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September 11, 2009

Prospectus Hit List

Narrowing the Field

by Marc Normandin

Jay Jaffe is on vacation.
RkTeam
Overall W-L
Week W-L
Comment

1


Yankees
91-50
6-2
.624
Up
The Yanks have the best record in baseball, an impressive feat given their divisional competition. They've rattled off four straight wins against the Rays and are 8-2 in their last 10. The most exciting news from this past week involves Derek Jeter, as he picked up three hits on Wednesday night to tie Lou Gehrig for the franchise lead in hits (2,721). The Bombers have never had someone pick up 3,000 hits entirely in pinstripes, but Jeter's hitting .330 in his age-35 season, and is likely to reach that goal soon. He may even pass Rickey Henderson (326) for the franchise lead in steals, as he picked up his 300th on the same night.

2


Dodgers
83-58
4-3
.606
Flat
Los Angeles somehow didn't screw up their division lead when Manny Ramirez was missing because of his suspension, but they've done their best since to make up for that. It's not entirely their fault-they are still in first, and just one back of St. Louis for the NL's best record-but the Rockies are getting closer by the day. The Dodgers are still 99 percent likely to make the playoffs, since the Marlins and Giants are far enough back that even getting passed by the Rox would still leave them in a good position for the Wild Card.

3


Red Sox
81-58
4-3
.571
Flat
With the division realistically out of reach (but not mathematically), the Red Sox are busy trying to keep the Rangers at bay so they can make it to October via the Wild Card. Tampa Bay's no longer an issue, but Texas sits just a pair back. Paul Byrd showed both sides of his abilities since the last Hit List, with one start lasting 2 1/3 innings (seven runs on 10 hits) and the other going five with just two runs crossing the plate. His inability to miss bats mixed with the Red Sox ability to miss balls in play makes things more interesting than they need to be.

4


Cardinals
84-57
5-2
.570
Up
St. Louis is the one team in the NL that doesn't have to worry too much about someone catching them before the season ends, as they are 11½ up on second-place Chicago. Matt Holliday has helped this team out considerably, with a Pujolsian line of .379/.432/.709 since coming over.

5


Rockies
81-60
7-1
.566
Up
How about that team from Colorado? They increased their playoff odds by over 27 percent in just the past week, and their 9-1 record over their last 10 has helped them put some separation between themselves and the Giants, and right behind the division-leading Dodgers. They hit .279/.355/.494 this past week, with the pitching allowing a line of just .233/.320/.368 over the same timeframe. All of that came on a homestand too, which makes the pitching doubly impressive.

6


Angels
84-55
6-1
.554
Up
The Angels managed a .357 OBP while hitting .238, which is out of the ordinary, given their season OBP is .352 thanks to a .286 team batting average. Chone Figgins and Bobby Abreu did most of the heavy lifting, collecting 14 walks combined over the six games. Jered Weaver gets a gold star for his performance, delivering a 2.02 ERA in 13 1/3 innings with 14 punchouts and just one walk.

7


Rangers
79-60
4-2
.553
Up
It's hard not to root for Texas-I'm a Red Sox fan, and I'm rooting for them to somehow sneak in alongside the Sox, which is pretty much an impossible situation. It's shocking that they have played as well as they have this past week, given that the second-lowest ERA among their starting pitchers during that time frame was Tommy Hunter's 8.44; at least Scott Feldman allowed just one run over two starts. You can put up with the K/BB ratio if he keeps the ball in the yard, and he's been doing that in 2009. Of course, the lineup hit .311/.357/.500 this week, so that makes up for some of the rotation's issues.

8


Phillies
79-59
3-5
.552
Down
It took long enough, but Cliff Lee has finally felt the wrath of the NL: he gave up 11 runs over 10 IP. It's kind of tough to win when you allow nearly twice as many hits as innings pitched, but it's probably not his fault that the normally reliable defense was this porous. This brings his ERA all the way up to 3.11, but he still has 8.5 times as many strikeouts as walks (his K/BB ratio with the Phils is better than the strikeout rates of all non-Greinke Royals) and is giving up just 0.7 homers per nine despite moving in to Citizen's Bank Park. Pedro Martinez made up for Lee's off week, with 13 2/3 innings, 13 whiffs, a lone walk, and a pair of wins.

9


Rays
72-68
0-8
.551
Down
Dropping eight in a row lowered their playoff probability to well under one percent, so the Rays are essentially out of it unless by some miracle both the Red Sox and Rangers fall apart. They have three against the Sox this weekend and three against the Rangers by season's end, and being 9½ back of the Wild Card leaders means they need every one of those games, plus a few more in between, if they want to see the postseason a second time. Rays fans can point you to the reasons for the recent bout of awful, starting with a bullpen that helped them so much in 2008.

10


Braves
72-68
2-5
.532
Down
Atlanta's 4-6 showing over their last 10 dents their playoff aspirations, especially with the Marlins playing well and picking up three games on them over the same time. Their shot at the playoffs now sits at just a hair over one percent thanks to nearly a 10 percent drop in the past week. Atlanta deserves better than this, given their run differential-and the Marlins, conversely, deserve worse-but with just a few weeks left in the season, there's little chance things go the way they should. Just over a one percent chance, in fact.

11


Giants
76-64
3-4
.523
Down
Even if it's just one start, losing Tim Lincecum for any length of time is not good news for the Giants as they try to get themselves into October. Supposedly he's better after suffering back spasms, but the Giants are being (understandly) cautious. They're toast if they make October and don't have Lincecum to help them along, given how much the team relies on its rotation. As it is, their playoff chances are at 5.4 percent. With a series against the Dodgers this week, they may be able to help themselves, but the Rockies get to face the Padres in San Diego at the same time.

12


Marlins
75-65
6-1
.519
Up
Florida is 5½ out from the Wild Card and five back from division-leading Philadelphia, but they're 7-3 over their last 10 and have won three in a row. They also have a weekend set against the worst team in all of the land at the same time that the Dodgers and San Francisco have to fight each other for NL West supremacy, so they could make some headway. With a relatively weak schedule the rest of the way, the Marlins' chances at the division (6.3 percent) are stronger than their wild-card aspirations (1.8 percent).

13


Cubs
71-67
4-3
.518
Up
Cubs fans, you may get to hold on a bit longer, but things are looking grim as far as your playoff chances are concerned. You're 8½ back in the wild-card race and even further back from the first-place Cards. A 6-4 record over the past 10 isn't terrible, but with the Cardinals going 8-2 in the same stretch and the Rockies 9-1, it just isn't enough.

14


Tigers
75-64
4-3
.508
Flat
The Tigers lead the war of attrition in the AL Central, as they're 5½ games up on the second-place Twins. The Kitties are performing at such a low level despite their lead that the National League called them to see if they had any interest in defecting-it seems the Cardinals might be a bit too competent for their liking, and they wanted to arrange a swap to set things aright.

15


Twins
70-70
3-4
.504
Down
The Minnesota Mauers have gone 5-5 in their last 10, which befits their overall record. The Mauers also failed to hit as well as their namesake, with a .232/.303/.335 line as a team, though at least Mr. Mauer himself was able to perform with a .364/.391/.409; sometimes, leading by example isn't enough. If they keep hitting like that, then the 5½ games they sit back of the Tigers is going to feel insurmountable, no matter how well they pitch.

16


White Sox
70-71
5-2
.502
Up
With the changes the White Sox have made to their roster this year, you might understandably wonder if their (now Thome-less) Hit List ranking or actual record reflects their current talent level. Alex Rios has been awful since coming over, and hit just .158 across the board for the week, but at least Mark Kotsay has been raking (.421/.476/.895). Apparently he was wearing the wrong socks in Boston; where were you on that one, Theo? Shouldn't you guys have a study on performance in different foot fashions?

17


Blue Jays
63-77
4-4
.495
Flat
It seems a long way off now, but the Jays were a .500 team as recently as July 10. They have been awful since though, posting a record of 19-33 and falling from nine games out to 27½ back. Their run differential is +10, so they have been unlucky, but even adjustments have them at fourth place in the AL East. The most intriguing thing left to watch on this year's club is Travis Snider's development-he's struggled almost all of 2009, but he had a pretty good week at .333/.455/.500.

18


Mariners
72-69
2-5
.487
Down
Losing five in a row effectively cuts them out of the playoff race. Here's the difference between 2009 and much of the rest of this decade for Seattle: they were over their head as far as their record is concerned, but Jack Zduriencik and the rest of the front office is smart enough to know it and act accordingly this winter.

19


Diamondbacks
62-79
1-6
.480
Down
Whereas the Padres have gone 7-3 over their last 10 to sneak out of the NL West basement, the D'backs performed the opposite of that trick to slink down into the cellar. That may not last long, with the Pads taking on the Rockies while the Snakes face off against the Brewers, but that's not much consolation for hitting last place this late into the season.

20


Athletics
62-77
3-3
.465
Up
The pitching and lineup were not on the same page the past week or so, with the rotation posting an ERA of 5.72-it's not a good sign when your ERA is higher than your strikeout rate-while the lineup was going nuts, hitting .300/.348/.467. This weekend they travel to Minnesota for some exciting pennant-race baseball < /sarcasm >; here's hoping Oakland can just put this thing out of reach for Minny so we don't have to focus on that "race" in the Central any longer.

21


Indians
60-79
2-5
.461
Down
For the first time in a few seasons, we can say that the Indians legitimately stink, instead of "unfairly" stink, or "if only they had a better [insert missing component], they would have won the AL Central!" That's a burden off of our backs this winter, since their recent history was giving me annual déjà vu for the last few years. They have dropped three in a row and eight of their last 10, but are just 15 games out and haven't been eliminated yet despite a .432 winning percentage.

22


Brewers
66-73
2-5
.458
Down
The Brewers have fallen on hard times, with a poor record that they deserve, a 3-7 showing over their last 10, and three straight losses to the Cards. Skip the playoffs, the Brewers are squandering their chance to finish at .500. Things have been so bad that the most interesting thing I have seen on the team's future for 2009 involves Doug Melvin and his bobblehead day on September 20. Seriously, have you seen the 'stache on that thing? Epic.

23


Mets
62-78
3-4
.453
Flat
Every time I talk to one of my buddies who's a Mets fan, the conversation turns to Jeff Francoeur. He is not enthused by Frenchy's play-and really, why should he be, given his history?-but he's convinced that, because he's hit .296/.327/.481 during his short time with the club that Omar Minaya will do something silly like overpay him in the future based on a small sample in order to justify the trade further. Not that a GM would ever do anything like that, right? While his line is deserved, his OBP is still poor, and he doesn't hit for enough power to make up for his poor defensive play (he's been below-average with the glove two years running).

24


Astros
68-72
5-2
.450
Up
I feel bad for Houston. Not the team so much as the fans. You've got a front office that can never tell the difference between a lucky Astros team and a bad one-and the line can be very thin-so when you should be rebuilding and restocking the farm system, you're instead signing free agents that help you reach the pedestrian record you had the year prior yet again. This year, it's happening again-they're a few games under .500, but should be much further back and fighting for a top five slot in the draft instead of slightly better standing in the division. Going younger would help things considerably, but I'm sorry Ed Wade, you're doing it wrong.

25


Padres
63-78
4-2
.431
Up
I'm torn as a Padres fan about their recent success. They have played well enough as of late that they crawled out of the cellar, so even though their expected record has them running alongside some of the league's worst, their actual record shows them as improving a bit. While it's nice to see them anywhere besides last, the important thing here is that the success isn't real, and is instead harming their run at a great spot in the draft. If you're going to play bad baseball, you should at least reap the benefits of it, no?

26


Reds
63-77
3-4
.428
Flat
Cincinnati was showing some life, but they have done their best to give it all back as quickly as possible. After seven straight victories, they have lost four in a row thanks to a series against the Rox and a lineup that managed to hit just .193/.273/.314 since last Thursday. It was a waste of some unexpected pitching as well, with Reds starters giving up just six runs in their last 36 2/3 innings pitched-that's a shock, given we are talking about a staff featuring Bronson Arroyo and Kip Wells.

27


Orioles
56-83
2-3
.418
Down
The Orioles have been eliminated, losers of seven of their last ten, and now have to head to New York for the weekend while the Yankees are riding high. That's depressing though, so let's focus on the good: Matt Wieters! He's been disappointing in his first season in the bigs, but he's looked solid over the past month (.291/.340/.384). It's not quite on par with his forecasts, but it's still a good sign for a guy who looked lost at the plate for most of the year.

28


Royals
55-85
4-3
.411
Up
Look at you, Kansas City, winning four in a row to distract us from the fact that Gil Meche and Brian Bannister are both out with shoulder problems. At least one of those is probably your fault too, but I'm afraid to name names for fear of being banned-at this point, you have to think some Royals fans wish they could be barred from all things Royals.

29


Nationals
48-92
2-4
.406
Flat
There are 96 players among qualifiers with an on-base percentage higher than the Nats' winning percentage. There are three qualifiers with a higher batting average than their win percentage as well. What's strange about it is that the Nationals haven't been bad offensively-they have a .267 team EqA, good for fifth in the NL-but then again, they have also allowed 766 runs on the season. They'll take on the Fish this weekend in Florida, which is a good thing if their hope is to secure the first overall pick in the draft yet again.

30


Pirates
54-84
1-5
.402
Down
Pittsburgh is doing their best to steal that first pick in the draft after trading veterans in exchange for somewhere around 6,000 years of team control. They have won just once over their past 10 and have the second-worst record in the league to show for it. It's going to be tough for them to pull this one out because they have eight fewer losses than the Nats, and six more wins.


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.

Related Content:  A's,  Back,  10 Runs To A Win,  The Waste Land,  Bad Season

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