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July 10, 2009

Prospectus Hit List

Back in the Saddle Again

by Jay Jaffe

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RkTeam
Overall W-L
Week W-L
Comment

1


Dodgers
54-31
4-2
.626
Up
Prodigal Sons: The Dodgers regain the Hit List top spot as Manny Ramirez returns from his 50-game suspension. He goes 6-for-18 with two homers and seven RBI, drawing louder jeers for being ejected after an awful strike-three call than for his transgression. With Juan Pierre sitting, Rafael Furcal is restored to the leadoff spot and feeling better about his swing via a 14-for-30 showing this month.

2


Rays
47-39
3-3
.599
Down
Price is Right: David Price (6 6 1 1 1 7) outpitches Roy Halladay to cap a three-game sweep of the Jays, but not before the Rays themselves are swept by the Rangers, costing them the top spot here. The Rays' starting pitching simply hasn't been up to snuff, and Price has been more problem than solution; while Matt Garza, James Shields, and Jeff Niemann are posting a combined Support-Neutral Winning Percentage of .546, with all three above .500, those who have filled the back two spots (Price, Kazmir, and Andy Sonnanstine) were at .400 going into Thursday's start.

3


Yankees
51-34
6-2
.592
Up
Running the Table: A 13-2 run carries the Yankees back into a first-place tie with the Red Sox. They sweep a three-game set from the Twins in Minnesota, thus winning the season series 7-0; they've also won 18 of their last 24 games against the Twins. Alas, the run is tempered by the loss of Chien-Ming Wang due to a shoulder strain. Not that he'd pitched well (9.64 ERA overall, 5.50 since returning from the DL, and still waiting for that first quality start), but his absence forces the Yanks to pull Alfredo Aceves into the rotation. Along with Phil Hughes, he's become a key player in a bullpen that's put up a 2.39 ERA and 3.3 K/BB ratio since the beginning of June; he's 18th in the league in WXRL.

4


Red Sox
51-34
3-4
.583
Down
Knuckling Down: It's a banner week for Tim Wakefield, who not only collects his league-leading 11th win but surpasses Roger Clemens for the most starts in franchise history. Oh, and at 42 he makes the All-Star team for the first time in his 17-year career, becoming the second-oldest player (after Satchel Paige) to be so honored. Wakefield's racking up the wins thanks to 6.6 runs per game of offensive support (fourth in the league); while his ERA is just 4.31, he does rank among the league's top 25 in SNLVAR.

5


Cardinals
47-40
5-2
.540
Up
A five-run eighth-inning outburst backs Joel Pineiro's second complete-game win in a four-start span (9 3 1 1 0 5) as the Cardinals take the rubber match of a tight three-game series with the second-place Brewers. Pineiro's pitched better than his 7-9 record indicates; he's 12th in the league with a 3.20 ERA thanks to the circuit's lowest rate of HR/9 and the lowest walk rate as well.

6


Rockies
46-39
5-2
.540
Up
Stewing: Ian Stewart bookends the week with homers off aof pair of excellent young pitchers, Max Scherzer and Tommy Hanson. Since Jim Tracy took over as manager, Stewart's started 30 of 39 ballgames between second base and third, hitting .254/.313/.557 with nine homers. Tracy hasn't completely neglected Garrett Atkins, whom Stewart supplanted at the hot corner. Under the new regime, Atkins is hitting .303/.365/.447 while starting 19 times at three positions, boosting his trade value.

7


Rangers
47-37
5-2
.535
Up
I Hate LA (Even When It's Anaheim): Andruw Jones homers four times, including thrice in one game, and drives in seven of the Rangers' 16 runs across a pair of wins against the Angels, capping a 7-1 run which restores Texas' AL West lead. Jones has nine homers in his last 14 starts across a 25-day span. Among hitters with at least 10 jacks, only Albert Pujols and Raul Ibaņez have homered in a higher percentage of their plate appearances.

8


Phillies
45-38
6-2
.529
Up
Phillin' Groovy: Fresh off a sweep by the Braves, the Phils return home and step on the Mets' necks, winning three games by a combined score of 13-3, then dropping 22 runs on the Reds the next night. The pitching remains questionable, with question number one being, "What are they doing to acquire Roy Halladay?" Meanwhile, the offensive outburst pushes the team to the league lead in team EqA. Shane Victorino collects 10 hits and eight runs over that four-game span, part of a 14-for-32 binge that culminates with him winning the last spot on the All-Star squad. Also rolling: Jimmy Rollins (12-for-28 with five extra-base hits) and Jason Werth (homers in three straight games and four for the week).

9


Angels
46-37
4-3
.527
Flat
Disasterpiece Theater: The Angels surrender first place in the AL West when they drop two of three to the Rangers, with John Lackey and Ervin Santana making back-to-back disaster starts. Lackey's carrying an un-Lackeylike 5.18 ERA, but that's nothing compared to Santana, who's at 7.81 after his fifth disaster start in six outings. More bad news: Kelvim Escobar is likely done for the year, and both Torii Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero are hurting, with the latter possibly headed back to the DL amid a forgettable .290/.319/.415 showing.

10


Blue Jays
43-44
1-6
.526
Down
Break Up the Jays: GM J.P. Ricciardi opens the door to offers for Roy Halladay, though the ace won't be a free agent until after 2010. It's a consequence of a ridiculously top-heavy payroll; they have $74.45 million (or 92 percent of this year's Opening Day payroll) committed to just six players for next year, including B.J. Ryan, whom they punt with some $15 million remaining on his deal. The bigger problems are their five-year committments to Vernon Wells ($107 million) and Alex Rios ($59.7 million), hitting an interchangeably pallid .264/.313/.418 and .259/.314/.415, respectively.

11


Twins
43-43
2-4
.521
Down
(S)Low(ey) Blow: Back-to-back disasterpieces push Kevin Slowey to the DL due to a wrist problem; the 11 runs in six innings inflate his ERA towards 5.00 and push his Support-Neutral Winning Percentage under .500, though he's been the team's second-best pitcher for most of the year. Alas, Anthony Swarzak returns from the minors for his own shellacking en route to a season-series sweep by the Yankees.

12


Giants
47-38
5-3
.519
Up
Missing Unit: The Giants maintain their NL Wild Card lead, but their chances take a hit when they lose Randy Johnson to a shoulder strain sustained while swinging; that could cost the career .125 hitter six weeks on the DL. Though Johnson's overall ERA is a beefy 4.81, he'd put up a 2.85 mark over his previous eight starts. Jonathan Sanchez, who's been rocked for a 5.62 ERA during his 13 starts thanks to an unsightly walk rate (6.3 per nine), will fill his spot.

13


White Sox
44-41
4-3
.515
Up
Danks Blanks: John Danks outduels Zack Greinke, running his streak of scoreless innings to 19 1/3. He's yielded just six runs over his last five starts while tossing at least seven innings each time, with a 1.51 ERA that's been accompanied by similarly strong stretches from Jose Contreras (2.06) and Gavin Floyd (2.12). The rotation as a whole has put together a 2.89 ERA since Contreras' June 8 return from the minors, and their 18-10 record is enough to push them into second in the AL Central.

14


Tigers
46-38
3-3
.511
Down
Hold That Tiger: Despite some Fourth of July fireworks from Magglio Ordoņez, the Tigers find themselves amid a skid in which they've lost seven out of 12 while seeing their AL Central lead shrink to 2― games. Manager Jim Leyland now plans to platoon Ordonez with Clete Thomas; the Tigers need to throw the brakes on the 35-year-old ex-sluggger before he gets the remaining 166 PA which will trigger an $18 million option. He's hitting a respectable .299/.357/.468 against lefties, but just .243/.319/.292 against righties. Suck on that, Boras.

15


Mariners
44-41
5-3
.504
Up
Franklin Gutierrez sparks an 11th-inning rally that helps the Mariners take two out of three in Boston, though their chances at their first Fenway sweep in franchise history are blown by the bullpen the next night. He ends the week by bopping an eighth-inning three-run homer that carries the team past the Rangers. Gutierrez is hitting a searing .413/.453/.688 with six homers over his last 20 games, a span that includes four three-hit showings and just one oh-fer. His .283 EqA is third among Mariners regulars, trailing only Russell Branyan (.326) and Ichiro Suzuki (.310).

16


Braves
41-44
4-4
.497
Up
Potential Pipp? Kelly Johnson hits the DL due to wrist tendonitis and an anemic .214/.286/.359 line that's produced an EqA 61 points below his PECOTA projection, one of the season's biggest shortfalls. Luckily, replacement Martin Prado is riding a .455/.508/.673 hot streak over his last 15 games and hitting .324/.388/.506 overall via limited engagements at all three infield positions due to various starter owies.

17


Marlins
45-42
4-3
.495
Up
Dirty Dozen: Ricky Nolasco whiffs 12 Pirates during eight shutout innings to continue his post-recall roll: 41 IP, 45/7 K/BB ratio, 1.54 ERA. Chris Volstad joins the blankety-blank party with a five-hit shutout of the Giants. Though they're only 11th in the league in SNLVAR, the Marlins' rotation has put up a 3.72 ERA since May 23, when Nolasco was farmed out, compared to a 5.32 ERA prior.

18


Cubs
41-41
4-3
.493
Flat
Dempster Dive: Even when they celebrate, the struggling Cubs find trouble, as Ryan Dempster breaks a toe while jumping the dugout railing after a victory; he could miss nearly a month. Dempster's only fourth on the team in SNLVAR, but he'd put up a 2.84 ERA over his last seven starts.

19


Brewers
44-41
2-5
.490
Down
Yo Melvin! Ryan Braun calls out the Brewers' starting pitchers after the team drops three of four to the Cubs in an effort to spur GM Doug Melvin to swing a deal. The slugger's got a point; the rotation is 13th in the league in both ERA (4.95) and SNLVAR (6.1) and could really use the Doctor. A modicum of help does arrive in the form of Manny Parra, who tosses seven scoreless innings in his return from the minors, but alas, the bullpen melts down before they net the win.

20


Mets
40-44
2-5
.484
Down
Lost Weekend, the Sequel: A week after their scoring just three runs in a three-game weekend sweep by the Yankees, the Mets suffer the same fate against the Phillies, falling below .500. The futility extends into their series against the Dodgers, where they're outscored 23-7, though they do claim one game via a shaky return from Oliver Perez, who walks seven in five innings to push his 2009 walk rate above one per inning. The Mets are just 12-23 since June began, and they're not getting their missing stars back any time soon.

21


Astros
42-43
5-4
.469
Up
Wandy is Dandy: Wandy Rodriguez tosses a five-hit shutout (9 5 0 0 1 11) against the Pirates, the fourth time in six starts he's allowed one run or less; he's 10th in the league in SNLVAR, while Roy Oswalt is 19th. Oswalt's allowed exactly one run in three straight starts and five of his last seven, putting up a 2.82 ERA in that span, though the competition (Colorado, Pittsburgh, Arizona, Minnesota, Kansas City, San Diego, San Francisco) hasn't exactly been a collection of offensive juggernauts.

22


Pirates
38-47
2-5
.459
Down
Wet Noodles: Losers of eight out of 11, the Pirates' bats have gone limp. They're hitting just .223/.277/.328 during this skid, and scoring just 2.9 runs per game; they've been held to one run or less in five of 11 games. Particularly schlumpy during this slump is Adam LaRoche (.205/.225/.282 with a 13/1 K/BB), with Jack Wilson no prize pig either (.162/.238/.270).

23


Reds
41-43
3-5
.450
Down
Thirty Below: It's a bad couple of days for the Reds as they're outscored 32-2 across back-to-back games, including a 22-1 pounding by the Phillies. Johnny Cueto can't get out of the first inning (2/3 5 9 9 3 1), and while his 3.45 ERA testifies to plenty of good work to offset the bad, he's been lit for 19 runs across his last 17 1/3 innings. Mopping up the 22-run bloodbath is backup shortstop Paul Janish, who's now allowed 11 runs in two innings of work this year.

24


Diamondbacks
36-50
5-3
.450
Up
Reynolds Rap: A day after calling out his teammates for their level of effort, Mark Reynolds homers to jump-start a comeback that climaxes with Chris Young's three-run pinch-double. The victory kicks off a season-high five-game winning streak-aided by a three-run Reynolds homer the next day-which allows the Snakes to slither out of the NL West cellar for the first time in a month. Reynolds' 24 blasts are good for second in the NL. Late note: The streak ends in spectacular fashion.

25


Royals
37-48
4-4
.449
Flat
Tough Choices: Despite halting a 4-12 slide by winning three straight games, the Royals continue to invite ridicule to be the guest of honor at their banquet. The acquisition of Ryan Freel forces them to choose between Luis Hernandez (.204/.235 /.204) and Tony Peņa Jr. (.089/.128/.111) as the backup shortstop behind-wait for it-Willie Bloomquist, who's hitting a comparatively A-Rod-esque .278/.329/.378 following a five-game, 10-hit outburst which includes his first multi-extra-base-hit game in nearly five years. Which, y'know, totally justifies Bloomquist's two-year deal right there.

26


Indians
34-52
3-3
.444
Up
Wedgie: GM Mark Shapiro tells the buzzards to buzz off, declaring that Eric Wedge will finish the year as the Indians' manager. Wedge has been the Tribe's skipper since 2003, and while his overall record stands at 529-527, he's finished above .500 just twice, and his teams have fallen a cumulative 27 games shy of their Pythagorean projections, including five shortfalls of at least four games.

27


Athletics
35-48
2-4
.439
Down
Brett Anderson spins a two-hit shutout in Fenway Park, providing the A's with one of their few highlights for the week. The highlights haven't been so common for Anderson either; he's put up a 4.86 ERA while making just five quality starts out of 15, and his Support-Neutral Winning Percentage is fifth among those who've started more than once for the A's.

28


Orioles
38-47
3-4
.435
Down
The Advance Guard: Back-to-back quality starts from David Hernandez help the Orioles break even for the third week in a row. Hernandez has put up a 3.94 ERA through five starts, and is one of three rookie Oriole starters with Support-Neutral Winning Percentages above .500. There's more on the way, but the top pitching prospects won't arrive until next year. Speaking of top prospects, Matt Wieters is hitting .315/.375/.479 over the past month.

29


Padres
35-50
1-7
.398
Down
Don't Look So Surprised: With seven losses in eight games and 24 in their past 34, the Padres slide into the NL West cellar for the first time all year. Their staff has yielded a 5.13 ERA during that span-admittedly, while lacking Jake Peavy and Chris Young for most of it-while surrendering 1.4 HR/9, a tough thing to do when you're playing half your games in Petco Park, where just 0.8 per nine have been hit this year. Not helping is the fact that the offense is scoring just 3.5 runs per game during that period while being outhomered 49-23.

30


Nationals
25-59
3-5
.379
Flat
Dunn Deal? Adam Dunn's 300th career homer halts Tommy Hanson's 26-inning scoreless streak and helps the Nats snap their four-game losing streak. Dunn's the fifth-fastest player to 300 homers, at least in terms of the fewest at-bats to reach that milestone, trailing Babe Ruth, Mark McGwire, Ralph Kiner, and Harmon Killebrew. Acting GM Mike Rizzo has no plans to trade the curiously consistent slugger. Meanwhile, ex-Nat and current Pirate Joel Hanrahan earns the win in a suspended game against the Astros, with the winning run scored by Nyjer Morgan, who arrived from Pittsburgh in that deal.


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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