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I want to thank my readers for the responses to last week’s piece, “Prospectus Hit List: A Brief History.” As I suspected, the topic drew an enthusiastic reception, and people both commented intelligently and suggested several further lines of inquiry. As a couple readers pointed out, my claim that the #1 or #2 team won the World Series about 70 percent of the time had much to do with the era and playoff format; lumping in the winner-take-all pennant era from 1901-1968 with the Divisional and Wild Card eras obscured a few facts. I’ll delve into that more closely in a follow up piece sometime soon. Also, I neglected to thank Peter Quadrino for his timely research assistance on that piece. As always, Pete, thanks a ton!

Rk Team
Overall W-L
Week W-L
Hit List Factor
Trend
Comment

1


Yankees
85-56
4-2
.607
Flat
Randy Johnson takes a no-hitter into the seventh inning on the same night Anibal Sanchez becomes the first pitcher in 841 days–dating back to Johnson’s perfect game on May 18, 2004–to throw a no-hitter. It’s the third time this year the Unit has gone at least five without surrendering a hit. Since the All-Star break, he’s yielded a 4.17 ERA, down nearly a run from his first-half mark of 5.13, but he’s yielded the mantle of staff ace to Chien-Ming Wang, who’s sixth in the AL in SNLVAR (5.1). Johnson is fourth on the staff (2.8) trailing Mike Mussina (4.2) and even Jaret Wright (3.2). But if there’s a major concern for a team 11 ahead in the loss column, it’s not the rotation, it’s the health of Mariano Rivera, who’s sidelined by an elbow strain for at least another week.

2


Tigers
86-58
2-5
.588
Down
Schmotown: the Tigers’ lead dwindles to two games after Detroit loses three out of four to the Twins. They’re now on a 10-22 skid, 7-13 since Placido Polanco went down and Neifi Perez blew in on a Tornado of Suck that’s seen him hit .159/.213/.159; hell, we’d like the Tigers’ chances better playing Ivan Rodriguez at the keystone EVERY DAY. Curiously, the team–starved for lefty power–cuts bait on Dmitri Young despite his .292/.331/.504 line since returning from treatment for depression and alcohol abuse; GM Dave Dombrowski states the move is “strictly performance-related,” but the word in the locker room is the big C. On the hill, Justin Verlander looks rejuvenated, having allowed just one run in 14 IP over his last two starts, but Jeremy Bombed Again, er, Bonderman, has hit the wall, yielding 21 earned runs and 43 hits in his past 26 innings (five starts), and he hasn’t notched a W since July 24. As for Mike Maroth, despite his return from a three-month absence due to bone-chip surgery, there are lingering concerns about the state of his elbow that may keep him in the bullpen.

3


Mets
88-54
4-3
.585
Flat
With their magic number down to four, it’s all about the October tune-ups these days for the Mets, and on that note Orlando Hernandez looks ready after shutting down the Dodgers; he’s allowed just two runs in his past 18.1 innings and has yielded more than three only once in his past seven starts (though he got hung for 11 in the exception). El Duque’s now third on the staff in SNLVAR (2.6). Meanwhile, ace Pedro Martinez is slated to return from his calf strain this weekend, while Cliff Floyd and his various physical and emotional ailments are facing put up or shut up time. Floyd’s endured a season from Hell (.237/.318/.402, -1.3 VORP, Achilles, calf, and kidney problems, plus the recent death of his sister) while Endy Chavez has played out of his gourd (.309/.348/.445, 13.6 VORP)–90th percentile PECOTA territory.

4


Twins
83-59
5-2
.565
Up
It Is, As They Say, “On”: Johan Santana whiffs 11 Tigers and yields just two hits, helping the Twins to take three out of four in a key series that closes the AL Central gap to two games while widening Minny’s Wild Card lead to 1.5; their Postseason Odds now stand at 77.7 percent. Santana leads the majors in VORP (74.6), SNLVAR (7.9), wins (18), strikeouts (230) and ERA (2.75). Plus he’s in Smooth Jimmy Apollo‘s Lock of the Week territory at the Hefty Bag: the Twins are 22-0 in his home starts since Aug. 6, 2005. More good news: Francisco Liriano is activated and should start later this week.

5


White Sox
82-61
3-4
.560
Down
Stinky Sox: over the past four weeks, Ozzie Guillen‘s crew is just 12-15, and they’ve won just one series out of eight, that against the Devil Rays. They’re now in an unfamiliar place–third–1.5 back in the Wild Card and with a 25.0 percent chance of making the postseason. There’s plenty to be concerned about here, particularly in the bullpen. Closer Bobby Jenks blows two saves in a row (though A.J. Pierzynski picks him up in the latter); while he’s ninth in the AL in WXRL (3.751), he’s dealing with a sore hip and weight issues. Setup man Brandon McCarthy has been getting tagged; his line for his last five appearances is downright ugly (2.2 IP, 9 H, 9 ER, 3 L, including Sunday). Meanwhile, third baseman Joe Crede misses three games due to more back trouble and may face off-season surgery.

6


Indians
68-72
3-2
.541
Up
Tough Break: a fracture in his right hand–the result of being hit by a pitch–will cost Travis Hafner the rest of the season. Pronk was doing nothing less than leading all major-league hitters in VORP (77.4) and running second in MLVr (0.512) thanks to a .308/.439/.659/42 HR performance that also included a record-tying six grand slams. Nonetheless, the Tribe is showing progress late in this nightmarish season; they’re 21-10 since August 8, Ryan Garko is hitting .315/.391/.523 and they most notably appear to have found a closer in Tom Mastny, though his WXRL of 0.179 is remarkable only in the context of a 29th-ranked team total of -1.830.

7


77-66
5-1
.537
Up
The Halos refuse to go gentle into that good night, winning eight out of 10 to knock their Postseason Odds back into double digits. As usual, it’s the rookies coming up big. Jered Weaver combines to blank Baltimore then escapes a jam against the Jays; he’s third among rookie pitchers in VORP (40.6). Joe Saunders tosses his second good outing in a row, while Mike Napoli socks a pair of big homers against Toronto. Meanwhile, grizzled 24-year-old vet Francisco Rodriguez is riding a 28.1-inning scoreless streak; he’s taken over the AL lead in Reliever Expected Wins Added (6.489), a category he topped last year (5.619).

8


Dodgers
76-67
3-4
.535
Down
The rollercoaster ride continues for the Dodgers, as the three-game lead they held through September 3 is shaved down to one, then padded slightly. Chad Billingsley‘s oblique strain and Mark Hendrickson‘s terminal case of Obviously I’m a Schlub With a Career ERA Above Five disease force Grady Little to juggle his rotation, and luckily, a pair of rookies making their first big-league starts step up. Converted reliever Hong Chi Kuo tosses six blanks on Taiwan Night at Shea, while Eric Stults limits the Mets to two hits and one run over six. As for Little’s juggling, what’s with the kidgloves treatment for Greg Maddux? The Smartest Pitcher Et Cetera has gone beyond 81 pitches just once in eight starts for L.A., and this past week he’s watched middle relievers allow four out of his five bequeathed baserunners to score. Between a scrapping Maddux and a fresh Giovanni Carrara, we’ll take the dude bound for a bronze plaque in Cooperstown in a jam even if he’s on pitch 228…

9


Athletics
82-60
3-3
.535
Flat
A mixed bag for the A’s as they keep the AL West door open, albeit narrowly, for the Angels. On the plus side, Frank Thomas jacks homers in five straight games; he’s got seven this month and 35 on the year, more than he had in the previous two seasons combined. Huston Street is back in action, and Rich Harden is soon to return–as a starter, not a reliever as previously reported. On the negative side, Mark Kotsay‘s back problems have sent him home to Oakland, and after a five-start stretch in which he allowed just two earned runs in 38.2 innings, Esteban Loaiza has returned to earth.

10


Blue Jays
74-69
3-3
.534
Down
Despite all the drama, the spending, and the double-digit deficit in the AL East standings, Jays owner Ted Rogers still thinks GM J.P. Ricciardi is “a brilliant manager.” Perhaps some of that brilliance is lost in the translation from Canadian, eh? More to the point, Rogers’ willingness to increase payroll may be a sign that Vernon Wells (.309/.362/.558, 56.3 VORP) can back up the Brinks truck and sign a long-term extension. On the field, it’s a blah week for the Jays, who manage just 15 runs on the week, yet split their slate thanks to good pitching; notably, Gustavo Chacin has yielded just two earned runs over his past three starts (18.1 IP).

11


Rangers
73-71
3-3
.524
Flat
Couple of Tossers: owner Tom Hicks throws Buck Showalter and Michael Young under the bus, citing the team’s lack of toughness and leadership in a radio interview. Meanwhile, reliever Frank Francisco, who infamously threw a chair at a fan, breaking her nose, returns to the majors after a nearly two-year absence. He’s undergone Tommy John surgery and anger management classes since then, though there’s absolutely no truth to the rumor that his rehab included a stint as a pro wrestler.

12


Padres
74-68
4-2
.522
Up
Despite dropping a series to the Giants, the Padres close the gap on the Dodgers while widening their own Wild Card lead, bumping their Postseason Odds from 48.6 to 63.1 percent in the space of a week. Rookie Cla Meredith is riding a 32-inning scoring streak while causing no small amount of remorse up in Boston. That hasty return-to-sender deal for Doug Mirabelli didn’t look so hot at the time, but it’s gone decidedly in the Pods’ favor: Meredith (23.1 VORP), Josh Bard (22.0) and Mirabelli (-1.2) on the San Diego side of the ledger, Mark Loretta (15.5) and Mirabelli (-6.8) on the Boston side. Additionally, Meredith’s 3.054 WXRL make him one of three Padre relievers in the NL’s top 10 and a big reason why the team is second in the NL in that category (12.749).

13


Red Sox
75-67
2-3
.512
Down
Dead Team Walking: the Sox drop two out of three to the Royals, thereby dumping their season series against the worst team in baseball; Boston’s just 13-26 since July 31 and now eight games out of the Wild Card, their playoff chances are below the legal Blood Alcohol Content limit in all 50 states. As you’d expect, the second-guessing is in full bloom, particularly in a week that’s seen former prospects flourish: Anibal Sanchez tosses a no-hitter, Cla Meredith extends his scoreless streak to 32 innings, and Freddy Sanchez continues to lead the NL in AVG (.340). On the positive side, Kason Gabbard tosses a gem, David Ortiz reaches a new career high with 48 homers (and a new low in politicking for MVP), the Sox cut bait on Javy Lopez after just 18 games (.190/.215/.270), and Nate Silver suggests that Boston made the right call on Jonathan Papelbon‘s role.

14


Phillies
72-71
3-3
.501
Flat
Ryan Howard continues to crush a lot, hammering 13 homers in his past 18 games to up his MLB-leading total to 56; he’s hitting .492/.605/1.197 in that span and has overtaken Albert Pujols for the NL lead in VORP (74.0). More importantly, the Phils remain in the Wild Card hunt, though a pair of losses to the Marlins on Saturday and Sunday leave the two NL East teams stuck behind the Padres and Giants, and at this point, Philly’s chances are just 14.0 percent. Aside from a 14-run outburst the Phils don’t manage more than three runs in any game this week. The pitching gets a boost with the return of Tom Gordon from a four-week absence due to a shoulder strain, but they may have lost Arthur Rhodes for the season with an elbow strain.

15


Giants
72-71
4-2
.500
Flat
Creeping Up: the Giants climb back into the Wild Card hunt on the strength of a few old men. Forty-two-year-old Barry Bonds is hitting .312/.439/.667 since August 1, and with seven homers in his last 15 games; the Giant question will be decided after the season, says owner Peter McGowan. Thirty-nine-year-old Mike Stanton has taken up closer duties; he hasn’t allowed a run since August 24, has allowed just four hits over his last eight appearances, and leads the team in WXRL (1.604) despite not debuting as a Giant until July 30. And Ray Durham (34) is hitting .352/.402/.628 in the second half and has set a new career high in homers (23). His 45.6 VORP is tops on the team and second among NL second basemen. At the other end of the age spectrum, 21-year-old Matt Cain–#12 on our Top 50 Prospect List–has a 1.90 ERA and 59 Ks in 52 innings since August 1. Whew.

16


Astros
70-72
3-2
.498
Up
Just when it looked as though the Astros had bottomed out completely, a 10-4 run has them back where they’ve spent most of the season: just out of reach of true real Wild Card contention. Seriously, don’t be fooled, even when their Postseason Odds give them a relatively robust 12.8 percent shot. This team hasn’t had its third-order winning percentage above .500 since mid-May, they’ve got five teams ahead of them in the race, and Roger Clemens missed his last start due to his annual groin pull. Hmmmm, that sounds like some kind of fall ritual: “Welcome to the Fall Harvest Celebration and Annual Groin Pull. Join us for the pumpkin carving and free cider…”

17


Cardinals
75-67
2-5
.496
Down
Though the Cardinals appear to have the NL Central in hand–their chances of winning the division stand at 83.6 percent–things are hardly ducky here, especially after the Redbirds tally just one run and five hits over a two-game span in Arizona. The Cards are just 27-28 since the All-Star break, Jim Edmonds and David Eckstein remain sidelined, Mark Mulder isheaded for shoulder surgery, and now Jason Isringhausen may be out for the season due to problems in his arthritic left hip. That might actually help their cause given that Izzy has blown 10 saves and that his Reliever Expected Wins Added total (1.069) trails the two men who could replace him, Adam Wainwright (2.687) and Braden Looper (2.282), though the snickering from Mets fans if the latter gets a shot might be downright deafening.

18


Braves
69-73
4-2
.495
Up
Like the Astros, here’s another team that’s spent plenty of time keeping the Grim Reaper away from its door; the Braves are 16-12 since August 9, but they’re running just seventh in the Wild Card race, and both Bobby Cox and Chipper Jones have all but conceded that the team’s 14-year run of playoff appearances will end. Nonetheless BP staff favorite Chuck James has emerged as the team’s most reliable starter this side of John Smoltz; he hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in any of his last seven starts, good for a 1.96 ERA over a 46-inning span. An extreme flyballer–his 28.3 GB% is fourth-lowest among pitchers with 50 IP–James has allowed just two HR during this run, as compared to 13 in his previous 49.2 IP. Meanwhile, Brian McCann is still 16 PA short of qualifying for the batting title; he’d be running fourth, and after homering in three consecutive games, he’s now hitting .332/.392/.554 for the season.

19


Marlins
72-71
4-3
.494
Flat
Anibal Sanchez tosses the majors’ first no-hitter since May 18, 2004, ending the longest no-no drought in history (6,364 games) and breaking the dreaded BP Chatter mailing list jinx, which has claimed at least 15 in that span (yes, I counted). Not to mention a few more hearts in Red Sox Nation; Sanchez (27.3) and Hanley Ramirez (44.9) have out-VORPed Josh Beckett (16.1) and Mike Lowell (17.1), a four-win difference. The Marlins continue to hang in the NL Wild Card race, though their chances have fallen into the single digits and are about half those of the Phillies, with whom they’re tied after splitting a four-game series at home.

20


Rockies
67-76
4-3
.492
Flat
The Rox sweep a season series for the first time in their history, going 8-0 versus the Nationals and outscoring them 78-41 while hitting .338/.426/.532. Leading the way are Matt Holliday (.486/.538/.857) and Garrett Atkins (.467/.538/.900). It’s a tough time to be a Rockies catcher. First, a roster crunch sends sub-Mendozoid Danny Ardoin to Baltimore (ouch) via waivers (double ouch) at the end of August so they can recall highly-touted 2004 pick Chris Iannetta. After hits in his first two games, Iannetta endures an 0-for-21 slump, though he snaps out with a go-ahead single against the Nats. Meanwhile, Yorvit Torrealba‘s season ends as it began: on the DL for a shoulder strain. All together, Rox backstops have hit just .216/.280/.345 this year with a combined VORP of -18.6.

21


Reds
71-72
3-3
.489
Up
The Reds right the ship after a 1-9 slide, but their Wild Card hopes have taken a severe hit, dropping from 59.6 percent on August 25 to 12.8 percent through Sunday. It’s Bronson Arroyo shouldering the load, shutting out the Giants on three hits and holding the Pirates to two runs over eight innings. Arroyo now leads the NL in SNLVAR (6.8) and is third in VORP (58.8); he also leads the majors in innings pitched (213.1). Meanwhile, the cadaver labs and cemetaries in Cincy are on red alert after the news that Eddie Guardado is done for the year; more palatable staff-filling alternatives than Jason Johnson (6.35 ERA this year) and Sun-Woo Kim (5.31 career) aren’t too hard to find… if you know where to look.

22


Mariners
67-74
3-2
.479
Up
Since halting the 11-game losing streak that will likely serve as this season’s epitaph, the Mariners are 12-6, playing out the string while harboring distant hopes of third place… oh, wouldn’t it be adequate? Felix Hernandez‘s season is winding down; to keep his innings count down, he’ll be skipped both this week and in the season’s final week. It’s been a rough season for the King, though he’s shown some improvement since the All-Star break: 4.90 ERA, 1.30 HR/9 before, 4.09 ERA, 0.77 HR/9 after. Overall, that’s a 4.60 ERA and a 17.5 VORP, good for only sixth on the staff.

23


Diamondbacks
68-75
4-3
.479
Up
Can I call a mulligan for last week, when I missed the opportunity to punctuate the Diamondbacks’ 2-12 slide and tout Joe Sheehan’s burial of them with the lead “Snakes on a Wane?” No? Not even if they sign Wayne Franklin, or uncover proof that Livan Hernandez is really a serial killer with a popular middle name? Sheesh, tough crowd… Anyway, Brandon Webb tosses a one-hitter at the Cardinals, while Tony Clark reasserts his ownership of Jorge Sosa (7-for-8, 5 HR) in a season where his OPS has plummeted 350 points.

24


Brewers
65-78
3-3
.452
Up
Their postseason chances are as flat as last week’s keg, but the Brewers nonetheless snap their 10-game losing streak against an all-time great pitching for a contender. David Bush has a big week, beating Greg Maddux, then tossing a shutout, his second of the year and the Brew Crew’s second of the week, at the Astros. Bush is second on the team in SNLVAR (4.1), and he’s sporting a tasty 4.28 K/BB ratio after striking out 10 while walking none.

25


Nationals
61-82
2-5
.437
Flat
Rocky Bottom: the Nats go a perfect 0-for-8 against Colorado for the season after dropping a four-game set in Coors in which their pitching is drubbed for 43 runs while yielding more than two baserunners per inning. It doesn’t particularly matter which pitchers’ park the Nats are in these days–they’re yielding 5.45 runs per game, worst in the NL. Since the All-Star break, the rotation has been particularly brutal, managing just a 5.95 ERA on 5.45 IP/GS; for the season, they’re third to last in SNLVAR at 11.7, and the bullpen can’t even live up to that, ranking second to last in WXRL (1.818). Anyway… a controversial defensive indifference ruling (who knew there could be such a thing?) is all that stands between Alfonso Soriano and the 40-40 club, though any excuse for Davey Lopes to remind us that he has the red ass over something so trivial is worth a chuckle.

26


Orioles
62-80
1-5
.437
Down
If You Can’t Say Something Nice…: searching for obvious signs of progress on the Oriole staff isn’t an easy task. They’re second to last in the AL in SNLVAR (12.2), and as a unit their second-half ERA (5.30) is indistinguishable from their first (5.29), albeit with slightly better peripherals: 6.78 K/9, 1.98 K/BB, 1.44 HR/9 to 6.12 K/9, 1.50 K/BB, 1.34 HR/9. Among starters, there are a some modest success stories. Erik Bedard‘s second-half ERA is one run better than his first half (from 4.28 to 3.27) and he’s allowed just three homers in 63.1 innings. Daniel Cabrera has shown improvement in his ERA (5.15 to 4.25) and especially his walk rate (7.84 to a still-high 4.68). Rodrigo Lopez‘s ERA has dropped by more than two runs (6.77 to 4.52), while his K/9 has risen (5.56 to 7.63) and his K/BB ratio has improved (from 1.97 to 3.38). And 22-year-old Adam Loewen (7.12 ERA to 4.40) has shown himself capable of contributing at the big-league level.

27


Cubs
56-87
1-6
.411
Down
Showing an aptitude for making what was already a lost season into a total nightmare–or maybe Neifi Perez really was the glue holding this team together after all–the Cubs have lost 18 out of 21 since August 19. Unlike their disappearance when Derrek Lee went down back in May, the offense hasn’t been completely inept in that span, scoring 4.33 runs per game (higher than their overall average of 4.25, at least) on .264/.312/.410 hitting. The pitching has been pretty lousy (5.38 R/G) and the defense hasn’t been much help (a .323 BAB IP and errors leading to 10 unearned runs, 0.45 per game) but on the whole, that performance projects to a .399 winning percentage, or 8.4 wins out of 21 games. As you’d expect, it’s the one-run contests which aren’t going the Cubs’ way; they’re 0-8 in such games during that span. With Carlos Zambrano possibly shut down for the rest of the year due to severe back spasms, things aren’t getting any easier on the North Side these days.

28


Pirates
58-86
4-3
.410
Flat
By winning eight out of their last 13, the Pirates are now above .500 since the All-Star break (28-26), but don’t start praising the team too loudly; they’ve been outscored 263-220 in that span, which projects to a Pythagorean winnnig percentage of .412. The staff has trimmed its RA from 5.27 to 4.87 since the break, but the offense has gone in the tank, scoring just 4.07 runs per game on .265/.328/.381 hitting, as compared to 4.57 runs per game on .266/.329/.416 (good thing they traded Craig Wilson for a sack of Shawn Chacon‘s laundry… with him inside it). We’re talking a serious power outage here; beyond Jason Bay (11 HR, .516 SLG) the best power numbers in the second half belong to Jeromy Burnitz (4 HR, .453 SLG in just 64 AB) and Xavier Nady (.456 SLG but just 2 HR in 136 AB, though his .404 OBP will do nicely). Weird.

29


Devil Rays
56-86
1-4
.400
Down
Reaching a realization that 29 other teams came to at least three years ago, the Devil Rays release Travis Lee. But whatever applause that move merits should be tempered by the realization that they allowed Lee to suck up 265 outs while hitting .224/.312/.364 and bleeding the team for 0.297 runs per game more than the average first baseman, the lowest Positional Marginal Value rate of any player with 300 PA. And you thought their league-lowest 4.29 runs per game was a fluke. Looking to the future instead of the past, Delmon Young continues to rake (.408/.423/.653) thanks to four multi-hit games for the week, but B.J. Upton is struggling at the plate (.252/.295/.278 ) and in the field (11 errors in 31 games, Rate2 of 85); the latter is apparently due to fundamentally bad footwork.

30


Royals
54-89
3-2
.389
Flat
The Royals clinch their season series with the Red Sox with a pair of six-run innings at the Bosox bullpen’s expense. KC is a relatively respectable 16-17 since August 6. Alas, they’ll have to go the rest of the way without Mark Teahen, who’s having season-ending shoulder surgery, curtailing an impressive breakout campaign: .290/.357/.517, a team-leading 27.1 VORP and an MLVr that’s third among AL 3B (.163). In other positive news, Ryan Shealy is hitting .306/.363/.458 since being acquired from Colorado, and Luke Hudson appears to have recovered from his 11-run debacle; since then he’s put up a 3.51 ERA in 33.1 innings.

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 Sunday.