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June 13, 2011

Prospectus Hit List

AL: Tense Times

by Jay Jaffe

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Overall W-L
Week W-L
Hit List Factor


Red Sox
Papi Goes Nuts: David Ortiz rips a pair of two-run homers and keys a game-breaking rally against the Yankees, inciting their ire with a bat flip that steams manager Joe Girardi along the way. The slugger then goes on to blame the media over an obviously retaliatory plunking—the first time in 160 games Ortiz has been hit by the Yankees; if Alex Rodriguez or Manny Ramirez engaged in such antics, the soapbox derby would never end, but somehow Ortiz gets a pass? In any event, the Sox sweep the Yankees as part of a nine-game winning streak, the majors' longest this season; they've bashed out 9.2 runs per game during that stretch, including 30 in a two-day span in Toronto. Ortiz is raking at a.325/.395/.624 clip with 17 homers, and ranks third in the league with a .352 True Average with Adrian Gonzalez (fifth at .339) and Kevin Youkilis (14th at .339) accompanying him on the leaderboard.


Plunked and Punked: The Yankees suffer the indignity of being swept by the Red Sox in the Bronx for the second time this season; they're now 1-8 against their heated rivals, 35-19 (.648) against everyone else. They turn around and whip the Indians three times, taking umbrage at Mark Teixiera and Alex Rodriguez being hit by pitches almost immediately after a pair of Curtis Granderson home runs; the Yanks have been out-plunked 33-21, with Teixeira bearing the brunt seven times. Beyond the drillings, Granderson goes yard in three straight games, temporarily giving him a share of the major league lead, and breaks that streak with a 4-for-4 afternoon, but in unhappier news, the amazingly buoyant Bartolo Colon is lost for at least a few turns.


Colby Cheesed: Colby Lewis' up-and-down season continues as he's pounded twice by the Twins and Tigers, yielding a combined 15 runs in 4.2 innings. Rocked for a 6.95 ERA through his first four starts, Lewis had rebounded at a 2.04 clip through his next seven turns, yielding just three homers along the way, one fewer than he allows against Detroit. He has now surrendered 17 on the year, just four fewer than all of last year. In happier news, Alexi Ogando continues to cruise; he has allowed more than two runs just once in his last nine starts and ranks second in the league in ERA (2.10) thanks in large part to an unsustainably low .210 BABIP.


Closing the Gap: A 13-6 run helps the Tigers erase a seven-game deficit on the Indians and pull into a tie for first in the AL Central behind Max Scherzer, who shuts down the Mariners in his first quality start in four weeks. Scherzer had yielded 22 runs in his previous 19.1 innings thanks in large part to a .409 BABIP, though his continuing proclivity for homers (1.3 per nine) hasn't helped. Fortunately, the rest of the Tigers' staff has posted a 3.36 ERA during that sprint, and several hitters are pasting the ball, including Alex Avila (.296/.371/.611), Brennan Boesch (.338/.387/.632), Jhonny Peralta (.367/.426/.600) and Miguel Cabrera (.304/.407/.580). Also notable: Austin Jackson (.292/.370/.417) getting on base lately.


Return of Zorilla: Ben Zobrist collects four extra-base hits in a single game, helping the Rays take a series from the Orioles in Baltimore. Zobrist is hitting .272/.349/.498; his batting average and slugging percentage are up 60 and 140 points on last year's marks, respectively, but his OBP has risen just three points as his walk rate has declined. Speaking of declines, B.J. Upton is batting just .219/.308/.374; his walk rate and isolated power are in line with career norms, but his numbers are down overall thanks to a .269 BABIP, 35 points lower than last year and 59 points lower than his career mark.


White Sox
Coming Around? Adam Dunn's three-run homer carries the White Sox to a series victory over the A's. It's Dunn's second homer of the series and seventh of the season, though he's still trapped on the Interstate, hitting .180/.322/.335 and drawing cheers from disgruntled Sox fans when he's hit by a pitch. Some of Dunn's splits are blindingly awful: 135/.257/.281 at home, 1-for-47 against lefties, and even the flip sides of those numbers aren't strong enough to outslug a shortstop. Also taking a modest turn for the better is John Danks, who pitches into the eighth inning against the Mariners and A's, notching his first two wins of the year after entering June 0-8 with a 5.25 ERA.


Lost Tribe: The Indians are pummeled by the Yankees by a combined score of 24-8 in the first three games of their wraparound series. They've now lost nine out of 10 and 14 out of 18, squandering a seven-game lead and surrendering sole possession of first place in the AL Central for the first time since April 7. Shin-Soo Choo claims his recent DUI is affecting his game; he's hitting .203/.288/.220 during the slide for an offense that hasn't been a whole lot better (.227/.293/.340), averaging only 2.89 runs per game. The pitching staff is being lit up at a 6.28 runs per game clip; as predicted, their ability to miss bats (5.7 K/9) is haunting them as they've been strafed for a .340 BABIP during that stretch.


It's Almost As If A 37-Year-Old Shouldn't Play Every Single Day: Eric Wedge sits Ichiro Suzuki for the first time after 255 consecutive starts, giving a much-needed breather to a hitter whose 8-for-67 slump sinks his line to .252/.306/.294. The Mariners somehow overcome his absence with a win and a two-hit night from Chone Figgins, whose own efforts (.189/.238/.250) suggest that he should be under a restraining order to keep him within 500 feet of the top of the lineup. No AL team has gotten less from the top of their order than the M's (.230/.280/.284), whose one-two is punching at a rate that's 92 points of OPS behind the next-lowest AL team. In unrelated news, the Mariners are scoring just 3.47 runs per game since the end of April.


Blue Jays
Beaten Black and Blue: It's a rough weekend for the Blue Jays as they're swept by the Red Sox in Toronto, outscored by a combined 35-6 margin and reduced to pitching futilityman Mike McCoy in relief during a 16-4 drubbing. Brandon Morrow is battered for nine runs, inflating his ERA to 5.63; much of that's owed to a .358 BABIP because his 3.34 SIERA is good enough for the top 10. Kyle Drabek is scorched for eight runs himself, upping his ERA to 5.70, but his problems are more of his own making; he's got a 48/52 K/BB ratio and the Toronto rotation's highest SIERA at 5.48. The 14-1 defeat in Drabek's start at least features Jose Bautista's first home run since May 28; he's still hitting .338/.489/.701 and is back in the AL longball lead with 21.


Welcome Back: The Halos' season reaches a low point as they suffer a season-high six-game losing streak while scoring just 12 runs in that span. Conspicuously present during the last three losses is Vernon Wells, who at least helps the team break the slide with a 3-for-4 day while batting cleanup; nonetheless, he's still hitting .189/.234/.296, and three more years of such pricey fun await. Also rejoining the lineup—just in time for the full losing streak, actually—is Howie Kendrick, whose 3-for-23 doesn't help the cause; nonetheless, his .306/.373/.490 leads the Angels in batting average and slugging percentage while ranking second in on-base percentage.


It Gets Worse: A nine-game losing streak costs manager Bob Geren his job; the A's run it to a major league high 10 straight losses under interim skipper Bob Melvin. Geren recently drew criticism from reliever Brian Fuentes over—sacre bleu—being used in a non-save situation, a sign he had lost the team, but this team's bigger problems were beyond his control. The offense is averaging a league-low 3.58 runs per game on .239/.305/.347 hitting; of the 12 players with at least 100 plate appearances, only four have True Averages above .260 and only one is above .275. Meanwhile, a rotation that had already lost Dallas Braden, Brandon McCarthy, and Tyson Ross—a trio that combined for a 3.13 ERA and 11 quality starts out of 18—to injuries will now be without Brett Anderson due to elbow soreness.


Virtually Powerless: Nick Markakis hits a grand slam and drives in six runs as the Orioles cap a modest four-game winning streak. The homer is Markakis' first extra-base hit since May 15, a span of 100 plate appearances; he's hitting just .242/.299/.320 with five homers, this from a 27-year-old who came into the year with a career .298/.368/.463 line. Markakis isn't the only Oriole suffering from a lack of oomph; Vlad Guerrero is hitting just .282/.309/.396 even after snapping a 16-game homerless streak, while Derrek Lee (.229/.301/.331) hasn't homered since May 8, though to be fair, he's done a turn on the DL and is currently on bereavement leave.


The Mous is Loose: Despite a 7-15 record over their last 22 games, there's cause for excitement in Kansas City as top prospect Mike Moustakas is recalled from Triple-A. He goes 1-for-3 with a walk in his debut, then bops his first major league homer in his second game. Speaking of recently-arrived prospects, Eric Hosmer is down to .284/.335/.445 amid a 2-for-19 slump while Danny Duffy has been lit for a 5.55 ERA with an 18/17 K/BB ratio and four homers in 24.1 innings; he's averaging less than five frames per start.


#Twinning: Francisco Liriano comes within six outs of his second no-hitter of the season, surrendering his first hit against the Rangers only after sitting 30 minutes during a five-run outburst. Liriano has been looking more ace-like since his slopfest no-hitter; he has allowed just five runs and 14 hits over his last four starts (26 innings) with a 29/8 K/BB ratio. The Twins have now won nine out of 11 to pare their AL Central deficit to single digits, and while they could get Joe Mauer back by the coming weekend, they're still far down a huge hole of their own making, with Playoff Odds in lowfat milk territory.

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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