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September 13, 2005

Prospectus Hit List

Week of September 11

by Jay Jaffe

Rk Team
Overall W-L
Week W-L
Trend
Comment

1


Cardinals
91-53
4-3
Flat
Their magic number to clinch the NL Central is down to four (Cardinal wins or Astro losses); to clinch the #1 seeding in the NL, it's 10 (Card wins or Brave losses). Via Nate Silver's marginal gains calculations, Tom Gorman points out what a bargain the entire Cardinals rotation is, with Cy Young contender Chris Carpenter worth an astounding $13.4 million more than he's being paid and even Matt Morris coming in at $919,000 more than he's making.

2


Indians
82-61
7-0
Up
Cuckoo for Coco Crisp: a .571/.600/1.036 week from their left fielder helped the Tribe run the table as they outscored opponents 39-15, outhomered them 16-3, and won a Platinum Pole Vault award for rising three spots here. This outburst has not only put the Tribe in the wild-card driver's seat but also in the White Sox's rearview mirror. On the week, the rotation allowed just eight earned runs and two homers in 48 1/3 innings, with C.C. Sabathia continuing his resurgence. He's allowed just eight earned runs over his last 43 1/3 innings while posting a 40/9 K/BB.

3


Red Sox
83-59
3-4
Flat
Even as they dropped two of three to the Yankees, the big news for the Sox was Curt Schilling's performance on Saturday: 8 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 6 K. He threw 108 pitches, reaching as high as 95 mph. Meanwhile, back tightness, probably from carrying the offense all year long, has necessitated a bit of rest (or perhaps just a Big Unit sick-out) for David Ortiz. He's fourth among AL hitters in VORP (66.3), more than 14 runs ahead of Manny Ramirez.

4


Athletics
79-63
3-3
Down
Though the A's have yet to win any of the three starts Joe Kennedy has made in place of the injured Rich Harden, they haven't been giving him much help, scoring just six runs. Kennedy pitched well in his first two starts but was bombed for a sixpack on Sunday as the A's fell to third in the Wild Card hunt. Harden won't be back this week, but not all of the injury-related news is bad; Mark Kotsay got seven hits and 12 total bases in his first three games back from back spasms.

5


White Sox
87-55
3-4
Down
Tighten up: though the White Sox started the month with seven straight wins, four straight losses have narrowed their lead over the Indians to just 5.5 games, with six still to play against the Tribe. But the Sox have some hot hitters: Paul Konerko is batting .389/.477/.889 with five homers on the month, Juan Uribe is even more torrid at .486/.538/1.114 with five homers, and Scott Podsednik is back on the good foot at .364/.432/.455. On the mound, no Sox pitcher has been hotter than Jose Contreras, who's put up a 2.05 ERA over 48 1/3 innings in August and September, with a tidy 36/13 K/BB and just two homers allowed.

6


Angels
81-61
4-2
Up
Vladimir Guerrero's mad dash to score the winning run from second base on a bunt to beat the White Sox was the stuff of celluloid heroes. But Guerrero's September heroics are nothing new. Last year, he snagged the AL MVP award largely on the strength of a .371/.431/.733 month that propelled the Angels to the AL West title. He's hitting .294/.432/.735 thus far this month as the team's 7-3 run has nosed them ahead of the A's. It doesn't hurt to have Bartolo Colon bouncing back from back tightness or Kelvim Escobar returning from elbow surgery to provide some relief.

7


Braves
83-60
5-1
Up
Chris Reitsma's struggles with injury (a bad hamstring) and ineffectiveness (just 4.7 ARP) have made GM John Schuerholz's deadline acquisition of Kyle Farnsworth look especially smart. Farnsworth ascended to the closer role a few weeks ago, deservedly so; he hasn't allowed a run since August 7 and has yielded just two in 18 innings as a Brave, with a 21/2 K/BB. He leads two teams in Reliever Expected Wins Added with a total (3.627) that would place him 12th in the majors overall. Meanwhile, Andruw Jones's 48th and 49th homers top Hank Aaron for the franchise record; overhyped MVP candidate or not, when you've outhammered the Hammer, you've done something special.

8


Yankees
80-62
3-3
Down
A snarling, fire-breathing performance from Randy Johnson against the Red Sox--7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 8 K in a 1-0 win--can barely salvage another week for the Yanks, who again lost a series to the Devil Rays earlier in the week. Were it not for a bizarre four-homer, six-run inning the Unit allowed back on August 21, he'd have a string of six runs allowed over his last 42 1/3 innings since missing a start with back woes. Meanwhile, Gary Sheffield has missed four games with a strained thigh muscle, prior to which he was just 4-for-28 and had been nursing a sore knee. He's dropped to 12th in the league in VORP at 49.6.

9


Mets
71-72
1-6
Flat
Stomach Turner: since 1997, the Mets are just 4-19 when visiting the home of the Braves in September. But this year's sweep is just a drop in the bucket of a 2-12 slide during which they scored just 34 runs while hitting .236/.302/.345. In other words, like nine Jose Reyeses, Kazuo Matsuis and Miguel Cairos instead of the usual two (actual combined performance of that trio: .262/.294/.361). It doesn't help that Mike Piazza's slight return may turn into a cameo after a beaning, but the fork has spoken: the Mets are done.

10


Astros
76-66
4-2
Flat
A three-game sweep ran their streak to 12 straight wins over the Phillies, the team closest to them in the wild-card hunt, with a come-from-behind win rally against former Astro Billy Wagner the cherry on top of the sundae. Andy Pettitte has posted a 1.69 ERA in 85 1/3 innings since the All-Star break, but Roger Clemens has been struggling with hamstring woes, allowing 28 1/3 innings and leaving his Friday start after allowing five runs in three frames to the Brewers.

11


Phillies
75-68
2-4
Up
Phreephalling: it's hardly on the order of their 1964 collapse, but five straight losses knocked them out of the NL wild-card lead. Their odds of reaching the postseason plummeted from 41.2 percent to 13.6 percent in that span, but a couple of big wins over the Marlins have brought them back up to 19.6 percent. Jon Lieber has been stellar over his last three starts, allowing just one walk, 13 hits and three earned runs over 21 innings while facing a trio of contenders, but the rest of the rotation has given up a 5.02 ERA on the month.

12


Cubs
71-72
5-2
Up
Now that the Cubs' chances for reaching the postseason have been fluctuating around one percent for the past three weeks, Dusty Baker has been finding at-bats for Matt Murton, who's hit .342/.424/.521 in 87 plate appearances. Other Cub left fielders have hit .249/.294/.386 on the year, but even allowing for some regression on Murton's part, it's clear Baker's failure to give him a shot earlier cost the team more than a few games in the standings. Not that his usage of Jose Macias, Neifi Perez, Corey Patterson, et al didn't already nail the coffin lid shut.

13


Rangers
70-73
3-3
Up
Though he was roughed up by the A's on Saturday, Kameron Loe has emerged as a solid starter over the last few weeks, with a 2.45 ERA in 25 2/3 innings after a middling performance in the bullpen (just 2.5 ARP). Meanwhile, despite a hot streak which has seen him allow just two earned runs in his past 26 1/3 innings, fellow rookie Chris Young may be shut down for the year having hit the 150-inning wall.

14


Twins
73-69
1-5
Down
Carlos Silva vents, Kyle Lohse dents, and not even Johan Santana's magical fingers can withstand the Twins' freefall. As Santana allows four runs in a game for the first time since July 6, the reality of an empty October sinks in; our Postseason Odds report shows the Twins with less than a 0.02 percent chance of making the playoffs. Not to mention this week's Golden Anvil award.

15


Marlins
76-67
4-3
Down
For a team struggling for homers (just four over the last 35 games from players not named Miguel Cabrera or Carlos Delgado), the Fish got a couple of unlikely ones this past week. Luis Castillo hit his fourth of the year on Tuesday, and then pitcher Josh Beckett hit his first career dinger on Thursday. Elsewhere, A.J. Burnett has been struggling due to a tired arm; he's given up 15 earned runs while lasting just 12 1/3 innings over his past three starts.

16


Blue Jays
71-71
4-2
Flat
A rough return after a six-week absence saw Ted Lilly walk five and give up three runs in 2 1/3 innings. It's been a lost year for Lilly, whose ERA stands at 5.65 and whose 2.1 VORP is more than 40 runs off of last years performance. The rest of the staff has been performing well lately; this month the Jays' hurlers have posted a 2.99 ERA, but with the team's hitters backing that up with just a .233/.297/.319 performance, they're 5-5 in September.

17


Brewers
71-72
4-2
Flat
J.J. Hardy continues his second-half tear, hitting .391/.417/.826 on the week with a pair of homers, including his first grand slam. Rickie Weeks breaks out of his slump with a .300/.364/.550 week, capped with a homer off of Roy Oswalt. On the opposite end of the experience spectrum from that pair of keystone rookies, Rick Helling has enjoyed a nice little resurgence, posting a 2.40 ERA in 30 innings, including 14 2/3 straight scoreless frames as a starter.

18


Padres
71-71
3-3
Flat
An inflamed rotator cuff sidelines Jake Peavy for at least one start. With the rest of the rotation having put up a 4.96 ERA on the year, that could be hazardous to the Padres' postseason health if not their chances of sewing up the weak division. Adam Eaton and Woody Williams have combined to reverse their frustrating fortunes this year by putting up a 2.66 ERA in 23 2/3 innings this month, but the current quartet behind Peavy can't even cumulatively match his 50.2 VORP. Meanwhile, a happy return from wrist surgery for Ramon Hernandez, who goes 4-for-9 with a homer in his first three games back.

19


Orioles
67-75
3-3
Flat
Bruce Chen has been pitching well lately, allowing three or fewer earned runs in eight straight starts dating back to the beginning of August, a span during which his ERA is 1.92. He did give up three unearned runs in the first inning on Sunday, but the O's responded by dropping a five-spot on Mariners' phenom Felix Hernandez, the first big inning suffered by the rookie in his short major-league career.

20


Tigers
65-76
2-5
Flat
"I hate walks," says Ivan Rodriguez, and it shows. He's drawn just seven in 478 plate appearances on the year, an historically awful performance and sports a rancid .298 OBP, down from last year's .383. And guess what? He's unhappy with the losing, something his empty .258/.281/.290 performance and numerous baserunning mistakes contributed mightily to during a nine-game sufferfest in which the team scored just 12 runs. Somebody buy the dude a mirror. Magglio Ordonez, who went 10-for-28 with no runs and one RBI during the streak, was right on the money when he told reporters, "We stink."

21


Nationals
73-71
2-5
Flat
A bad week climaxed by a devastating ninth-inning loss to the Braves after a five-run comeback might be the final nail in the Nats' coffin. From a high of 8.9 percent earlier in the week, the team's odds of making the playoffs are now down to 1.0 percent. Chad Cordero's meltdown on Sunday was the second time in eight days he'd allowed two homers in a game, and knocked him out of the NL lead in Reliever Expected Wins Added; he's now second with 5.087.

22


Reds
66-76
3-3
Flat
Having allowed two homers on Wednesday, Eric Milton now stands at 39 on the year, seven more than the man with the second-most homers allowed, Jeff Weaver. Two more dingers and Milton will be tied for ninth place on the single-season list. Four more and he'll match his career high, which is tied for sixth. The 82 he's allowed in 2004-2005 combined trails only Bert Blyleven (96 in 1986-87) and Robin Roberts (87 in 1955-56, 86 in 1956-57). Oh, and he's now last in the majors in pitching VORP at -25.5.

23


Mariners
61-81
3-3
Flat
Triple Jeopardy? After testing positive for steroids twice as a minor leaguer last year, Michael Morse is suspended for another positive test, one he claims is for the same winter-of-2003-2004 usage. Will Carroll points out that Morse's explanation is "plausible" if "hardly rock solid," noting the discontinuity between minor- and major-league testing programs and the glacial speed of the process. In any event, three of the 10 players to draw suspensions for usage are Mariners--finally, a category in which they lead the league. WFHU (Weekly Felix Hernandez Update): after smothering the A's with seven scoreless innings to drop his ERA to 1.59, the King had one very shaky inning against the Orioles, giving up five runs. He managed to stop the bleeding, ending up allowing six runs in seven innings to raise his ERA to 2.33.

24


Dodgers
65-77
4-2
Flat
Already on the DL due to back problems, Cesar Izturis needs Tommy John surgery and is expected to be out 10 months. It's been a dismal season for Izturis on the heels of signing a three-year, $9.9 million contract; his .257/.302/.322 and 1.5 VORP are a huge step down from last year's .288/.330/.381 and 29.7. Replacement Oscar Robles, has provided considerably more production, hitting .285/.349/.371 with a Mariginal Lineup Value rate that's .156 runs per game better than Little Cesar. Hot: Derek Lowe, who hasn't allowed an earned run in 16 innings, and Jose Cruz Jr., hitting .313/.406/.542 in his month as a Dodger after just a .215/.345/.430 performance in Arizona and Boston.

25


Giants
64-78
2-5
Flat
Just as a six-game winning streak pushes the Giants into second place in the NL West, a 1-5 stumble--complete with a pair of late-inning losses to the Dodgers--gives them a reality check. The week's sole highlight comes when Matt Cain tosses a complete-game two-hitter at the Cubs; he's allowed just eight hits and four runs in 21 innings, and is already 11th among NL rookie pitchers in VORP at 9.0. On Monday, the Giants' season-long nightmare ends when Barry Bonds returns, thus ending the world's most annoying Samuel Beckett adaptation.

26


Devil Rays
60-84
3-3
Flat
Bedeviling: if nothing else, the Rays remain the bane of the Yankees' existence, having now won 11 of 16 against the Bronx Bombers to clinch the season series for the first time in franchise history. Prior to this year they were a feeble 31-84 against their pinstriped overlords. The Rays' hottest hitter against the Yanks has been Jonny Gomes, who's hit .375/.556/.719 in 45 plate appearances, but then, Gomes has been hot against just about everybody. His 32.6 VORP is fourth on the team with about half as many plate appearances as the three players ahead of him, and it's first among all true rookie hitters (Joe Mauer, Chris Shelton, service time, yadda yadda yadda).

27


Diamondbacks
65-79
4-2
Up
That's your cavalry? Shawn Estes returns to the rotation for the first time since the All-Star break and tosses six shutout innings. Since he's been gone, the rest of the rotation has put up a 5.07 ERA, though much of the fault lies in the idiot sending Russ Ortiz out to do battle. Ortiz has put up a 9.24 ERA in 28 innings since returning from a rib injury, walking 16, striking out nine (a rate of just 2.89 per nine innings). His VORP now stands at -18.8. Given a halfway decent pitcher, the Snakes could have saved themselves three or four games in the standings, easily--enough to be within striking distance of the feeble Padres for the NL West title.

28


Pirates
57-85
2-4
Down
Oliver Perez returns after missing two and a half months with a toe broken in a losing scuffle with a laundry cart, but he's hardly the "It" Pirate pitcher anymore. Zach Duke's return is pushed back, but fellow rookie Paul Maholm continues to impress, allowing four runs in 13 innings in two losing causes. Meanwhile, the managerial sweepstakes to replace Lloyd McClendon include Jim Leyland, Art Howe, Ken Macha, Jay Bell, and Dale Sveum, all with a Pirates connection in their past.

29


Rockies
57-85
2-4
Flat
Aaron Cook makes it eight starts in a row allowing three or fewer runs, a stretch during which he's posted a 2.29 ERA and a 14.9 VORP that ranks second on the team despite his throwing only 96.2 innings. That said, none of the teams Cook has faced in that stretch are over .500 at this date, and in our Pitchers Quality of Batters Faced rankings, the OBP of opposing hitters ranks 263rd. Also streaking is Garrett Atkins, who's hit in 16 straight games, going .350/.412/.550 during that span.

30


Royals
46-95
2-4
Flat
Well, they had a stretch in which they won three out of five. Oh, and once they saw a blimp. Aside from a rare positive performance from Zack Greinke, the most interesting thing they did all week was to DFA Calvin Pickering. The big man hit .314/.451/.712 in Triple-A last year and figured to get a shot at some DH/1B at-bats in 2005, but was shipped out after going 4-for-27 in April. Returning to Omaha, Big Pick hit .275/.384/.528 while the non-Mike Sweeney players in the DH/1B slot with the "big league" club have hit a limp .269/.339/.392, and the Royals are last in the AL in scoring at 4.27 runs per game, and .002 out of last in slugging percentage (.394).

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 Sunday. For more on the Hit List, see this article.

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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