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August 28, 2009

Prospectus Hit List

Breaking in and Breaking Down

by Jay Jaffe

RkTeam
Overall W-L
Week W-L
Comment

1


Dodgers
76-52
4-2
.610
Flat
Knuckling Down: An extra-inning loss to the Rockies shaves the Dodgers' division lead to two games, but they rebound to win the series behind a solid debut by Vicente Padilla, recently released by the Rangers. The Dodgers are getting good results from the pitchers they've pulled off the scrapheap; knuckleballer Charlie Haeger combines to shut out the Cubs earlier in the week. For all of their recent rotation woes, they're second in the league in SNLVAR, and while the team is just 14-17 since July 25, they've outscored opponents by 18 runs in that span.

2


Yankees
79-48
3-3
.604
Flat
Godzilla and Friends: Hideki Matsui's pair of two-homer games help the Yankees stave off the Red Sox by taking two out of three in Fenway; he drives in seven amid a 20-run deluge in the opener. Matsui's' 23 homers rank second to Mark Teixeira's 31, and with Robinson Cano contributing a pair of shots (and reaching a new career high), the team now has six players with at least 20 blasts, the third time in franchise history (1961, 2004) they've reached that plateau. Jorge Posada (17) and Derek Jeter (16) could help them surpass the 1996 Orioles, 2000 Blue Jays, and 2005 Rangers, who had seven players reach that mark.

3


Rays
69-57
4-2
.575
Up
Beating the Doc: Tagged for six runs in the first three innings, Jeff Niemann hangs on to retire 12 of the final 13 hitters he faces while his lineup piles eight runs on Roy Halladay. Niemann's been a pleasant surprise this year; he's the only Rays pitcher with double-digit wins, he's got a respectable 3.87 ERA, and he's virtually tied for the team lead with a .559 SNWP.

4


Red Sox
73-54
4-3
.564
Flat
Here Comes the Cavalry: Brad Penny becomes the second Red Sock of the month to be knocked off the roster by a pounding from the Yankees; he'll take his 5.61 ERA and .427 SNWP and pound sand elsewhere. His departure is part of a larger, happier set of upgrades. Tim Wakefield shines in his return from a seven-week absence, and Billy Wagner arrives via trade, though not everybody is so happy to see him.

5


Phillies
73-52
4-3
.563
Flat
Brad and Brett: With 33 wins in their last 48 games, the Phillies have pushed their Playoff Odds above 90 percent, but they're hardly without concern. Brad Lidge blows his third save in two weeks and his ninth of the year, pushing his ERA to 7.33 and his WXRL to a big-league worst -2.2. In Lidge's defense, he was pitching for the fourth straight day; since returning from his DL stint in June, he's pitched well with rest, and horribly without it, suggesting that Brett Myers' pending return could be a boon to the bullpen effort.

6


Rockies
72-56
4-3
.557
Flat
Down as many as 15 games in early June, the Rockies pull within two of the NL West lead via their second walk-off win in as many days, but a pair of losses to the Dodgers sets them back while running their season record against the division leaders to 3-12. The Rox do maintain the wild-card lead by taking three out of four from the Giants earlier in the week, the last via a five-run 14th inning in which pitcher Adam Eaton's bases-load walk sets up Ryan Spilborghs' walk-off grand slam. Lost in the rollercoaster week is the quality pitching the team's been getting of late, particularly Ubaldo Jimenez's 5-0, 1.63 ERA performance this month; he's now 10th in the league in SNLVAR.

7


Cardinals
74-55
4-2
.550
Up
Pitching In: Released by the Red Sox with an 8.33 ERA, John Smoltz enjoys a stellar debut with the Cardinals (5 3 0 0 0 9), at one point striking out a career-best seven straight hitters, all of them Padres. The Cards' staff is stifling opponents these days, yielding just 2.7 runs per game over the last three weeks. Adam Wainwright has been excelling even longer, surrendering no more that two runs in any of his nine starts since the beginning of July; he's got a 1.26 ERA in that span and is building a credible case for the NL Cy Young.

8


Rangers
71-55
3-3
.549
Flat
Hot at the Hot Corner: The Rangers lose five out of eight to put a dent in their post-season hopes, but don't blame Michael Young, who reels off three straight three-hit games as part of a 14-game hitting streak in which he's 24-for-58. He's hitting .328/.381/.538, with all three triple-slash stats ranking in the AL's top 10, and his 22 homers are his highest total since 2005. Meanwhile, Chris Davis returns from the minors and snaps a string of 17 starts with at least one strikeout; bad, but nowhere near his longest of the year (28).

9


Braves
67-60
3-3
.545
Flat
Though a pair of losses at Petco Park knocks the Braves Playoff Odds below 10 percent, Tommy Hanson tames the Fish for his fourth quality start in a row, all of them Atlanta victories. Hanson's got a 3.12 ERA and a .580 SWNP, which is just one point behind teammates Javier Vazquez and Jair Jurrjens and 13th in the league among pitchers with at least 85 innings, with J.A. Happ (.656) and Randy Wells (.591) the only rookies ahead of him.

10


Angels
75-51
2-5
.543
Down
Healed Hitters Helping Halos: Torii Hunter's two-run homer helps the Angels stop a 1-5 dip which has done little to damage their Playoff Odds, which remain around 80 percent. Hunter's on a 15-for-37 tear since returning from a five-week stay on the disabled list on August 16. Also rolling since returning is Vladimir Guerrero, hitting .330/.385/.602 with seven homers in 22 games.

11


Giants
69-59
3-4
.519
Down
Despite winning the opener of their four-game set with the Rockies and getting some late-inning heroics from Travis Ishikawa and Bengie Molina later in the week, the Giants wind up three back in the wild-card race, with just a 10 percent shot at the playoffs. Tim Lincecum surrenders a pivotal home run to the Rockies' Seth Smith, just one of eight he's yielded all season; he hasn't won in four starts and is stalled at just 12 victories, which won't help his Cy Young case.

12


Cubs
63-62
2-4
.511
Flat
Unfriendly Confines, Again: The Tribune Company reaches a definitive agreement to sell the Cubs to the Ricketts family, but there's not a lot of rejoicing as the team's playoff chances drop below five percent. Carlos Zambrano is torched (4.1 7 7 8 3 4) in his return from the DL, and despite a four-hit night, Milton Bradley says he's been the target of abuse from Wrigley Field fans. It's been a miserable season for Bradley, though he's hit .282/.434/.444 since July 1 after a .242/.355/.379 showing prior.

13


Marlins
67-60
3-3
.510
Down
Welcome Back, Sort Of: Anibal Sanchez holds the Braves hitless through five in his first appearance in two and a half months, but he's rocked by a makeshift Mets lineup his next time out. Backing him in the win with a big three-run homer is Hanley Ramirez, who's hitting .396/.458/.584 since the All-Star break. He leads the league in batting average (.364), ranks second in OBP (.426), and fifth in slugging percentage (.573).

14


White Sox
64-64
2-5
.508
Down
South Side Slide: Bombed in the rubber match of a series with the Orioles, Mark Buehrle hasn't been the same since his July 23 perfect game, going 0-4 with a 6.21 ERA while striking out just 2.9 per nine. The Sox are 14-19 since that high point, and the road ahead only gets tougher, as their remaining schedule is tied for the most difficult among AL contenders.

15


Blue Jays
58-67
3-3
.504
Flat
The Stopper: Rookie Marc Rzepczynski bookends the Blue Jays' week by turning in a pair of quality starts against the Angels and Rays, both of which help stop brief losing streaks. Rzepczynski has put up a 3.58 ERA while striking out 8.3 per nine; his .552 SNWP is third on the club behind Roy Halladay and fellow rookie Ricky Romero, and just ahead of another rookie, Scott Richmond. All told, the Jays are fourth in the league in SNLVAR despite all of their injuries; for all of their myriad flaws, this organization still cranks out above-average starting pitchers.

16


Tigers
67-59
3-3
.503
Flat
I Am Tiger, Hear Me Roar: Miguel Cabrera collects nine hits, nine RBI, three doubles, and three homers across a three-game stretch. He's 24-for-46 during an 11-game hitting streak, and his overall .343/.407/.578 line places him in the top five in all three triple-slash categories. Also providing a welcome offensive lift lately is Carlos Guillen, who's hitting .282/.368/.495 since returning from an 11-week absence on July 24. Both hitters help the Tigers' AL Central lead widen to its largest margin in two months, though the White Sox struggles aren't hurting their cause.

17


Twins
63-64
5-1
.502
Up
Blah, Blah Blackburn: With their rotation already down Kevin Slowey, Francisco Liriano, and Glen Perkins, the Twins' frustrations increase with the struggles of Nick Blackburn. He's been lit for an 8.22 ERA since the All-Star break with just two quality starts out of eight, and half of those starts coming against the offensively subpar Orioles, A's, and Royals lineups. Still, a 6-1 run lifts the team back to .500, albeit briefly, and they can take some solace in the fact that they've got the easiest remaining schedule of any AL contender.

18


Mariners
66-62
4-3
.494
Up
Ken Griffey Jr. homers in back-to-back games for the first time all season, the second of which powers the Mariners to a win over the A's. Griffey's hit just .221/.329/.399 with 14 homers this year, though his August performance (.246/.343/.474) has been more respectable and he remains a happy camper. The latter homer backs Ian Snell, who puts together his second straight solid outing for the Mariners, though his overall numbers in Seattle (5.40 ERA and 13/17 K/BB in 25 innings) remain ugly.

19


Indians
57-70
5-2
.481
Up
Better Late Than Never: Andy Marte's ninth-inning homer caps a 12-for-29 run across an eight-game stretch; he was just 7-for-40 prior to the streak. Matt LaPorta collects hits in each of those eight games, including five doubles and a solo homer. The Tribe is now 22-16 with a +28 run differential since the All-Star break, though the false mirage of last season's 40-28 second half ought to temper any enthusiasm for the significance of such an accomplishment.

20


Diamondbacks
56-72
2-4
.475
Flat
No Offense: Losers of nine out of 10 by a combined score of 62-28, the Diamondbacks have more than doubled their negative run differential during their latest slide. Of the two units, it's the offense which should be hanging its head lower in shame; they go four games without a walk, and six games without a homer. In a minor bit of good news, Justin Upton returns to action after a three-week absence and goes 3-for-8 with a pair of doubles; the Diamondbacks had gone just 6-13 while averaging just 3.9 runs per game in his absence, and replacement Trent Oeltjen had gone a pumpkin-like 4-for-38 after a 12-for-24 start.

21


Brewers
61-66
3-4
.468
Flat
Beating the Bush: David Bush returns from the DL after more than two months on the shelf, and picks up where he left off, with his third disaster start in a row. While no one expects him to be the savior of the Brewers' season, it's worth noting the team's 24-34 record in his absence, with the starters besides Yovani Gallardo putting up a 5.94 ERA and yielding 1.8 HR/9. Injuries or no, it's been a sorry season for the post-Sheets, post-Sabathia rotation cobbled together by GM Doug Melvin; they rank dead last in the majors in SNLVAR.

22


Mets
58-70
2-5
.462
Flat
Escape From New York: Just two innings into his comeback from Tommy John surgery, Billy Wagner gets traded to the Red Sox for a pair of PTBNL, making him lucky enough to avoid the soaring body count, not to mention Omar Minaya's continued reign of error. The Mets lose both Johan Santana and Oliver Perez to season-ending surgery, the former due to bone chips in his elbow which have contributed to a 4.02 ERA and a 5.4 K/9 over his last 15 starts, the latter to patellar tendon tendinosis which turned his season into a 6.82 ERA, 7.9 BB/9 nightmare. Jeff Francoeur could join the party as well due to a torn thumb ligament; his .305/.331/.500 line since being acquired includes just three unintentional walks in 175 PA.

23


Athletics
56-71
3-4
.460
Flat
TTO Time: Jack Cust goes 3-for-3 with a walk and a pair of homers off Rick Porcello to power the A's past the Tigers. Cust is hitting .270/.437/.443 in the second half after a lackluster .232/.322/.411 showing in the first, though his strikeout rate has jumped from 31 percent to 42 percent across that split. His .478 Three True Outcomes percentage ranks fifth in the majors behind Mark Reynolds (.519), Carlos Pena (.516), Adam Dunn (.510), and Jim Thome (.504). Check David Laurila's excellent Q&A with the power-hitting philosopher.

24


Astros
62-65
3-3
.450
Flat
No Fire: Roy Oswalt calls out his teammates for playing without fire and "going through the motions." Indeed, the 'Stros have lost 19 of their last 31 while falling 9 games in the NL Central standings, with an offense that aside from Carlos Lee and the occasionally present Lance Berkman is hitting .244/.295/.381 across that span. Particularly stinking up the joint are Kaz Matsui (.205/.244/.304), Geoff Blum (.224/.267/.408), and noted thousand-yard-staremaster Miguel Tejada (.236/.262/.333).

25


Orioles
52-76
3-4
.424
Up
Center Field Shuffle: With Adam Jones sidelined by back spasms amid a 3-for-25 slump, Felix Pie steps in and homers twice in four games. Pie's hitting .300/.368/.560 in 57 PA this month, lifting his overall line to .257/.323/.415; he's significantly improved his K/UIBB ratio this year to an almost-respectable 41/16. Jones is hitting a very solid .283/.338/.467 despite his slump, but his ongoing back and hip problems remain a concern.

26


Pirates
53-72
4-2
.422
Up
McClutch: After misplaying a triple amid a top-of-the-ninth rally, Andrew McCutchen hits a walk-off homer off of Brad Lidge to give the Pirates their sixth win in seven games. Two days later, McCutchen leads off with another homer, and fellow rookie Garrett Jones beats the Phils with an eighth-inning shot. McCutchen is hitting .290/.361/.486 with nine homers and 15 steals since being recalled in early June, while Jones is hitting .291/.353/.608 with 15 homers and eight steals since arriving on July 1; the duo are first and third among all rookie hitters in VORP.

27


Reds
55-71
4-2
.417
Up
Beyond Ridiculous: That's Dusty Baker'sdiagnosis of the team after they lose Aaron Harang for the year due to an appendectomy; as Harang's .499 SNWP suggests, he's fallen from his 2007 peak, but is much better than his 6-14 record suggests. The Reds' already lost season gets even more lost as both Ryan Hannigan and Chris Dickerson hit the DL due to a concussion and a severe ankle sprain. While neither hitter has shown much punch, on a team that ranks dead last in the league in OBP, they're two of the three regulars with marks above .330.

28


Nationals
46-82
3-4
.416
Flat
Arson Was the Case: Signed to bulk up the rotation both literally and figuratively, Livan Hernandez makes a strong showing in his return to the Nationals (6 5 2 2 2 6), only to watch the bullpen get burned for seven runs over the final three frames. Alas, such arson has been an all-too-regular occurrence for the Nats, who not only rank last in the majors in WXRL but are in danger of becoming the 11th team of the millennium to finish the year in the red. Seven relievers have put up negative WXRLs while making at least 10 relief appearances for the Nats.

29


Padres
54-75
3-3
.407
Flat
Mat Latos rebounds from a pair of disaster starts to toss seven scoreless innings against the Braves. He's put up a 4.06 ERA and a .548 SNWP in eight starts with the Padres, with the latter mark tops on the team. Also putting up zeroes is Clayton Richard, who combines to shut out the Cardinals; he's got a 3.67 ERA and a .509 SNWP since arriving in the Jake Peavy deal.

30


Royals
49-78
2-5
.406
Flat
Cut Zack Some Slack: Zack Greinke sets a career high and a franchise record by striking out 15 Indians and notching just his second win since June 28. Greinke's got the league's best ERA (2.43) and he's second in strikeouts (197), but he's got a lowly 12 wins thanks to just 3.8 runs per game of support, which ranks 60th out of 62 AL qualifiers and threatens to doom his Cy Young candidacy.


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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