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September 24, 2010

Prospectus Hit List

Crashing the Party

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Yankees
92-61
4-3
.601
Down
Grand, and Not So Grand: Curtis Granderson's two homers lead the Yanks past the Rays on the night they unveil a massive monument to the late George Steinbrenner and play host to prodigal sons Joe Torre and Don Mattingly. Granderson is hitting .261/.358/.543 with 11 homers since retooling his swing with hitting coach Kevin Long in mid-August, and Derek Jeter is riding a 12-game hitting streak (.327/.410/.404) thanks to Long's help as well. Alas, the Yanks are unable to do more than secure a split of the series with the Rays, and in losing the season series, their odds of winning the division plummet from 74 percent to 38 percent in two days.

2


Twins
92-60
5-2
.589
Up
Don't Call Them Twinkies: After battling all the way to a 163rd game in each of the past two seasons, the Twins rally to surmount a three-run deficit and become the first team to clinch their division, winning their sixth AL Central title in nine years. They're 16-4 this month, and now a half-game ahead of the Yankees for the league's best record. Danny Valencia bops three homers in a four-game span; the 19th-round 2006 pick, who was once seen merely as an organizational player is hitting .332/.374/.463, and the team is 48-23 (.676) with him in the lineup.

3


Rays
91-61
3-4
.583
Down
Back-End Blues? After losing the first two games of their series in the Bronx with the Yankees, the Rays move into the driver's seat by taking the next two; although they're a half-game back in the AL East, they've now got 62 percent chance of taking the division thanks to a much easier schedule the rest of the way. Still, there's plenty of cause for concern given the rotation's recent performance, as Jeff Niemann, James Shields, and Matt Garza have combined for an 8.36 ERA in 11 starts this month while averaging just 4.7 innings per start. Niemann has been particularly brutal since returning from his DL stint, with a 14.43 ERA, 7.0 BB/9, and 2.8 HR/9 over five starts while averaging less than four innings.

4


Red Sox
84-68
2-4
.558
Down
A Tale of Two Starters: The Red Sox secure nothing more than a season split with the Orioles as Daisuke Matsuzaka is roughed up yet again. He hasn't yielded less than four runs in any of his last seven starts, and has just a .466 SNWP to go with his 4.86 ERA and his 4.4 BB/9. Faring better is Jon Lester, who blanks Toronto for seven innings even as his streak of four consecutive starts with at least 10 strikeouts comes to an end. Lester is third in the league in K's (212) and seventh in SNWP (.583).

5


Rangers
84-68
2-5
.553
Down
No Joshing: The Rangers finally discover fractures in Josh Hamilton's rib cage; he hasn't played since September 4 but is aiming to return for the season's final weekend. Meanwhile, Jeff Francoeur sparks a game-winning rally (yes, really) as the Rangers cut their magic number to four. Despite Hamilton's absence, Frenchy has gotten all of 26 plate appearances this month, the most recent of which nets him his first AL walk, though like a blind chicken he's stumbled into a few game-winning situations.

6


White Sox
80-72
1-6
.529
Down
Bombed, Out: An eight-game losing streak hammers the final nails in the coffin of the White Sox' season. This time it's the pitching staff bearing the brunt of the blame, as they compile a 7.13 ERA while allowing at least six runs in seven of the eight losses, and at least eight runs in five of them. Sox starters have put up a 5.96 ERA this month, with John Danks' 4.78 the best in show unless you count Freddy Garcia's 4.50 over six injury-curtailed innings. Speaking of injuries, Gavin Floyd departs a start after seven pitches due to shoulder soreness; he's almost certainly done for the year. The real question is whether Ozzie Guillen-who's been understandably driven to drink under the circumstances-is done on the South Side; he's going into the final year of his contract and is seeking an extension or a chance to make a run at the Marlins' managerial opening.

7


Athletics
77-75
5-2
.525
Up
Get Carter: After starting his major league career an agonizing 0-for-33-0-for-19 in his first stint, 0-for-14 in his second-Chris Carter collects his first major league hit to spark a game-winning rally against the White Sox-who drafted him in 2005, come to think of it. Carter keeps the good times rolling with three hits over the next two days, including his first major league homer, albeit in a losing cause.

8


Blue Jays
77-75
4-2
.517
Flat
Still Hammering Away: With four homers in a seven-game span, Jose Bautista becomes the 26th player in MLB history to reach the 50-homer plateau and the first since 2007. He's done it in 640 plate appearances this year after compiling just 59 homers in his previous 2,038 PA, accumulated with five teams over six years. The Jays' 234 homers lead the majors by a wide margin (the Red Sox are second with 199), but they're still 10 homers shy of the 2000 team's franchise record, and nine shy of cracking the majors' top 10 team totals.

9


Tigers
77-75
5-1
.514
Up
Penning a Recipe for Disaster: Jose Valverde visits the doctor for an MRI on his sore elbow, and while he's got no structural damage, it's worth considering the link between his ugly second half (6.95 ERA and 6.5 BB/9 in the second half while being scored upon in 12 of 19 outings) and Jim Leyland's usage pattern. Two of Valverde's second-half appearances came at both ends of a July 25 doubleheader, and the one immediately following was a grueling 60-pitch affair; even while averaging more than two days' rest between outings beyond that, Valverde's performance hasn't improved. After ranking second in the league with 5.6 WXRL through the first half, the Tigers are dead last since the break at -0.6 and 11th overall thanks to a 6.08 post-break Fair Run Average.

10


Angels
75-77
4-3
.472
Up
Follow the Bouncing ERA: Ervin Santana shuts out the Rangers in just two hours and 12 minutes. The 27-year-old righty has enjoyed a nice rebound following an awful 2009, and appears set to continue a four-year trend of alternating ERAs in the fives and threes while avoiding anything in the middle. Catching him in the shutout is Hank Conger, who continues to work his way into Mike Scioscia's good graces at a time when Jeff Mathis' 12th-inning passed ball costs the Angels a game. Must be Conger's Mathis-like .188/.235/.313 line (in all of 17 PA, mind you).

11


Royals
63-89
3-4
.419
Flat
Second Guessing: While Chris Getz is done for the season due to a concussion, Mike Aviles has been taking advantage of the available playing time at second base. He hits four homers in a five-game span and is batting .365/.388/.587 this month. Aviles' .268 TAv dwarfs Getz's .233, but questions about his defense have led keen baseball minds Trey Hillman and Ned Yost to use the lighter hitter in an effort to support a shaky pitching staff; given that the Royals are last in the league in run prevention at 5.3 per game while ranking 10th in offense at 4.2, we can only admire such keen stragedy while noting that neither FRAA, UZR, nor Plus/Minus show more than a couple of runs difference in defensive value between the two.

12


Indians
62-91
3-5
.413
Flat
Choo-Choo-Choose Him: Shin-Soo Choo goes yard three times en route to a 5-3-4-7 line against the Royals, then homers two days later to tie his career high at 20. Choo not only leads the Indians in virtually every offensive category, he's sixth in the league in OBP (.392) and fifth in TAv (.315). He's on the South Korea roster for the upcoming Asian Games in November, hoping to receive an exemption from his military obligation via a gold medal.

13


Mariners
58-94
3-3
.402
Up
Hitless Wonders: Ichiro Suzuki records his 10th straight 200-hit season thanks in part to a 4-for-4 night, but the rest of the Mariners offense remains an eyesore; Jose Lopez homers three times to elevate his season line to a still-cringeworthy .237/.266/.337. The Mariners are now on pace to score just 513 runs, the lowest full-season total since the 1971 Padres. This is a team that through Wednesday was getting sub-.200 batting averages at catcher and DH, sub-.300 slugging percentages SLGs from catcher, second base and shortstop, and a cumulative .227/.288/.358 line from their third through sixth hitters.

14


Orioles
61-91
3-3
.401
Flat
Lost in the Shuffle: Brad Bergesen's third consecutive one-run outing helps the Orioles clinch a season split with the Red Sox, but while the starting pitching has been the key to the team's turnaround under Buck Showalter, not everyone's getting the hang of it. Chris Tillman lasts just 3.2 innings against the Yankees while walking six for the second straight outing. In between three separate minor league stints, he's managed just three quality starts out of nine en route to a 6.42 ERA and a .402 SWNP. Control is a major problem; he's throwing first-pitch strikes just 49.2 percent of the time en route to a 21/28 K/BB ratio and just 4.5 innings per start.


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:  The Streak,  The Who,  First Month,  Jeff Niemann,  Four Homers

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