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August 13, 2010

Prospectus Hit List

Big Hits and Near Misses

by Jay Jaffe

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Overall W-L
Week W-L
Hit List Factor


In the Swing: The Yankees stumble to six losses in a nine-game span, though they do manage series splits with the Red Sox and the Rangers and maintain their AL East lead. Amid a minor offensive drought (32 runs in those nine games), they do get some encouraging signs from a few key hitters. Derek Jeter starts August on a hot streak (.348/.412/.457) to put a miserable July (.245/.310/.311) behind him, helping the Yanks surmount a 6-1 deficit against Cliff Lee; he's still hitting groundballs at an insane 67.1 percent clip, second-highest in the majors, nestled between Luis Castillo and Juan Pierre. Mark Teixeira bops six homers to climb to third in the league with 26; he's now hitting a Teixeira-like .284/.379/.551 since May 1, though he does miss the team's two-game Texas series due to paternity leave. Curtis Granderson retools his swing and collects a pair of hits to escape a 3-for-29 slide.


The Victim Role: Already on the wrong end of two no-hitters this year (Dallas Braden's perfecto and Edwin Jackson's slog), the Rays come within one out of being no-hit again. They avoid that dubious distinction-which owes to the fact that they've got the majors' sixth-lowest batting average (.250) and second-lowest rate of putting the ball in play (68 percent)-but fall for the fifth straight game nonetheless, a skid that costs them a fleeting share of first place. Amid that mess, they send both Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis to the disabled list due to shoulder strains (neither severe), giving them an excuse to recall Jeremy Hellickson from the minors; he tosses seven shutout innings to help the Rays restore their winning ways.


Red Sox
Crapelbon? The depleted Sox manage a split in the Bronx thanks to Jon Lester, who tosses five no-hit innings and gets help from relievers Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon to secure the win. Just as the Sox offer some optimism by stringing together three wins in a row, however, Papelbon blows a three-run lead in the ninth against the Blue Jays. It's Papelbon's sixth blown save of the year, dropping him from seventh to 15th in the league in WXRL. His days as Boston's closer may be numbered given his contract status (he'll be arbitration-eligible for the final time this winter, due for a raise on his $9.35 million deal) and the emergence of Bard, who's second in WXRL-more than two wins better than Paps-and posting much stronger numbers across the board.


Mashing Minus Morneau: The Twins continue to soldier on without the AL True Average leader, who's still rehabbing from his concussion; they're hitting .314/.372/.493 while averaging 6.0 runs per game without him since the All-Star break. Jason Kubel rips a three-run homer against the White Sox, his second of a three-game series in which the Twins reclaim first place in the AL Central for the first time since July 4. Kubel has homered five times in his past 10 games en route to a .350/.422/.775 August line. Jim Thome also homers twice in Twins wins, giving him 15 on the season and 579 for his career; he's hitting .269/.394/.579 overall and has the highest OPS of any DH with at least 200 PA.


The Murph: The Rangers' sale is approved by the other 29 owners, as this suddenly big-money team shows it can play with the biggest money team of all. David Murphy follows up a two-run homer with a 10th-inning walk-off hit against Mariano Rivera; he's hitting .357/.426/.643 since July 28. Alas, Texas only emerges with a two-game split against the Yankees, as Neftali Feliz blows a save in a game where the Rangers held a 6-1 lead with Cliff Lee on the hill. It's just Feliz's third blown save of the season; he's ninth in the league in WXRL, and both his Fair Run Average and SIERA are better than his 3.70 ERA.


White Sox
Sox in Second: A 1-4 mini-slump costs the White Sox first place in the AL Central as they fall victim to both the resurgent Orioles and the Morneau-less Minnesota Marauders. While Gavin Floyd is battered for six earned runs-as many as he'd surrendered in his previous seven starts-the lone victory in that stretch comes via John Danks, who holds the Twins to one run, the fourth time in five games he's limited opponents to one or less. He is tops among Sox starters with a 3.19 ERA and ranks 15th in the league in SNWP (.552) with Mark Buehrle 14th and Floyd 18th.


Blue Jays
'Nother Near No-No: Brandon Morrow comes within one out of throwing the season's sixth no-hitter, whiffing an MLB season-high 17 hitters in the process. It's the fifth time a Blue Jays pitcher has fell a lone out shy of the accomplishment, with Dave Stieb doing so three times (including on consecutive turns!) and Roy Halladay once. It's the third time this year Morrow has chased a no-hitter into the sixth; he's got a 3.03 ERA, a 3.4 K/BB ratio and 10.0 K/9 since the beginning of June. His gem comes one day after J.P. Arencibia's tremendous debut amid a 17-11 rout of the Rays; he goes 4-for-5 with two homers, including one on the first pitch he faces. He's the 107th player to homer in his first at-bat, but just the fifth to homer twice in his first game.


Dallas Does Distance: The A's continue to meander around .500; they've been within two games of the mark since winning to open the second half, which certainly isn't a record but sure is boring, camouflaging a slightly more interesting 14-10 win-loss record in that span. In any event, Dallas Braden four-hits the Mariners for his second complete game in three turns. He has got 2.83 ERA in five starts since returning from the disabled list, and has gone 15 starts without walking more than two hitters; he's fourth in the league with 1.7 BB/9. Meanwhile, top prospect Chris Carter gets the call, though he goes hitless in his first nine at-bats.


Shane Halter Would Feel Right At Home: It's another ugly week for the Tigers, who drop to 7-21 since the All-Star break-a pace more appropriate to their 2003 club. They're hitting just .237/.311/.341 in the second half, and while Miguel Cabrera, Johnny Damon, and Austin Jackson have held their own, Brennan Boesch is "hitting" just .135/.222/.208. The team discusses sending him to the minors but decides against it, as Boesch does homer twice amid a 6-for-21 resurgence. In any event, he's got plenty of company below the Mendoza Line these days; Gerald Laird, Alex Avila, Jhonny Peralta, Brandon Inge and Carlos Guillen all have batting averages below .200 since the break, with Don Kelly right at that mark and Danny Worth just above.


The Change Will Do You Good: Dan Haren notches his first win with the Angels in his fourth start since being traded, tossing seven strong innings against a Royals team that couldn't buy a hit if it were on sale at the concession stand. For Haren, it's just the second time in his last 11 starts his teams have won thanks to just 2.9 runs per game of support; he's put up a 3.98 ERA in that span, better than his overall 4.34 mark. Meanwhile, as Peter Bourjos struggles to adapt to big-league pitching (.185/.267/.259), Bobby Abreu hits .375/.464/.750 with a pair of homers in his first six games as the leadoff man, including a walkoff against KC.


The New Guys: Matt LaPorta connects against the Twins for his first career walk-off homer. He's hitting .279/.346/.485 since returning from the minors in late June, and the Indians are 22-17 with him in the lineup during that span. Fellow rookie Jeanmar Gomez stymies the red-hot Orioles, the fourth time in as many starts he's allowed two runs or less. He's got a 1.54 ERA, though his 4.6 K/9 suggests that won't last forever.


Same Old, Same Old: Losers of eight of 10 and 19 of 27 since the All-Star break, the remade Royals aren't looking a whole lot better than the ones they replaced. The team is scoring just 2.3 runs per game since the July 31 deadline on .228/.275/.317 hitting, with the only six homers belonging to Alex Gordon (yay!) and Yuniesky Betancourt (boo!), each with three apiece. The Royals' long-term outlook is still bright-check back in 2013-but Zack Greinke wants less and less of it, understandable given the 3.3 runs per game of support he's receiving.


#6 Org Blues: The Mariners fire manager Don Wakamatsu, hardly a surprise given the team's record, the confrontations with Ken Griffey Jr. and Chone Figgins, and GM Jack Zduriencik's recent vote of confidence. While it was clear Wakamatsu had lost the clubhouse, the burden for the Mariners' MLB-worst offense owes plenty to the off-season missteps of Zduriencik, who brought in Casey Kotchman (.232 TAv), Milton Bradley (.246), and Chone Figgins (.264 thanks to a .405/.436/.486 August), brought back Griffey (.166) and kept in place the offensively inept Jose Lopez (.223, and as a third baseman to boot), Rob Johnson (.223) and Jack Wilson (.225 and now done for the year due to a freak injury). Also worth questioning is the front office's fetish for defense given what we know about existing metrics, not to mention the M's sixth-place ranking, in Park Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, a whisker below average.


Charm City: Brad Bergesen hurls a two-hitter as the Orioles run their record under new manager Buck Showalter to 8-1, continuing The Era of Good Feelings. It's the third straight quality start for Bergesen since Showalter took over, a span during which he's yielded four runs in 23 innings to lower his ERA from 6.95 to 5.84. The O's rotation is at 3.01 with 10 quality starts out of 13, though they're whiffing just 4.6 per nine during that span, which does at least suggest they're playing better defense than their 13th-ranked Defensive Efficiency ranking indicates.

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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