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August 24, 2007

Prospectus Hit List

Passing the Buchholz

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Red Sox
76-51
4-3
.618
Flat
Clay Buchholz makes a solid debut (6 8 4 3 3 5), but he's sent back to Pawtucket, where he'll continue to build on the absurd 164/30 K/BB ratio he's compiled in 117 1/3 minor-league innings this year; he may be back for a September 1 start. There's more help from the farm as Kevin Cash--subbing for injured Doug Mirabelli--catches a Tim Wakefield start with nary a police escort from the airport, a ball rolling to the screen, or a world coming to an end. Wakefield continues to bedevil the Rays with a 15-inning scoreless streak; he's 19-2 with a 2.72 ERA against them in his career.

2


Yankees
71-56
4-2
.588
Flat
They haven't caught the Mariners yet, but the Yanks hold the edge according to the Postseason Odds report, with a 50.1 percent chance of winning the Wild Card and 58.6 percent chance at the playoffs, compared to 28.5 and 51.0. The offense remains absurdly hot--7.2 runs per game since the All-Star break on .320/.389/.534 hitting--with five regulars carrying OPSes over 1000 in that span, led by Jorge Posada (.363/.471/.646). Amid the deluge, Bobby Abreu has turned his season around, hitting .330/.404/.563 since June 1 after an anemic .228/.313/.289 over the first two months.

3


Mets
71-55
4-2
.571
Up
Since coming off the DL on August 10, Carlos Beltran is partying like it's 2004, with six homers and 18 RBI in a 10-game span. He's fitting right in with an offense that's scoring 6.5 runs per game in August. Moises Alou (.358/.411/.701 this month) and David Wright (.368/.476/.618) are tearing things up as well, helping the Mets go on a 7-1 run that widens their NL East lead. More good news: a fine rehab outing from Pedro Martinez.

4


Angels
74-53
4-4
.553
Down
Garret Anderson drives in 10 runs as the Angels humiliate the Yanks; Scioscia-ball may have its discontents but it does have its days. As Joe Sheehan points out, the Halos are last in the league in percentage of runs derived from homers, but their high-average, high-OBP offense and good baserunning help them get the job done. Still en fuego: Chone Figgins (.398/.449/.505 since May 31), though a wrist injury may cool him off.

5


Indians
70-56
4-2
.541
Up
The Tribe goes to Detroit and takes two of three from the Tigers to open up their largest AL Central lead since July 3. Jake Westbrook tosses eight scoreless innings in the rubber match; that's his fifth quality start out of six, good for a 1.67 ERA over 43 innings. Also impressive is Fausto Carmona's effort (8 3 2 2 0 5 on 77 pitches) in a losing cause. He's fifth in SNLVAR and ERA, and at 14-8 has to be considered a legitimate Cy Young contender.

6


Dodgers
66-61
4-2
.538
Up
With six wins in eight games, the Dodgers restore bloodflow to their extremities, though their Postseason Odds are roughly half of what they were as August began. For those who thought Juan Pierre deserved a spot on the Replacement Level Killers, he was left off due to his surprisingly robust VORP (on the strength of a .367/.405/.443 August) and the team's distance from first place, though his -12 FRAA does keep his WARP at 1.8. A stronger case can be made for the inclusion of Nomar Garciaparra (0.3 VORP, 0.3 WARP), or the team's handling of an eight-man pileup at third base.

7


Padres
68-58
3-3
.534
Down
Oh, To Be Young Again: less than two weeks after coming back from a strained oblique, Chris Young leaves a game with lower back pain, a classic cascade injury, though he may miss only one start. Young leads the NL in ERA (2.12) and WHIP (1.01), and he's fifth in SNLVAR. League SNLVAR leader Jake Peavy makes waves when he reveals he doesn't expect to be a Padre beyond 2009, and if CEO Sandy Alderson's comments about the team's financial state are true, that prophecy may come to pass.

8


Braves
66-62
2-5
.531
Down
Mark Teixeira hits a pair of homers in two consecutive games; he's now hitting .296/.396/.728 with 10 homers in 20 games as a Brave. But just as the offense appears to get another boost with the return of Edgar Renteria--13th in the league in VORP on .336/.392/.487 hitting--he reinjures his ankle on the first pitch he sees. Also on the DL: Chuck James, amid his annual dead arm period.

9


Tigers
68-59
1-5
.530
Down
The Cavalry Arrives: Jair Jurrjens combines on a one-hitter against the division-leading Indians in just his second big-league start. Taking the ball from Jurrjens is Joel Zumaya, back from a tendon injury to pitch in his first game since May 1. Meanwhile, the Tigers DFA Craig Monroe (a Replacement Level Killer) and recall Cameron Maybin, #7 on our Top 100 Prospect List, and he homers off Roger Clemens in his second game. Alas, the Tigers lose ground to the Tribe, and Gary Sheffield's shoulder is in rough shape.

10


Phillies
66-60
2-4
.527
Down
Last Man Standing: that would be Jamie Moyer, sole survivor of the six-starter surplus now that an elbow strain sidelines Cole Hamels. Fourth in the league in strikeouts and eighth in VORP, Hamels will miss at least two starts while on the DL. More than that could be disastrous for the Phils, whose rotation aside from Young King Cole has compiled just 7.2 SNLVAR, a total that would rank 28th in the majors. Moyer's part of the problem, having put up a 6.47 ERA since the break.

11


Athletics
65-64
5-2
.527
Up
Dan Meyer, the key acquisition in the Tim Hudson deal three winters ago, finally makes his Athletics debut, but it's nothing to write home about (4 5 6 3 2 0); back to Sacto with him. A more successful debut comes from Esteban Loaiza, who caps a sweep of the Blue Jays with a strong outing in his first start of the year; neck and knee injuries had sidelined him. The win helps the A's runs their record for the month to 15-7, allowing them to taste .500 for the first time since July 8.

12


Mariners
72-53
6-1
.527
Up
A five-game winning streak puts the Mariners in the Wild Card lead and helps them close to within one game of the Angels. They're 13-6 this month, with an offense that's cranking out 6.2 runs per game on .331/.374/.524 hitting. Leading the way is Raul Ibaņez, hitting .397/.461/.808 with nine homers and 22 RBI this month; Yuniesky Betancourt (.359/.375/.654), Jose Vidro (.388/.459/.522), and Jose Guillen (.341/.394/.588) are sizzling as well. The Mariners' Postseason Odds are at 51 percent, with their odds of winning the division greater than those of the Wild Card, but their snow-day makeups leave them with just two days off the rest of the season.

13


Blue Jays
64-63
3-4
.523
Down
The Jays are in the midst of a power outage; they've hit just 11 homers through their first 20 games this month, with Frank Thomas (five) and Aaron Hill (two) the only players to hit more than one round-tripper. With 508 homers, Thomas has climbed into the top 20 all-time; with five more homers he'll pass Mel Ott (511), Eddie Mathews (512), and Ernie Banks (512). He's hitting .310/.375/.634, his best month this season, and after a slow start ranks fifth among DHs in VORP.

14


Rockies
64-63
2-5
.520
Down
A 3-6 skid has Colorado sinking like Rox in the NL West standings, thanks to a bullpen that blew three straight eighth-inning leads. The Rockies are just 15th in the league in WXRL, and three of their four most heavily-used relievers are in the red in that category. Not helping matters is the reversion to form from Josh Fogg, one of the team's few healthy starters; he's been bombed 14 runs in his past 9 2/3 innings after a string of four quality starts in five.

15


Cubs
65-61
4-2
.518
Down
Back from a nine-day absence due to the death of his father, Cliff Floyd delivers the winning hit in his first game and keys the game-winning rally in his second as the Cubs seize first place in the NL Central. It's been a rough year for Floyd, who's managed just a 4.0 VORP, but then the same thing can be said for the entire Cubs outfield, which without Alfonso Soriano (out until rosters expand) lacks a single player with a VORP in double digits. Unless you're counting newest Cub Craig Monroe and his -15.0 VORP in Detroit, that is.

16


Twins
64-63
4-3
.505
Flat
Johan Santana fans 17 hitters in eight innings of two-hit shutout ball. By Game Score, that's tied for the second-best start of the year, and it pushes Santana to a very close third atop the AL VORP rankings. Moving in the opposite direction is Boof Bonser, who's 0-8 with a 5.65 ERA in his last 12 starts and generating concern about his weight.

17


Brewers
65-62
3-3
.504
Flat
Gabe Gross bashes three home runs, including a go-ahead grand slam, in his first week back from the minors, but the Brewers slip back out of first place. Change is afoot, as Ben Sheets nears a return and Chris Capuano is exiled to the bullpen following his 16th straight start without a W. It's a fair move, as he's sixth on the team in SNLVAR and has the highest Fair Run Average of any Brewer starter (5.55).

18


Orioles
58-68
2-5
.494
Down
The Orioles find a novel way to celebrate manager Dave Trembley's extension through 2008, by allowing an AL-record 30 runs in the first game of a doubleheader, and then nine more in the nightcap. The sweep costs the O's 16 points of Hit List Factor and 25 points of ERA, but does nothing to change their very good #3 AL ranking in SNLVAR nor their atrocious #13 ranking in WXRL. More bad news: Chris Ray will miss all of 2008 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

19


Diamondbacks
72-56
3-3
.493
Flat
Brandon Webb's 42-inning scoreless streak comes to an end; only Orel Hershiser (59 in 1988), Don Drysdale (58 in 1968), Bob Gibson (47 in 1958) and Sal Maglie (45 in 1950) went longer. Meanwhile, Micah Owings hurls seven strong innings, belts two homers, and racks up 11 total bases in one of the best two-way performances ever, while Mark Reynolds strikes out a record nine times in a row, ending the streak with an HBP. Brutal, Juice.

20


Giants
56-72
5-2
.474
Up
They don't qualify as Replacement Level Killers given this team's distance from contention, but the Giants' double-play combo has quietly joined the ranks of the undead. Omar Vizquel is hitting .248/.306/.308 and is last on the team in VORP (-9.2). Ray Durham is hitting .223/.302/.356 thanks to a .156/.261/.246 second half; he's at -5.6 VORP, and he's also 15 runs to the bad in FRAA. Not-so-super sub Kevin Frandsen is right at home here, with a -7.5 VORP on .222/.285/.313 hitting. Nice work there, Mr. Sabean.

21


Cardinals
61-63
3-3
.472
Flat
With 11 wins in 15 games, the Cards surge towards .500 while keeping the heat on the Cubs and Brewers. Albert Pujols homers for the fifth straight game and reaches 30 for the seventh time in his career; he's hitting .350/.451/.723 since the All-Star break and has climbed to third in the league in VORP. Also providing power is Rick Ankiel, who's hitting .286/.359/.686 since his recall, with six of 10 hits going for extra bases.

22


Marlins
57-71
1-6
.468
Down
Getting Uggla: the Marlins' season reaches its nadir, as the team rides an eight-game losing streak to its furthest distance below .500 and from first place. Particularly struggling with the stick is Dan Uggla, hitting just .203/.280/.297 this month. Worse is the rotation, which has put up a 5.60 ERA in the second half and ranks last in the league in SNLVAR.

23


Rangers
56-71
3-4
.451
Up
The Rangers set an AL record with a 30-run outburst against the Orioles, all of them unanswered after a 3-0 deficit, and 16 of them in the final two innings. They get two homers and seven RBI apiece from Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ramon Vazquez, the bottom two hitters of the lineup, and a grand slam from just-recalled Travis Metcalf, who adds four more RBI in the nightcap. Oh, and Wes Littleton pitches the final three innings to record a save, yet another indication of how badly the rule needs to evolve.

24


Reds
57-70
5-2
.451
Up
Though they're 12-8 this month, the Reds have been getting by with some brutal pitching. The starters rank 13th in SNLVAR while putting up a 6.90 ERA and allowing 2.3 HR/9. They've managed just one quality start in their last 11 games, and for the month they have just six, against eight disaster starts. All of which only deflects attention away from a bullpen that's last in the league in WXRL, FRA, and ARP.

25


Royals
56-70
3-3
.440
Up
A strained knee ligament may end Odalis Perez's season, and if bumping his charred remains (5.57 ERA, 1.0 VORP) from the rotation isn't exciting enough, the return of Zack Greinke to the starting realm may be. Greinke struggled in an early season stint as a starter (6.07 Fair Run Average, 20/11 K/BB in 34 2/3 IP), but he's flourished out of the bullpen (3.18 FRA, 55/15 K/BB in 53 1/3 IP). He'll be part of a six-man rotation the Royals will use in September to limit the innings of some younger pitchers.

26


Nationals
58-70
3-4
.433
Up
Jim Bowden hunts down his white whale yet again, acquiring Wily Mo Peņa in a three-way deal with the Red Sox and Diamondbacks. Shrugging off a less-than-flattering performance in Boston (-4.1 VORP), he homers twice in his first three games as a Nat. Hot bat: Ryan Zimmerman, hitting .312/.374/.532 in the second half after a tepid .253/.302/.435 performance in the first, and splitting the uprights between Dmitri Young and Cristian Guzman on the team's unlikely VORP leaderboard.

27


Astros
57-71
3-4
.429
Down
Disastro Departs: A torn flexor tendon brings Jason Jennings' season to a merciful end. He finishes with a -9.1 VORP, some 46 runs worse than the Rockies fared in getting Taylor Buchholz (12.9), Jason Hirsh (12.3) and Willy Taveras (11.8). There's better news for the 'Stros with the return of Hunter Pence. Despite missing a month, he's still third among rookie hitters in VORP.

28


Pirates
55-71
5-2
.428
Up
The Bucs take series from two contenders, the Phillies and Rockies, running their record to 13-9 this month after closing July with a 2-14 bellyflop. The offense is cranking out seven runs per game in August, with Nate McLouth (.308/.375/.667 and a team-high seven homers), Freddy Sanchez (.382/.456/.584), Adam LaRoche (.349/.415/.578) and still-here Jack Wilson (.389/.469/.648) all keeping the line moving. Hitting just .191/.306/.325 through May 26, LaRoche is batting .303/.363/.526 since; he's now third on the team in VORP.

29


White Sox
56-70
2-4
.425
Flat
After missing a week due to an ankle tweak, Bobby Jenks' streak of consecutive batters retired comes to an end; he'll share the record of 41 straight with Jim Barr while continuing his 15-inning scoreless streak. Meanwhile, Jim Thome ties Lou Gehrig and Fred McGriff for 23rd on the all-time home run list, while Jermaine Dye re-ups for a two-year, $22 million extension. Even with a .304/.381/.645 second half, Dye is still carrying a single-digit VORP.

30


Devil Rays
48-79
2-5
.389
Down
Edwin Jackson pitches the Rays past the Red Sox for his fifth quality start in a row. He's allowed just five earned runs in 33 innings over that span, and while his 22/16 K/BB ratio suggests he won't keep that performance up forever, he does appear to have turned a corner from those Boeing ERA days. Elsewhere in the series, Scott Kazmir's string of seven straight quality starts comes to an end; he'd put up a 1.01 ERA in that span of 44 2/3 innings.


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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