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July 31, 2009

Prospectus Hit List

Deadline Drama

by Jay Jaffe

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RkTeam
Overall W-L
Week W-L
Comment

1


Dodgers
63-39
2-5
.608
Down
Not So Magic: The Dodgers lose three-and then four-games in a row for the first time all season. The third one comes in a game against the Cardinals when Chad Billingsley surrenders six sixth-inning runs after throwing one-hit shutout ball for the first five frames. Billingsley's been lit up for 19 runs in 18 1/3 innings while walking 11 over his last four starts, and while that doesn't mean the Dodgers should deal him in a blockbuster that nets an ace, it does intensify their need to bolster their back of their rotation, where their remaining in-house fifth starter options (Jason Schmidt, Jeff Weaver, Eric Stults, and James McDonald) are averaging 4.5 innings per start, with just one quality start out of 20.

2


Yankees
62-40
4-3
.597
Up
The Young Guns: Joba Chamberlain tosses eight innings of three-hit shutout ball to take the rubber match of a series in Tampa Bay. The win is the Yanks' 24th in 31 games, enabling them to open up a season-high 3.5-game lead in the AL East. Chamberlain's dominated since the All-Star break, yielding just eight hits and two runs in 21 2/3 innings over three starts. Also dominant is Phil Hughes, who's whiffed 32 in 27 2/3 innings while allowing just three runs since being moved to the bullpen; he's 23rd in the league in WXRL.

3


Rays
55-47
3-3
.575
Down
Lost and Found: Slumping Carlos Peña drives in four runs with a triple and a homer to help the Rays come back from an eight run deficit, but his oh-fer showing since then suggests his troubles aren't all behind him. He's hitting just .138/.278/.275 with 31 strikeouts in 97 plate appearances this month. On a more hopeful note, Scott Kazmir subdues the Yanks (7 5 1 1 1 4) in just his second quality start out of his last 10, though he's still carrying a 6.22 ERA and a .425 SNWP.

4


Red Sox
59-42
4-3
.574
Flat
Shopping at V-Mart: The Sox land Victor Martinez at the deadline at a time when their offense appears to be emerging from its July funk via 42 runs in seven games, and they manage to hold onto Clay Buchholz in the process. They'll need him to step up, with John Smoltz being smoked for a 7.04 ERA through his first six starts, Wakefield and an unhappy Daisuke Matsuzaka on the DL, and Brad Penny backsliding (5.07 ERA, .445 SNWP after Wednesday's debacle). Meanwhile, the Leak Fairy outs David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez as two of the 104 players who tested positive in the "anonymous" 2003 survey test, which should put a sock in the mouths of those so sanctimonious as to claim that the Sox had the high moral ground on the Yankees-or any other team-when it came to performance-enhancing drugs.

5


Angels
60-40
4-2
.555
Flat
Winners of 14 out of 17, the Angels open a 3½-game lead over the Rangers in the AL West. While their deadline moves are unclear as of this writing, they reportedly shy away from including Erick Aybar in a deal for Roy Halladay. Aybar has hit .439/.465/.598 this month, with 34 hits in his last 18 games. While his line drive percentage (a robust 21.6, well above his 17.2 percent career mark) suggests that the 25-year-old is maturing, any claims about improved plate discipline are rather optimistic, given that his walk percentage (5.2) and K/BB ratio (1.9) represent career bests.

6


Phillies
58-42
4-3
.550
Flat
Taking a Hard Left: Unwilling to meet the Blue Jays' asking price-a package centered around Kyle Drabek-for Roy Halladay, the Phillies make a less costly deal in terms of blood and treasure by trading for Cliff Lee. The move brings the defending champs a more fly ball-oriented pitcher who misses fewer bats, but one whose 2008-2009 numbers are otherwise plenty comparable; oddly, it leaves the Phils with four lefties in the rotation (Hamels, Moyer, and Happ being the others). Still, there's relatively little to complain about given the recent 15-2 run, which saw their rotation put up a 2.97 ERA in that span.

7


Rockies
55-47
3-4
.546
Down
The Rockies fall out of the Wild Card lead by losing three games in a row for the first time since interim skipper Jim Tracy's first week at the helm. Though they don't pull off any major swaps prior to the deadline, they do manage to upgrade a bullpen that's third-to-last in the league in WXRL, landing the Indians' Rafael Betancourt (3.22 Fair Run Average, 0.770 WXRL) and the Nats' Joe Beimel (3.65 Fair Run Average, 0.015 WXRL).

8


Rangers
57-43
5-2
.546
Up
While few doubt that Derek Holland's future is bright or begrudge the Rangers' determination to withhold him from a potential Roy Halladay deal, Wednesday's gem (8.2 2 1 1 1 10) offers the first convincing piece of evidence he's major league ready; he lowers his ERA from 6.13 to 5.56. Elsewhere in the rotation, Rescue Ranger Dustin Nippert again bails out a stricken rotation, providing 4 2/3 innings of one-hit, one-run relief after Kevin Millwood's gluteus goes maximus. Millwood's been knocked around for a 6.75 ERA this month, but the rest of the staff has picked him up via a 3.14 ERA on the way to a 16-8 month which erases the bad taste of an 11-15 June swoon. Still, when an 9-2 run gets you nowhere in the standings, that's gotta hurt.

9


Cardinals
56-49
4-3
.533
Flat
Reason to Celebrate: The Cardinals acquire Matt Holliday in a deal for 2008 first-round pick Brett Wallace, a deal reminiscent of last year's CC Sabathia swap in that a team unflinchingly drafted a near-ready player blocked in their own organization by a superstar, then converted him into a blockbuster acquisition at their earliest convenience. Holliday goes 4-for-5 in his debut, and collects at least one walk, one double, and one RBI in each of his first four games; he's 19-for-38 with 10 extra-base hits since July 19. Also good: Mark DeRosa, whose homers in three straight games suggest his wrist isn't hurt too badly.

10


Braves
52-50
3-3
.533
Up
Not So Quiet on the Eastern Front: The Braves slip back into third place in the NL East despite a 16-10 month, as they're eating the Phillies' dust, and taking a low profile at the deadline after their previous Nate McLouth upgrade, restricting themselves to the reacquisition of Adam LaRoche for Casey Kotchman at a time when the latter had heated up (.320/.407/.527 in July). At least the Braves' offense is finally making noise, hitting .291/.367/.479 this month while averaging 5.3 runs per game, with the bats of the much-maligned Yunel Escobar (.356/.447/.616) and Garret Anderson (.341/.387/.600) speaking the loudest.

11


Cubs
54-46
6-1
.530
Up
Rich Harden pitches the Cubs into first place (6 1 1 1 0 8), capping an 8-2 run that gives the division's pre-season favorites a fleeting taste of the top spot, their first since April 21. Since allowing 23 runs over a 24 1/3-inning span, Harden's yielded just three (two earned) over his last 19, a welcome boost given Ted Lilly's hitting the disabled list and Ryan Dempster struggling in his return. Also welcome: Alfonso Soriano's .400/.464/.760 second-half showing so far, including Monday's walk-off grand slam, one of his three homers for the week.

12


Blue Jays
49-53
2-4
.523
Flat
Wait 'Til Next Year: General manager J.P. Ricciardi's self-imposed deadline to deal Roy Halladay before Wednesday's start comes and goes without a move transpiring, as neither the Phillies nor any other team meets his steep asking price. Ricciardi then declares his intention to keep his ace through 2010 despite having let slip that Halladay's desire to test the free-agent market rather than re-sign was driving the potential deals. Uh-huh. To his credit, he does pull off a nice last-minute swap by sending Scott Rolen to the Reds for Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Roenicke.

13


Twins
52-50
4-2
.516
Flat
Slowey Down: The Twins shake off a 1-6 slide, reclaim second place in the AL Central, and upgrade their middle infield via the acquisition of Orlando Cabrera, but their rotation takes a hit, as they lose Kevin Slowey for the season due to bone chips in his wrist. Not that Slowey's been spectacular; his 10 wins may impress some, but his 4.86 ERA and .470 SNWP are nothing to write home about. Alas, neither is the fact that three remaining Twins starters-Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano, and Glen Perkins-have ERAs above 5.00 and SNWPs under .500; their rotation needs a Doctor as bad as any other contender, and Liriano may need one as well.

14


Giants
56-46
5-2
.514
Up
What Was That About Not Needing Pitching? The Giants move back into the Wild Card lead and their pathetic offense gets a modest lift as the team trades for Ryan Garko and Freddy Sanchez, whose EqAs thus far (.290 and .276, respectively) are higher than that of every Giant regular save for Pablo Sandoval's. Alas, the team gets some bad news regarding Randy Johnson, who hasn't pitched since July 5; a slight rotator cuff tear pushes him to the 60-day DL, ruling out a pre-September return. With Jonathan Sanchez all too Jonathan Sanchez-y since his no-hitter (five walks, three homers, and eight runs in 11 innings), that doesn't bode well for their October hopes.

15


Tigers
53-47
4-3
.513
Up
Rick Porcello is roughed up for the fourth straight start, preventing the Tigers from completing a four-game sweep of the White Sox. Porcello's yielded 19 earned runs and six homers over his last 18 2/3 innings, and has just one quality start in his last nine outings, a situation which contributes to their decision to trade for Jarrod Washburn. The Tigers are now 5-8 since the All-Star break, though a good deal of the blame for that rests with an offense that averages just 2.9 runs per game through their first dozen second-half contests before erupting for a baker's dozen in their 13th.

16


White Sox
52-51
2-6
.506
Down
Off the Mark: Fresh off last week's perfect game, Mark Buehrle chases history by taking another perfecto into the sixth against the Twins and sets a major league record by retiring 45 hitters in a row. Alas, his bid for a perfect game, no-hitter and ultimately a win for the Sox are ultimately foiled, sending Chicago to their fifth loss in six games. They've scored just 3.1 runs per game over their last 14, and all the Mark Kotsays in the world won't help that.

17


Marlins
53-49
4-2
.491
Up
The Marlins win six out of seven but gain no ground on the red-hot Phillies. Josh Johnson knows the feeling; he snaps the Dodgers' five-game winning streak by holding them to three runs in seven frames, the 17th start in a row and the 20th out of 21 overall that he's yielded fewer than four runs-yet he still sees his ERA rise six points to 2.80, eighth in the league; he's also fifth in SNLVAR.

18


Mariners
53-49
2-5
.488
Down
Mixed Message: A 2-5 slide buries the Mariners in the AL West, and they throw up the white flag by dealing Jarrod Washburn to the Tigers for Luke French and another prospect, but only after acquiring Jack Wilson and Ian Snell from the Pirates for five players, just one of them (Ronny Cedeno) on the major league roster. Wilson represents a major upgrade on both sides of the plate, all relative to dearly departed Yuniesky Betancourt, though not a cheap one; he's got an $8.4 million option for next year, and if the M's don't pick it up, then they'll have to pray like hell that Snell turns out well.

19


Mets
49-52
5-2
.485
Up
Metastrophe, Indeed: The Mets win five in a row after losing 30 of their previous 46, and Gary Sheffield becomes just another statistic in their ever-increasing body count. The world scarcely notices. However, as Omar Minaya turns a press conference announcing the firing of out-of-control veep Tony Bernazard into an attempt to smear beat reporter Adam Rubin. It's a surreal meltdown that most insiders agree marks the beginning of the end of Minaya's tenure; injuries and late-season meltdowns are one thing, (un)professional idiocy quite another.

20


Brewers
51-51
3-4
.472
Down
When I Paint My Disasterpiece: A 4-8 start to the second half knocks the Brewers under .500 and into fourth place in the NL Central as their rotation situation continues to worsen. Jeff Suppan is lit up for 10 runs, his second disaster start in a row, and to add injury to $42 million worth of insult, an oblique strain sends him to the DL. Carlos Villanueva joins the rotation after befouling the bullpen (6.29 Fair Run Average, -1.2 WXRL) and stinks up that joint as well. The rotation has now provided six such starts in July, compared to six quality starts by pitchers not named Yovani Gallardo; their ERA during that span is 5.63, with inflated walk and homer rates (4.5 and 1.8, respectively) which suggest things could always get worse.

21


Diamondbacks
44-58
3-3
.472
Up
You're Still Here? Doug Davis rebounds from two straight disaster starts with six shutout innings. He's put up a 3.76 ERA this year while striking out 7.2 per nine, by far his best numbers since his 208-strikeout campaign with the 2005 Brewers. Alas, Davis and Jon Garland remain Diamondbacks at this writing because teams have been scared away by the asking price. Dan Haren's not going anywhere, obviously, but Brandon Webb is done for the year and may be headed for surgery after yet another setback.

22


Astros
51-51
2-5
.462
Down
Ejected: With five losses in six games, the Astros' sudden bid for relevance begins to look a bit more far-fetched, particularly as a herniated disc forces Roy Oswalt to miss a start. Still, it's a bit of a surprise to see them jettison Russ Ortiz so quickly; yes, the butt of many a Hit List joke had seen his comeback hit a rough patch via a 12.23 ERA this month, but he threw a quality start against the Dodgers less than two weeks ago, At that point his ERA was a respectable 4.33, and even after a nine-run pounding-admittedly, his fourth disaster start out of five-that's where his FIP says it should be. Obviously, there's more to the story, but for a team relying upon the equally craptacular Mike Hampton and Brian Moehler and suddenly down a reliever (Latroy Hawkins), it's an eyebrow-raiser.

23


Indians
42-60
4-2
.456
Up
Stop Me If You've Heard This One: For the second summer in a row, the underachieving Indians trade the reigning Cy Young winner and look to next year. This time it's Cliff Lee heading to Philadelphia in a six-player deal that brings them some solid components for rebuilding but no stars in the making. While other clubs chase Victor Martinez, the Tribe pulls off another swap, sending Ryan Garko to the Giants for a minor league arm and calling up long-lost Andy Marte to play first base. Four years after topping our prospect list, he's hit just .211/.265/.337 in 561 PA, but his .327/.369/.593 showing at Columbus (with 18 homers) buys the 25-year-old another shot, although curiously enough at the expense of Matt LaPorta, who's hitting .305/.386/.538.

24


Athletics
43-58
3-4
.450
Down
Goo Goo Goo Joob: Their meager aspirations to win the AL West dashed, the A's flip Matt Holliday to the Cardinals for a three-player package centered around 2008 first-round pick Brett Wallace, an odd-shaped hitting machine nicknamed "The Walrus," and not for his defensive abilities. A's fans will have to hope he turns out better than the last first-rounder Billy Beane snagged from the Cardinals, Daric Barton; the 23-year-old first baseman has hit just .237/.339/.384 through 650 PA over the last three years, and was just 5-for-34 before hitting the DL with a hamstring strain.

25


Orioles
44-57
3-4
.441
Flat
Welcome to the Future: With a 2-8 start to their second half, the Orioles appear to be up to their usual late-season tricks, but at least there are signs of progress in the rotation. Rich Hill's trip to the DL opens the door for Chris Tillman's big-league debut. Acquired in the Erik Bedard trade, the O's top pitching prospect is tagged by the Royals for three solo homers in 4 2/3 innings. Elsewhere, David Hernandez limits the Red Sox to one run in seven innings for his fourth quality start in a row, all against contenders (Angels, Mariners, Yankees, Sox). Despite 4.6 K/9, he's got a 3.20 ERA and a .582 SNWP through seven starts.

26


Pirates
43-58
1-5
.440
Down
The Pirates clean house, trading Jack Wilson, Ian Snell and cash to the Mariners for a package including Jeff Clement, Ronny Cedeno, and three A-ball arms, swapping Freddy Sanchez to the Giants for well-regarded pitching prospect Tim Alderson, and sending John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny to the Cubs for a three-player package. It's a reboot-they've turned over every starer, save Ryan Doumit, in less than 14 months-that may be tough to swallow for Pirates' fans, but seriously, is it any tougher than 17 straight losing seasons?

27


Reds
45-56
1-6
.417
Down
Red-Faced: In a situation Dusty Baker calls "embarrassing" and "pitiful to watch," the Reds' nosedive continues unabated. They've lost 18 out of 26 this month, while being outscored by 66 runs as both the pitching (5.61 ERA) and offense (.236/.293/.375) have faltered. Not that the latter has helped much at any other point given their .248 EqA. Aside from Joey Votto (.347/.424/.604) and Jonny Gomes (.295/.387/.598 in limited duty) who account for 11.1 percent of the team's plate appearances, the rest of their offense is "hitting" .235/.302/.363. Still, reports of a Scott Rolen deal floating in the Twitscape as the deadline nears are a puzzler given the fork in this team's season.

28


Royals
40-61
3-4
.416
Flat
These Count as Upgrades, Right? Jose Guillen strains his lateral collateral ligament putting on a shinguard (!) and possibly ending his season, while Tony Peña Jr. moves to the mound in order to find a job on the diamond at which he doesn't suck and, of course, to close the Tony Peña bullpen gap on the White Sox. Meanwhile, Zack Greinke can't buy a break; he's put up a 2.53 ERA in five starts this month, all Royals losses thanks to a grand total of six runs of support.

29


Nationals
32-70
4-3
.400
Up
Ham It Up: Josh Willingham becomes the 13th player in MLB history and the first since 2003 to hit two grand slams in one game. After starting the second half 0-for-14, he's on a .444/.483/1.037 tear with four homers over his last 29 PA, and is now hitting .300/.410/.586 for the year. He may be the best bench bat available at the trade deadline, and with only about $1 million remaining on his contract, certainly one of the cheapest.

30


Padres
41-62
4-3
.392
Up
Promoted to the big leagues less than two weeks ago, top prospect Matt Latos one-hits the Reds over seven innings (7 1 1 1 1 4). Through three starts, he's put up a 2.70 ERA, with four of his five runs allowed coming via solo homer. He's a glimmer of hope amid a rotation that's third-to-last in the league in SNLVAR and not getting Jake Peavy or Chris Young back anytime soon.


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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