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July 2, 2010

Prospectus Hit List

Keep It Together

by Jay Jaffe

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Overall W-L
Week W-L
Hit List Factor


>A-Rod Being A-Rod: Perhaps confused due to his half-day on the bench as a DH, Alex Rodriguez hits what he believes to be a walk-off homer against the Mariners, only to discover that it's still the eighth inning; no matter, Mariano Rivera nails down the save so that the Yanks avoid a sweep by the lowly Mariners. Despite his inability to remember what inning or even day it is, Rodriguez is coming around, with four homers in his past eight games, though his .358 OBP and .486 SLG would represent his lowliest marks in over a decade. Rodriguez's 595th career homer backs CC Sabathia, who's got a 2.00 ERA his six starts since the beginning of June.


FrustRaytion: Edwin Jackson no-hits his former team, the second time this season and the third time in the past year the Rays have been the guests of dishonor at such an affair. The tension is mounting in Tampa Bay as the team slides from first to third in the AL East in an eight-day span and loses nine out of 12 while hitting .202/.322/.297, with the most impressive display of offense coming in the dugout dustup between Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton. The arrival of Matt Joyce, the demotion of Dioner Navarro (.210/.291/.286) and the DFA of DOA Hank Blalock (.254/.319/.349) should help, and for all of the negatives, it's worth noting that Carlos Peņa hit a relatively normal-looking .256/.364/.556 in June.


Red Sox
Hurtin': The Red Sox's wave of injuries reaches biblical proportions. A day after going 5-for-5 with three homers in a win at Coors Field, Dustin Pedroia breaks a bone in his foot which will sideline him for six weeks. A day later, Victor Martinez breaks his thumb while Clay Buchholz hyperextends his knee running the bases. Suddenly feeling lonesome while all the cool kids are on the sidelines, Jason Varitek decides to break his foot as well. All of this comes at a time when the outfield still isn't whole, with Mike Cameron still limited in both stamina and capability and J.D. Drew dealing with minor neck woes. Get used to a whole lotta Bill Hall, Eric Patterson, Gustavo "No Relation" Molina and Kevin Cash in the coming weeks, and hope that the surviving cast can keep what 's been the majors' top offense (5.5 rpg, .278 TAv) afloat.


Whatever It Is, Its Catching: Vlad Guerrero returns to Anaheim and hits three homers in two days, including a grand slam, while Josh Hamilton runs his hitting streak to 23 games as the Rangers cap a 21-6 month. They begin fortifying themselves for a pennant push by trading for Bengie Molina to shore up a catching situation decimated by Jarrod Saltalamacchia's injuries and yips, Taylor Teagarden's weak bat and Max Ramirez's inadequate glove, though Slow Mo's performance to date (.257/.312/.332) is barely better than that of the Ranger backstops (.209/.307/.324).


Three is the Magic Number: Denard Span goes 4-for-4 with three triples-the first player since Rafael Furcal in 2002 to pull that off-and five RBI as the Twins reclaim the AL Central lead from the Tigers after surrendering it for the first time since April 11. Speaking of triples, Jim Thome legs out his first one since 2004 the day before Span's trifecta; he also bops homers in both games to move within one of tying Harmon Killebrew at 573. And speaking of unlikely occurrences, here's Carl Pavano throwing a three-hit shutout at the Mets, his second complete game in a row. Having harnessed the awesome power of the mustache, he's got the league's 11th-best SNWP (.596) and the second-lowest walk rate (1.4 per nine) for the second year in a row.


Zum-Bye-Awww: The Tigers momentarily claim a share of first place for the first time since May 20, but their win is overshadowed by the loss of Joel Zumaya, who fractures his olecranon, the tip of his elbow, and is done for the year. It's a huge blow for the Tigers' bullpen, whose No. 3 ranking in WXRL has helped the team overcome a rotation which ranks 12th in SNLVAR. Zumaya ranks third on the team and 21st in the league with 1.1 WXRL; he pitched well this year (2.86 Fair Run Average, 8.0 K/9, 3.1 K/BB), but he hasn't reached 40 innings in a season since 2006, his rookie year.


Blue Jays
Low-Flying Birds: A 2-9 skid knocks the Jays down to .500, as they complete a 9-17 June and start July off on the wrong foot as well. The team hit just .221/.293/.367 for the month while averaging 3.1 runs per game, the byproduct of a combination of a high strikeout percentage (19.6 percent) and a dreadfully low BABIP (.251). The key culprits are Adam Lind (.156/.216/.233), Jose Bautista (.179/.324/.369) and Aaron Hill (.198/.264/.347), but almost as bad is the fact that only John Buck (.271/.289/.500) and Vernon Wells (.240/.291/.490) achieved OPSes above 760, doing so with similarly all-or-nothing lines. The Jays have outhomered opponents 119-66, but their .238 average and .306 OBP both rank last in the league.


White Sox
Sustainability on the South Side? Carlos Quentin's fourth homer in four games helps the White Sox take the opener of the Windy City Series against the Cubs; they run their winning streak to 11 in a row before falling in the series finale. Also homering in that game is Gordon Beckham, part of a 6-for-18, 4 XBH week that gives hope he'll stop inflicting misery (.209/.275/.285) on the team's offense. Quentin's turnaround (.261/.356/.580 since June 1) appears more sustained, but the larger question is whether the team which went 15-3 in interleague play will return to playing like the one which had gone 24-32 against the Junior Circuit. Dropping two of three to the Royals suggests they just might.


No Mo', No Problem: Jered Weaver shuts out the Rangers for 7.2 innings as the Angels take the rubber match of a key series, withstanding the fireworks Vlad Guerrero produces in his return to Anaheim. The Angels now are a robust 21-9 since losing Kendry Morales for the year. It's not that they've been getting much from their fill-in first sackers (.268/.328/.446), it's that the remaining infielders-Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, Kevin Frandsen, Maicer Izturis and Brandon Wood-have combined to hit .310/.357/.463 to pick up the slack, with Torii Hunter (.314/.408/.552) and Hideki Matsui (.293/.375/.475) providing plenty of pop as well.


Green-and-Gold Standard: Resplendent in an all-yellow throwback ensemble reminiscent of Vida Blue at the 1975 All-Star Game, Trevor Cahill whiffs a career-high 10 hitters while combining on a shutout of the Pirates. Cahill has got a 2.22 ERA and 6.2 K/9 over his last 11 starts, and his .622 SNWP is now third in the league. While the A's go on to sweep the Bucs and run their winning streak to four games, their 10-17 June costs them 11 games in the AL West standings. It's a matter of run differential chickens coming home to roost; they were outscored by just five runs in June, nine fewer than in May, when they went 16-12.


Winning Bet: Wilson Betemit hits a big three-run homer off the Cardinals' Jaime Garcia, helping the Royals snap a 69-inning homerless streak and take the rubber match of the KC leg of the Show Me Series. After going exactly a year between big-league at-bats following a washout on the South Side-that trade for Nick Swisher is no feather in Kenny Williams' cap-the suddenly supersubbing Betemit is hitting .464/.531/.964 in 32 PA. Jose Guillen runs his hitting streak to 21 games in that contest, a span during which he hit a slappy but useful .378/.400/.463 with a lone homer. Though his streak comes to an end the next day, he caps his week with a three-run homer and a key defensive play to help seal a win against the White Sox.


The King and Some Three True Outcomes Royalty: Felix Hernandez throws a two-hit, 11-K shutout against the Yankees, while Russell Branyan homers in his second game back as a Mariner to help the team take two out of three in the Bronx. Branyan replaces the godforsakenly desiccated remains of Casey Kotchman (.188/.268/.290) as the team's first baseman; his .291 True Average (off a .264/.332/.495/11 HR line) is higher than every M with 100 PA, save for Ichiro Suzuki, which admittedly isn't saying much you don't already know about a team whose .243 mark ranks dead last in the AL.


Going Long: Shin-Soo Choo homers twice and drives in four runs for the second time in less than a week, helping the Indians back a six-game slide with a five-game winning streak. Choo is hitting .285/.389/.473 with a .312 TAv, good for 10th in the league. Elsewhere in the lineup, Carlos Santana continues to rake (.333/.461/.683 with four homers since recall), and Matt LaPorta returns from a Triple-A refresher course-prompted by the trade of Russell Branyan-to homer in three straight games. Since being outhomered 46-31 in April and May (a span owing something to Branyan's early-season absence and homerless drought until May 11), the Tribe holds a 32-17 edge in longballs.


For Whom the Bell Tolls: The Orioles appear almost lifelike by winning five out of six, as Ty Wigginton becomes the first O's first baseman to homer this year (so long, Garret Atkins, you punchless palooka!). Alas, the Wiggy blow is immediately overshadowed by an even more dubious one when team True Average leader Luke Scott pulls a hammy rounding the bases, necessitating a trip to the DL. Filling his roster spot is top hitting prospect Josh Bell, who's batting .277/.332/.475 since May at Triple-A after a lousy April; he goes 1-for-4 while managing not to maim himself or anyone else in his debut.

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

Related Content:  The Streak,  Homer,  Denard Span,  The Who,  Three Homer Game,  A-rod

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