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July 22, 2010

Prospectus Hit List

Returns and Departures

by Jay Jaffe

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

1


Padres
55-38
6-3
.579
Up
Bust a Power Move On 'Em: The Padres maintain a healthy NL West lead, and lately their offense is showing more muscle. After hitting just 58 homers in their first 83 games (0.70 per game), the Pads have 19 in their last 10. Leading the way is Chris Denorfia, who's got five of them, including a pair in a 4-for-4 effort against the Diamondbacks. Adding another four is Adrian Gonzalez, who's now got 20; he's the only Padre in double digits.

2


Cardinals
54-41
9-2
.573
Up
The Ocho: Winners of eight straight, the Cardinals retake the NL Central lead. They've been getting especially good work from Felipe Lopez lately; he's hitting .337/.389/.446 since June 28, when he took over the third-base job for David Freese, who's been sidelined by a bruised ankle, not to mention a broken big toe sustained via a 75-pound dumbell. The Cardinals may wish they could clone Lopez, since starting shortstop Brendan Ryan is putting up a Replacement-Level Killer-esque .203 True Average, and backup Tyler Greene is down with a wrist injury after hitting .313/.389/.500 since being recalled on July 2.

3


Braves
55-39
5-4
.570
Down
Picking Up the Slack: Matt Diaz homers and drives in three runs to carry the Braves past the Padres. It's Diaz's third straight game with a dinger, though he's still hitting just .254/.286/.456 in an outfield that's been futher burdened by the underperformances of Nate McLouth and Melky Cabrera. Elsewhere, the team pulls off a questionable deal by trading struggling (.238/.334/.284), unpopular Yunel Escobar to the Blue Jays for Alex Gonzalez, a deal which may or may not help as the team goes for broke in Bobby Cox's final year, but will likely hurt them down the road.

4


Rockies
51-43
5-5
.559
Flat
The Road Gets Rocky: After winning nine of 12 leading up to the break, the Rox lose three out of their first five to start the second half. One of them comes as Ubaldo Jimenez is lit for six runs; it's the fourth time in his last five starts he's been roughed up, a span during which he's yielded 22 runs in 31 innings-essentially doubling his ERA to 2.38-but avoided blemishing his 15-1 record. Meanwhile, Troy Tulowitzki is nearing a return; the team has gone 19-11 in his absence thanks in part to the hot bats of DP combo Clint Barmes (.330/.406/.447) and Jonathan Herrera (.349/.392/.413) in his absence.

5


Reds
53-43
4-6
.549
Flat
Re-Armed: Edinson Volquez dominates the Rockies (6 3 1 1 0 9) in his return from Tommy John Surgery and a 50-game suspension for violating baseball's drug policy. While the Reds' rotation ranks a respectable sixth in the league, adding him to the mix is a huge boost given Aaron Harang's underperformance (5.02 ERA) and absence due to lower back pain, not to mention Mike Leake's innings cap. Not to be forgotten are the good works of rookies Matt Maloney (two starts, 3.09 ERA) and Travis Wood (four starts, 2.03 ERA); the latter even takes a no-hit bid into the ninth. Alas, the Reds haven't scored in either of Maloney's starts or either of Wood's last two.

6


Giants
52-43
8-3
.544
Up
Using His Melon: Now we know what Bruce Bochy keeps in his oversized head (cap size 8 3/4): an encyclopedia of rulebook arcana. Bochy catches the Dodgers on a technicality which-improperly applied-forces closer Jonathan Broxton out of the game, helping the Giants rally in the ninth to overcome a dud of a Tim Lincecum start. Collecting two hits in that game, including an insurance RBI single, is Buster Posey, who's riding a 15-game hitting streak. He's batting .349/.383/.560, and the Giants are now an NL-best 12-6 since he took over the catching duties following the Bengie Molina trade.

7


Dodgers
50-45
4-7
.530
Down
Can't Get No Relief: Two days after the Dodger bullpen squanders a 4-0 eighth-inning lead to enable a four-game sweep by the Cardinals, they fritter away a five-run outburst against Tim Lincecum and lose in bizarre fashion when acting manger Don Mattingly is improperly charged with a second mound visit due to a technicality and is forced to remove Jonathan Broxton. The Dodgers' closer has now been lit for 11 runs in his last 7 1/3 innings dating back to his meltdown against the Yanks, exacerbating a bullpen situation where Ramon Troncoso has been Ronald Belisario placed on the restricted list for a substance abuse problem, and George Sherrill waived due to excessive craptacularity. Add it up and it's a six-game losing streak for a team that's still got rotation issues and now sans Manny Ramirez for another three weeks, after compiling just four plate appearances since his last trip to the DL.

8


Phillies
48-46
5-6
.508
Down
Phadin': The Phillies' season continues to take a turn for the worse. This time it's the pitching, which surrenders 43 runs in the team's first six games after the break. Roy Halladay is pounded for six runs, Kyle Kendrick is bombed back to Triple-A, and Jamie Moyer departs with an elbow strain. The team is kicking the tires on Roy Oswalt and other potentially available starters, but with their already disappointing Playoff Odds falling below 11 percent, the question is whether another trade of prospects for veterans makes sense. If your problem is pitching, why shop J.A. Happ?

9


Marlins
46-48
6-4
.500
Down
Look Out, Ubaldo: For his second straight start, Josh Johnson combines on a shutout; this time it's against the Nationals. It's the 12th consecutive start in which Johnson allows two runs or less, three starts shy of tying the post-1920 record. Johnson's got an 0.74 ERA and an 83/12 K/BB ratio across that 85-inning span, and his 1.62 ERA leads the league. Meanwhile, his teammates help fluff up Cy Young competitor Ubaldo Jimenez's mark by Donnie Murphy walkoff homer.

10


Mets
49-46
2-8
.497
Down
Welcome Back?Carlos Beltran makes his long-awaited his 2010 debut, but his overdue arrival comes amid a 2-9 skid in which the wheezing offense scores just 21 runs; the team has now lost 14 of 20 and fallen six games in the NL East standings. Clueless dolts may attribute the slide to clubhouse chemistry-namely the replacement of Replacement-Level Killers Jeff Francouer and Alex Cora, but the July struggles of Jason Bay (.169/.246/.220) and the aforementioned duo (Frenchy .114/.170/.159, Cora .184/.216/.286) explain the team's problems in cold, hard numbers. The real questions about Beltran's return are his ability to play center field and how much playing time he'll steal from Angel Pagan, who ranks second on the club in True Average (.301).

11


Cubs
43-53
5-6
.472
Up
Adieu, Sweet Lou: Mired in a second straight season of disappointment, Lou Piniella announces his retirement at the end of the season. He's fourth among active managers in wins behind Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox, and Joe Torre, and 14th all-time, but he hasn't taken a team to the World Series since his 1990 champions despite finishing with the league's best record twice (2001 Mariners, 2008 Cubs); count me as one who thinks he falls short of Hall of Fame credentials, unless we're talking about his knack for entertaining tantrums (boo to MLB's stick-in-the-mud rights policies which deprive us of the definitive Piniella highlight reel). In any event, Aramis Ramirez commemorates the announcement with a three-homer, seven-ribbie game; he's hitting .345/.389/.782, with 10 homers in 95 PA since returning from the disabled list; had he hit like this earlier in the year, Piniella might not be considering retirement.

12


Nationals
41-54
3-7
.455
Flat
We'll Have to Step It the %^#$ Up: The Nats endure a 3-7 stretch, with the only wins coming-you guessed it-in Stephen Strasburg's three starts. He yields just four run in 17 2/3 innings while beating the Giants, Marlins, and Reds, but the rest of the rotation struggles to the tune of a 6.32 ERA, with just two quality starts out of seven. Strasburg's now got a 2.32 ERA and 75/15 K/BB ratio in 54 1/3 innings-all good for a 2.04 SIERA, lest anyone think his work is a fluke. When ESPN color man Orel Hershiser says, "We're going to run out of expletives" to describe the rookie, he's %^#$@*& right.

13


Brewers
43-53
6-5
.444
Flat
The Capper: Chris Capuano waits out a rain delay and notches his first big-league win in three years. He's got a 3.52 ERA in 15 1/3 innings since returning from the odyssey following his second Tommy John surgery, albeit mostly in mop-up work; the Brewers had gone 2-28 in his appearances since his last victory. The team's had plenty of such work available lately, as David Bush and Randy Wolf becomes the third and fourth Brewer starters to be hammered for 10 runs in a 12-game span. Yuck.

14


Diamondbacks
37-58
5-5
.411
Up
A Rare Trey: Mark Reynolds collects three hits, including a homer and a triple in a 13-2 rout of the Mets, kicking off the Diamondbacks' first three-game sweep of the year. The homer is Reynolds' 21st, but the luster is somewhat off of his hit-or-miss style; he's on a record-setting 227-strikeout pace, and a 57-point drop in his BABIP from last year to this (.338 to .281) has him hitting just .218/.332/.483. Still, a win's a win for the Snakes, who hadn't won back-to-back games on interim skipper Kirk Gibson's watch before the sweep; they're 6-10 since he took over.

15


Astros
39-56
5-5
.363
Up
O, Mama, Can This Really Be the End? Ten days after throwing a one-hit shutout against the Pirates, Roy Oswalt is knocked out of the box by a bruised ankle. He's expected to make his next start, but the question is whether it will come with the Astros given the team's reported trade talks with the Phillies. Oswalt's just 6-11 this year, one win shy of tying Joe Niekro for the franchise record of 144. Nonetheless, he's got a 3.12 ERA and 8.5 K/9, the latter his best mark since his 2001 rookie campaign, and his .587 Support-Neutral Winning Percentage ranks 11th in the league.

16


Pirates
34-60
4-6
.332
Up
Vote for Pedro: Rookie Pedro Alvarez bops two homers in the first two innings of a win against the Brewers, the first of which is a grand slam amid a nine-run inning. He adds another pair in another rout of the Brewers the next day and is now hitting .339/.406/.742 thus far in July. Also feasting on Brewers is Neil Walker, who goes 5-for-5 in the first of those two games; he's got 14 hits and four doubles in his last five games and is hitting .314/.346/.462 for the year.


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

9 comments have been left for this article.

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