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September 4, 2009

Prospectus Hit List

Hit Parade

by Jay Jaffe

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As Jay had to catch a plane, today's Hit List was filed before all of yesterday's action was completed.
RkTeam
Overall W-L
Week W-L
Comment

1


Yankees
85-48
6-0
.621
Up
And the Hits Keep Coming: As Derek Jeter closes in on Lou Gehrig for the all-time Yankees hit record-more than Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Don Mattingly, Bernie Williams, et al-Alex Rodriguez's big night (5 1 3 4) pushes him past the 2,500-hit mark. Since the late-June benching which forced the Yankees to build rest stops into his routine, Rodriguez is hitting .310/.421/.531, including a searing .359 BABIP, compared to .192 prior. The Yankees are now 72-33 while scoring 5.8 runs per game since his return from hip surgery.

2


Dodgers
79-55
3-3
.606
Down
Kempt: Matt Kemp bashes five homers in a six-game span, four of them in wins, one of which comes via his 12th-inning sacrifice fly and another of which is followed by his manufactured run-bunt single, steal, two-base error drawn by tagging up. He's hitting .314/.372/.521 with 23 homers and 29 steals. Meanwhile, belt-and-suspenders GM Ned Colletti arms the team for the postseason with a flurry of waiver deadline deals to acquire Ronnie Belliard, Jon Garland, and Jim Thome, the latter of whom will apparently be limited to pinch-hitting-and hopefully DHing-duty because he's got just 28 innings in the field since 2005.

3


Rays
72-60
3-3
.571
Down
Rays the White Flag? Last year's darlings appear to be looking towards next year, as the Rays trade Scott Kazmir-whose .451 SNWP and 5.92 ERA are a big reason they find themselves in this state-to the Angels for a three-player package. Meanwhile, the team's Playoff Odds are plummeting into single-digit territory at an alarming pace accelerated by their series-opening loss to the Red Sox.

4


Red Sox
77-55
4-1
.571
Up
A Byrd in the Hand: Paul Byrd tosses six shutout innings in his first outing of the season, a well-timed showing given Tim Wakefield's cascade and Daisuke Matsuzaka's slow progress. The bigger concern for the Bosox is the recent performance of Josh Beckett-12 homers (!) and 24 earned runs over his last 24 1/3 innings-one which pitching coach John Farrell says has both mechanical and mental explanations. As a unit, the Sox rotation is still delivering a Support-Neutral Winning Percentage of just .499, seventh in the league, and sandwiched between their two AL East rivals.

5


Phillies
76-54
3-2
.560
Flat
Old King Cole: Cole Hamels spins a two-hit shutout against the Giants, stealing a base to boot. It's Hamels' second scoreless outing in a row following a four-start stretch in which he was battered for a 6.75 ERA; at 4.26, his ERA is now lower than it's been all year. Elsewhere, Ryan Howard's two-homer night helps the Phillies get the upper hand in their series opener with Braves and gives the big slugger five dingers (not to mention 12 RBI) in as many days. Howard's 37 homers ranks third in the league, his .570 slugging fourth.

6


Cardinals
79-55
5-0
.558
Up
Having already opened up a can of Whoop Ass on the rest of the league by winning 20 out of 24, the Cardinals become the first team of the year to open up a double-digit lead in their division. John Smoltz continues to kick sand in the faces of the league's 98-pound weaklings, stifling the Nationals (6 4 1 1 1 6), while Matt Holliday pounds three homers, two of them decisive three-run blasts. Holliday's hitting .317/.431/.689 with nine homers since arriving, a performance that could price him out of the Cards' range when he reaches free agency this winter.

7


Rockies
74-59
2-3
.557
Flat
Never Catch a Falling Knife: That's advice that Carlos Gonzalez apparently failed to learn in practice if not theory, but even with stitches, he helps the Rockies snap a five-game losing streak-including three in a row to the Giants-which knocks the Rox into a tie for the Wild Card. Gonzalez and Todd Helton both homer to wake the dormant offense by piling seven runs-one less than they'd scored in their previous three games-on the plate of the Mets' Mike Pelfrey. After hitting just .242/.273/.361 in half a season with the A's last year, the 23-year-old CarGo's batting .293/.362/.538 with nine homers in 206 PA.

8


Rangers
75-58
4-3
.549
Flat
Ranger Danger: A 7-4 run helps the Rangers pull to within 3 games of the AL West lead, their closest margin since August 9, and pushes their Playoff Odds above 35 percent. Alas, the team loses Michael Young to a hamstring strain that could cost him two weeks or more. Young's hitting .322/.376/.524-the last mark a career high-with 22 homers; his .301 EqA leads the team and cracks the league and positional leaderboards. But wait, there's more, as Josh Hamilton leaves mid-game with lower back pain one night after matching his combined July-August home run total with a pair against the Blue Jays.

9


Angels
78-54
3-3
.548
Up
Not content to go into the stretch run with a rotation that ranks 12th in the league in SNLVAR, the Angels trade three players for the Rays' Scott Kazmir, banking that his 4.68 ERA (and 4.08 FIP) since coming back from the DL in late June will upgrade a rotation where Ervin Santana (5.68 ERA, .433 SNWP) and Joe Saunders (5.02 ERA, .487 SNWP) have done more harm than good. Kazmir pitches well in his debut (6.1 3 2 1 1 8), delivering his sixth quality start out of seven, but has the bad fortune of showing up on an night where the Hammerin' Halos can do no damage against Felix Hernandez.

10


Braves
70-63
3-3
.543
Flat
Welcome Back: Tim Hudson waits out a rain delay and pitches well in his return from Tommy John surgery for his first win since July 23, 2008. Hudson's arrival strengthens a staff that's already second in the league in SNLVAR; the team may use a six-man rotation down the stretch to limit the innings of Tommy Hanson and Ken Kawakami, or might remove the latter.

11


Giants
73-60
4-1
.526
Up
Rent-A-Wreck Gets Good Mileage, For Once: Hitting just .262/.319/.332 coming into the game, the much-maligned Edgar Renteria goes 3-for-4 with five RBI, including a game-breaking grand slam to cap the Giants' three-game sweep of the Rockies and move them back into a tie for the Wild Card. The team's fortunes take an even more surprising turn when Brad Penny signs as a free agent, still steamed at the Dodgers for not picking up his $9.5 million option in the manner that only a man with a 5.61 ERA and a neck circumference twice that of his cranium can be. Naturally, he tosses eight shutout innings against the Phillies in his debut.

12


Cubs
67-64
4-2
.515
Up
Sori Shape: Alfonso Soriano's three-run homer carries the Cubs past the Mets, but all is not well with the team's left fielder. His first homer in 29 days-a span during which he hit .173/.227/.247, following a promising start to the second half-is followed by a cortisone shot to the knee, and the possibility of surgery looms. Not that the Cubs will miss him given that they face a double-digit deficit in the NL Central, and their Playoff Odds are down below three percent.

13


Tigers
71-61
4-2
.508
Up
Wash Out: Jarrod Washburn is rocked for eight runs by the Rays, then is scratched from a start due to knee pain. Washburn's been pummeled for a 6.81 ERA while making just two quality starts out of six as a Tiger, and he's yielded as many homers in those 37 innings (11) than he did in 133 frames with the Mariners.

14


Twins
67-66
4-2
.507
Up
A 7-2 run carries the Twins back across the .500 mark, but their Playoff Odds remain around 20 percent. Justin Morneau is in a 4-for-37 slump in the wake of an inner ear infection, and while Joe Mauer continues to hit (.391/.449/.652 in August), he's facing a steep uphill battle in the MVP race.

15


Marlins
69-64
2-4
.504
Down
Beaten With an Uggla Stick? Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla exchange verbal fisticuffs over Ramirez removing himself from a game due to a hamstring injury amid an 0-for-14 slump while the team is caught in a 1-5 tailspin. Never mind the lack of effort Ramirez had shown over the previous four weeks, hitting a mere .441/.496/.608. Even after rebounding from that war of words with a win, the Marlins' Playoff Odds are approaching two percent.

16


Blue Jays
59-73
1-6
.495
Down
Losers of 14 out of 18, the Jays are taking their lumps these days. The rotation is looking particularly threadbare, producing a 6.61 ERA over that timespan, and even the Doctor is no help; Roy Halladay's been rocked for 17 runs in his 17 1/3 innings during that span, and he's at 4.71 with eight homers allowed in 42 innings since the July 31 trading deadline.

17


White Sox
65-69
1-5
.493
Down
White Flag? With Jake Peavy still sidelined and the Sox having lost eight out of nine, Kenny Williams trades Jim Thome and Jose Contreras for a whole lot of nothing. The potentially Cooperstown-bound slugger's .295 EqA was tops on the team, but even in an understocked rotation, Contreras had long since moved from the solution side of the ledger to the problem side, allowing 42 runs (32 earned) in 41 1/3 innings since the All-Star break.

18


Mariners
70-64
4-2
.493
Flat
A Jack to King Zack? Felix Hernandez spoils Scott Kazmir's debut by tossing eight shutout innings against the Angels. He's put up a 2.66 ERA in three starts against the majors' highest-scoring team, and he now ranks second in the league in ERA (2.65), third in wins (14) and fourth in strikeouts (185). Even so, those accomplishment still leave him 0.7 SNLVAR behind Zack Greinke.

19


Diamondbacks
61-73
5-1
.490
Up
Streaking Snakes: The Diamondbacks finally show some life, tying their season high with five wins in a row; they're now 23-22 since the All-Star break. Leading the way is Justin Upton, who homers in three straight victories; he's 15-for-34 with 30 total bases since returning from the DL. Meanwhile, Mark Reynolds hits his 40th homer, joining Luis Gonzalez as the only Diamondback to reach that plateau on a night when the latter's retirement and move into the front office is honored.

20


Indians
58-74
1-4
.471
Down
Remembrance of Sell-offs Past: The centerpiece of the Cliff Lee deal, Carlos Carrasco, makes his major league debut and is promptly mauled by the Tigers (3 9 6 6 3 3). In the same game, the PTBNL of the CC Sabathia deal, Michael Brantley, makes his own debut and goes 2-for-4; the centerpiece of that same deal, Matt LaPorta, continues to rake since being recalled, going 17-for-47 (including a 4-for-4 night) with a pair of homers. Also continuing to show signs of life: Andy Marte, with four homers in seven games.

21


Brewers
64-68
3-2
.468
Flat
Having committed $42 million to a pitcher who is nearing the three-quarters mark of his contract has given them a 4.88 ERA and a .451 SNWP, the Brewers throw more money away by holding a bobblehead night in Jeff Suppan's honor. That may explain why GM Doug Melvin kept Trevor Hoffman and Mike Cameron past the waiver deadline, as somebody's got to help him unload that glut of dolls before they become among eBay's least desired items. For his part, Suppan rises to the occasion on his special night and beats the Pirates for his first win since June 12, a span during which he put up a 6.70 ERA while providing three quality starts out of nine when he wasn't on the DL.

22


Athletics
59-74
3-3
.460
Flat
Home Sweet Homer: Trevor Cahill sets a not-so-enviable record by yielding his 20th homer of the year at the Coliseum on the way to an ugly win over the Royals. Despite the gopher troubles, Cahill has put up a 4.47 ERA at home because he's throwing strikes; his 55/32 K/BB ratio in 100 2/3 innings at home contrasts dramatically with a 4.99 ERA, 24/32 K/BB ratio and six homers allowed in 57 2/3 innings on the road.

23


Mets
59-74
1-4
.453
Down
Helmet Boy: David Wright returns from a DL stint caused by a concussion wearing one of the controversial new batting helmets and goes 1-for-3 while looking ridiculous. At least the laughs provide a break from the news from the operating room and the rumors that owner Fred Wilpon may have to sell because somebody Madoff with his fortune (sorry).

24


Astros
63-70
1-5
.442
Down
To employ the tireless space meme at the Astros' expense-literally because I've got a plane to catch-we called in NASA to direct the Hubbell Telescope to visualize the team's distant Playoff Odds amid their latest 2-7 slide and the verdict is in: less than one in 55,555. The team is scoring just 3.0 runs per game during this slump, but don't blame Michael Bourne, whose streak of getting on base in 25 straight games ends only when he's limited to pinch-hit duty; he hit .337/.409/.449 during that span.

25


Reds
60-73
5-2
.428
Up
Homer Bailey tosses eight shutout innings against Chad Billingsley and the Dodgers. It's the best start of Bailey's career; through 30 turns, his ERA stands at an astronomical 6.41, but he's riding a career-best streak of three straight quality starts. The Reds are riding a nice streak of their own, winning four in a row and nine of 11. In completely unrelated news, Willy Taveras is still safely tucked away on the disabled list.

26


Padres
59-76
5-1
.425
Up
Blanks Out (For Real): Kyle Blanks hits a go-ahead homer but departs due to plantar fasciitis, costing the Padres one of their top power sources. He's hit .250/.355/.514 with 10 homers, all of them since the All-Star break, which is tied with Adrian Gonzalez for the team high. Third on the club in that span with eight homers is Will Venable, a 26-year-old rookie who's quietly put up a nice .275/.342/.469 showing since being recalled in June.

27


Orioles
54-80
2-4
.421
Down
A Bigger Slice of Pie: Felix Pie bashes four homers in a five-game span, three of which help power the Orioles to victories over the Twins and Indians. Pie's now got six homers since August 14 and is hitting a respectable .270/.332/.466 overall; he'll see plenty of time over the remainder of the season because a severe ankle sprain could shelve Adam Jones for the year. While that's certainly a drag, the O's can take solace that between Jones, Pie, Nick Markakis, Nolan Reimold, Luke Scott, and friends, their outfield ranks third in the league in OPS, and Scott's the only one of that bunch who's past his age-25 season.

28


Pirates
53-79
0-7
.410
Down
Bad Bucs Chuck and Duck: While the Pirates can fairly point to the mid-season trades which have cost them some of their steadier run producers, their latest seven-game losing streak, and their 9-21 record since July 31, has plenty to do with pitching. The staff has been hit for a 5.46 ERA over the past five weeks, compared to a 4.31 mark prior, and their homers per nine have risen from 0.9 to 1.3 across that split. New acquisitions Kevin Hart (6.04 ERA) and Charlie Morton (7.67) have been dreadful in that span, though Zach Duke (5.55) hasn't held up his end of the deal, and as for the bullpen (5.77), it's best not spoken of in polite company-or even here.

29


Nationals
46-88
0-6
.407
Down
Running the Table: The Nats post a winless week, one in which they score just nine runs in six games. The departures of Nick Johnson and Ronnie Belliard and the season-ending injury have reduced the team's offense to two hot hitters, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn (.352/.438/.657 and .286/.440/.622 with a combined 16 homers since July 31, respectively), and a bunch of guys combining to hit .243/.300/.360 in that timespan, ponying up just 16 more homers between them.

30


Royals
51-82
2-4
.404
Flat
Moore of the Same: Perhaps concerned that the architect of a team that's produced a .429 winning percentage on his watch might suddenly be in hot demand, the Royals extend Dayton Moore's contract-which already ran through 2011-all the way through the 2014 season. While the team's farm system has improved, numerous player acquisition gaffes (Jose Guillen, Willie Bloomquist, Yuniesky Betancourt, Mike Jacobs), injury mismanagement, PR flubs, and a general failure to think outside the box have been the dominant themes of his tenure. In unrelated news, the aforementioned players are hitting a combined .237/.294/.373 while sucking up 25 percent of the team's plate appearances, a big reason why the team is now dead last in the majors with a .241 EqA.


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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