oakland-as many runs as he'd allowed in his previous five starts. Buchholz is still second in the league in ERA (2.48) and third in SNWP (.608).

5


Rangers
82-63
5-0
.561
Up
Cruz Control: A seven-game winning streak has the Rangers' division lead up in double digits and their magic number down at eight. Nelson Cruz hits a game-tying homer in the eighth and a walk-off shot in the 13th to open a three-game sweep of the Yankees; it's Cruz's third walk-off homer of the season, a Rangers record. The team closes out their sweep behind eight innings of two-hit ball from Cliff Lee in his first start since being scratched due to back woes, and his first quality start since August 6.

6


White Sox
79-67
2-4
.540
Down
Over and Out: Losers of seven out of nine including a sweep by the Twins, the White Sox are done; their Playoff Odds are down at 0.1 percent. Their offense has scored just 4.1 runs per game this month, with newest addition Manny Ramirez hitting .293/.463/.293 without an extra-base hit or an RBI, not that he's had many opportunities when the rest of the team is hitting just .255/.304/.397 since he arrived-a performance that looks suspiciously like the .236/.307/.380 line Mark Kotsay has given them this year. If you're going to hammer GM Kenny Williams, don't do so for the $4 million he spent on Ramirez, do it for the money he didn't spend on Jim Thome or another competent hitter to DH for the first five months of the season.

7


Blue Jays
73-73
1-5
.516
Down
Welcome to the Show: Kyle Drabek scuffles during his major league debut (6 9 3 3 3 5), winding up on the short end of a 3-1 loss and a sweep by the Orioles. The team's top prospect coming into the year after being acquired in the Roy Halladay trade, Drabek put up a 2.94 ERA and whiffed 7.3 per nine at Double-A New Hampshire, good but not dominant. The lone run comes via Jose Bautista's 47th homer, tying the franchise record set by George Bell in 1987 en route to one of the most ridiculous MVP awards of all time. The Jays have lost seven of eight and are in danger of slipping below .500 for the first time since July 6.

8


Athletics
72-73
3-3
.516
Flat
Minor Threats: Thirty-year-old rookie Bobby Cramer wins his major league debut, beating the Royals. A 2003 draftee by the Devil Rays, the soft-tossing lefty Cramer was out of baseball in 2005-2006 and began this season in the Mexican League before returning to the A's organization. Helping his cause with a homer is a guy who's no stranger to beating the bushes, Jack Cust. It's Cust's 100th big league homer, exactly doubling the total he hit in the minors before rejoining the A's organization in 2007 and finally sticking in the bigs. Cust's .318 TAv is tops on the team, not too shabby for a guy who himself was farmed out to start this season.

9


Tigers
72-74
1-4
.508
Down
Visible Imperfections: It's a rough week for Armando Galarraga, who loses despite tossing a quality start (7 4 3 3 2 2) against the Orioles, a game more notable for his reunion with umpire Jim Joyce, whose blown call kept him from a perfect game back in June. Galarraga's second turn doesn't go as well, as he's pounded for eight runs in 3.2 innings by the Rangers while filling in for Rick Porcello; he's now got a 4.61 ERA and just a 52/37 K/BB ratio in 105.1 innings since his date with destiny. Porcello, on the other hand, has been on a roll, yielding eight runs in 32 frames over his last four starts.

10


Angels
71-75
4-2
.466
Up
Catching On: Hank Conger enjoys a memorable first start in the majors, driving in two runs in his first at-bat, then catching nine innings of two-hit ball by Jered Weaver and Matt Palmer. Conger came into the year as the team's second-ranked prospect and had a solid season at Salt Lake City, though once you let the air out of his Triple-A stats, it's just a .230 TAv plus questions about his defense. When Jeff Mathis is getting playing time with a .183 TAv while Mike Napoli is limited to catching every five days or so because of Mike Scioscia's tragic illness, you can assume it could be awhile before Conger carves out a spot.

11


Indians
60-86
3-3
.418
Up
Double Duncan: Shelley Duncan goes 3-for-3 with a pair of homers and all four RBI in the team's 4-3 win over the Angels. The homers are Duncan's ninth and 10th of the year, and they've come in just 219 PA. Alas, the hacktastic 30-year-old has whiffed in nearly one-third of those chances and is hitting just .236/.315/.431, though the Ks and the dingers help him to a 46.1 Three True Outcomes percent, eighth in the majors among hitters with at least 200 plate appearances; Mark Reynolds (54.4 percent) is first, followed by Jim Thome (50.3), with Russell Branyan (47.2) fifth based partly upon his work in Cleveland before being traded.

12


Royals
60-85
3-3
.417
Up
You Should See His Collection of TV Guides: It's the perfect night to vindicate Dayton Moore's scavenging of the pre-millennium Braves organization when Wilson Betemit's grand slam backs Bruce Chen's five shaky innings as the Royals beat the A's to win their first series in three weeks. Betemit is hitting .317/.399/.552 with a dozen homers; whether the Royals should make a long-term investment in him is a questions that's keeping Rany Jazayerli and Joe Sheehan awake at nights. Chen is the first Royals pitcher to 10 wins, which should tell you all you need to know about Zack Greinke's run support even after last year's Cy Young winner gets a whopping 11 against Oakland. Sadly the Royals will have to soldier on without yet another misfit toy when Willie Bloomquist is traded to the Reds for a collection of Dusty Baker's chewed toothpicks.

13


Mariners
55-91
0-6
.399
Down
Fallout Boy: With controversy still raging about their acquisition of accused rapist Josh Lueke, the Mariners pick a goat to 'scape, as pro scouting director Carmen Fusco is relieved of duty. Whether or not that's enough to save Jack Zduriencik's job remains to be seen, but he's not the only one with something to be embarrassed about after CEO Howard Lincoln's blame-the-media memo sees daylight. On the field, the Mariners create a clever diversion by being swept by both the Angels and Red Sox, putting the team on pace to lose at least 100 games for the second time in three years. Eat your heart out, Bill Bavasi.

14


Orioles
58-88
5-1
.398
Up
It's the Pitching, Stupid: Jake Arrieta tosses six scoreless innings and hopes to squeeze in one more start, while Brad Bergesen goes the distance to wrap a three-game sweep of the Blue Jays. They O's have won nine out of 11 and are now 26-15 under Buck Showalter. As ever, the difference is in the starting pitching; the rotation put up a 5.61 ERA prior to Showalter's arrival, but is at 2.92 since, having allowed just two runs over its past 29.2 innings and reeled off eight quality starts out of nine, with Brian Matusz's comebacker-related injury departure the exception.


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,  Sweep,  Gamesmanship,  Year Of The Injury

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