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September 7, 2007

Prospectus Hit List

September Song

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Red Sox
85-56
5-2
.627
Up
Clay Buchholz no-hits the Orioles in just his second major-league start (9 0 0 0 3 9), completing the job in just 115 pitches, five short of the organization's Theo-retical limit. Despite the no-hitter, Buchholz will pitch out of the bullpen for the foreseeable future, and as promising as the likely #1 pitching prospect's performance is, recall that September is a ripe month for no-nos--since 1957, 25.2 percent of them have come in September or October--and that the Orioles have begun their annual Thousand Yard Stare-a-thon.

2


Yankees
78-62
3-3
.577
Down
Despite elbow inflammation and comments that suggest he may be dealing with a bone spur, Roger Clemens takes the hill against the Mariners and is hit hard. A cortisone shot may cost him a turn--a needed move given his 5.66 ERA since July 28--and temporarily restore shell-shocked Mike Mussina to the rotation. As for Moose's replacement, Ian Kennedy turns some heads with seven strong innings in his major league debut.

3


Mets
78-61
5-1
.564
Up
Pedro Martinez returns to a big league mound for the first time since last September 27. Despite a diminished fastball, he bobs, weaves, and wills his way through five innings (5 5 3 2 3 4) in a Mets win, one of five in a row that helps them rebound from last week's debacle in Philadelphia and reopen a five-game lead. Martinez's return may crowd the team's postseason rotation plans, but at least the Mets should have the luxury of confronting that issue; the Playoff Odds Report shows them with a 95.3 percent chance of winning the NL East, and a 97.9 percent shot at making the playoffs.

4


Angels
83-57
4-3
.561
Flat
Bombed for an 8.28 ERA in his previous nine starts--a span that included a detour to the minors--Ervin Santana shuts down the A's for his first win since June 9. As he turns things around, the team hopes Scot Shields can do the same; once considered the game's top setup man, Shields has posted an ERA of 10.00 in 18 innings since the All-Star break, though he's still second on the team in WXRL. Deposed from his usual role, he throws a simulated game in an effort to iron out mechanical flaws.

5


Indians
81-59
5-2
.554
Up
Thanks to a 13-2 run, the Tribe has all but sewn up the AL Central; their Playoff Odds are now a solid 96 percent. One big reason is Asdrubal Cabrera; recalled on August 8 and shifted from shortstop to second base to replace struggling Josh Barfield (.244/.273/.318 at the time), he's hitting .317/.367/.476 and is causing the team to consider a plan that would shift Jhonny Peralta to third base next season and restore Barfield to second. That may spell further travels for Andy Marte, who returns to the majors after hitting .267/.309/.457 Buffalo. Through 296 PA in the majors, the 23-year-old has hit just .199/.260/.354, and he'll be out of options next spring.

6


Tigers
75-65
3-3
.540
Flat
Kenny Rogers returns to the hill for just his seventh start of the season, and Gary Sheffield is back in the lineup (perhaps it's just the cortisone talking) but it's probably too little, too late for the Tigers. Six down in the AL Central and three back in the Wild Card, their Playoff Odds have dwindled to just 23 percent thanks to an 23-31 record since the All-Star break. A glimpse of the future? Curtis Granderson in left and Cameron Maybin in center, though the latter will have to improve his .158/.238/.316 showing to convince the Tigers that he's ready.

7


Dodgers
74-66
4-3
.539
Flat
Despite switching from Oakland green to Dodger blue, Esteban Loaiza continues to roll in his return from the DL; he goes seven strong against the Cubs, helping them take a three out of four at Wrigley and boost their Postseason Odds to 33.3 percent. Also rolling: Chad Billingsley, who over his last four starts has allowed just four runs in 21 innings, with a 22/4 K/BB ratio to boot.

8


Padres
76-63
3-3
.537
Flat
The Padres surrender first place in the NL West by losing the rubber match with the Diamondbacks when Jake Peavy is torched while working on three days' rest. Worse, concerns continue to mount regarding Chris Young. Since his oblique strain back on July 24, he's posted a 6.39 ERA in five starts, and the injury appears to have put him out of whack mechanically. If there's a bright spot in the rotation, it's Greg Maddux's 49 1/3-inning walkless streak; since issuing his last free pass on July 28, he's struck out 26.

9


Phillies
73-66
2-4
.533
Flat
Freezing Cole: the Phils squander the momentum of their four-game sweep of the Mets by losing four out of five, the last by blowing a six-run lead in two innings. As bad as that bullpen is, Pat Gillick may find a way to make it worse by adding Bob Wickman. But wait, there's more: ace Cole Hamels is shut down for another week due to recurring elbow soreness, and J.D. Durbin turns in a rare imperfect game.

10


Blue Jays
71-68
4-2
.529
Up
Troy Glaus bops three home runs for the week, finally showing signs that he's fully healthy. Since August 11, he's hitting .333/.449/.611, and the hits have been coming in bunches. In that 22-game span, he's had 10 multi-hit games, 10 oh-fers, and just two one-hit games. Also absurdly hot, albeit in limited duty, is Matt Stairs, hitting .426/.514/.918 in 74 plate appearances since August 1. He's passed Frank Thomas for second on the team in VORP.

11


Rockies
72-67
4-2
.528
Flat
Cooked: out since August 10, Aaron Cook suffers a setback during his rehab outing and will miss the rest of the season; on the same day, Colorado shuts down Jason Hirsh in his attempt to come back from a fractured fibula. Including Rodrigo Lopez, that's three starters down for the count, and if you thought Elmer's Glue would be enough to hold the rotation together, think again. Nonetheless, the Rox roll on gamely, taking a key series at Arizona, and they'll continue to lie in the weeds as other contenders cross their paths.

12


Braves
71-69
2-4
.528
Down
Though Mark Teixeira's hit .302/.393/.581 with 10 home runs since being acquired at the deadline, the Braves have all but fallen out of contention due to a 15-18 record since the trade; they're running sixth in the Wild Card race, with their odds of reaching October down below five percent. Between Chuck James' dead arm, Jo-Jo Reyes' inexperience, and Buddy Carlyle turning back into Buddy Carlyle, the back end of the rotation has been a disaster. In 14 starts since August began, they've put up a 7.65 ERA while averaging just 4.38 innings per start.

13


Cubs
71-68
3-4
.513
Down
Carlos Zambrano continues to struggle; after his latest bombing--running his record to 0-5 with an 9.42 ERA since August 8--he's booed by the Wrigley faithful, whom he in turn criticizes (and then apologizes to). Despite the fact that Zambrano's 4.35 ERA is the highest of any member in the entire Cubs' rotation, shaky peripherals mean the team doesn't stack up all that well among the contenders, and the addition of Steve Trachsel won't change that.

14


Brewers
71-68
5-1
.510
Up
Reheated Soup: Jeff Suppan notches his first 'W' since June 22. Overshadowed by the epic struggles of Chris Capuano, he actually pitched better in that span (4.61 ERA) than overall (4.75), but either way his $42 million deal still looks like a colossal waste of money even for a team whose starting pitching depth hasn't proven to be all that and a bag of chips. Nonetheless, returns to form from Yovani Gallardo and a rotation-ready Carlos Villanueva, plus a bit of Braun (9-for-16 with three homers in his last four games) help the Brewers claw their way back into a tie for first.

15


Athletics
69-72
3-3
.509
Flat
Welcome to Towelsville: Travis Buck is done for the year due to a hamstring injury that requires surgery, costing the team its third-most productive hitter, not to mention the league's third-most productive rookie. Also throwing in the towel are Mark Kotsay and Eric Chavez. The former will settle for rehab, while the latter undergoes surgery to repair a torn labrum; he may have additional surgery on a bulging disc. As if this team's declining reputation for managing its players' health needed to take a further hit, Rich Harden concedes he tried to come back too early from his shoulder injury.

16


Twins
69-71
2-5
.500
Down
Scott Baker takes a perfect game into the ninth inning, but walks the leadoff man and surrenders a hit one out later, settling for a one-hit shutout. Despite a rockier start later in the week, Baker is on a roll, with a 3.04 ERA since the All-Star break and eight quality starts out of 11; he's second on the team in Support-Neutral Winning Percentage (SNLVA_R + 0.5; see this week's Hit and Run). Meanwhile, with Joe Mauer out since August 25 due to a hamstring injury--save for a cameo--the annual call to move him out from behind the plate is voiced by both local papers.

17


Mariners
74-64
1-5
.498
Down
The Mariners' losing streak reaches nine games before they break their fall against the Yankees, but after their bullpen is battered in the Bronx, they've now lost 11 out of 12. Three games back in the Wild Card and eight down in the AL West, their Playoff Odds are below eight percent because the skid drives their run differential into the red. As for the bullpen, they've yielded an 8.21 ERA and 2.29 WHIP during this stumble, with Brandon Morrow--second on the team in WXRL--surrendering nine runs and 15 baserunners over his last 3 2/3 innings.

18


Diamondbacks
78-63
3-3
.493
Flat
The Diamondbacks tee off on a not-so-fresh Jake Peavy to retake first place in the NL West. Leading the way is Chris Young, but despite his 28 homers this season, he's accumulated just 13.7 VORP, the fifth-lowest among all hitters with at least 20 bombs). Alas, Orlando Hudson sprains his thumb in the series finale against the Pads, and it's unclear for how long the lineup's leader in WARP may be sidelined.

19


Giants
63-77
2-4
.480
Flat
I'm Mad As Hell and I'm Not Going to Take It Anymore! Bengie Molina lashes out, calling his team's last place showing "a freakin' embarrassment." It's tough to find fault with that statement, particularly when the team's Playoff Odds have been below 1.0 percent since July 14, and below 0.1 percent since August 8. Molina's one of only three Giant hitters with a double-digit VORP, though latecomer Rajai Davis is closing in, and since his arrival subtracted Matt Morris from the mix, his impact is even higher than that.

20


Cardinals
69-68
5-2
.476
Up
Juan Encarnacion suffers a career-threatening orbital blowout fracture as he's struck by a foul ball while waiting on deck. On top of that, Scott Rolen decides to undergo surgery on his ailing shoulder; there's an outside possibility he could return for the World Series if--pass the crack pipe please--the Cardinals make it far enough to defend their title. In the face of Rolen's loss, the team quickly snags itinerant Three True Outcomes hero Russell Branyan, who homers in his first start; between three teams, he's hitting .200/.315/.464 with a TTO percentage of 46.7.

21


Orioles
60-79
2-5
.464
Down
Abra Cadaver: the Orioles snap their nine-game losing streak, only to start a new plunge by suffering the ignominy of being no-hit by Red Sox rookie Clay Buchholz. They're now 31-38 under Dave Trembley, a record that suspiciously resembles their results under Sam Perlozzo (29-40). Adding injury to a slew of insults, Erik Bedard is nursing an oblique strain, one that may cost the major league strikeout leader (also second in the league in SNLVAR) a shot at the Cy Young Award.

22


Rangers
65-74
4-2
.460
Flat
Happy Returns: with the Rangers 42-32 since June 13, manager Ron Washington shakes off early-season calls for his head and receives a contract extension through 2009. Hank Blalock makes a grand return from a three-and-a-half month absence due to rib-removal surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome. While third base has been a sinkhole of despair in his absence, the team will limit his usage over the remainder of the season.

23


Reds
63-77
1-5
.459
Down
Joey Votto is recalled from the minors and collects three hits, including a homer, in his first start. The team's top prospect--#2 in Kevin Goldstein's first base prospect rankings--hit .292/.381/.478 with 22 homers in Triple-A this season. Also homering in that game is Brandon Phillips, whose 28th blast breaks the club mark for second basemen held by Joe Morgan. He's third on the team and third among NL second sackers in VORP, and just two homers and three steals away from a 30-30 season.

24


Marlins
60-80
2-4
.452
Flat
How bad is the Marlins rotation? They'd remain last in the league in SNLVAR even if you doubled their total, and last in Fair Run Average even if you lopped half a run off their 6.20 mark. Things have gotten worse as the season's gone on; since August 1, the rotation's ERA is 6.75, with Dontrelle Willis' 5.20 the standard bearer. The only Fish starter with a Support-Neutral Winning Percentage above .500 is the well-traveled Byung-Hyun Kim. Yuck.

25


Royals
62-77
3-4
.444
Up
Zack Greinke tosses nothing but zeroes for his third straight start, this time going five innings and earning his first win as a starter since April 10. He hasn't allowed a run since August 4, a span of 19 innings, and has put up a stellar 19/3 K/BB ratio in that span. Meanwhile, Brian Bannister continues to mount a solid case for AL Rookie of the Year; despite just a 4.4 K/9, he leads Daisuke Matsuzaka in both VORP and SNLVAR after having gone nine consecutive starts without allowing more than three runs.

26


Nationals
63-77
5-1
.433
Up
Who Wants to Go Streaking? Having lost seven in a row, the Nats break their slump by winning five straight, including a sweep of the Marlins to remain clear of the NL East cellar. The offense, which has scored just south of four runs per game this year, has at least been doing better of late. Since August 1, they're averaging 4.5 per game, with Ryan Zimmerman (.299/.364/.590 in that span), Austin Kearns (.317/.407/.524), and even Nook Logan (.308/.339/.383) contributing more than earlier in the year, and Dmitri Young (.340/.393/.557) maintaining the red-hot pace that has him fifth in the NL in batting average.

27


Devil Rays
58-82
4-2
.430
Up
Yeah, But You Should See Victor Zambrano These Days: though he's managed just one quality start in his last four, Scott Kazmir's second-half numbers are still something to behold. He's put up a 2.82 ERA in and a 84/23 K/BB ratio in 70 1/3 innings, and despite being on a lower pitch count, has made it through six innings in all but one of 11 starts. That's compared to a 4.42 first-half ERA and 115/58 ratio in 112 1/3 innings, lasting six innings in just 11 of 19 starts. He's now third in the league in strikeouts, while James Shields is sixth.

28


Pirates
61-79
2-5
.428
Flat
Bryan Bullington's first major league start doesn't go so well; the first overall pick of 2002 is roughed up for five runs and nine baserunners--not to mention just one swing-and-miss by a non-pitcher--in three innings of a 16-4 loss. Still, after missing all of last season with shoulder surgery, his 151 innings of 3.99 ERA ball in Triple-A is a mild positive even given an unimpressive 89/59 K/BB ratio. Speaking of sore arms, Zach Duke has been out since late June with elbow trouble, and will pitch out of the bullpen when he finally returns.

29


Astros
62-78
2-4
.427
Flat
Get Backe: with little to do but play out the string, the Astros are reduced to namechecking a couple late arrivals. Brandon Backe returns from Tommy John surgery and goes 5 2/3 innings against the Brewers in a losing cause. Troy Patton--the team's last prospect standing--notches his first quality start, also in a losing cause. Meanwhile, Hunter Pence is killing the ball (.435/.536/.870 this week); thanks to a 26-run FRAA edge, he's out-WARPing fellow Rookie of the Year candidate Ryan Braun, 4.8 to 4.1.

30


White Sox
59-81
2-4
.405
Flat
Third baseman Josh Fields shifts to left field, reportedly in preparation for next year's return of Joe Crede, an arb-eligible potential free agent who's been out since June after undergoing surgery to repair a herniated disc. While Fields hasn't exactly torn up the circuit (.235/.290/.451), his PECOTAs sugggest he'll be a more than adequate replacement for Crede at a fraction of the cost. That GM Kenny Williams might squander money on a risk like Crede on a team with so many other needs suggests this year's roster mistakes aren't an aberration, and that Ozzie Guillen's kicking and screaming will continue next year.


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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Future Shock: Great Le... (09/07)

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