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September 23, 2010

Prospectus Hit List

NL: Getting Sorted

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Braves
86-67
3-3
.571
Down
Braving It: With a 9-12 record this month, the Braves can't keep up with the red-hot Phillies; they're now six back in the NL East and just half a game up in the wild card race, though they still hold a 72 percent chance of making the postseason. While Jair Jurrjens' torn meniscus is a concern, the offense is scoring just 3.4 runs per game on .249/.318/.352 hitting in September, with Brian McCann (.227/.316/.333), Martin Prado (.244/.286/.314) and Melky Cabrera (.217/.260/.239) the chief culprits. Looking at it another way, the team is just three games over .500 since acquiring Alex Gonzalez in mid-July, and just two games over since Chipper Jones went down in mid-August.

2


Phillies
92-61
6-0
.569
Up
The Doc Is In, the Rest of the Team is 99.99559 Percent In: Roy Halladay shuts down the Braves to notch his league-leading 20th win of the season. He's also leading in strikeouts (213) and is third in ERA (2.53), but would need 24.1 shutout innings the rest of the way to pass the inactive Josh Johnson (2.30) to win the pitchers' Triple Crown. In any event, the Phils are now 18-3 this month and hold a six-game NL East lead, and their biggest concerns may be allayed; Jimmy Rollins should be available for the playoffs, and Brad Lidge is back in form: 16-for-17 in saves with a 0.83 ERA since July 31, while holding batters to a .122/.207/.135 line.

3


Rockies
82-69
2-3
.556
Down
Dropping Like Rox: Troy Tulowitzki bashes five homers in a three-day span; he's now hitting .333/.396/.926 with 14 homers this month (all in a 15-game span) and ranks third in batting average (.322), eighth in OBP (.387) and fourth in slugging percentage (.583). Alas, the Rox fail to make headway in their quest for a playoff berth by losing five of eight, dropping their Playoff Odds below 10 percent. The trouble is a suddenly homer-prone pitching staff which yields 13 longballs in 71.1 innings en route to a 5.55 ERA. Aside from Jhoulys Chacin, who delivers eight shutout innings against the Dodgers, the rest of the rotation goes just 1-for-7 in quality starts with a 6.81 ERA, averaging just 5.1 innings per start.

4


Padres
85-66
3-3
.556
Down
Pitching In: Chris Young makes a promising four-inning return in just his second start of the season, Clayton Richard tosses his first major league shutout, and Tim Stauffer delivers his second quality start out of three to help the Padres maintain a bare half-game lead after their chances at reaching the playoffs fell below 50 percent for the first time since early May. The real problem is an offense that's averaging just 3.3 runs per game in September because aside from Adrian Gonzalez (.364/.476/.545) and Will Venable (.340/.375/.491), the rest of the crew is hitting just .222/.275/.341.

5


Reds
86-67
3-4
.554
Flat
Two Eds: The Reds cut the magic number for their first post-season berth since 1995 to three. Edinson Volquez smothers the Brewers for his third quality start in a row following a 0.2-inning, five-run debacle and a minor league refresher course. He has a 4.45 ERA but a .517 SNWP, the fourth-highest among Reds with more than two starts; a playoff turn is likely. Alas, Jim Edmonds won't be taking his turn, as he tears an Achilles while rounding the bases on the 393rd and probably final home run of his career. Fear for him in retirement; the guy's capable of needing a trip to the hospital any time he operates a doorknob.

6


Giants
85-67
3-3
.547
Up
Stingy: The Giants remain just a half-game out in the NL West thanks to a 12-7 record this month, one they owe practically all of to a pitching staff that's yielding 1.7 runs per game while their wheezing offense coughs out just 3.1 per game; they haven't yielded more than three runs in a single game since September 4. Leading the way is Matt Cain, with 18 consecutive scoreless innings over his last three starts. Also dealing is Jonathan Sanchez, who despite one seven-walk outing has a 0.73 ERA in four starts this month, the the third of which sees him whiff 12. Not so lucky: Madison Bumgarner, who's yielded three runs over last three starts, the last two of which saw his own offense shut out.

7


Cardinals
77-74
3-4
.527
Down
Jack the Ripper: Former Cardinals slugger Jack Clark brands the 2010 squad "quitters" with "poopy in their pants," (yes, really) while Tony LaRussa alludes to Clark's own checkered history. The Cards are now 13-25 since their sweep of the Reds, and while the lineup's big guns haven't stopped firing during that span (Albert Pujols, .294/.395/.625, Matt Holliday .331/.396/.556, Colby Rasmus .302/.425/.523), they've reaped what they have sown with a regressing Jon Jay (.220/.288/.283), a Replacement Level Killer-worthy Brendan Ryan (.212/.248/.263) and the half-eaten remains of Pedro Feliz (.208/.227/.255), to say nothing of the clearly trouser-loading Felipe Lopez (.132/.231/.191), who's released for repeated tardiness.

8


Marlins
76-75
3-3
.506
Down
Short Work, Tall Man: Over here in the Museum of the Barely Interesting, we see 6-foot-8 hurler Chris Volstad returning from his suspension for involvement in the Nyjer Morgan brawl to shut out the Cardinals in one hour and 52 minutes. It's his first quality start in more than three weeks; he's got a 4.82 ERA and just a .446 SNWP. Elsewhere in the rotation, rookie Alex Sanabia is making a solid case for a key role next year; he's got a 3.99 ERA and .512 SNWP through 11 starts while doing an excellent job of limiting homers (0.7 per nine) and walks (2.2 per nine).

9


Dodgers
73-79
1-5
.493
Down
So Long, Joe; Get Bent, Frank: As the Dodgers slide below .500 via a miserable 6-16 stretch since August 27 and are mercifully eliminated from contention, Joe Torre announces that he'll step down at the end of this season, suggesting his underachieving players need to hear "a different voice, a younger voice." The team gets a questionable waiver from MLB to forgo opening the job to minority candidates, turning over the reins over to hitting coach and former Yankees legend (and pinstriped Torre lieutenant) Don Mattingly, who's never managed at any level save for a couple of high-profile gaffes in relief of Torre. While there are reasons to be hopeful that Donnie Baseball will take to the new job given his tireless work ethic, he won't be helped by a penurious owner whose status is in further doubt via an increasingly ridiculous divorce trial-a situation so ugly that former owner Peter O'Malley breaks his silence to blast Frank McCourt, who's working hard to catch O'Malley père as the most hated owner in Dodgers history.

10


Mets
74-78
1-5
.483
Flat
Flushing Follies, Part 647: As the Mets continue traveling their road to nowhere in ignominious fashion (seriously, did they play this week?), Jerry Manuel takes issue with Joe Torre's tepid expression of interest in managing the Mets. Without asking the obvious question ("Why in the #$%@ would a septuagenarian future Hall of Fame manager leave one disasterpiece to step into an even bigger one such as this?"), Manuel questions Torre's integrity while conveniently forgetting his own scruples-free pursuit of predecessor Willie Randolph's job. Sadly, the laughingstock Manuel and his superior Omar Minaya's days are likely numbered in Queens, which could leave the Hit List with a dearth of comic material. Then again, if they hire Wally Backman to replace Manuel, we'll be just fine.

11


Brewers
70-81
3-3
.463
Up
It's About Time: You probably missed it if you weren't paying attention, but Mark Rogers now has two scoreless innings of relief under his belt. The Brewers' 2004 first-round pick (fifth overall)-the missing link in a first-round stretch which featured Prince Fielder (2002), Rickie Weeks (2003) and Ryan Braun (2005), one mitigated by Yovani Gallardo being chosen a round behind him-has been dogged by a litany of shoulder injuries during his minor league career; he didn't make a single regular season appearance in 2007 or 2008, and hadn't climbed further than High-A ball through last year. Splitting his season between Double-A and Triple-A, he's whiffed 8.8 per nine while yielding just 6.9 hits; his walk rate (5.6) is an issue, but less so given that he only yielded three homers in 116 innings. He'll make his first major league start on Friday.

12


Cubs
69-82
4-1
.456
Up
Speared: Rookie Tyler Colvin's season appears to meet a grisly end when shards of a broken maple bat puncture his chest; fortunately, he's released from the hospital after just three days. The question is whether MLB will continue taking steps to avert what could easily be bigger tragedies, or whether they'll let big-dog manufacturers call the tune. In any event, the 25-year-old rookie's season ends with him hitting .254/.316/.500 with 20 homers, good for a .279 TAv. Also ending is the campaign of Geovany Soto, who enjoys a nice bounceback (.280/.393/.497) after a down 2009 but needs arthroscopic surgery to repair a shoulder sprain.

13


Nationals
64-88
2-4
.452
Down
Git 'Er Dunn: Adam Dunn's September has been nothing to write home about (.246/.368/.404), but suddenly, there's optimism that he and the Nationals are making progress on a deal which will keep him in Washington; one key is that he enjoys first base and doesn't want to become merely a designated hitter. He's currently second in the league in home runs (35) and sixth in slugging percentage (.539).

14


Astros
73-79
3-3
.434
Flat
Good Finish For Starters: Brett Myers shuts out the Reds for seven innings; he's allowed just one run in 21 innings over his last three starts and has delivered eight quality starts in a row and 14 out of 15 since the beginning of July. His 1.89 ERA leads the way in a rotation that's got an NL-best 3.15 mark since the All-Star break; Wandy Rodriguez is at 2.16, J.A. Happ at 3.29, Nelson Figueroa is at 3.65, and Bud Norris at 3.95. It's not exactly smoke and mirrors producing that success either; the unit's 8.4 K/9 leads the Senior Circuit in that span, and its 0.9 HR/9 is sixth.

15


Diamondbacks
61-91
3-3
.424
Flat
KT Time: With a 5-12 record since September 3, the Diamondbacks' season can't end soon enough, but as they look to the future, they make an inspired choice in tabbing Kevin Towers to be their new general manager. The architect of four playoff teams including one pennant winner in his 14 years as GM of the Padres-to say nothing of his hand in building this year's contenders before being relieved of duty last fall-Towers is well acquainted with competing on a tight budget, and particularly adept at assembling outstanding bullpens. That's something this club could certainly use; haunted by the ghost of Chad Qualls, their -4.5 WXRL is the fourth-worst mark on record, and their 6.55 Fair Run Average the fifth-worst.

16


Pirates
53-98
5-1
.331
Up
The Run Differential That Ate Pittsburgh: As the Pirates are busy winning five in a row to look slightly less like laughingstocks who will only finish with a -290ish run differential (bottom 25 since 1901) instead of a -320ish run differential (bottom 10), Garrett Jones takes umbrage at the suggestion that he may have to platoon next year. This from a first baseman who's batting .265/.336/.445 against righties, and .215/.256/.346 against lefties, with a 51/11 K/BB ratio to boot, though to be fair, his .207/.261/.374 second half may have something to do with shoulder woes. In happier news, the play of Neil Walker, Jose Tabata, Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez continues to impress; all four of them have higher True Averages than Jones' .263, and at tougher positions to boot.


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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