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Baltimore Orioles

Colorado Rockies

  • Power Outage: The Rockies need to lead the league in runs in order to compete in the
    NL West. As of this writing, they’ve scored several fewer runs than the
    Braves, who lead the NL. Considering the difference between the two
    teams’ home parks, it’s safe to say that the Rockies won’t be making the
    playoffs unless they end the season with many more runs than the Braves.

    Colorado’s main problem, somewhat surprisingly, has been power, or rather the
    team’s lack of it. The Rockies have the second-highest batting average
    in the league, and lead the league in walks by a large margin–these
    aren’t your grandfather’s
    Bichette/Castilla
    Rockies–so the team is getting on base at a very healthy clip. But
    the Rockies haven’t hit with anywhere near the amount of power one would
    expect. The Rockies are ninth in the league in home runs. They are
    sixth in the league in doubles. As a result of this outage, the team is
    fourth in the league in slugging average, 31 points behind the league-leading Braves.

    What, or who, is behind this lack of wattage? The biggest
    underperformer may be Larry
    Walker
    , who has been playing with an injured shoulder and received a
    cortisone shot last week which has kept him out of the Rockies’ last few
    games. Though Walker has resisted blaming his injury for his problems
    at the plate, he’s obviously been weakened at the plate. Unlike most of
    his teammates, he hasn’t even be able to keep his batting average up,
    and his OPS is 200 points below his normal level.

    Todd
    Helton
    , the Rockies’ other veteran star, has kept his average up but
    has gone without hitting a home run since April 25th. After failing to homer in last night’s game, Helton set a new standard for the longest home run drought of his career. His power was also down substantially last
    season, reportedly as a result of physical ailments, but Helton claims his previously ailing back isn’t responsible for his pop-gun hitting this year.

    The offense’s savior so far has been Preston Wilson, who leads the team in virtually every offensive category
    except walks and on-base percentage. Wilson came over from the Marlins
    in a trade over the winter, and he has prospered so far this year. His
    career in Florida had more or less treaded water over the last four
    years, possibly because of a preoccupation with his high strikeout
    totals, but so far this year he has been spectacular, both in and out of
    Coors. It’s a small sample size, of course, but an improved
    strikeout/walk ratio that has come along with the improved production is
    a positive sign that at least some of Wilson’s improvement is real. And
    since no Rockie other than Wilson managed to homer between April 29th
    and May 17th, the Rockies need Wilson to continue to produce.

    The only other player to produce any real power for the Rockies has been
    Jay Payton. Payton is more or less the player he’s always been, but he’s gotten a big boost from Coors, where he’s slugged .554 this season. One
    positive sign is that he has been slightly more patient at the plate
    than he’s been in previous years. Other players who the Rockies
    expected to produce some power, though, have produced none. Charles
    Johnson
    and Jose
    Hernandez
    , who have hit hit for moderate power in recent years, have
    combined for a total of six Coors home runs and two road homers.

  • Schedule: The Rockies spend the next two weeks playing home and away
    games with San Francisco and Los Angeles, the two teams currently ahead
    of them in the NL West. If the Rockies continue to struggle
    offensively, they could end up buried too far beneath the pack to make
    any kind of run at the playoffs later in the season.

New York Mets

  • The Big Story: Mike
    Piazza
    ‘s groin injury, first thought to sideline the All-Star catcher
    for six to eight weeks, may keep him out all season.

    The Mets might be better off if they can write off Piazza. With the prospect
    of a midsummer return, they’ll be tempted to hang on until he gets back,
    convincing themselves that a wild-card run is imminent once he rejoins the
    lineup. This team, even with Piazza, isn’t good enough to reach the
    postseason–or .500, for that matter–and if it takes losing its best player to
    kick-start the rebuild, it’s a small price to pay in the big picture.

    Much will be made of the defensive improvement the Mets will enjoy with Vance
    Wilson
    and Jason
    Phillips
    sharing catching duties. Perhaps, but Piazza was in the midst
    of his best throwing season in years, gunning down 12 of 46 basestealers
    (26.1%, sixth in the NL). Maybe it’s Tom
    Glavine
    , maybe it’s Jae
    Seo
    , but whatever the reason, the fact is that Piazza’s throwing–the
    core of all complaints about his defense–wasn’t a detriment to the Mets this
    season.

  • Minor League Report: The Mets’ hope for the future rests largely in the hands of five top
    prospects. How are they doing six weeks into the season?

    Aaron
    Heilman
    has continued to get hitters out at Triple-A Norfolk. He’s 5-2
    with a 3.12 ERA in 10 starts and 60 2/3 innings, having allowed 57 hits, 21
    walks and 44 strikeouts. While that strikeout rate isn’t impressive, he’s
    keeping the ball down, with just four home runs allowed. Jae Seo’s performance
    keeps him at Norfolk, but once a suitable home is found for Pedro
    Astacio
    or Steve
    Trachsel
    , Heilman will ascend to the major-league rotation.

    Jose
    Reyes
    hasn’t taken as well to Triple-A. He’s at .257/.328/.367 in 109
    at-bats, with 11 walks and 17 strikeouts. Remember that he’s the
    youngest player in Triple-A, playing solid defense at shortstop (four errors) and ripping it up on the bases–19 steals in 21
    attempts. If the Mets allow him to have success before promoting him, he
    should step into a fine career in the majors.

    Down in the Florida State League, the Mets have two guys doing very good work.
    Catcher Justin
    Huber
    is hitting .281/.373/.430 with 12 walks and 19 strikeouts in 121
    at-bats. For the FSL, that’s very good, and remember that Huber is just 20
    years old. Teammate David
    Wright
    has improved his glovework at third base (six errors) and is
    hitting .281/.371/.438 in 178 at-bats. Wright’s secondary skills have been
    excellent for a third baseman: 13 doubles, five home runs, 26 walks and six
    stolen bases.

    Finally, 2002 first-round pick Scott Kazmir is pitching in the New York
    Penn League. In seven starts he’s thrown just 20 2/3 innings, allowing 15 hits
    and 14 walks, striking out 29 and posting a 2.61 ERA. He’s at least three
    seasons–and probably one surgery–away from the major leagues, and while he’s
    often included with the other four in discussions of the Mets’ system, he
    probably shouldn’t be.