Collapse: Since the last Prospectus Triple Play, the Orioles have gone 3-10, including an embarrassing three-game sweep at home against the Tigers. The key player in that record has been the bullpen. Last we looked, the bullpen was one of the Orioles strengths:
Oriole bullpen through games of 5/4:
Per nine innings IP H R BB SO R H BB SO Groom 10 4 0 1 7 0.00 3.6 0.9 6.3 Ryan 11 6 3 4 13 2.45 4.9 3.3 10.6 Julio 12.1 6 4 9 14 2.92 4.4 6.6 10.2 Hentgen 15.1 17 6 5 9 3.52 10.0 2.9 5.3 Roberts 15.1 12 6 3 8 3.52 7.0 1.8 4.7 Ligtenberg 14.2 18 6 4 10 3.67 11.0 2.4 6.1 Bauer 19.1 15 12 5 13 5.59 7.0 2.3 6.1 Total 98 78 37 31 74 3.40 7.2 2.8 6.8
In this pen, Pat Hentgen was the long man, coming in when a starter was knocked out early; Rick Bauer was the mop-up guy, finishing out losing games; Jorge Julio‘s the closer; Buddy Groom, B.J. Ryan, and Kerry Ligtenberg set him up; Willis Roberts fills in all over. In the interim, Hentgen was moved up to the rotation (taking the place of the injured Rodrigo Lopez), and Travis Driskill took his place as long man:
Last two weeks (5/5 – 5/19):
Per nine innings IP H R BB SO R H BB SO Groom 3 10 9 2 2 27.00 30.0 6.0 6.0 Ryan 2 6 5 1 3 22.50 27.0 4.5 13.5 Julio 5.1 9 5 3 4 8.44 15.2 5.1 6.8 Driskill 11.2 10 7 4 7 5.40 7.7 3.1 5.4 Roberts 5.1 8 7 3 2 11.81 13.5 5.1 3.4 Ligtenberg 3.1 2 0 2 3 0.00 5.4 5.4 8.1 Bauer 5.1 6 2 3 3 3.38 10.1 5.1 5.1 Total 36 51 35 18 24 8.75 12.8 4.5 6.0
Except for Bauer and Ligtenberg, they’ve been bombed. And Ligtenberg’s role has been sharply reduced–after facing 5.5 batters per outing through May 5, he’s only faced 2.8 per outing since. That’s down in LOOGY territory.
- Management: Part of the problem, potentially, was Mike Hargrove’s absence. His mother became seriously ill in April, and Hargrove left the team for a week. Last week, she died, and Hargrove was away for another week. Sam Perlozzo ran the team in his absence, and the O’s went 0-6. Fair or not in light of his personal tragedy, the papers have started to openly speculate about Grover’s job security. He is in the last year of his contract and he has a career record of just 223-305 with the Orioles, a sub-70 pace for a season, and he just finished the easiest schedule in the majors to date at 19-24. Of course, most of the blame for those records should rightfully devolve onto the front office, which has assembled an incredibly poor lineup over the years. Still, with new co-GMs in place, they are liable to want their own man at the helm. If the manager they want is already in the Oriole system, it makes sense to fire Hargrove and give the guy some major league managerial experience this season; otherwise, it doesn’t.
Called Up: The Orioles called up Carlos Mendez from Ottawa on Monday. He’s 29 years old, and has been knocking around the Royal, Tiger, and Athletic farm systems for the last 12 years, the last six at Triple-A. Yet he’s just now getting his first major league call-up. Originally a catcher, he’s been playing first base for Ottawa, and oh how he’s been hitting there, lighting up the league with a .384 batting average and a .345 EqA (which translates to about .298). He has never, ever, hit remotely this well in the minors:
Trans 270/340/440 EQA BA OBA SLG 1998 Omaha .208 .240 .276 .333 1999 Omaha .211 .240 .250 .396 2000 Toledo .242 .267 .287 .460 2001 Toledo .222 .231 .257 .429 2002 Sacramento .246 .291 .315 .430 2003 Ottawa .298 .355 .383 .517
He’s expected to back up first base and be the emergency catcher. Don’t expect him to hit .350 in Baltimore.
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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
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.