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July 3, 2009

Prospectus Hit List

Beating the Holiday Traffic

by Jay Jaffe

RkTeam
Overall W-L
Week W-L
Comment

1


Rays
44-36
5-1
.610
Up
Quality Pitching: The Rays overtake the Dodgers for the top spot via a season-high seven-game winning streak in which they outscore their opponents 40-14. Scott Kazmir returns from the DL with promising results (5 4 2 2 1 5); it's just the third time in 10 starts he's walked fewer than three hitters. Meanwhile, Matt Garza strings together back-to-back quality starts for the first time in six weeks, while David Price notches his first quality start in the bigs. As strong as the rotation has been of late, the Rays are still just 10th in the league in SNLVAR.

2


Dodgers
50-29
3-3
.609
Down
Dre's Days: Consecutive series losses to the White Sox and Mariners help push the Dodgers from the top spot for the first time since Opening Day, but they end the week on a high note, beating the Rockies in a pivotal series thanks to some late-inning magic. Andre Ethier's 13th-inning walkoff homer kicks things off on a high note. It's Ethier's fourth walkoff hit this year (the team has nine), not to mention his second noteworthy performance of the week, following a three-homer game. Still, he's hit just .221/.293/.438 since Manny Ramirez's suspension. Also not so hot: Juan Pierre, following a .264/.319/.309 June.

3


Red Sox
48-30
4-2
.594
Flat
The Bailout: The Sox bullpen blows a nine-run lead against the Orioles, and the team suffers another tough loss as Mike Lowell heads to the DL after a Synvisc injection into his surgically-repaired hip. Kevin Youkilis will shift to the hot corner, and while replacement first baseman Jeff Bailey's batting average is nothing to write home about, his .219/.337/.438 showing in 86 PA isn't a drastic step down from Lowell's .282/.319/.470; Bailey's actually got the EqA edge, .265 to .263.

4


Yankees
45-32
5-0
.584
Up
Mariano Rivera earns his 500th save (and his first run batted in) as the Yankees sweep the Subway Series from the depleted Mets, outscoring their crosstown rivals 18-3. Alex Rodriguez homers four times in a six-day span, passing Reggie Jackson on the all-time list and plating 11 runs in the process. He's hitting .355/.524/.742 since his benching two weeks ago. Meanwhile, Brian Cashman finally ditches the utterly useless Angel Berroa and acquires Eric Hinske, a solid bench bat who can spot A-Rod at third while covering for Xavier Nady's loss for the year.

5


Blue Jays
42-38
2-4
.544
Down
World (Series) Beater: Ricky Romero tosses seven scoreless innings against the slumping Phillies, then turns around and blanks the Rays for eight, running his scoreless innings streak to 20. Romero has made six straight quality starts; his .647 Support-Neutral Winning Percentage is good for fourth in the league, while his 2.85 ERA would rank seventh if he had enough innings to qualify. Elsewhere in the rotation, even in defeat Roy Halladay makes a strong showing in his first appearance since returning from a groin strain.

6


Rockies
41-37
4-2
.531
Up
The Marquis of Blake Street: Jason Marquis outduels Chad Billingsley to spin a two-hit shutout for his league-leading 10th win, and also driving in two runs to boot. He's 14th in the leaguein SNLVAR. Alas, his 86-pitch gem is the sole highlight for the Rockies in their series with the division-leading Dodgers; after marching into LA on a 20-3 tear, they manage just five run in three games, losing two squeakers late.

7


Twins
41-39
4-2
.527
Flat
But What of the Butcher and the Candlestick Maker? Though his string of quality starts ends at five, Scott Baker helps the Twins to series wins over the Brewers and Royals. He put up a 3.20 ERA while yielding just three homers in 39 1/3 innings in June, compared to a 6.32 ERA and 14 homers in 52 2/3 innings prior; his 4.1 K/BB ratio ranks fourth in the league. Also rolling: Glenn Perkins, with a 2.67 ERA and just two walks in 27 innings since returning from the DL.

8


Cardinals
42-38
2-4
.527
Down
With six losses in seven games, the Cardinals fumble first place and end the month just 12-17. They lose Khalil Greene to the disabled list again amid a 1-for-17 slide and the return of his anxiety order, but snag Mark DeRosa for reliever Chris Perez. It's a shrewd move given DeRosa's positional flexibility, as he can slide over to second base if Troy Glaus returns at some point, providing a bit of extra support for the Cards' low-strikeout/high-contact pitching staff. Alas, a wrist strain will limit DeRosa's immediate impact.

9


Angels
42-34
4-2
.525
Up
Juanderful: Juan Rivera's third homer of the week and eighth of the month pushes the Angels past the Rangers in the opener of their three-game series. The win, the Angels' sixth in a row, caps a 13-3 run that pushed them into sole possession of first place; they gained seven games on Texas in that span. Rivera's hitting .304/.344/.515 with 14 homers, matching last year's total, and his .298 EqA is a 40-point improvement.

10


Rangers
42-35
3-3
.520
Flat
Dry Month: Amid an 11-15 June, the Rangers surrender first place for the first time since early May, though with a pair of wins over the Angels, they stay close. The offense's EqA has dropped to eighth in the league at .258 following a month in which they hit just .225/.288/.388 and average 3.8 runs per game. The good news is that Josh Hamilton is nearing a return; he's been out since May 31.

11


Tigers
43-35
2-4
.516
Down
Brandon Inge's ninth-inning homer off of Jose Valverde enables the Tigers to avoid a sweep by the Astros. It's Inge's sixth homer of the month and 18th of the year, good enough to crack the league's top 10. According to WARP, he's been the Tigers' third-most valuable player (after Edwin Jackson and Miguel Cabrera) thanks to career bests in OBP (.367), SLG (.521), and EqA (.293), as well as outstanding defense at the hot corner (+8 FRAA).

12


Mets
38-39
1-5
.510
Down
Lost Weekend: Fielding lineups in which the 2009 edition of Gary Sheffield is the team's best player this side of David Wright, and making errors by the bushel afield, the Mets score just three runs in a three-game sweep by the Yankees at Citi Field. Their season-high five-game losing streak pushes them below .500, and includes such indignities as a three-error inning, a one-hit shutout, and another bum outing from Johan Santana, who's been rocked for a 6.53 ERA while striking out just 4.4 per nine over his last five starts.

13


White Sox
40-38
5-1
.508
Up
Maine-Stay: Jermaine Dye homers three times in five days, including twice in the White Sox's Windy City series win over the Cubs. Dye's hit .516/.545/.968 in eight games (seven of them multi-hit affairs) since returning from a three-day vacation to rest a sore calf. With an 11-4 run, the Sox claim a share of second place in the AL Central while rising above .500 for the first time since May 2.

14


Giants
42-35
3-3
.504
Up
Sixty Million Dollar Man Good For Something: With five wins in seven games, the Giants close out a 17-10 month that (temporarily) pulls them to within six games of the NL West lead, the closest they've been since May 17. Not coincidentally, it was right around that time that manager Bruce Bochy stuck the much-maligned Aaron Rowand in the leadoff spot. The Giants' scoring has increased by a quarter of a run per game with Rowand batting first; he's hitting .338/.385/.545 in that spot, compared to .230/.303/.322 from the other leadoff hitters.

15


Brewers
42-36
4-2
.504
Up
Big Bats: Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun combine to hit .415/.467/755 with 10 extra-base hits over a six-game stretch that pushes the Brewers back into first place in the NL Central. The duo rank third and sixth in the league in EqA, and their timely hits help support rotation patches Seth McClung and Mike Burns, the latter of whom earns his first big-league win just two weeks shy of his 31st birthday.

16


Phillies
39-36
2-3
.496
Down
Happ-y Days Are Here Again: J.A. Happ's five-hit shutout halts a 1-9 slide, enabling the Phillies to maintain their shaky hold on first place in the NL East. He's put up a 3.25 ERA and a .641 Support-Neutral Winning Percentage in seven starts since joining the rotation. Meanwhile, Charlie Manuel benches Jimmy Rollins in an attempt to shake him out of his slump, but he's 0-for-8 since returning, and now hitting just .205/.250/.319.

17


Mariners
39-38
2-3
.494
Down
Adrian Beltre's RBI single against his former team in his final game before undergoing shoulder surgery helps the Mariners take two out of three against the Dodgers in LA. The win caps a 9-3 run that's got them back in contention in the AL West. Beltre hit .319/.347/.468 in June, and he wasn't the only Mariner to close the Dodger series on a roll: Felix Hernandez is 4-0 with a 0.85 ERA and 8.7 K/9 over his last seven starts, and now ranks fourth in the league in SNLVAR.

18


Braves
37-40
3-2
.492
Up
Hanson or Bust: Tommy Hanson overcomes a bout of the flu to extend his scoreless innings streak to 20 innings as he shuts down the Red Sox (6 2 0 0 2 2), having done the same to the Yankees five days earlier. Hanson's not getting much help from his teammates; while Braves have won all five of his starts and supported him with 5.6 runs per game, they're just 5-12 with their other starters in that span, wasting their combined 3.88 ERA by averaging just 3.4 runs of support.

19


Cubs
37-38
3-3
.492
Down
The Blow Up: Lou Piniella and Milton Bradley clash, with the manager pulling his slumping right fielder and sending him home after the latter attacks a water cooler during the opener of their Windy City series with the White Sox. While Smokin' Geo Soto's three-run homer pushes them to victory following the confrontation, the Cubs drop the series and end the month 11-14, having scored three runs or less in 13 of those 25 games. Bradley's hitting just .242/.355/.379, including .194/.329/.323 from the left side.

20


Marlins
41-39
3-3
.480
Flat
A 10-game tear by Hanley Ramirez (.450/500/.950) enables the Marlins to overcome a sweep by their cross-state rivals and continue to push the Phillies for the NL East lead. Ramirez has driven in a run in each of those 10 games, and has 24 RBI and five homers during that streak. He now leads the NL with a .348 batting average while ranking in the top 10 in both OBP (.413) and SLG (.572).

21


Pirates
36-42
3-3
.477
Flat
"When do things start turning around?" asks Jack Wilson, frustrated by the Pirates' latest wave of trades, which see Eric Hinske, Nyjer Morgan, and Sean Burnett depart in favor of Lastings Milledge, Joel Hanrahan and prospects. The answer, of course, is when Wilson's three-year, $20.2 million deal, which has averaged nearly 15 percent of the team's Opening Day payrolls expires at the end of this year; according to MORP, he's been worth just over half that salary.

22


Reds
38-38
3-2
.474
Up
Winning Ugly: Recalled from the minors for the second time this year, Homer Bailey grinds out five messy innings (5 3 3 3 7 2) against the Indians for his first win of 2009. He's allowed six hits in 9 1/3 innings across two starts, but his 5/13 K/BB ratio suggests he's living on borrowed time. In any event, pitching isn't as big a problem as hitting for the Reds, but with the end of Willy Taveras' epic skid and the return of Joey Votto, the team's hitting .299/.342/.453 and averaging 4.5 runs per game over the past week.

23


Astros
37-39
4-2
.462
Up
Toss Backe: Thanks to a 16-11 month, the Astros climb to within a game of third place in the NL Central. Felipe Paulino tames the Tigers (7 3 1 1 0 9) in his first start back from the DL, prompting the team to demote Brandon Backe, who opts for free agency instead. Despite a hefty 5.51 ERA, Paulino offers far more upside with his mid-90s heat than the slop-tossing Backe. Since the beginning of last year, the latter has put up a 6.36 ERA while allowing 2.1 homers per nine, the majors' highest rate among pitchers with at least 150 innings.

24


Royals
33-44
2-4
.449
Flat
The Royals continue on the road to nowhere, but their bus will have one less passenger, as Mike Aviles will undergo Tommy John surgery, ending his season. After coming out of nowhere as a 27-year-old rookie last year, Aviles hit just .183/.208/.250 before going on the DL five weeks ago, the latest data point in the team's disturbing trend in injury mismanagement. At least the Royals' front office can take pride that the combined .196/.225/.251 performance of Aviles, Willie Bloomquist, Luis Hernandez, and Tony Peņa Jr. constitutes the major leagues' most gaping vortex of suck at any position besides pitcher, and hey, their OPS is still 65 points better than any NL club's pitching staff's hitting, so nyah!.

25


Diamondbacks
31-47
1-4
.446
Down
Brandon Who? Dan Haren halts the Diamondbacks' five-game losing streak with a gem (7 4 1 1 1 9) against the Reds. It's the seventh straight start in which Haren's allowed two runs or less; he leads the league in SNLVAR (4.7) as well as ERA (2.19) and WHIP (0.84). Meanwhile, the team gets a rare spot of good news, as Brandon Webb won't need shoulder surgery and will aim for a September return.

26


Athletics
33-44
2-4
.444
Flat
Cust-ration: Losers of seven out of nine, 14 out of 20, and the services of Josh Outman for the next year, the A's make a change to their anemic lineup by dropping Jack Cust to eighth in the order and recalling Travis Buck. Cust is hitting just .224/.316/.407 after a .173/.248/.388 June, and his walk rate has dropped 60 percent from last year.

27


Orioles
35-43
3-3
.440
Flat
The Orioles come back from a nine-run deficit-the largest since they moved to Baltimore-to shock the Red Sox, but it's all they can do to avoid a sweep. The O's are just 11-18 with a -35 run differential and a .393 Pythagorean winning percentage against their division mates, but a peek under the hood at their 24-25 interdivisional record suggests they've still got a ways to go. They're 13-18 with a -33 run differential and a .387 Pythagorean winning percentage against other AL teams, and 11-7 with a +15 run differential and a .587 Pythagorean against the NL East, which has the worst interdivisional record of any division right now.

28


Indians
31-49
1-5
.437
Down
Losing Losers Who Always Lose: Mired in another miserable week, the Indians stretch their streak of futility to 12 losses in 14 games, and they begin their annual exercise of retooling by shipping Mark DeRosa to St. Louis in exchange for reliever Chris Perez. Carl Pavano, who halts his string of three straight disasterpieces, may be next out the door. While his 5.56 ERA is ugly, Pavano's 3.80 FIP and 3.83 QERA both suggest he's a better pitcher than that, if not somebody you'd actually bet on showing up for work regularly for any length of time.

29


Padres
34-43
3-3
.413
Up
Chad Gaudin's eight innings of one-hit ball against the Rangers give the Padres their first series victory in over a month. Though he's carrying a 4.97 ERA, Gaudin's been rolling lately, with a 2.14 ERA and 28/5 K/BB ratio over his last 21 innings. Meanwhile, Adrian Gonzalez strains his knee sliding into second base, but returns to the lineup the next day. That's a good thing for schedule completists, because with the rest of the offense hitting .232/.298/.355, they may as well skip the formality of showing up for work.

30


Nationals
22-54
1-5
.380
Down
After a season-high four-game winning streak, the Nats return to their senses and their losing ways, dropping eight of 10. They rid themselves of big, mean Lastings Milledge, last seen hitting a disinterested .253/.277/.316 in Triple-A, and get back an outfielder with far less upside-but a cooler nickname, "Tony Plush"-in Nyjer Morgan. They also ditch Joel Hanrahan, whose 7.99 Fair Run Average and -0.6 WXRL have done their part to put the Nationals in the running for the worst bullpen ever.


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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