Journal impact factor (which reflects a particular journal's quality) and H index (which reflects the number and quality of an author's publications) are two measures of research quality. It has been argued that the H index outperforms the impact factor for evaluation purposes. Using articles first-authored or last-authored by board members of Retrovirology, we show here that the reverse is true when the future success of an article is to be predicted. The H index proved unsuitable for this specific task because, surprisingly, an article's odds of becoming a 'hit' appear independent of the pre-eminence of its author. We discuss implications for the peer-review process.