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September 18, 2009

Prospectus Hit List

Comebacks and Shutdowns

by Jay Jaffe

RkTeam
Overall W-L
Week W-L
Comment

1


Yankees
94-53
3-3
.620
Down
Big Man: As the Yankees close in on 100 wins, lost amid A.J. Burnett's meltdowns, Andy Pettitte's fatigued shoulder, and the never-ending drama that is the Joba Rules is the performance of CC Sabathia. He leads the league in wins (17), is second in innings (213 1/3) and ranks among the top 10 in SNLVAR, ERA, and strikeouts. The Yankees have won 11 of his last 12 starts, a span over which he's put up a 2.75 ERA.

2


Dodgers
88-59
5-1
.616
Up
Coming Back: After seeing their division lead dwindle to two games while their rotation takes turns foregoing Clayton Kershaw, Randy Wolf, and now Chad Billingsley, the Dodgers fall back on strong performances by Hiroki Kuroda, Vicente Padilla, and Jon Garland to beat up on the Giants and Pirates and restore their NL West lead. Andre Ethier homers on back-to-back nights against the Bucs, the latter a 13th-inning game-winner which marks his sixth walkoff hit of the year. In doing so, he becomes the first Dodger to reach the 30-homer plateau since Adrian Beltre in 2004.

3


Red Sox
86-59
5-1
.577
Up
Dice Is Nice: Daisuke Matsuzaka throws six shutout innings against the Angels in his first big-league appearance in nearly three months. Though his ERA still stands at 7.05, Matsuzaka's return is well-timed given the potential diceyness of the team's current rotation situation. Elsewhere amid a seven-game winning streak, Jon Lester tosses eight shutout innings against the Rays two days after a rocky 23-pitch stint is washed away by the rain. He's riding a 17-inning scoreless streak and has allowed just 11 runs over his last eight starts, and now ranks third in the league in strikeouts (211), fifth in SNLVAR (5.9) and sixth in ERA (3.29).

4


Phillies
85-60
6-1
.561
Up
Almost Like Old Times: Pedro Martinez throws 130 pitches over eight shutout innings to beat the franchise that employed him from 2005-2008 (we're still searching to see if any of his former teammates were in the lineup). Martinez has allowed just four earned runs in 21 2/3 innings over his last three starts, though considering they were against the Mets, Nats, and Jints, the quality of competition is more than a bit lacking.

5


Cardinals
85-62
1-5
.559
Down
Chris Crash: The Cardinals' 25-6 tear comes to an end as the team drops five out of six; they'd spread out their previous five losses over 22 days. Chris Carpenter is pummeled for seven runs, as many as he'd allowed in his previous five starts; that knocks him out of the league ERA lead. He's still got the edge on Adam Wainwright, 2.45 to 2.59, but the latter now leads the league in SNLVAR (7.9) and wins (18), putting him in a stronger position for the Cy Young Award.

6


Rockies
83-64
2-4
.556
Down
A 10-1 tear pushes the Rockies' playoff odds above 95 percent before a four-game losing streak curbs such enthusiasm. Jorge De La Rosa plays the stopper with eight shutout innings against the Giants, preventing a sweep and halting a five-game skid against their wild-card foes in the two teams' last meeting of the year. Since starting the year 0-6 with a 5.43 ERA, De La Rosa's gone 15-3 with a 3.60 ERA and 9.2 K/9, a performance all the more important because Aaron Cook is possibly done for the year.

7


Angels
87-59
3-4
.551
Down
Brian Fuentes blows a save against the Red Sox in Fenway Park after Boston's Nick Green survives a pair of questionable third-strike non-calls, prompting much griping from Mike Scioscia and company. Though he leads the league with 42 saves, Fuentes now has a 4.35 ERA, seven blown saves, and a 1.9 WXRL, which ranks 12th of the 15 AL relievers with at least 10 saves. Nonetheless, the Angels are on track to set a record for exceeding their third-order Pythagenpat expectations by at least 10 games for the second year in a row.

8


Braves
78-68
6-0
.546
Up
No Future: Not even a seven-game winning streak can cheer up the Braves, whose playoff odds are still less than eight percent. Bobby Cox is noncommital about a 2010 return, and Chipper Jones is contemplating retirement barring a strong rebound next year. Jones is hitting .269/.390/.435, but just .233/.355/.360 since June 9 while playing through more injuries than Rasputin, including a re-aggravated groin strain that's limited him to just one at-bat since September 12. They're winning without you for the moment, dude; give it a rest.

9


Rays
74-73
2-5
.541
Down
Hopes Razed: Tampa Bay's losing streak runs to 11 games, thereby crushing any last vestige of hope for a playoff berth. The loss of Carlos Peņa has been fatal to the offense; after averaging 5.2 runs per game prior to his September 7 broken fingers, they've scored a grand total of 26 runs in 11 games while hitting .217/.298/.346 since. Understandably, tempers are flaring, with Carl Crawford shouting at Pat Burrell, whose abysmal performance (.228/.325/.386) hasn't helped the situation.

10


Rangers
80-65
1-5
.539
Down
Drifting Out of Range: Lacking both Josh Hamilton and Michael Young (beyond a pinch-hit appearance by the latter), the Rangers' offense picks a bad time to grind to a halt, scoring just 11 runs for the week while hitting just .190/.231/.326 and being shut out three times in a four-game span. Their playoff odds plummet from 33.6 percent to 4.2 percent in the process, with their wild-card hopes falling below one percent. Not helping: the recent performances of Kevin Millwood (22 runs allowed in his last 31 innings) and Derek Holland (27 runs in his last 18 1/3 innings).

11


Giants
79-67
3-3
.521
Flat
Close, But No Cigar: A four-game losing streak at the hands of the Padres and Dodgers pushes the Giants' post-season odds down to 2.2 percent before Brad Penny halts the slide in a grudge match against his old team; he's 3-0 with a 1.63 ERA since returning to the NL. Tim Lincecum whiffs 11 in his return from back woes, helping the club take the first two games of a crucial three-game series against the Rockies, but a ninth-inning rally falls a buck short of keeping their hopes of a sweep alive.

12


Cubs
75-70
4-3
.517
Flat
Shorting Out: After lasting just seven innings over his previous two starts, Rich Harden may be shut down for the year by the Cubs, who have little left to do but play out the string and point fingers anyway. The pending free agent leads the league in strikeout rate per nine innings (10.9) and his 26 starts represent his highest total since 2004, but he's second in the majors in pitches per inning, a big reason why he's averaging only 5.4 innings per start and carrying a .489 SNWP.

13


Marlins
78-69
3-4
.515
Down
Dan Uggla's two-run homer off Adam Wainwright was his 29th of the year, and provides all the offense the Marlins need to get past the Cardinals for one night, but even winning six out of nine has left the Fish with a shot at the postseason in the vicinity of two percent. Uggla's arbitration eligibility and recent spat with Hanley Ramirez have probably punched his ticket out of town, but a strong second half (.274/.390/.528 with 13 homers) has helped him overcome a .227/.340/.429 first half and left him one homer shy of becoming the first Marlin to reach the 30 homer plateau for three straight years; he's already just the third second baseman to top 25 for four straight years.

14


Twins
74-72
4-2
.506
Flat
No Morneau: Like the White Sox, the Twins fail to capitalize on the division-leading Tigers' five-game losing streak. Their playoff odds are hovering at 12.2 percent, but they face a steep uphill battle now that Justin Morneau's been lost for the year due to a vertebral stress fracture. Morneau hit .274/.363/.516 with an even 30 homers and 100 RBI, though that injury and an inner ear infection had limited him to a .100/.200/.229 showing in his last 80 PA. As for Joe Mauer, he's hitting .374/.441/.610, still leading in all three triple-slash categories and with a 12-point cushion as he vies for the highest single-season batting average by a catcher.

15


Tigers
78-68
3-4
.501
Down
Sad Days: It's a somber week in Detroit as the Tigers hold onto their AL Central lead despite a five-game losing streak. Magglio Ordoņez's $18 million 2010 option vests, and while the 35-year-old has only hit .291/.362/.398 overall, his .357/.429/.510 second-half performance has been vital for an offense that's scraping together just 4.3 runs per game since the break. He'll be back, obviously, which may not be the case for terminally ill former broadcasting legend Ernie Harwell, whom the team honors in an emotional pre-game ceremony.

16


White Sox
72-75
2-4
.496
Down
Blame It (At Least Partially) On Rios: The Sox fail to capitalize on the Tigers' five-game losing streak, or even to pull their chins above .500 . Their offense is averaging just four runs per game this month, and Alex Rios is a big part of the reason why. He's hitting just .147/.162/.216 in 106 PA since being claimed by the Sox, and he's just 5-for-46 without a run or an RBI this month, having been dropped to ninth in the order by Ozzie Guillen, who's scoring points in the press at his expense.

17


Blue Jays
66-80
3-3
.496
Flat
The Snider Schneid: Travis Snider breaks a three-week homerless drought with a pair against the Yankees' human piņata, Sergio Mitre. Despite the dry spell, Snider's shown plenty of power since returning from the minors, but he's struck out 38 times in 86 at bats en route to a .209/.333/.442 line. Also flexing ample muscle since his promotion is Randy Ruiz, who's got seven homers in 87 at-bats, hitting .276/.360/.529 overall.

18


Mariners
76-71
4-2
.494
Up
It's an eventful week for Ichiro Suzuki. One week after becoming the second-fastest player to reach 2,000 hits, he sets a major league record by reaching the 200-hit plateau for the ninth straight time, breaking Wee Willie Keeler's 108-year-old record; alas, Keeler politely declined an invitation to attend. Ichiro caps the week with a 14th-inning walkoff hit and remains second in the AL batting race while hitting .353/.386/.464.

19


Athletics
68-78
6-1
.484
Up
Of All the Nerve: The A's cap an 8-2 run with a three-game sweep of the Rangers in which they allow just one run. Brett Tomko tosses a five-hitter in the opener; he's put up a 2.95 ERA and a .631 SNWP in six starts with Oakland, while the Yankees' Sergio Mitre, who got the nod as their latest fifth starter once they released Tomko, has put up a 7.63 ERA and .330 SNWP in nine starts. Alas, an irritated nerve in his forearm-perhaps due to some Brian Cashman voodoo?-will shelve Tomko for the remainder of the year.

20


Diamondbacks
64-83
2-4
.475
Down
Better Late Than Never: An 8-for-24 week helps Chris Young cross over to the right side of the Mendoza Line for the first time since July 29. He's hitting .270/.361/.603 with six homers since returning from the minors in late August, though his contact woes are hardly a thing of the past; he's striking out in 27.4 percent of his post-recall plate appearances, compared to 26.0 percent prior. Also seeking a bit of late-season redemption is Eric Byrnes, whose first homer since June 18 helps the Diamondbacks past the Padres. He's just 4-for-19 this month, though three of those hits have been for extra bases.

21


Brewers
71-75
5-2
.464
Up
Still Fresh: Prince Fielder temporarily takes over the major league RBI lead (126) with his 39th homer, though it obviously lacks the histrionics of his September 6 walkoff shot. Fielder's third in the league, but even the Brewers contemplate what went wrong this year, the suggestion that he be traded for prospects or pitching help has owner Mark Attanasio scoffing at the idea of shipping the big slugger elsewhere. Who can blame him? The rates on overnighting a 270-pound package are murder.

22


Indians
61-85
1-6
.454
Down
Company Loves Misery: Losers of nine out of 10 and 14 out of 17, just in case you thought the Indians' 23-17 record between the All-Star break and August 30 actually meant they'd gotten the hang of this 2009 business. Fausto Carmona continues to be a blight on the pitching staff; he's been rocked for 19 runs over his last 17 innings while walking 12, but the Indians will leave him in the rotation for the remainder of the year because hey, life is hard, and so is thinking. Also taking poundings every fifth day: Carlos Carrasco, he of the Cliff Lee trade, now carrying a 9.64 ERA through three starts, with six homers allowed in 14 innings.

23


Astros
70-76
2-4
.450
Flat
Over and Out: Rocked for 10 runs in his last seven innings over two starts, Roy Oswalt is shut down for the year due to a degenerative disc. Despite reaching the 30-start plateau for the sixth straight year, he finishes with just eight wins and a 4.12 ERA, both career worsts. Shut down for an even longer spell is Mike Hampton, whose rotator cuff surgery will cost him all of 2010. Even with 721 career DL days through the end of this year, the injury will leave him more than 100 days shy of Bret Saberhagen's still-standing record of 1,016 DL days, because through 2004 he'd spent just 67 days on the shelf. Shoulda started getting hurt earlier if he really wanted the record...

24


Mets
63-84
1-6
.445
Down
Lost and Found: Carlos Beltran homers for the first time in over three months en route to a three-hit night against the Phillies. Beltran, who missed 70 games due to knee woes that threaten to bump him from center field, is hitting .292/.370/.500 in 28 PA since returning, but his big night represents the team's sole win in a bleak 10-game span which sees the makeshift staff torched for a 6.16 ERA, though John Maine survives his own return to action with his dignity intact.

25


Reds
68-79
5-2
.437
Up
Bruce Alrighty: Jay Bruce's two-run pinch single pushes the Reds past the Astros in Bruce's first at-bat since returning from a two-month absence due to a wrist fracture. It's been a nightmare season for Bruce, who's hit just .209/.283/.438 and was in the midst of an 0-for-14 slump when he injured while attempting a sliding catch. The Reds complete a three-game sweep of the Astros as Drew Stubbs homers in back-to-back games; he's got seven blasts in 132 PA, but his .252/.303/.455 line and 37/9 K/BB ratio leave something to be desired.

26


Padres
66-81
3-3
.434
Up
Stuffing 'Em: Tim Stauffer allows just one earned run for the third start in a row, helping the Padres take their third straight series against an NL West postseason contender. The fourth overall pick of the 2003 draft, Stauffer's taken his time panning out; he turned 27 in June. Nonetheless, his 3.31 ERA and .559 SNWP in 12 starts are both tops on the Padres' staff. Said unit has been on a roll lately, compiling a 3.30 ERA while helping the Pad squad escape the division's basement by winning 14 of 21 despite a tough schedule.

27


Royals
59-87
4-2
.424
Up
Zack Greinke collects his first win of the month (and 14th of the wear) by shutting out the Tigers for five innings, though a line drive to the forearm forces an early exit. Yielding just one earned run over his last 29 frames has only shaved Greinke's league-leading ERA from 2.43 to 2.14, though Felix Hernandez remains the only other qualifier under 3.00. Greinke's also second in the league with 224 strikeouts, and he leads the majors with 8.3 SNLVAR.

28


Orioles
60-86
4-3
.422
Up
Tach It Up, Tach It Up: Brian Matusz shuts down the Yankees for seven innings before being shut down for the season due to an innings count; he finishes with a 4.63 ERA and a .487 SNWP in eight starts. Fellow rookie Chris Tillman grinds out his first quality start out of his last five; he's got a 4.50 ERA and .485 SNWP in 10 starts, though his 2.0 HR/9 is worrisome. Speaking of blue-chippers, Matt Wieters homers in back-to-back games, the latter his first big-league walkoff blast; he's hitting .302/.380/.488 in September, lifting his overall line to .273/.325/.395.

29


Nationals
50-96
2-4
.405
Flat
But What of His Barrow in the Marketplace? Ian Desmond doubles and homers in his first major league game, then follows that with a 4-for-4 showing and a pair of two-hit games; he's 10-for-20 thus far. A 2004 third-round pick by the Expos, he's a 24-year-old whose big year at Double- and Triple-A (.330/.401/.477) has put him in the picture for a middle infield job with the Nats in 2010.

30


Pirates
55-89
1-5
.393
Down
Back to Davey Jones' Locker: With 17 losses in 19 games, the Pirates find themselves at the bottom of the Hit List and sinking fast. They've been outscored 115-61 in that span, or by 2.8 runs per game. Typifying their woes is Delwyn Young, who's mired in a 2-for-42 slump, with play at second base that may have a bit to do with the team's .324 BABIP during this stretch.


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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