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June 20, 2011

Prospectus Hit List

AL: Sox Hanging On

by Tommy Bennett

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RkTeam
Overall W-L
Week W-L
Hit List Factor
Comment

1


Red Sox
42-28
3-2
.625
Flat

Red Flag: In reaching a season-best 15 games above .500, the Red Sox stay in the driver's seat atop the Hit List. They put Father's Day in the books by drubbing Milwaukee 12-3 in a game in which every member of the team's starting lineup records a hit. Adrian Gonzalez records his 1000th hit, and it's a triple, natch. Tim Wakefield (8.0 3 3 3 1 6) records one of his best starts of the season, one that speaks well for his future in the rotation. Josh Beckett (9.0 1 0 0 0 6) puts together one of the best starts of the season for anyone. But it's not all good news; the team loses Carl Crawford (hamstring), Jed Lowrie (shoulder), and Clay Buchholz (back) to the disabled list. It'll be a mad dash to the All-Star Break, when those players will have returned.

2


Yankees
40-29
4-2
.619
Up
Joe Morgan's Watchword: The pitching and defense are the picture of consistency, allowing between two and four runs in every game on the week. The offense reels from back-to-back 12-run outbursts to drawn-out, three-run, extra-inning affairs. Luckily for the Yankees, they are on the winning end of two one-run games to go along with their three blowouts. C.C. Sabathia (7.0 8 4 4 1 3 and 7.0 8 4 4 0 6) has a pair of middling starts supported by double-digit run support, but the staff's consistency is belied by short outings from Ivan Nova (5.2 7 4 4 3 2) and A.J. Burnett (5.1 4 2 2 3 8). Meanwhile, Phil Hughes has an encouraging rehab start.

3


Tigers
39-33
4-3
.556
Up
Verlander and Pray For More Verlander: Justin Verlander (9.0 2 0 0 1 12 and 9.0 4 1 1 0 5) is building an impressive Cy Young resume, and the team struggles to win its other games. Rick Porcello gets rocked (3.0 8 9 5 2 0) and Phil Coke (5.0 5 4 4 7 2) can't beat the feeling. Miguel Cabrera ends a 13-game home run drought, during which he hit an odd .378/.500/.444 with only three doubles. Brennan Boesch tallies 11 hits to push his season OPS to .838. In this up-and-down week, the Tigers take the spot that matters by moving past the slumping Indians into first place in the AL Central. And then giving it back to the Indians. And then retaking it.

4


Rays
39-33
4-3
.545
Up
My Shields, and He in Whom I Trust: Big-Game James Shields continues his rebirth. He fires off two starts (9.0 5 0 0 3 5 and 9.0 4 1 0 0 10) that represent his fourth and fifth complete games of the season. In Shields, as in all those born again, there is the reflection of the past self: aside from BABIP and HR/9, his peripherals are dead-ringers for what they were in 2010. But hey, by all means let's cast about for stories about cause and effect. Here's one: the Rays run the Marlins losing streak to nine games; Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez resigns. Here's another one: Rays hold B.J. Upton bobblehead day; Upton reaches base three times and steals two bases. Or how about this: Rays go 4-3 on the week, lose ground in AL East.

5


Rangers
38-35
2-4
.541
Down
Not in Texas Anymore: A 2-4 week means the Rangers have a hard time holding off the . . . Mariners? The team starts the week by getting swept by the Yankees in the Bronx before finding friendlier luck in interleague play. Alexi Ogando posts by far his worst start of the year (1.2 6 6 6 1 1) before bouncing back against the Braves (5.0 5 3 1 1 3). Mitch Moreland fails to record an extra-base hit for over two weeks, and Adrian Beltre has a similar streak that is now a week old. Help may be on the way in the form of bullpen arms Scott Feldman and Tanner Scheppers, both of whom are close to returning from the DL.

6


Indians
39-31
5-2
.521
Up
Bad Medicine: The Indians fall out of first place for the first time since April 6th despite a 5-2 week. A large part of that is because they drop a series to the Tigers in Detroit before tasting the healing anodyne of the Pirates at home. The latter helps Josh Tomlin (6.2 6 1 1 0 5) and Carlos Carrasco (6.1 4 1 1 1 4) get their grooves back. In a matchup of the Justins, Masterson (6.1 7 4 2 5 4) proves there can be only one: Verlander. Masterson is outpitched by Jeff Karstens (5.0 7 2 2 1 5) but his team and the weather conspire, along with the eternal Tony Sipp, to bail him out. Shin-Soo Choo begins to warm up with a six-walk week capped off by a three-hit game. But the rest of the team struggles to score runs: they have been shut out four times already in June. The result is a rare firing of a hitting coach, Jon Nunnally, by a team in first place.

7


White Sox
35-38
2-3
.516
Flat
Reluctant Contenders: The White Sox find themselves inching closer to first place, but not by virtue of winning. With the June swoon in full effect in Cleveland, the White Sox back their way into contention faster than an 0-1 Mark Buehrle-Nick Blackburn matchup (that's 2:09, for those of you keeping score at home). John Danks (7.0 7 2 1 0 7) rounds back into form and Philip Humber posts his ninth and tenth (!) quality starts of the year. With Jake Peavy set to return from the disabled list to face the Cubs on Wednesday, the White Sox may yet have life in them. The point isn't lost on Paul Konerko, who may not think he is Hall-worthy, but who is nonetheless batting a ripe .327/.394/.586 at the tender age of 35.

8


Mariners
37-35
3-3
.507
Flat
The Virtues of Patience: Ah, interleague! Where teams kindle cross-continental rivalries like that between the Mariners and the Phillies. The former treats the latter to an exercise in run prevention. Jason Vargas (9.0 3 0 0 2 6) teaches Cole Hamels the virtues of being a fly ball pitcher in a pitcher's park and Michael Pineda (6.0 2 1 1 3 5) snags his seventh win. The Mariners have plenty to be excited about: Justin Smoak appears to have found a new gear—he has four home runs in June and his line is up to .260/.362/.485. These are the kind of benefits that accrue for those who wait, like an excellent and mostly healthy season from Erik Bedard (7.0 3 0 0 0 5) or the debut of Dustin Ackley (3-11 in his first three games) at second base.

9


Blue Jays
36-36
4-2
.505
Up
What, Miss Canada Was Taken?: The Blue Jays take two out of three from both the Orioles and the Reds to move back above .500. Brandon Morrow (6.2 5 0 0 1 6) bounces back from his horrifying, nine-run start against the Red Sox to post his best start of the season. Jo-Jo Reyes (6.1 6 2 2 0 5) is surprisingly effective, and Ricky Romero strikes out a dozen Orioles as his Miss USA girlfriend watches on her iPad. Less encouraging is the hitting: even Jose Bautista has just one home run in June. The hot part of the lineup is Adam Lind, who hits four homers on the week.

10


Athletics
33-40
5-1
.496
Up
Too Bad It Wasn't Gilbert: The Athletics win the Bay Area showdown as they complete the sweep by limiting the Giants to five runs in the three-game series. The A's scoffed at the Giants' bevy of talented pitchers as Trevor Cahill (8.0 5 1 1 1 7) and Graham Godfrey (7.0 6 2 1 0 3)—wait, who?—outduel Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, respectively. Godfrey, a 26-year-old making just his second career start, wasn't even major league camp in March but posts a better game score and lasts longer than Lincecum. A little journeyman's lightning is just what the Athletics need to shake off the shame of their 10-game losing streak. No small part of the turnaround is Jemile Weeks (preseason number six prospect), who is hitting .364/.378/.591 in his first dozen games.

11


Angels
35-38
4-2
.495
Up
Lesson Twelve: Sunk Costs: The Angels turn a pair of series against the Mariners and Mets into a winning week. One of those games—Jered Weaver facing the Mariners lineup in Safeco—was a gimme (9.0 5 0 0 1 6). The rest were hard-fought, close affairs that finished up in less than three hours. Vernon Wells parlays a timely three-for-four night (with a homer) into a batting line north of the Mendoza line. Unfortunately for the Angels, not even a home run is enough to pull Jeff Mathis to a similar fate. The team finally cuts bait on Scott Kazmir, who had become perhaps the worst starting pitcher in baseball, by eating the remaining $9.5 million he was owed.

12


Orioles
31-37
1-4
.461
Down
Birdmen: When it's only mid-June and mustachioed men pen the unusually sober conclusion: "all is not lost," something has gone wrong in Baltimore. Still, the losers of three straight series' have little reason for optimism in the short term. Though run scoring—at 4.1 R/G—is an improvement over last year, it remains stubbornly low. Much of the blame goes to Nick Markakis (.649 OPS) and Derrek Lee (.661). Two hitters, at least, have turned it on: Adam Jones drags his averages up to .295/.335/.467 while Mark Reynolds is an orange streak. His average jumps more than 15 points in as many days on the strength of a seven-hit week.

13


Twins
31-39
5-0
.445
Up
It Gets Better: Don't look now, but with an undefeated week the Twins have climbed their way back to respectability. They are 13-2 in their last 15 games, a stretch that has seen them move past the Royals and close in on the White Sox. Some of the games have been close, like a 1-0 squeaker on the strength of a Scott Baker beauty (8.0 4 0 0 1 10), or a 1-0 squeaker on the strength of a Nick Blackburn beauty (8.0 7 0 0 1 1). So I guess most of the games have been close. But they are wins nonetheless. With Joe Nathan close to a return and the ice finally melting from Minnetonka to Bemidji, there may yet be hope in Minnesota.

14


Royals
31-41
2-4
.444
Flat
Double-Barrel of Monkeys: Let's start with the good and funny news: Bruce Chen and Kyle Davies are ready to return from the DL. That will help the team put a dent in their 5.0 RA/G mark—but in which direction? Danny Duffy (3.2 6 2 2 1 9) has a box score best punctuated with question marks; the bevy of strikeouts tempered by a lack of outs is the polar opposite of his prior start (6.0 4 2 2 4 2). There's fun yet to be had here, though, like wondering if Tim Collins will manage to average both a strikeout and a walk per inning.


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.

Related Content:  The Streak,  Back,  The Who,  Game 1,  Stretch Run

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