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August 10, 2007

Prospectus Hit List

Don't Look Now

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Red Sox
69-45
3-3
.621
Down
Another uneven week has the Sox's lead atop the AL East and the Hit List shrinking. Eric Gagne settles into a setup role with uneven results, Curt Schilling is less than spectacular in his return, and David Ortiz struggles amid recurrent shoulder woes. On a positive note, Dustin Pedroia's 11 hits over a four-game span lift his overall line to .326/.399/.447 for the year; he's fifth on the team in VORP but less than five runs behind 2nd-place Manny Ramirez.

2

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Yankees
63-51
5-1
.588
Up
Hot Knife, Meet Butter: the Yanks finish the easy portion of their post-break schedule having played themselves into the Wild Card hunt by going 19-8 and scoring 7.8 runs per game off .328/.401/.556 hitting, with Jorge Posada (.395/.511/.711) and Robinson Cano (.416/.479/.693) leading the way. The road ahead gets tougher; just two of those 27 games were against teams above .500, but 17 of their next 20 are against contenders. Alex Rodriguez becomes the youngest player to reach 500 homers, Jason Giambi returns, and 2006 supplemental first-rounder Joba Chamberlain arrives to aid a bullpen that's only eighth in the league in WXRL.

3


Mets
64-50
3-3
.566
Flat
Tom Glavine becomes the 23rd pitcher to win 300 games, and he might be the last for a while. Randy Johnson is close at 284 but again facing career-threatening back surgery, leaving only two contenders under 40 years old and within 100 wins: 38-year-old Mike Mussina at 246 and 35-year-old Pedro Martinez at 206. Speaking of the latter, he's cuffed in a rehab start, but that news isn't as bad as it sounds.

4


Angels
66-47
3-3
.552
Flat
Smelling a Rat: the Halos finally alter Angel Stadium's cleaning schedule in the wake of a report that they've received over 100 vermin-related citations due to their policy of not clearing garbage from the stands until more than 12 hours after a ballgame. That a purportedly "family-friendly" team with the majors' fourth-highest payroll is letting rats run riot is simply too disgusting not to revel in, so please help us by choosing the team's new slogan: A) "Mickey Mouse is back and pointier than ever!"; B) "Angels Baseball: now with 10% more buboes!"; C) "Take me out to the Black Death ballgame"; D) "If we were a Chinese restaurant, we'd be closed now"; E) send your own; the top entry as judged by the BP staff will win a free copy of the forthcoming It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over: the Baseball Prospectus Pennant Race Book.

5


Indians
65-50
4-3
.549
Flat
Rare Byrds: Paul Byrd tosses a complete game shutout and Jake Westbrook puts up his third quality start in a row (3 ER in 21 IP), part of a rotation clampdown that helps the Indians sneak into first place in the AL Central. Still, the offense is wheezing, scoring just 3.6 runs per game on .231/.292/.352 hitting since July 23, with big guns Victor Martinez (.170/.323/.245) and Travis Hafner (.192/.276/.346) especially feeble.

6


Braves
61-54
4-2
.544
Up
Dynamic Duo: Wee Willie Harris robs Carlos Delgado of a game-tying homer, his second great catch of a rubber match with the division-leading Mets. The Free Talent All-Star is hitting .328/.402/.444, while platoonmate Matt Diaz is batting an even more robust .344/.373/.496 after homering for his third time in five games. Both are among the team's top five in Marginal Lineup Value rate.

7


Tigers
63-51
2-5
.542
Down
The Tigers break their 2-11 freefall with back-to-back victories, their first since July 18-19, but not before surrendering first place in the AL Central to the similarly slumping Indians. The rotation is a mess; not only have they put up a 5.42 ERA since the All-Star break, but Andrew Miller is hamstrung, Kenny Rogers is set back, and Jeremy Bonderman has legally changed his last name to Bombedagain (21 ER in last 16.1 IP). Good news: Fernando Rodney and Gary Sheffield are back, with Joel Zumaya on the way.

8


Dodgers
59-55
1-5
.536
Down
Goose Eggs: shut out three straight times and four out of five, the Dodgers briefly tumble into fourth place in the NL West as they lose nine out of 10 and 14 out of 18. The offense dries up to just 3.7 runs per game over that span, with Russell Martin (.209/.264/.328), Luis Gonzalez (.236/.254/.255), James Loney (.250/.297/.367) and Matt Kemp (.171/.237/.343) all falling on hard times, but at least Grady Little sees the light about dropping Juan Pierre out of a helicopter in the order (did you expect the man who fiddled while the 2003 pennant burned to reach a more sudden conclusion?). Not helping: Derek Lowe's hip woes, limiting him to just nine innings since July 22.

9


Phillies
60-54
3-3
.536
Flat
Patches, I'm Depending On You: Chase Utley's return is targeted for September, but in the meantime, Tadahito Iguchi is doing a convincing impersonation. He's hitting .388/.448/.531 since being acquired and has reached base in all 12 games. In the rotation, rookie Kyle Kendrick has given the team eight quality starts out of 11 since his mid-June recall, and he's now third on the staff in VORP.

10


Padres
61-53
4-3
.532
Down
Lowering the Boomer: a 5-1 run snaps the Pads out of their post-break funk, but the return of Chris Young prompts the team to release David Wells. The move may have been premature; though bombed for 26 runs in his last 16.2 innings, Wells had put up four quality starts in his previous five, and while the market for overweight 44-year-old hurlers with a history of gout may not be robust, the cost for a banged-up contender like the Dodgers or Phillies to bring him in after a couple weeks of rest and rehab is vanishingly small. As for the Pads, with Justin Germano getting shelled (6.63 ERA and one quality start in his last six) and Clay Hensley doing little more than earning a historical footnote, this rotation suddenly looks quite vulnerable.

11


Blue Jays
57-56
4-2
.530
Up
The Jays are 15-12 since the break, mainly thanks to a staff that's put up a 3.61 ERA. The offense isn't without its heroes (Alex Rios, .330/.389/.553 in the second half), but two Jays have been noticeably absent from the party. Lyle Overbay is hitting just .241/.374/.316 since returning from a broken hand (memo to BP staff: when are we going to study the statistical effects of hand injuries on hitters?), and Troy Glaus is mired in a 2-for-41 slump dating back to July 25. Box score in-joke of the week: Matt Stairs, leadoff hitter, just his second career start there (his first was July 21).

12


Cubs
59-55
2-5
.529
Down
With six losses in seven games, the Cubs fail to take advantage of the Brewers' latest slump. Worse, Alfonso Soriano strains his quad and could miss a month; Felix Pie is up from Iowa, but he'll have to improve considerably on his earlier stints (.216/.272/.345, -4.2 VORP) to be an asset. More immediate help from the farm comes in the form of Kerry Wood, who returns to the majors for the first time in over a year; he joins a bullpen that's just 13th in the league in WXRL.

13


Rockies
59-55
4-3
.528
Up
Winning 10 out of 15 and taking advantage of the Dodgers' latest swoon, the Rox roll into third place in the NL West. In the grand scheme of things, that shouldn't be a shocker; this team has played at an NL-best .594 clip since May 21, and they're now second in the league in both scoring (5.1 runs per game) and OBP (.349), backed by a staff that's put up an MLB-best 3.48 ERA since the break. Bad news: though tough enough to pitch five innings after sustaining the injury, Jason Hirsh may be done for the year due to a broken fibula.

14


Athletics
55-60
4-2
.513
Flat
Despite a decent week on the field, the news for the A's isn't good these days. Milton Bradley continues to blister Billy Beane, Bob Geren comes under fire, and the left side of the infield is reduced to a Marco Scutaro-Donnie Murphy tandem. Worse, Eric Chavez may be done for the year due to a bulging disk which has eroded his production to the point that he's carrying a single-digit VORP.

15


Brewers
60-55
2-4
.512
Down
Tapped: the Brewers go to Coors Field and get swept by a combined score of 36-10, leaving Yovani Gallardo (2.2 12 11 11 3 1) with the bitter beer face. The Brew Crew has lost 14 of 20, and the rotation's flat performance is a big reason why. They've put up a 5.74 ERA in that span with just two quality starts out of their past 11, and a unit once noted for its depth now ranks in the league's bottom half in SNLVAR.

16


Mariners
63-49
4-2
.511
Up
The Power Is... On: with three home runs in two days, Raul Ibanez helps the Mariners into the Wild Card lead while lifting his slugging percentage over .400 for the year. That puts the M's leftfielder decisively ahead of first baseman Richie Sexson (.389 SLG) and DH Jose Vidro (.381 SLG) in terms of bop from the power positions, though at least the latter is making himself useful by reeling off an 11-game hitting streak (.422/.481/.533). Turning to mascot news--a topic we don't cover often enough here on the Hit List--the Mariners demonstrate the hazards of letting the Moose loose.

17


Twins
58-56
3-4
.510
Flat
Michael Cuddyer's home run marks the Twins' first round-tripper in August, and if that doesn't speak ill of the team's offense, consider that their 11-run outburst represents just the third time since the All-Star break--and first in 16 games--that they've scored over five runs. They're averaging just 3.3 per game since the break, a fact not unrelated to Cuddyer's recent absence; with Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Torii Hunter all underperforming alongside some real drek, the only team scrubbier is these guys.

18


Orioles
52-61
2-4
.503
Down
Miguel Tejada is withdrawn from waivers, meaning he can't be dealt for the rest of the year. Since returning from a wrist fracture, Tejada is hitting an uneven .280/.294/.480 with three homers, and while his sticking around may be a good thing, the O's offense has too many expensive scrubs to be hoarding during trade season.

19


Diamondbacks
65-51
5-1
.490
Up
Curiouser and Curiouser: as if a sub-.500 HLF team leading a strong division weren't weird enough already, the Diamondbacks continue to make it weirder. They acquire Jeff Cirillo, Joe Kennedy, and Byung-Hyun Kim off waivers, with the latter bombed in a poorly-received return (2.1 7 5 4 1 3). Additionally, they grant a three-year, $30 million extension to team VORP leader Eric Byrnes; while he's having an outstanding year, handing out extensions to 31-year-olds who've yet to conclusively prove they can stay healthy and productive for an entire season is a surefire recipe for serving albatross at a Thanksgiving to be named later.

20


Giants
49-64
2-5
.472
Flat
Barry Bonds hits home runs #755 (off Clay Hensley in San Diego) and #756 (off Mike Bacsik in San Francisco), ending a lengthy chase that remains clouded by suspicions and a sizable amount of evidence that he was aided by performance-enhancing drugs. Its climax, however, proves so deliriously fun for Giants fans that they scarcely notice their team losing both games and doing little more than entrenching themselves in the NL West cellar. In the words of Nelson Muntz, "Ha-ha!"

21


Marlins
53-62
3-3
.468
Down
The misery continues for Dontrelle Willis as he loses his ninth straight decision; his last W was on May 29. A closer look reveals that when Willis was 7-3, he'd put up a 4.83 ERA on 6.4 K/9 and 1.3 HR/9; since then, he's 0-9 with a 5.14 ERA, 5.6 K/9 and 0.6 HR/9. The biggest difference in the splits isn't his performance, but that of his teammates: .293 BABIP and 6.5 runs per game of support before, .357 BABIP and 3.6 runs per game since.

22


Reds
49-65
4-1
.449
Up
Ryan Freel undergoes arthroscopic knee surgery, prematurely ending the worst season of his career (-4.7 VORP, 0.6 WARP1). With Josh Hamilton just starting a rehab assignment following a wrist injury, the team's outfield is dreadfully thin, with waiver acquisition Jason Ellison hardly representing an upgrade on Norris Hopper, who's still below replacement level even with a .322/.355/.373 performance since the All-Star break.

23


Cardinals
53-59
3-4
.446
Flat
Pitchers, Hitters, What's the Big Dif? Tony La Russa returns to his old trick of batting the pitcher eighth, but the Cards drop three of their first five under that configuration while scoring just 4.0 runs per game. The Genius reintroduces the strategy in a 12-1 defeat where he also calls upon Aaron Miles to pitch a scoreless inning, and the week comes full circle when the offensively addled club recalls pitcher-turned-outfielder Rick Ankiel, hitting .270/.316/.574 with 32 homers in Triple-A. Naturally, he homers in his return.

24


Rangers
49-65
1-5
.436
Down
Post-Teixeira Era: the Rangers are just 2-6 since the trading deadline, cooling off after a 25-17 run at respectability. New kid Jarrod Saltalamacchia takes his lumps, enduring an 0-for-18 slump after singling in his first at-bat as a Ranger. But Kason Gabbard gets his first W for the team. He's allowed six run in 11.2 innings over two starts; on a team that struggles to distinguish John Koronka from John Rheinecker without ever questioning the purpose of the exercise, that performance nearly qualifies him for staff ace status.

25


Astros
51-63
4-2
.435
Up
0 for O: With six shutout innings, Roy Oswalt helps the Astros complete a sweep of the Cubs. In his last four starts, Oswalt has allowed just two earned runs in 25 inning; he's now seventh in SNLVAR. Also hot: Carlos Lee, .455/.500/.758 in August.

26


White Sox
53-61
4-2
.432
Up
Don't look now, but the Sox have won 10 of 16. Leading the way is Jermaine Dye, who's hit seven homers in just 53 at-bats in that span. But even with the outburst, Dye's .302 OBP is keeping his VORP in the single digits, but he's not alone; every Sox hitter this side of Jim Thome and Paul Konerko has a VORP under 10, and the team is still dead last in the majors in that department.

27


Royals
50-63
2-4
.430
Down
Power Outage: Mark Teahen's swinging a hot bat right now (11-for-25 in August), but he's returned to the punch-and-judy ways that got him farmed out early last season. Teahan hasn't homered since May 29; since then he's hit .294/.344/.387 in 258 plate appearances, though one of his doubles did coincide with an electrical failure. Meanwhile, Brian Bannister continues to roll, with his fourth consecutive quality start (5 ER in 28 IP). Don't miss David Laurila's excellent Q&A with the staff VORP leader.

28


Nationals
53-62
5-2
.430
Up
Mike Bacsik joins Al Downing in the annals of home run history by surrendering #756 to Barry Bonds, and there's an additional twist, as Jim Baker points out: the two men's fathers once squared off. Thanks to a late rally, the Nats spoil Bonds the younger's parade by beating the Giants; they've now won eight of 10, and as John Perrotto points out, their future is starting to take shape.

29


Devil Rays
44-70
3-4
.404
Up
The Rays finally take mercy on their fans and demote Casey Fossum, whose VORP is so low we have to get special permission from Keith Woolner just to display it (if you're looking at just the Rays staff, you'll want to invest in appropriate protection). Fossum's 7.70 ERA may be dreadful, but consider that it's dressing up a major-league worst 9.21 Fair Run Average. Kudos to the Rays for taking only until the first week of August to figure out that wasn't working.

30


Pirates
45-66
1-4
.400
Down
Of Course That's Worth $13.8 Million! Matt Morris homers in his Pirates debut, but his pitching leaves something to be desired (6.1 9 5 4 1 4). Business as usual for Morris, who has just one quality start in his last nine, a span during which he's allowed a 7.66 ERA. Per the Earl Weaver line about hitters telling you when a pitcher is done, Morris' .384/.418/.599 opposition line suggests it's time to take this turkey out of the oven. Meanwhile, a report surfaces regarding some of those mega-blockbusters Dave Littlefield was working on at the deadline.


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.

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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<< Previous Article
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