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September 25, 2009

Prospectus Hit List

Nearly All Wrapped Up

by Jay Jaffe

RkTeam
Overall W-L
Week W-L
Comment

1


Dodgers
92-61
4-2
.619
Up
R&R: The Dodgers haven't quite clinched a playoff berth, but they're an eyelash away. Ronnie Belliard helps push them closer with his grand slam off of Brad Penny, his second homer in as many starts. Belliard's .333/.382/.619 showing since his August 30 acquisition is hot enough that Joe Torre is surprisingly noncommittal about whether slumping Orlando Hudson (.233/.313/.302 in September, and now earning an additional $10,000 for every plate appearance) is still the starting second baseman. Meanwhile, Rafael Furcal may finally be shaking his season-long funk, hitting .471/.538/.824 over the last eight games, compared to .256/.321/.352 prior.

2


Yankees
97-56
3-3
.617
Down
The Yankees clinch a post-season berth while taking a series in Anaheim, their first since 2004. As their focus shifts to October, there's plenty of concern about their rotation, particularly Joba Chamberlain, whose latest bombing pushes his ERA to 8.25 since the beginning of August and threatens his roster spot. It also leaves Chad Gaudin as the potential fourth starter behind CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Andy Pettitte. Gaudin's .496 SNWP and 3.33 ERA in five starts with the Yanks are respectable, but if he's so great, why waste so much time on Sergio Mitre?

3


Red Sox
91-61
5-2
.581
Up
Young Buchh: Tim Wakefield continues to struggle with his pitching and his health but Clay Buchholz is stepping up just in time. His 6 2/3 scoreless innings against the Royals marks his ninth quality start out of 10, a span during which he's posted a 2.37 ERA and allowed just four homers in 64 2/3 innings. If there's concern to be had, it's that Buchholz has now pitched 183 innings between the minors and majors this year, up from 134 2/3 last year, well beyond the so-called "Rule of 30" increase, but aesthetically speaking, miles beyond the Joba Rules.

4


Cardinals
89-64
4-2
.564
Up
After skipping a start due to shoulder tendonitis, John Smoltz returns to action with a pair of six-inning, two-run efforts against the Cubs and Astros, the latter of which comes in a potential division-clinching game in which the Cards themselves are shut out, postponing the champagne. Smoltz has a 3.18 ERA and an impressive 37/4 K/BB ratio in 34 innings with the Cardinals; even without him, the team figures to have the top rotation among the post-season contenders, and he might be likely to join the front four given Kyle Lohse's thrown just 10 1/3 innings in the past month.

5


Phillies
89-63
4-3
.561
Flat
Ben Franklin may not have been the one who defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, but the most famous Philadelphian would certainly have classified Charlie Manuel's handling of Brad Lidge as nutso. Scored upon in his fourth straight outing, Lidge blows his 11th save of the year and moves into the lead for the worst single-season WXRL ever (-3.3). Any hope of using Brett Myers to close may be on the rocks due to Myers' lat strain, but what's truly crazy is that Manuel can't offer a single alternative in a bullpen which, beyond Lidge, has compiled 9.0 WXRL, which would rank fifth in the league.

6


Rockies
86-67
3-3
.557
Flat
Rox Off: Battered for six runs by the Padres, Jason Marquis has been scuffling since late August: a 6.49 ERA with just one quality start out of six. The Rox are 1-5 in those games, though supporting Marquis with just 3.3 runs per game in that span hasn't helped. Though they remain in the driver's seat of the NL Wild Card race, the Rockies have lost seven of 11, and their Playoff Odds are back below 90 percent.

7


Angels
90-62
3-3
.555
Up
Kazamatazz: Scott Kazmir tosses six shutout innings and earns his first win as an Angel while kicking off a series in which his team takes two of three from the Rangers, all but locking up the division title. Kazmir's made 10 quality starts in his past 11 dating back to his days with the Rays, good for a 3.29 ERA and a 56/19 K/BB ratio in 68 1/3 innings. Oddly, he's gotten just two runs per game of offensive support from the Halos, whose paltry 3.7 per game this month has cost them the major league lead.

8


Rays
78-74
4-1
.549
Up
Rays of Hope: Wade Davis strikes out 10 without walking a single hitter in just his third major league start, helping the Rays stop a 1-13 freefall with some stellar pitching; the team allows just 13 runs across six games. Davis has put up a 4.07 ERA with a 28/8 K/BB ratio in 24 1/3 innings over four starts. Meanwhile, David Price stifles the Jays for his fourth quality start in a six-turn span; he won't win Rookie of the Year honors, but his 3.41 ERA and 0.7 HR/9 over his past 10 starts suggest he's on his way to fulfilling his promise.

9


Braves
82-70
4-2
.547
Flat
Brave Old World: Though their Playoff Odds remain in the single digits, there's cause for minor celebration in Atlanta, as Bobby Cox announces that 2010 will be his final season of managing before returning to the front office. He's fourth on the all-time win list behind Connie Mack, John McGraw and Tony La Russa, and one of just five skippers ever to pilot a team for 20 straight years. Also brightening up about the future is Chipper Jones, who returns to his favorite outer borough and snaps a three-week homer-less slump, driving in four runs to boot.

10


Rangers
83-69
3-4
.529
Down
Grist for the Millwood: The Rangers drop two out of three against the Angels to put the final nail in their coffins; their Playoff Odds are now below one percent. Against that backdrop, it counts as somewhat controversial that the cash-strapped club allows Kevin Millwood's $12 million 2010 option to vest; he crosses the 180-inning threshold with seven strong frames against Oakland, breaking a slide which had seen him yield a 7.62 ERA over his previous five starts. This marks the first time since 2006 he's pitched at least 180 frames or posted an ERA below 5.00; he's a solid 18th in the league in SNLVAR, while teammate Scott Feldman is seventh.

11


Cubs
79-73
4-3
.522
Up
Blame Game (A Milton Bradley Production): Eager to identify scapegoats for the team's disappointing season, GM Jim Hendry suspends Milton Bradley, ostensibly over comments regarding the negative environment surrounding the team, though Hendry's embarrassment at having committed $30 million to an injury-prone, controversial player who hit .257/.378/.397 surely plays a part. While the possibility of a grievance rears its head, Bradley accepts the suspension, even after his mother (!) gets involved. Even if Bradley's run out of town, Hendry's still got about $150 million worth of Carlos Zambrano and Alfonso Soriano to remind himself what really ails the Cubs.

12


Giants
82-71
3-4
.516
Down
Cut Down to Size: After winning his first three starts as a Giant, the bad Brad Penny finally turns up, as the burly hurler is rocked for seven runs in 2 2/3 innings by the Dodgers, a loss which knocks the team's dwindling Playoff Odds into single digits for what's likely the final time this year. The team fades even further as Tim Lincecum is battered the following day in his worst outing of the year (4 4 5 5 4 3). Meanwhile, Fred Lewis' late-inning heroics strike a bittersweet note; pitching put the Giants in contention, but Bruce Bochy's managerial malpractice regarding his lineup prevented them from getting over the hump.

13


Twins
79-73
5-1
.514
Up
No Problemeau: Filling in at first base for injured Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer homers in three straight games, including two victories over the Tigers, as the Twins remain alive in the AL Central race; their Playoff Odds stand at 16.0 percent. That's seven homers this month for Cuddyer en route to a career-high 29. Also providing some unexpected late-season help in the wake of injuries is rookie Brian Duensing, who's gone 5-0 with a 2.06 ERA and a .671 SNWP in eight starts, though the Twins' rotation remains the weakest of the post-season contenders.

14


Marlins
82-71
4-2
.513
Flat
Despite taking two of three from the Phillies, the Marlins' Playoff Odds are down below two percent, but Chris Coghlan remains en fuego, with 14 hits in his last seven games and a .381/.429/.495 mark this month, following up a .385/.449/.582 August in which he set a franchise record with 47 hits in a month. Coghlan's a solid Rookie of the Year candidate, though the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones, the Phillies' J.A. Happ, and the Braves' Tommy Hanson will give him plenty of company on writers' ballots when the time comes.

15


Tigers
82-70
4-2
.505
Up
Jackson's Back, Son: Despite dropping two of three at the Metrodome, the Tigers maintain their slim AL Central lead. Edwin Jackson snaps out of a month-long slump with seven scoreless innings against the Indians thanks to a mechanical change to prevent him from tipping pitches. He'd put up a 6.03 ERA and just one quality start over his previous five, though he's still fifth in the league in both SNLVAR (6.2) and ERA (3.25).

16


Athletics
73-80
5-2
.497
Up
If At First...: Daric Barton lashes run-scoring hits in his first two at-bats to kick off a 9-1 rout of the Rangers. After compiling a .237/.338/.384 line through his first 175 big-league games, Barton's hit .300/.393/.456 since his late-August recall, perhaps his last chance to claim the team's first-base job given Chris Carter's strong finish to a .329/.422/.570 season, mostly spent in Double-A.

17


Mariners
80-73
4-2
.496
Flat
Star Power: Fresh off last week's milestones, Ichiro Suzuki caps a four-hit night with a walk-off homer off Mariano Rivera. His shot makes a winner out of Felix Hernandez, who goes the distance against the Bombers (9 8 2 1 1 3) and then follows that up by whiffing a season-high 11 Blue Jays, a performance that elevates him to the 200-strikeout plateau for the first time in his career. Hernandez has yielded just five earned runs in 39 frames this month, though he remains second in SNLVAR to Zack Greinke.

18


Blue Jays
69-84
3-4
.494
Flat
Edwin Encarnacion's pair of homers helps the Blue Jays get by the Orioles in a three-game sweep that helps them cement fourth place in the AL East. (Yippee.) That's five homers in eight games for Encarnacion, who's hitting .288/.377/.576 this month after a .202/.298/.343 showing prior. Not all of the news in the Jays' infield is so cheerful; Marco Scutaro appears to be done for the year due to a torn plantar fascia. He finishes with 100 runs (sixth in the league), 90 walks (fourth), a .282/.379/.409 line, and career highs in every major category, numbers that should serve him well on the free-agent market this winter.

19


White Sox
73-80
1-5
.489
Down
South Side Slide: Seven weeks after being acquired via trade and more than three months since his last big-league appearance, Jake Peavy finally makes his first start for the White Sox, and while the results aren't stellar (5 3 3 3 2 5), he nonetheless helps the Sox to their sole win in an eight-game span. It's been a dismal month for the Sox, who are just 10-20 since August 22 while scoring just 3.9 runs per game, a showing that has plenty to do with the underachieving performances of Jermaine Dye (.165/.276/.294), Carlos Quentin (.232/.315/.368), and Alex Rios (.131/.151/.179).

20


Diamondbacks
66-87
2-4
.471
Down
Mark of Shame? Mark Reynolds' silver sombrero pushes him past his year-old single-season strikeout record of 204; he's on pace to finish with 220. Reynolds has been struggling of late, striking out 31 times in 73 September at-bats while hitting just .192/.294/.370, but the record comes in the same game in which he collects his 100th RBI, and just one night after he connects for his 43rd homer, which ranks second in the league behind Albert Pujols' 47, and second in franchise history behind Luis Gonzalez's 57. When he hits them, they go far; he leads Hit Tracker's Golden Sledgehammer standings for the longest average distance per dinger.

21


Brewers
75-78
4-3
.468
Up
Yo Goes: Yovani Gallardo pitches five shutout innings in his 2009 farewell, striking out seven to become the first Brewer pitcher to reach 200 strikeouts in a season since Doug Davis in 2005; his 204 Ks rank fourth in the league, while his .552 SNWP cracks the top 20. While Braden Looper and David Bush follow up that performance by being tattooed for 13 runs in 5 1/3 innings over the next two days, 27-year-old rookie Chris Narveson whiffs 10 unhappy Cubs, the most by a Brewers rookie since 1998.

22


Reds
72-81
4-2
.448
Up
The Late Show: Winners of eight out of 10 and 21 out of 31, the Reds continue their attempt to salvage some dignity. Leading the way is Joey Votto, who collects 18 hits and scores 12 runs over that 10-game span while hitting .500/.571/.833. His .321 EqA not only ranks eighth in the league, it's the highest among any Red with 400 plate appearances since Barry Larkin in 1996. Also making a solid September push is Homer Bailey, who's put up a 1.79 ERA with 39 strikeouts in 45 1/3 innings.

23


Indians
61-91
0-6
.443
Down
Lost Tribe Even More Lost Than Before: The Indians move from disappointment to laughingstock as their losing streak reaches 11 games. Blame a rotation that offers up five disaster starts in a seven-game span; they've now got eight this month, compared to nine quality starts, the latter a surprisingly high total for a team that's 3-15. As a unit, the rotation besides Cliff Lee has put together a 5.74 ERA overall, with Aaron Laffey the only one of 11 other starters to manage a .500 SNWP or an ERA below 5.14.

24


Mets
65-88
2-4
.443
Flat
Despite reaching his 75-pitch limit, John Maine's five shutout innings help him earn his first win since May 31. It's been a lost year for Maine, who's made just 13 starts due to shoulder woes, but even so, he's the only Mets starter besides Johan Santana with a Support-Neutral Winning Percentage above .500 in at least 10 starts. Meanwhile, with little else to do but pray for a swift end to the season, even the suggestion that Mets fans should follow Dan Murhpy's quest to break the team record for doubles in a season by a first baseman (he needs seven in his final 10 games, a tall order, albeit one he already exceeded in late August) strikes this writer as an awful waste of time. Better to chuck eggs at Omar Minaya for ticketing Murphy for a full-time corner job given the drag on the offense produced by his .258 EqA.

25


Padres
71-83
5-2
.442
Up
Don't Mess With the Pad Squad: A pair of extra-base hits from Will Venable yields four early runs at Jason Marquis' expense, helping the Padres take two of three from the Rockies. That's their second consecutive series win over Colorado and their sixth straight against contending teams; they're now 33-21 since July 27, the second-best record in the NL. It's also the second time in as many meetings that Venable has touched Marquis for a homer. He's hitting .270/.337/.472 overall, and 11 of his 12 homers have come since the All-Star break, a total ranks second on the club to Adrian Gonzalez's 15.

26


Astros
71-81
1-5
.438
Down
Fly the Coop: The Astros can Cecil Cooper, a rather harsh fate for a skipper whose team had gone 171-170 on his watch while exceeding their third-order Pythagenpat by nearly 17 games. He may have lost the clubhouse but consider the dysfunctional mess he inherited: four stars taking up nearly 60 percent of the payroll, a rotation that relied upon Brian Moehler, Mike Hampton, Felipe Paulino, Brandon Backe, and Russ Ortiz to make more than half its starts this year, a minor league system currently capable of producing little more than dogmeat (Bud Norris excepted), and an owner in denial about the real work needed to overhaul the organization. All in all, Coop didn't do horribly.

27


Royals
63-90
4-3
.428
Up
Hell Hath No Fury Like a Royal in September: Via a 12-3 run, the Royals refuse to make life easy for the contenders (and pretenders) who cross their paths; they're now 13-9 this month. Zack Greinke punctuates his case for the Cy Young Award with six innings of two-hit shutout ball in Fenway Park; he's got an 0.26 ERA over his last five starts. Elsewhere in the rotation, Robinson Tejeda is turning heads with a 0.81 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 22 1/3 innings over four starts in Gil Meche's stead.

28


Orioles
60-92
0-6
.410
Down
Bashin' Baby Birds: Amid his team's season-high seven-game losing streak, Matt Wieters remains hot, with 13 hits in his last six games, including a towering home run in Toronto; he's hitting .366/.425/.549 this month. Meanwhile, fellow rookie Nolan Reimold's season comes to an end due to a torn Achilles tendon which requires surgery; he finishes at .279/.365/.466 with 15 homers, tops among AL rookies.

29


Nationals
52-100
2-4
.399
Down
30-30 Clubbers: With a pair of homers, both hit in rare Nationals victories, Ryan Zimmerman crosses the 30-homer plateau for the first time in his young career. Coupled with Adam Dunn's 38 dingers, Zim's 31 gives the club a pair of 30-homer bashers for the first time in Nats history, and just the second time since the franchise's inception as Les Expos in 1969; Brad Wilkerson and Tony Batista in 2004 are the others. Dunn needs two more shots in the season's final 10 games to join Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez, and Babe Ruth as the only players to reach 40 homers in six straight years (Ruth extended his streak to seven).

30


Pirates
56-95
1-6
.385
Down
The Not-So-Gay Nineties: As their latest run of futility reaches 22 losses in 25 games, the Pirates clinch their third straight last-place finish and dredge up dark memories of the 1890 Pittsburg Alleghenies, whose 3-35 finish is still within the current club's reach. Somewhere amid the gray sameness of another Pirates loss, Garrett Jones socks his 20th homer, joining Kevin Maas (1990) as the second player ever to hit 20 without connecting for a single one before July.


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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