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July 24, 2009

Prospectus Hit List

Halladay to Holliday

by Jay Jaffe

RkTeam
Overall W-L
Week W-L
Comment

1


Dodgers
61-34
5-2
.625
Flat
Gracing Us With His Presence: Jason Schmidt sneaks in a start for the first time in over two years, scuffling for five innings (5 5 3 3 3 2) to earn just his second win in Dodger blue. He still needs 16 1/3 innings to get his three-year contract down to $1 million per frame. A better bang for the buck is Clayton Kershaw, who's put up a 0.63 ERA over his past seven starts, with less than one baserunner allowed per inning. Oh, and in case you didn't think the Dodgers were living a fairy tale, Manny Ramirez whacks a game-winning pinch-hit grand slam on "Manny Ramirez Bobblehead Night" after sitting out of the lineup with a bruised hand.

2


Yankees
58-37
7-0
.589
Up
The Yankees ride a six-game winning streak into first place in the AL East, their first time atop the division since June 9. They've won 20 of 25 over the past month, with Alex Rodriguez hitting .329/.463/.694 with 10 homers. Two of those shots came during the club's three-game weekend sweep of the Tigers, whom they held to five runs. In the rotation, Sergio Mitre, filling in for injured Chien-Ming Wang, grinds out a win in his first major league start since September 15, 2007.

3


Rays
52-44
4-3
.586
Down
Big Bats Fall Flat: The Rays fall victim to Mark Buehrle's perfect game, the latest manifestation of a slump that has them hitting just .226/.315/.349 this month, enough to cost them the league lead in EqA. B.J. Upton's hitting a chilly .200/.273/.286 after a torrid June, Carlos Peña is mired in an 8-for-55 slump, and Evan Longoria is 10-for-65 even with a game-winning homer.

4


Red Sox
55-39
1-5
.576
Down
Sagging: Losers of a season-high five straight, the Sox surrender first place in the AL East for the first time since June 9 while scoring just 13 runs on the week. They're hitting just .221/.311/.388 this month, with the starting outfield (J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Jason Bay) in a collective 3-for-56 nosedive, a situation that prompts Theo Epstein to deal for depth by adding Adam LaRoche and Chris Duncan. Meanwhile, Clay Buchholz makes his long-awaited return to the majors with mixed results, allowing four runs in just 9 2/3 innings over two starts.

5


56-38
7-1
.557
Up
No Slackey: John Lackey tosses nine innings of three-hit shutout ball against the A's before yielding to Brian Fuentes, who backs Bobby Abreu's 10th-inning solo shot to seal the deal. Back on June 10, Lackey was pasted for eight earned runs in five frames to push his ERA to 6.61 and drop the Angels' record to 29-28. Since then: a 3.02 ERA over seven starts, six of them quality (if you count 8 IP 4/ER, and these days you'd be crazy not to), while the Halos are a major league-best 27-10.

6


Phillies
54-39
6-1
.553
Up
Phillin' A Whole Lot Better: A 10-game winning streak enables the Phillies to put their NL East foes in a hammerlock. Their odds of taking the division are approaching 75 percent, and their once-abysmal record at home is now back above .500. Leading the way is Jimmy Rollins, who's hitting .359/.446/.577 this month after a .207/.250/.322 showing prior. Also chipping in are Ryan Howard (.308/.472/.564 since July 8, when the streak began) and Raul Ibañez (9-for-33 with three homers since returning from a groin strain).

7


Rockies
52-43
5-2
.550
Up
A Rosa is a Rosa: Jorge De La Rosa pitches seven strong innings and drives in two runs amid a pair of three-run rallies to help push the Rockies into the lead for the NL Wild Card. Though he's the only Rockies starter with a Support-Neutral Winning Percentage below .500, De La Rosa has been rolling lately, with a 1.97 ERA over his last four starts. To be fair, his opponents were Oakland, Washington, and Arizona (twice); he's faced the eighth-weakest slate of opposing hitters among NL qualifiers overall.

8


Rangers
52-41
4-2
.538
Up
The Big Nippert: Dustin Nippert saves the Rangers' bacon this week while earning a nifty pair of wins himself. He pitches the final two innings of a 12-inning victory over the Twins, then takes the ball for a spot start three days later when the flu fells Vicente Padilla, helping to cap off a sweep of the Red Sox. Nippert isn't the only mid-season callup providing a boost these days; Tommy Hunter keeps the Sox at bay with his third quality start out of five, lowering his ERA to 2.17.

9


Cardinals
52-46
3-4
.530
Down
Dealing Cards: Playing through pain with a wrist that needs surgery, Mark DeRosa provides a silver lining to the storm cloud of a sweep by the Astros via a 5-for-11, three-homer performance. With their NL Central lead dwindling, the Redbirds are hardly sitting on their hands. As this goes live, they're pulling off a centered around Matt Holliday for top prospect Brett Wallace, while the ink is barely dry on their swap of underperforming 37th outfielder Chris Duncan for unloved Julio Lugo and cash.

10


Braves
49-47
6-2
.527
Up
Pitching In: Tommy Hanson whiffs a career-high 11 and runs his record to 5-0 with a 3.00 ERA. The Braves rotation as a whole has put up a 2.79 ERA over the past 22 games, keying a 15-6 run that's pushed them into second place in the NL East for the first time since late April. They're now second in the league in SNLVAR as well, with Jair Jurrjens and Javier Vazquez in the individual top 10.

11


Blue Jays
47-49
3-3
.523
Flat
As the media circus encircles Roy Halladay and J.P. Ricciardi, Adam Lind just continues to hit, collecting an extra-base hit in six straight games (five doubles, one homer). Of the 11 players with streaks that long this year, three are Blue Jays: Lind, Aaron Hill (six), and Lyle Overbay (seven); Johnny Damon holds the season-high streak at 10. Lind is hitting .303/.372/.554 overall, with a .313 EqA that's cracked the league's top 10.

12


Mariners
51-44
5-2
.520
Up
Russell Branyan's eighth-inning homer gives the Mariners a come-from-behind victory in the rubber match of a three-game set with the Tigers. It's Branyan's 24th tater for the year, tying the career high he set back in 2002. Since the beginning of last year, he's homered in 6.92 percent of his plate appearances, the second-highest rate among players with at least 300 PA, and just an eyelash behind Marcus Thames (6.96 percent). More importantly, he's sixth in the league in EqA, though the dilemma of whether to keep him and shoot for a playoff spot is vexing for a team with a 19 percent shot and a run differential that's in the red.

13


Twins
48-48
3-4
.515
Down
Double-Digit Demoralization: The Twins blow a 10-run lead, surrender 14 runs in all, and lose to the A's on a disputed play at the plate that has manager Ron Gardenhire seeing red. Two days later, the staff is pounded for 16 more runs at the hands of a team that until the outburst had the majors' worst offense. Though it's the fourth time this month they've been rocked for at least 10 runs, the rotation has scattered enough strong performances to keep their ERA down to 5.32, and the good news is that they've got the division's easiest schedule the rest of the way.

14


White Sox
50-45
5-2
.513
Up
Hurly Buehrle, Redux: Aided by defensive replacement DeWayne Wise's spectacular ninth-inning save of a potential home run off of Gabe Kapler's bat, Mark Buehrle tosses the 18th perfect game in major league history and the second no-hitter of his career. President Obama's favorite pitcher is now seventh in the league in SNLVAR, and his perfecto gives Chicago its 22nd win in 33 games, enough to claim a share of first place in the AL Central. As for Wise, the slick-fielding, sub-Mendozoid fly-chaser will be mainly limited to defensive caddying after Carlos Quentin's return from nearly two months on the DL due to plantar fasciitis.

15


Tigers
49-44
1-5
.509
Down
If you score one run a game, you aren't going to win, says manager Jim Leyland, and the Tigers provide Exhibit A, losing four 2-1 games this week and allowing the White Sox to slip into a tie for first place in the AL Central. While they get plenty of good pitching from a rotation that yields a 3.19 ERA for the week, the bullpen blows two games, one by Joel Zumaya, who heads to the DL immediately thereafter, likely done for the year. Not that he'd been doing good work, with a 7.20 ERA and 15/19 K/BB ratio since June 1, and a -0.8 WXRL overall amid a bullpen that's third to last in that category.

16


Giants
51-44
2-5
.507
Down
That Offense Thing? Last in the league in EqA, the Giants' lack of offense catches up to them, as they scrape together just 15 runs amid a 1-6 skid that knocks them out of the NL Wild Card lead. Seven of the team's 11 most used hitters have single-digit VORPs, and four of them, including first baseman Travis Ishikawa and pricey free-agent shortstop Edgar Renteria, are in the red. Aaron Rowand's one of the three players with an EqA above .260, but is mired in an 0-for-21 slump and suffered a fastball to the forearm.

17


Cubs
48-45
5-2
.504
Up
This Winning Thing: The Cubs climb back above .500 and into second place in the NL Central behind Alfonso Soriano. Returning to the lineup after a dismal .233/.298/.413 first half and a dislocated finger suffered two nights earlier, Sori snaps a 29-game homerless drought with a decisive three-run shot. He adds another the next night, and finishes the week riding a 10-for-24 hot streak.

18


Brewers
48-47
3-4
.484
Down
Sub-Parra Starters: Despite Manny Parra's strong pair of starts since his return from the minors (13 innings, one run), the Brewers' rotation remains a mess. Their starters have put up a 5.03 ERA this month while yielding 1.9 homers and 4.4 walks per nine; not surprisingly, they've lasted six innings or more just half the time, and now rank 15th in the league in SNLVAR. When Brad Penny starts to look like an upgrade, the situation is obviously dire.

19


Marlins
49-47
3-3
.484
Down
Swept by the Phillies, the Marlins sink back to third in the NL East. Their offense, never exactly a strong suit given their .254 EqA, appears to have gone fishing over the All-Star break and not returned; they've scored just 16 runs in their last six games while hitting .229/.288/.318. The larger problem is a lineup in which just six of their 11 most frequent hitters have EqAs above .260, with Hanley Ramirez the only one above .270. When Ross Gload is third on your team, you're not going anywhere near an October playoff berth.

20


Astros
49-46
5-2
.483
Up
Houston, We Have a... Wait, What's the Opposite of Problem? With Lance Berkman ailing and eventually DL-bound, Carlos Lee picks up the slack with a three-run jack which provides all the runs the Astros need as they kick off their series with the Cardinals. He adds a grand slam and a game-tying RBI over the next two nights to help the 'Stros sweep St. Louis and pull within a game of first place in the crowded NL Central race. They're now 29-17 since the start of June, good for the second-best record in the league (but just the sixth-best Pythagorean record), and their tear marks the first time since September 2006 that they've been anywhere near first place in the second half of a season.

21


Mets
44-50
2-5
.468
Down
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: Jeff Francoeur unpacks all of the mixed baggage that his .324/.324/.459 peformance since being traded would suggest. One night he's powering the Mets past the Nationals, the next one... and the next one, he's misplaying balls into multi-run innings. Multiple runs aren't something the Mets can afford to give up these days, either; they've scored only once or been shut out in 11 of their last 23 games, a span during which they've hit .220/.279/.306 while eking out just 2.7 runs per game while dropping 9½ games in the standings. Some Mets heavies handle the pressure while cracking wise, others just crack.

22


Diamondbacks
41-55
3-4
.463
Up
It's Been a Sucky Pleasure Pitching For You Losers: Jon Garland strings together his seventh quality start out of eight, but winds up on the short end yet again, as the D'backs are 2-6 in those games, and he becomes the second Snake to rip his teammates for their lack of effort this month. And why not? He's getting below-average support from both his offense (4.3 runs per game) and his defense (.305 BABIP on a team that's second-to-last in the league in PADE). With their midsummer sell-off having begun, and with Garland holding a mutual option for next year, bet on him leaving town for a contender sometime next week.

23


Pirates
42-53
4-3
.455
Flat
Everything Must Go! Just weeks after griping about the Nate McLouth trade, light-hitting (.247/.329/.441) Adam LaRoche gets his ticket out of town, and into a genuine playoff race. Meanwhile, GM Neal Huntington engages in a game of low-stakes chicken with double-play combo Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson, who decline multi-year deals that would have maintained at least some portion of the current Pirate dynasty, albeit at significantly reduced salaries.

24


Athletics
40-54
3-5
.454
Up
Holliday Special: Matt Holliday's grand slam (his second homer of the game) caps a 10-run comeback against the Twins in a game that ends on a disputed play at the plate. With the trade deadline approaching, it was excellent timing for Holliday, who last Thursday broke a six-week homer-less drought, and today was dealt to the Cardinals. He's hitting .344/.421/.578 in July, but his overall performance (.287/.379/.453) is right on par with his career road stats (.281/.351/.450), fueling the suspicion that his power was a product of Coors Field. Also homering in that comeback win was Daric Barton, called up to replace Jason Giambi, who hits the DL with a quad injury and a case of the .193/.332/.364 flu.

25


Reds
44-50
2-5
.439
Down
Hemorrhaging: Losers of 11 out of 15, the Reds slide into fifth place in the NL Central. That their offense is a disaster is no secret, but now the team's pitching is tanking as well. Starters Micah Owings, Homer Bailey, and Bronson Arroyo are battered for 18 runs in 13 innings in a three-game set in Los Angeles, pushing the rotation's ERA for the month to 6.21, and dropping the club to 11th in the league in SNLVAR.

26


Orioles
41-53
1-5
.439
Flat
Another ugly week for the Orioles, but on the positive side, they're unlikely to have Rich Hill to kick around anymore. His fourth disasterpiece in his last five starts may lead to his exit from the rotation or even the roster. He's carrying a 7.64 ERA while walking and even six per nine, and his .375 Support-Neutral Winning Percentage is the third-lowest in the majors among pitchers with at least 10 starts.

27


Indians
38-58
3-4
.432
Down
The Lee Side: As the rest of the majors reel from Roy Halladay sticker shock, Cliff Lee tosses a pair of one-run, no-walk complete games against the Mariners and Blue Jays to elevate his own market price, not that the Indians are obligated to trade him given next year's affordable $9 million club option. While Halladay is third in the league with a .646 SNWP and fourth with a 2.76 ERA, Lee is fifth with a .632 SNWP and sixth with a 3.17 ERA. Only a lack of run support-3.6 per start, 59th out of 63 qualifiers, compared to Halladay's 5.7 runs per start-separates his 6-9 record from the Doctor's 11-3. If Lee's actually available, he's a relative bargain.

28


Royals
37-57
0-6
.417
Down
Jose Guillen admits embarrassment over his paycheck relative to his performance, and while he's hitting a limp 245/.317/.371, it's really Dayton Moore who needs to voice the same sentiment. Moore's reign of error includes not only Guillen's acquisition but also that of Mike Jacobs (hitting a crisp .222/.301/.417 at an offense-first position) and now Yuniesky Betancourt, and that's without delving into the team's persistent mismanagement of injuries or Moore's ignorance of the statistical side of the game. As the franchise has become a laughingstock to even its most ardent supporters, the proud legacy of Angel Berroa deserves better.

29


Nationals
28-67
2-6
.383
Down
John Lannan's first career shutout gives interim skipper Jim Riggleman his first win at the helm of the Nationals; they'd gone 0-5 after finally puting Manny Acta out of his misery at the All-Star break. Though he's striking out just 3.8 hitters per nine, Lannan is 14th in the league in SNLVAR. His gem is backed up by a strong effort from rookie Craig Stammen, enabling the Nats to win just their second series in a month, and helping them escape the Hit List basement for the first time since late May.

30


Padres
37-59
1-7
.380
Down
Oh, Brother: Edgar Gonzalez is plunked while Adrian Gonzalez is just in a funk, hitting .194/.366/.326 with three homers since June 3, compared to .292/.410/.670 with 22 homers prior. With no other offensive threats remaining since the Scott Hairston deal-seriously, this is a team hitting .223/.294/.332 beyond those two sluggers-it's hardly a surprise when they score just 12 runs during a 1-6 tumble that sends them into the Hit List Cellar.


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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