Sunday, December 19, 2010

Orlando Hudson at Second

Various sources reported on Friday* Orlando Hudson had signed with the Padres to play second base in 2011.  San Diego has not confirmed the deal, waiting for the results of the physical before making the formal announcement.  According to reports in the San Diego U-T, Hudson signed for 2 years ($4M in 2011, $5.5M in 2012), with an $8M option in 2013 (and $2M buyout).  It has not yet been stated if the option is club, player, or mutual (at least as far as I have read).

*Note to Jed Hoyer - can you PLEASE make these types of moves known on Thursday morning instead of Friday morning?  Help a poor lonely Podcast host out.  Throw me a bone, man.

Most of the reporting on this trade has highlighted Hudson's defensive ability.  That, coupled with the trade for  Jason Bartlett (agreed to during the winter meetings last week but only finalized yesterday), and the acquisition of Cameron Maybin earlier this off-season, make the Padres a better defensive team up the middle than in 2010.

Or does it?  I've already looked at Maybin vs Tony Gwynn Jr.  Let's look at the new players in comparison to who they're replacing.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Who's On First?

With Adrian Gonzalez now in Boston, I naturally assumed the first base job would become Kyle Blanks.  He is a natural first baseman and, again assuming he's healthy, is a power bat the 2011 Padres will sorely need.  Jed Hoyer, during an interview Monday with Darren Smith, indicated the Padres would look for free agent help at that position.  Which begets two questions:

1.  Where is Blanks going to play when healthy?
2.  What are the Padres' options at first in this market?

Cot's Baseball Contracts has the current list of free agents who play first, age last season in parenthesis:

  • Garrett Atkins (30), Willy Aybar (27), Russell Branyan (34), Jason Giambi (39), Troy Glaus (33), Nick Johnson (31), Paul Konerko (34), Casey Kotchman (28), Mark Kotsay (34), Jeff Larish (27), Adam LaRoche (30), Derrek Lee (34), Lyle Overbay (33), Carlos Pena (32), Robb Quinlan (33), Jose Ruiz (25), Randy Ruiz (32), Mike Sweeney (36) , Fernando Tatis (35), Jim Thome (39).
That's a lot of guys to pick through. Let's pare it down, first by eliminating everyone over 35, which removes Giambi, Sweeney, Tatis, and Thome.  We can eliminate Konerko and Pena as unaffordable for the Padres.  We should eliminate guys with significant injury history, so that takes Glaus, Johnson, and Kotsay off.  Jose Ruiz is raw with no major league experience; he's not the answer for 2011.  That cuts the list in half.

Here are the career slugging percentages for the remaining 10 candidates:
  • Atkins - .449.  Should note he has played half his career at Coors Field, and his slugging is close to 100 points higher at home (.495/.406) 
  • Aybar - .399
  • Branyan - .490
  • Kotchman - .392
  • Larish - .380 in 276 career ML plate appearances
  • LaRoche - .488
  • Lee - .498
  • Overbay - .447
  • Quinlan - .401
  • Randy Ruiz - .488, 238 career ML plate appearances
Eliminating everyone slugging below .400 (and Rob Quinlan, who slugged .401) kicks Aybar, Kotchman, Larish, and Quinlan off the list.  Six potentials left.

How does one rank these guys?  Three righties (Atkins, LaRoche, Ruiz), three lefties (Branyan, Lee, Overbay).

Atkins was designated for assignment by Baltimore 27 June 10.  He did not play again in 2010.  Fangraphs calculated he was a below-average first baseman (UZR/150 of -13.2), and he's put up negative WAR the last 2 seasons.  From his 2006 career highs in every offensive category, he has seen a drop in OBP and SLG for 4 consecutive years.  His power has seemingly disappeared.

Branyan started last season with Cleveland and finished it in Seattle.  He probably should have been included with the significant injury history, but he probably has the biggest power bat of this group.  Branyan has always been a pretty good defensive 1B and put up a 6.0 UZR/150 in 2010.  He'll give a team between 0.6 and 3 WAR on a given year.  He's left-handed, but he has the power to reach Petco's right field.

LaRoche declined a little bit in 2010 when compared to 2009, but he was solid, hitting 25 HR for the third consecutive year.  He graded out at 4.8 UZR/150 and a solid 2.1 WAR.

Lee had a solid 2010 overall, but is on the downslope of his career.  He posted a UZR/150 of 2.3 playing for Chicago and Atlanta, and posted a 2.0 WAR.

Overbay hit 20 HR for only the second time in his career last season.  He was spectacularly average as a fielder (UZR/150 of 0.1), and posted a 1.5 WAR.  As a lefty, he'd probably see his power dry up in Petco.

Ruiz is really a career minor leaguer.  He played only 23 innings at first last season.  How he would project at Petco is unknown, but I doubt the Padres would take a chance on a 32 year old AAAA player.

Based on those summaries, I think Ruiz, Overbay, and Atkins aren't good options at first.  If Hoyer is going to fill first base from without, it seems Branyan, Lee, or LaRoche make the most sense, if they can be enticed into a relatively affordable contract.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Adrian Gonzalez to Boston - OFFICIAL

tWWL is reporting today the Gonzo trade is final, even though the Red Sox and Gonzalez's people could not agree on a long-term extension.

For those of you holding out hope he stays in SD, I imagine it will take the press conference tomorrow and Adrian holding a Red Sox jersey before you acknowledge he's gone.  That said I'm not sure there are many of those folks left.  Trading Adrian Gonzalez away has been expected for more than a year now.  San Diego could not afford the left-handed first baseman.  If they were forced to trade away Jake Peavy and his $16 million dollar a year deal, how where they going to re-sign Gonzo for $20 mil?

2010's almost-run to the post-season only delayed the inevitable.  Jed Hoyer could not trade Gonzalez away in July because his club was not only in contention, they were leading the division.  How would that look? Giving up your best hitter with two months to go and a 4 game lead?  So Gonzalez stayed.

There will probably be comparisons to the fire-sale of the early 1990s.  So far this off-season Jon Garland, Yorvit Torrealba, and Miguel Tejada had all left for other teams (LA, not yet signed, and SF, respectively).  With those losses this team was to have a difficult time contending.  With Gonzalez in the AL East it is pretty near impossible.  Ryan Ludwick is going to be awfully lonely in the middle of this order.

For better or worse this will be the trade by which Hoyer is judged as the GM.  It's a good thing he and key members of his staff know the Boston minor league system well, because he'd better have gotten excellent value for the fourth-best player in the NL last season (if you go by MVP voting) who is in his prime.

Whatever contract value it is Adrian finally agrees to (be it 8 years, $180M or 6/$120) congratulations to him on the deal.  Gonzalez is the best 1B in the history of the San Diego Padres, and will be for some time to come.  He's worked hard and his ship has finally come in.  I will miss seeing him hit in person and on local TV.

As I close, and in case you're not depressed enough by the trade, here's how I project the 2011 Padre team to look:

1B - Kyle Blanks
2B - Matt Antonelli (speculation only; Eckstein is a free agent and I don't know who else to put here)
3B - Chase Headley
SS - Everth Cabrera (see above, replace 'Eckstein...' with 'Tejada signed with SF')
LF - Chris Denorfia Ryan Ludwick*
CF - Cameron Maybin
RF - Ryan Ludwick Will Venable*
C - Nick Hundley

SP:  Mat Latos, Clayton Richard, Tim Stauffer, Chris Young (yes I think he re-signs) Aaron Harang**, Cory Luebke.

Think we struggled to score runs in 2010?  Just wait.

*This seems the more likely lineup after pondering it last night.
** Spaced the Harang signing.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bud Black is NL Manager of the Year

The BBA held it's post-season awards voting during the playoffs, and awarded Bud Black their Connie Mack Award as the best NL Manager in 2010.  Yesterday the BBWAA followed suit, naming Black the NL Manager of the Year.

As a baseball observer and Padre partisan, I felt this selection was self-evident.  Black took a team that lost 87 games the previous season and moved them within a game of the playoffs, finishing with a 90-72 record.  The BBWAA didn't think he had a slam-dunk case based on the voting.  I had not considered Dusty Baker as a viable candidate - I expected Bruce Bochy and Bobby Cox to get significant support - but Baker presided over a turnaround almost as big as San Diego's (Cincinnati lost 84 games in 2009 and finished this season 91-71).

Maybe that's because I could never decide if Cincinnati's division championship was a product of their superior play, or St Louis' collapse after 11 August.

At any rate, in the hour before the winners were announced I got into an interesting interchange with a Giants fan on Twitter (SFGiantsUSA) about who deserved to win.  First, it was nice to have a reasonable exchange with a Giants fan for once.  His argument against Black centered around their performance after 25 August, when the 10-game losing streak started.  My counter was Bochy had less to do with the Giants success last season than Brian Sabean did.  We argued according to form, perhaps.

But those positions weren't why it was interesting.  He asked if Black's perceived success was based on how the Padres were evaluated before the season started, and so why should he get credit because the prognosticators mis-evaluated the Padres (and how strong their pitching was)?

He makes a fair point.  Most every Manager of the Year award goes to a guy who is perceived to have gotten his team to over-achieve  Who sets the baseline from which that over-achievement is evaluated? The BBWAA, ESPN experts, MLB.com experts, bloggers, and so on.  Manager of the Year should go to the man who performed the best regardless of how his team was expected to play.  I had not considered that position until he mentioned.

If we discount where everyone thought the Padres would finish (and I think universally they were picked to finish no higher than 4th in the NL West), does Black still deserve the award?  I think so, because of the overall talent level he had to work with.  Consider:
  • NL teams averaged 4.33 runs per game.  San Diego came in at 4.10.  Four teams were worse:  New York (4.05), Washington (4.04), Houston (3.77), Pittsburgh (3.62).  None of those 4 teams finished above .500 (NY was the closest at 79-83)
  • San Diego's raw OPS was third worst in the league.  Their park adjusted OPS+ was more middle of the pack, but still below the league average.  Concurrently, their team wOBA was also thirdworst.
  • All the above makes sense if you looked at their lineups over the 2010 season.  The only guy in the lineup that scared teams day-to-day was Adrian Gonzalez. Miguel Tejada did help after the trade deadline, but still - this was a below average lineup.
San Diego's pitching was superior, especially their bullpen, which made up for the lack of hitting all season.  Bud Black did a great job juggling his starting staff (specifically Mat Latos, Wade LeBlanc, Kevin Correia, Chris Young) and aggressively turning over the games to his airtight bullpen.

And his starting staff had holes in it.  Kevin Correia never really recovered from the untimely death of his brother.  Chris Young started the third game of the season, then didn't pitch again until September.  Mat Latos took a 'injury' related 15 days off in July.  Wade LeBlanc was effective, then not effective, holding down the #5 job. Jon Garland had a great year statistically but was maddingly erratic for stretches late in the season.

Other teams had issues, sure.  SF's lineup had no power in it for the first half of the season.  St Louis lost 40% of its rotation in a week and never fully recovered.  Philadelphia played 14 total regular season games with their Opening Day lineup.  But all those teams had much more margin for error, either because the rest of their roster was talented enough to survive the damage (STL, PHI), or they had the resources to make wholesale changes to their roster (SF, PHI).  No other team spent the season with the razor thin margin between success and failure Padres did, and the fact they stayed on the success side of that edge the virtually all season (and returned to it after falling off it in late August) is entirely due to Bud Black.

So no, I don't think pre-season expectations should drive who wins. But I think who did the most with the talent they had should, and Bud Black clearly did.  Congratulations Bud Black.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cameron Maybin to the Padres

On Saturday last the Padres acquired Cameron Maybin from Florida for "Home Run Ed" Mujica and Ryan Webb.  You may have seen this.

The first question I asked myself was why did the Padres trade some of their pitching depth for a guy at a position...where they have a lot of depth already?  So I took a look at some numbers.

Maybin has played most of his career, and all his time with Florida, as a centerfielder.  It's reasonable to expect the Padres plan to line him up in center for 2011.  That means Tony Gwynn Jr, Will Venable, and Chris Denorfia are probably looking for another position to play.  How good a CF is Maybin?  Well:

  • By UZR/150 (fangraphs):  -4.4 (2010), 13,5 (2009).  He played 8 games in 2008 and 15 games in 2007, so too small a sample size to use.
  • By Dewan plus/minus:  -7 (2010), +6 (2009).
  • By Range factor/9 (baseball reference):  3.11 (2010), 2.70 (2009).  League average was 2.59 and 2.60 respectively.
Tony Gwynn?
  • UZR/150:  32.9, 14.4
  • Dewan:  +23, +19
  • Range Factor/9:  2.12, 3.03.
Venable has played less than 30 games in center each of the last 3 seasons, so not much data to go on there.  Denorfia has played only 1 season with the Padres, and had 50 games in CF, but his UZR/150 is -15.7.  Remember that he and Venable were substitutes after Gwynn Jr got hurt, so really this is about Maybin and Gwynn.

Based on the defensive numbers above I would argue Gwynn Jr is a better defensive CF than Maybin.  Only Range Factor/9 favors Maybin, which interestingly enough was quoted in the SDUT article announcing Maybin's acquisition:

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Maybin last season had the highest range factor of any National League center fielder who played at least 70 games. Maybin had a 3.10 score per nine innings. By comparison, Tony Gwynn had a 2.12 score.
Was the trade about improving the offense?  Doubtful.  For the 2010 season, Maybin's .234/.302/.361 (.299 wOBA) line was not much better than Gwynn Jr's .204/.304/.287 (.276 wOBA).  I thought perhaps Maybin would be the leadoff hitter the Padres need to find, but based on that OBP he is no improvement at all.

Over 610 PA Maybin has posted a .246/.313/.380.  Over 1054 PA Gwynn Jr has .244/.323/.314.  We can say Maybin has more power based on the slugging percentage, but otherwise they are the same hitter.  So this isn't about the offense.

Was the trade be about salary?  Maybin has just over one year major league service time (according to Cot's Baseball Contracts and my extrapolation), and Gwynn Jr has just over 3.  Again according to Cot's, both are arbitration eligible for 2011 (note:  I may be reading the data on Cot's wrong, so apologies if I have indeed misinterpreted it).  I don't understand how Maybin is arbitration eligible with only 1 year service time, but that is what the data says.

Based on the arbitration status for both, this probably isn't about the salary.  Both players have above-average gloves but below-average bats, so their arbitration cases would be very similar.

Maybin is 4+ years younger than Gwynn.  Maybe that's what this is about.

Sometimes I wish I had access to the analytical tools the Padres use to evaluate players, because from my perspective, they acquired a new starting center fielder with no appreciable upside from their current starting center fielder.

Complicating things is the Padres already crowded outfield.  Besides Gwynn Jr, Venable, and Denorfia, San Diego also has OF Kyle Blanks, Ryan Ludwick, Aaron Cunningham, Luis Durango, and Scott Hairston to choose from (and what about Matt Stairs?)  Clearly the club can't carry all those players, so someone or several someones are not going to be playing in SD next season.  If I was a betting man, I'd suspect Gwynn Jr, Hairston, and Stairs are gone, Blanks goes back to first base, Cunningham to the minors, and the Padres keep Ludwick, Venable, Durango and Denorfia.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Chris Young, Ted Simmons, Podcasts, and Transitions

Hey it's been a week since our last post.  Some catch-up, and an announcement.

- Padres declined Chris Young's option for 2011.  The club would have paid him $8.5M for next season.  This move comes as no surprise, and Young was quoted last week saying he'd like to come back as a Padre if the financial details can be worked out.  As I discussed last week on the Podcast, it's definitely conceivable Young could return.  He's an extreme fly ball pitcher, and Petco is built to maximize his strengths.  He has missed significant time due to injury the past 3 seasons, making him a high risk acquisition by another team; which also means the market won't really be there for his services, so his price should be relatively low despite his experience and success (he was an All-Star in 2007).

With only 3 of their rotation slots spoken for in 2011, re-signing CY makes a lot of sense.

- Ted Simmons has joined the Seattle Mariner front office, after two years as Bud Black's bench coach. Today the Veterans Committee for the Hall of Fame announced Ted will be one of the players they consider for induction.  Simmons' career WAR (50.40) is better than Jorge Posada's (46.00), a guy a certain segment of the baseball world is trying to tout as a first-ballot HOF.  Simmons finished in the MVP top 20 seven times from 1971-1982.  He's certainly worthy of consideration for the Hall, and good luck to him.

- Podcasts:  My stated intentions with the Podcast is to do one if any interesting Padre news breaks during that week.  That said, let's be realistic - two of the next 3 shows fall on Federal holidays, and you've probably got more important things to do those nights.  So the 18 Nov show is the next scheduled on we'll do.  That time may change to earlier in the night, but we'll discuss that next week.

Finally, a note on transitions.  The Bureau of Naval Personnel approved my retirement request; I'll leave the USN next summer after 20 years of service.  There's a lot of personal satisfaction on the job done, and some trepidation on what's to come.  I've worn the uniform in some capacity for over half my actual life and all of my adult life.  Not only do I now have to find a color other than khaki to wear to work every day, I have to find a job, plus all the normal check-out items that need to be completed before I leave active service (of which medical is probably the most important).

Why am I telling you this?  Because in preparation for that transition this blog will necessarily become a lower priority for me.  So, it's going to go dark this winter for extended periods of time.  I plan to post when appropriate, and I am writing weekly over at I-70 Baseball if you need to a 'Mike fix', but will be concentrating on other things.

I expect to be back full-force for spring training.

Thanks to all of you who've commented here, or just stopped by to read what I've written.  A special thank-you to Gaslamp Ball and Ducksnorts for the many links during the 2010 season. Remember:  I'm not going away, just turning down the wattage for a while.  See you around.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Garland, Gonzalez, Torrealba Options Resolved

The Padres picked up Adrian Gonzalez's 2011 option yesterday.  As if there was any doubt.

According to Baseball Reference, Gonzalez had the highest NL WAR for position players not named Albert Pujols, and 4th highest overall (fangraphs is not as enamored; they rank Gonzo 13th in the league).  Gonzalez's value by Fangraphs came in at $21.1 million; his actual 2011 contract option is for $5.5 million.

Two other options were reported yesterday by XX1090 during the drive home.  Jon Garland exercised his player option and declined to return to San Diego in 2011.  He receives the $300K buyout.  Yorvit Torrealba also declined his $3.5 million option for 2011, and he receives a $500K buyout.

Gonzo gets a $750K raise.  The Padres spent $800K and cleared $10.25M off the books for 2011, making $9.45M more available to sign players in 2011.

I'm a little surprised Torrealba declined to return, however, 2010 was his best season in the majors.  He had the most PA he's had since 2007, and he put up his best-ever WAR (2.4, again by Fangraphs).  He's 32 years old.  Perhaps he thinks he proved himself this past season, and believes he can find an everyday catching gig on the free agent market.  That's certainly possible.  I love an optimist, so best of luck Yorvit.

I'm not all that surprised Garland is leaving.  He seemed irritated at how he was used by Black, especially towards the end of the season.  There were a couple of games (against the Giants in early September, against the Cubs the last home game of the season) where he either was visibly upset at being lifted, or verbally indicated he was miffed in the post-game interview.  Garland professed to really wanting to pitch at Petco when the Padres signed him in the off-season; things must have gone sour indeed for him to leave after only one season. 

Garland had the best K/9 rate, and the second-worst BB/9 rate, of his career in 2010.  His xFIP was the seocnd-lowest of his career, so he pitched about as well as he could; yet his WAR was the lowest it had ever been when throwing 200+ innings (and his lowest since 2001, his second year in the majors).  His 3.47 ERA was the best of his career.

How crowded would the Padres rotation have been in 2011?  Latos, Richard, and Stauffer return.  Young has an $8.5M club option.  Correia is a free agent.  LeBlanc is probably done as a starter.  There was room for Garland here in 2011, had he opted to stay.

Well Jon it was fun while it lasted.  Wish you could have stopped that 10-game losing streak before it reached 10 games.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bruce Bochy, Tim Flannery win a World Series

Wouldn't it have been better to write that headline while both were still members of the Padres organization?  Yes, yes it would.

I was asked in conversation who I would root for in the playoffs, and although I did not pick a team, I did state I would root for the NL representative to win the World Series.  Even if that rep was the Dodgers.  I believe the only professional league in the world still playing baseball like it was meant to be played is our league, the National League, and I want to see it succeed.  Mission accomplished, and congratulations to the San Francisco Giants.

I couldn't watch the post-game celebrations without thinking what might have been for San Diego.  I doubt any Padre fan could.  San Diego was the better team head-to-head, and had a better interleague record; but the Giants were 32-22 against the rest of the NL West, and the Padres were 26-28.  That was the difference.  San Fran was a 1/2 game better against the NL Central and 3.5 games better against the NL East than the Padres.  Still, San Diego had a chance to win the division on the last day of the season.

Which leaves one to wonder:  How far would San Diego have gotten in the post-season?  I don't think anyone can really say; after all, what predictive software program had the Rangers knocking off the Yankees?  I do think that the Padres would not have had enough offense to survive a first-round matchup with Atlanta or Philadelphia.  The Giants got contributions and power up and down their lineup:  Renteria, Ross, Posey, Burrell, Uribe, the list goes on.  San Diego didn't have that outside of Gonzalez and Tejada.  Pitching-wise, San Diego's rotation was not nearly as deep as San Francisco's, although our bullpen is their's equal.

I think the Padres, had they qualified, would have bowed out in the LDS round, and there would have been no shame in that; after all, this team was picked to finish last by most.

With the Giants win we close out the first decade of the new millennium, and what a decade it was for the World Series.
  • Arizona, Anaheim, Colorado, Houston, Tampa Bay, and Texas all made their first World Series Appearance, with Arizona and Anaheim winning their first ever championship.
  • We saw long streaks end - Boston ended a 90 year drought; the White Sox an 88 year drought; San Francisco a 56 year drought.
  • Only the Red Sox won multiple titles.
  • The old guard teams continue to dominate, though.  The Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies, and Cardinals won 40% of the league titles (2 each) in the decade.
So other than the end of season awards, that wraps up the 2010 baseball season.  Now our attention turns to Adrian Gonzalez's contract negotiations, and the club options for Jon Garland and Chris Young.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Moping and the LCS

With the off-season in it's third full week, there's little to do on the San Diego front besides wait for Chris Young to be released, and the start of the Padres vs Adrian Gonzalez contract squabbling that will end with Gonzo making $22M a year in Boston.

So we're left with watching the LCS series on Fox and TBS.  After 5 played games, I have some thoughts.
  • To this point Texas is a much better team than New York.  Think about this:  the Rangers are one bad seven hitter sequence away from leading this series 3-0. I didn't think they'd be up 2-1 at this point, and I suspect most folks didn't either.
  • It's funny to see the Yankee series relegated to TBS.  And satisfying too; at least now the country will be treated to some of the MLB's other good teams.
  • This Phillies/Giants series is going seven.  Neither team is hitting much right now anyway, and the pitching both have has been dominant.  I just don't see either team pulling away, unless the Giants start to activate and start Barry Zito.
  • You think Cody Ross is going to see any more inside fastballs this series?
  • The Yankees series hopes rest on AJ Burnett's right arm.  Good luck, New York.  Although I say that knowing Burnett will probably throw a 2-hitter over 7 innings tonight.
I'll probably do a Podcast again Thursday.  I'll have an update here Thursday AM either way.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

We Pause Briefly to Bash the Chargers

Rams 20, Chargers 17.  I am a Ram fan from way back, and sit in my Jack Youngblood jersey as I type this.

So HAH!  San Diego has never beaten the Rams.  Ever.

Oh and those of you scratching your head on how the Chargers could lose to a team that was 1-15 last year, and lost 44-6 to Detroit last week?  Here's why.  The Chargers cannot win on the road, and aren't as good as their rankings.  They aren't losing to inferior teams anymore - they are losing to teams as good as they are. 

Harsh?  Yep.  But consider:
  • Lose once to a bad team (KC) it's a fluke.
  • Twice (SEA) it's coincidence. 
  • Thrice (OAK) it's a trend.
  • Four times (STL) you are what you are.
No one will confuse those four teams with Super Bowl contenders.  The Chargers shouldn't be considered a contender either.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

How would the Padres have done?

Day 1 of the playoffs is in the books.  Philadelphia's Roy Halladay no-hit the Reds 4-0.  Since both those teams could have been Padres opponents, I thought:  How would the Padres have done?

1.  Would Halladay have no-hit San Diego?  With the stuff he had last night, Roy Halladay would have no-hit the '27 Yankees.  More to the point, here are the Reds and Padres relative NL rankings in various hitting categories:

  • Average:  Reds (1st), Padres (15th)
  • OBP:  Reds (2nd), Padres (13th)
  • Slugging:   Reds (1st), Padres (15th)
  • ISO:  Reds (2nd), Padres (15th)
  • And of course, wOBA Reds (1st), Padres (15th).
So if Roy Halladay could no-hit the Reds last night, who were in the top 2 in most offensive categories (including nose hair), the Padres would have gotten clobbered.  And probably had a perfect game thrown at them.  Can't you see Ryan Ludwick flailing wildly at all those 'palm balls' Halladay flicked up there?

2.  Would the Padres have no-hit Cincinnati?  A little more difficult to answer.  The game would have been here, so that's an advantage for the Padre starter.  Who would have been the Padre starter?  Chris Young would have pitched the Monday play-in game, so Bud Black's options were Jon Garland on extra rest or Clayton Richard on full rest (let's eliminate Tim Stauffer and Mat Latos from consideration; no way they start Game 1 on short rest).
  • Neither Garland nor Richard have thrown a no-hitter in their careers to date.
  • Garland has 2 post-season starts; he allowed 4 ER in 16 IP (ERA:  2.25) as a White Sox in 2005.  Richard has never started a post-season game.
  • The Reds hit .275/.335/.437 against RHP and .265/.346/.434 against LHP.  That's known as a wash.  No advantage there.
  • The Padres lost both of Richard's starts against Cincinnati this season.  The Padres were 4-2 against Cincinnati overall.  Garland's teams are 2-2 in his career when he started against the Reds.
So probably Garland.  Garland would have 6 days rest between starts (last start 30 Sept).  He is 14-16 career with a 4.86 ERA when starting on that much rest.  He did throw a 4-hitter at the Cubs in that 30 Sept start, but it was a wet cold day in San Diego, which probably helped him out.  If pinned into a corner, I'd say no, the Padres don't no-hit Cincinnati.

Of course, it doesn't matter.  San Diego lost last Sunday.  Which meant I had to do this today.

Monday, October 4, 2010

That's A Wrap

It seemed too much to ask, for the Phillies to take a third game from Atlanta, and for the Padres to sweep San Francisco.  Turned out, it was.

The Phillies third and fourth stringers put up a pretty valiant effort, trimming a 6-run deficit to 1 with two out in the eighth, but it was too much to overcome.  It didn't matter, because the Padres controlled their own destiny on this day.  Win and you move on.  Lose and you go home.

Losing 3-0 in San Francisco isn't shameful. What will haunt these Padres, other than the 10-game losing streak, is all the men they left on base Sunday.  Ludwick striking out in the second with two on and two out.  Torrealba's double play grounder after the first two men reached to start the sixth.  Tejada striking out with two on and two out in the seventh.  Latos pitched well enough - 2 runs allowed should not be enough to kill a team - but on this day it was.

The Padres have some major decisions to make this off-season.  No one wants to see a 90-win team dismantled, but there's a very real possibility that might happen (to wit:  Chris Young, Jon Garland, and Gonzo account for $20.75 mil in payroll if the Padres pick up all their options).  Then there's the question of Tejada and Ludwick - do they return for 2011?  Does Heath Bell come back?  What of Kyle Blanks?  And so on.

We will go into those questions over the coming weeks.

For now, revel in the season that was.  Heck, I thought 82-80 and third place was optimistic as a prediction.  They exceeded that, kept us riveted all season, and fell just short.  It was a lot of fun, even if the final result is not one we wanted, and I for one can't wait for 2011.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

That's Two

Headaches felled your correspondent this afternoon, meaning I didn't watch the game.  So, at 4pm, I groggily reached for my iTouch.  Initially I read the score SFO 4, SDG 2.  Oh, well - at least we tried.

Then I realized it was San Diego that had won 4-2.  And, Philadelphia was beating Atlanta 5-0 (they would eventually win 7-0).  Holy cow.

Ryan Ludwick's home run in the second inning Friday night might be the biggest hit of the season for San Diego.  It snapped their scoreless inning funk at 13, gave them the early lead, and I think both relaxed the Padres and put pressure on the Giants.  Who would have thunk that, given how much Ludwick has struggled since the trade.

Tim Stauffer was great.  But a one hitter through six?  Unbelieveable.  Padres scored enough early and held on.  Kudos to Luke Gregerson, Mike Adams, and Heath Bell for slamming the door.  Well, partial credit goes to Jose Guillen for swinging aggressively and rolling into the 6-3 DP to end it.

I thought after the game "Gee, I think Gregerson, Adams, and Bell have pitched 3 consecutive games.  Will they be available Sunday?"  Actually it's more than that - Adams has worked in five straight games, Bell and Gregerson 4.  This article in the U-T discusses the bullpen.  Here's the money quote from Gregerson:
"I told [Darrel Ackerfelds] and Bud (Black) to stop asking me how I feel," said Gregerson. "Let's go. We're trying to win here. It's all hands on deck."
Looks like they will pitch Sunday if called upon.  I love it.  Gregerson's outlook matches mine - they've got all winter to rest if they don't win tomorrow.

San Diego's odds of making the playoffs stood at 7.5% headed into Friday night.  Now they stand at 52.3%. Wouldn't you know it, the season will come down to Mat Latos and Jonathan 'Big Mouth' Sanchez.  How appropriate.  Never going to look back, Big Mouth, once you pass the Padres?  Look in the rearview mirror.

There is no pressure at all tomorrow on the Padres.  It's all on the Giants.  The only thing going for SF right now is they will be part of a one-game playoff they end up tied with someone else.  San Diego can't say that, and neither can Atlanta.  If either team loses while the other wins, the loser is out.  Should make for compelling baseball.

Tear yourself away from the Charger game on your computer and watch the Padres/Giants.  Screw the Chargers.  They suck for the first 1/4 of the season anyway.

Friday, October 1, 2010

That's One

How big was that double play in the ninth?  Thank you Freddy Sanchez.

Padres get it done.  Now they can focus on tomorrow's game.  Philadelphia routed Atlanta, so the Padres gain ground in both races.

Nice to see Ryan Ludwick packed his big bat for this series, even if he struck out 3 times following his second inning HR.  Nice to see the Padres jump all over Matt Cain early to take the crowd out of the game for most of it; they re-appeared in the sixth when San Fran scored 3 to get back in the game, but we were into the strength of our bullpen by that point.

Adrian Gonzalez had a rare bad game with the glove, but I can live with that, especially considering he tattooed a ball for the 3-run HR in the fourth.  Didn't hurt.  Meant Bell had to face the heart of the Giant order in the ninth, but Sanchez sucked the wind out of that inning.

Some noise was made pre-game about Giant manager Bruce Bochy moving Cain up to Friday so they could clinch and get it over with.  Perhaps there was another reason:
  1. Matt Cain 2010 splits:
    1. Day Games - 73.1 IP, 7 HR, 3-4, 3.31 ERA
    2. Night Games - 146 IP, 12 HR, 10-6, 2.77 ERA
  2. Barry Zito 2010 splits:
    1. Day Games - 43 IP, 6 HR, 2-2, 3.77 ERA
    2. Night Games - 153.1 IP, 14 HR, 7-11, 4.17 ERA
Cain was definitely better at night than Zito, and Saturday's game is a day tilt.  I'm sure that figured into his reasoning.

Padre prospects for making the playoffs are noticeably brighter now than they were 24 hours ago.  This team can beat Zito.  Then it's a one-game playoff against 'Big Mouth' Sanchez for all the marbles.  Should Philly sweep Atlanta, and the Padres pull off the improbable, there is no playoff, San Diego wins the division, and San Francisco draws Philly in the NLDS.

Wouldn't that be sweet.

Wet, Gloomy Day at Petco

Work permitted, so I headed down to Petco for yesterday's regular season finale.

Initially weather did not cooperate:




I've been going to Padres games upwards of 20 years, and that's the first time I can remember seeing the tarp on the field.  Exciting.  Seats were soaked, so I skulked with my beer at the top of our section awaiting the wife's arrival.  Which was delayed, because she had inadvertently left her ticket and the parking pass at home (I took the trolley down from work). 

She didn't have to head home, as we can get a reprinted ticket as season ticket holders, which was nice. After some gymnastics to get the car parked - traffic downtown at 4pm yesterday was far, far worse than I've seen it recently - we watched the game from our rain-soaked seats.  Some high (lowlights):

  • I know it doesn't rain much in San Diego, and almost never during the baseball season.  But even so, shouldn't the stadium designers have included a rudimentary drainage system for the low points in each deck?  We spent the game with our feet in 2 inches of water.
  • Why did Yorvit Torrealba try to swipe second in the second inning?  I was buying more beer and turned around in time to see him thrown out by 200 feet.  A catcher should never try a straight steal (unless he's John Wathan), and especially should never try to steal on a wet track like yesterday's infield.  Was there a missed hit and run there?  Did Yorvit look back at the plate as he headed to second?  I need to know.
  • San Diego was no-hit for the last 7.1 innings.  Enough said.
  • I was somewhat surprised Jon Garland left the game in the seventh after only 95 pitches.  It worked out for the Padres, but still I was surprised.  He threw as well yesterday as I have seen him throw in person.
  • There was a noticeable change in the mood every time Ryan Ludwick stepped in.  A 'geez, this guy's terrible, here comes another strikeout' vibe.  Ludwick absorbed a smattering of boos after popping out to CF to end the sixth (with Venable on third, the only Padre to make it that far yesterday).  In the ninth, the fans got up for Tejada's leadoff at-bat, stayed up for Gonzo's, then got quiet, resigned to Ludwick making an out.  Which he promptly did.  It's very frustrating watching Ludwick.  He's trying, but he's in a horrific slump.
In the third inning Aaron Cunningham hit a ball into the stands.  It wasn't a line drive, but it was hit well and had some pace on it.  Although several people tried to make a play, it sailed through the stands and struck an 8-year old boy (approximate age) on the head.  How hard was that ball hit?  It caromed back onto the field.  Immediately people started motioning for the ushers to come over and assist.

Amazingly the blow did not draw blood.  Eventually, EMT's showed up to evaulate his condition.


Count seven rows of seats from the left side of this photo, and look for the bald guy just to the right of the guy in the white t-shirt standing with his arm raised.  That's where the kid was.  You can see it's 30 feet easy from there to the grass, where the ball landed after it bounced off him.

The kid stayed another 2 innings, then he and his dad left.  Some of the fans in that section applauded the kid as he walked out, which was cool.  He looked pretty dazed to me, even 30 minutes later.  I hope his dad found his common sense and took the boy to a doctor for further evaluation.

I'm not a moralist, and I'm probably the last guy to give parenting advice, but hey dads - your primary function when at a baseball game with small children is to protect your children.  Letting your son/daughter get clocked by a foul ball?  FAIL.  Get in the way next time.  I'd rather take a line drive off the balls than see my son struck because I was more concerned with getting a souvenir than protecting him.

The kid did at least get to keep the ball.  Small consolation in my mind today, he might feel differently about it later on.

Padres got shut out, it rained, and a little kid got struck with a foul ball.  Pretty much sums up a lousy day at the ball park.  Oh yeah - for my 20 home games the Padres went 7-13.  Depressing.

***
It all comes down to this weekend.  San Diego should not focus on winning all 3 games.  They need to focus on beating Matt Cain tonight.  It really quite simple - if they don't win today, tomorrow's game doesn't mean anything.  So focus on the now.

Granted, there is also the very real possibility the Padres could be eliminated tonight, if they lose and the Braves win.  But let's not think about that.  San Diego is 2-0 against Cain this season when he's paired with Clayton Richard.  Focus on that.

It should be raucous in Pac Bell Park tonight.  Hey Padres - Feed off that.  Reach deep inside and stop the tide.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Will Venable and Chris Young save the season

AP/Lenny Ignelzi
Admit it:  after the double steal, you didn't think there was any way the Padres would get out of the first inning without allowing a run.  Not with Byrd, Aramis Ramirez, and X Nady due.  I sure didn't; I figured escaping while allowing only 1 run would be Above Average.

Emphasizing how important that sequence was, Bud Black brought the infield in for the THIRD HITTER OF THE GAME.  When was the last time you saw that?  What is a more powerful testimony to how much the Padre offense is struggling?

Cue the music.  Chris Young escaped on an easy chopper to third, one ridiculously well-placed fastball that tied Ramirez up, and a flailing strikeout of Nady.  Wow.


AP/Lenny Ignelzi
But that was nothing.  Will Venable topped that by robbing Soriano of extra bases leading off the second.  Enberg (live) and Leitner (on the Padre Replay this AM, courtesy of XX1090) both called is as taking a HR away.  From the excellent vantage point of my couch 20 miles away, it looked like Venable didn't go over the fence to catch it.  Sadly Channel 4 never offered a shot along the fence line that could have determined it, and I don't know if WGN/ESPN had a better shot of the catch.  Either way it saved a run; if the ball doesn't clear the fence, Soriano scores on Koyie Hill's double later in the inning.

But THAT was nothing.  Ramirez didn't miss a fastball in his next AB, hitting the high hard one a loong way into LC.  Venable, not slowing down and not giving up, leapt into the stands to make a spectacular catch, robbing Ramirez of a 2-run HR, and ending the inning.

The description above does not do that catch justice.  With the season on the line, playing for the first time in three days thanks to a balky back, in a game they could not afford to lose, nursing a tenuous 1-run lead, what a play by Will Venable.  San Diego should have been down 3-1 at that point, and could have been down 4 or 5-1.  Instead, they added single runs in the 4th and 6th, winning 3-0.

Unfortunately, Atlanta cruised past Florida, while Ian Kennedy made one bad pitch to Pat Burrell which he hit for a 3-run bomb, giving Tim Lincecum all the cushion he would need in a 3-1 Giants win.

San Diego still controls its destiny.  Win out and win the West.  That said, they could really use a Arizona win today coupled with a win over Chicago.  Winning two of 3 in San Fran will be very difficult; the Padres have to beat up Zito Saturday, and will need to find a way to beat either Cain or Sanchez.  Asking them to sweep this weekend series in order to qualify for the post-season is bordering on impossible.  Not with this lineup.

This morning Scott and BR brought up 1996, and the famous Padre 3-game sweep of the Dodgers to win the West.  There is one crucial difference.  That year the Dodgers had qualified for the post-season before the series started; the only question was would the Padres make it in or not.  This year, nothing is decided, and both teams face the very real possibility they could miss the post-season altogether if they lose the series.  San Francisco has a lot more incentive to win than the Dodgers did in 96.  Seeing as the Padres have dominated the season series, I would think the last team SF wants to play in the NLCS is San Diego.  Other than Philadelphia, that is.

Another big game this afternoon.  I should be there, work and weather permitting.  Podcast tonight.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Not much left to say

I said they had to win last night's game.  Is it worth repeating again today?

Two back (on the loss side) of both Atlanta and San Francisco with 5 to play.  Unless they find a way to generate some offense, and win the next two games from Chicago, the weekend series in 'Frisco won't mean a thing.

Come on guys. You've played too well for too long to give up now. Forget about last night.  Get today's game.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

That One Hurt

Carlos Zambrano has pitched very well lately.  Tim Stauffer has pitched well all season.  Even with that I had a sneaking suspicion the Padres would lose last night.  I didn't expect it to be a frustrating loss, which it certainly was.

Either Mark Grant or Dick Enberg said during the telecast Zambrano is one of those pitchers you have to get to early.  I've never considered him in the same vein as Greg Maddux, who most definitely was a pitcher you had to get to early. This is kind of a silly comment, now that I think aboutit.  If you make any pitcher labor early they either will give up more runs overall, or leave the game sooner leaving it up to the long men in the bullpen.  So don't you always want to get to a pitcher early? The Padres definitely had opportunities in the first two innings, most notably thwarted by Chase Headley's line drive DP to X Nady.  Ugh.  If it was only 3 feet higher.

After Chicago pushed across their run in the seventh, the Padres had a good chance to tie in the bottom half and flubbed it.  Luckily we have Geoff at Ducksnorts to explain how they flubbed it.  Geoff does a much better job of articulating what I kind of knew intrinsically but couldn't explain.  I turned to my wife and said, "Ball Game" when that inning ended. 

Of course that was before the bizarre bottom of the ninth happened.  Yorvit with a hustle play.  Headley "hit" by a pitch that clearly bounced between his feet.  Tony Gwynn Jr walked (where was that in the seventh?).  Here's Nick Hundley.  I thought he hit that 2-1 pitch out from my couch; he actually got it off the end of the bat and it died in deep LF.

Here's a random thought - why not bunt there?  Who in the world would expect Nick Hundley to bunt in that situation?  You gotta get a run; Torrealba already slid into first to beat a throw (which was, for once, absolutely the right play).  Nick's a pretty good hitter, but by hook or by crook, right?  Not saying it was wrong for him to swing away (it wasn't; a single wins the game).  I was tired and it popped into my head.

The results of that game, as you probably know by now, dropped the Padres a game behind SF and out of the Wild Card lead.  It's really going to be tough to win the division now.  Basically the Padres have to win the rest of the games in this series, then take 2 of 3 from SF.  Should AZ take a game off the Giants it helps, because there's more margin for error, but the Padres would still need to win 2 of 3 to take the division.  Expecting AZ to win more than one game from SF is unrealistic.

It might be unrealistic to expect the Diamondbacks to win one game.  Who knows.  We'll know for sure Friday morning.

Latos makes his biggest start of the year tonight.  Padres gotta win this game.  They just gotta.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Seven Game Sprint

I should probably give some explanation to my last post.  As you know from reading the game recap, if nothing else, David Eckstein was not intentionally walked to get to Miguel Tejada on Friday night.  I did not see this game live, as I was on a softball diamond in the Mira Mesa area, and was monitoring the action from my iPhone.  The Gameday graphics showed the first 3 pitches to be waaaay outside - like splitting the left handed batters box outside.  It sure looked like he was being pitched around to get to Tejada, which made no sense, and still makes no sense.

Hence the post.  Guess Posnanski won't be covering this one.

Anywho, we reach the last week of the regular season.  I have a Baseball Digest post pending talking about this next series with the Cubs.  In a perfect world, the Diamondbacks would sweep San Fran, San Diego would sweep the Cubs, and we'd go to the Bay Area with a 3-game lead and 3 to play.  Since San Diego holds the season series edge (10-5 at this point), the NL West would be ours.  That's probably not going to happen.

So what, realistically, should our expectations be?  Splitting this series with the Cubs is absolutely essential.  You gotta figure the Giants are going to get at least 2 of their 3 games with AZ.  Splitting the 4 game series sends San Diego to San Fran 1 game back with 3 to play.  Still a tall order, but do-able, to win 2 of those 3 and the Division.  Should the Giants sweep, well, then the Padres would have to sweep to win the division, and that's probably not going to happen.

I think the club can take 2 of these games from the Cubs, most likely the last two (against Wells and Gorzelanny).  Getting one of the first 2 (against a hot Zambrano and Dempster, the Cub ace) will be a taller order. At least we have Latos going on Tuesday, well, hopefully the May-August Latos.

Starters for the AZ/SF series:
  • Rodrigo Lopez vs Sanchez
  • Ian Kennedy vs Bumgarner
  • Barry Enright vs Lincecum
AZ has a shot at two of those games, although admittedly it depends on which Sanchez shows up.  Kennedy has thrown every bit as well as Bumgarner.  Enright is no slouch, but let's face it, Lincecum is hot so advantage SF.

In any case, buckle your seat belts.  It's going to be a heck of a week.

Friday, September 24, 2010

I Don't Get It, but Thank You

Let's set the scene:  First and third, 2 out, Cincinnati leading by a run.  Arthur Rhodes on the mound, David Eckstein stepping in.  Rhodes was an All-Star this season, has an ERA+ of 200, and sits third in the NL in holds (a meaningless statistic yes, but anyway).

Eckstein career against Rhodes - 3 for 9, HR, HBP
Tejada career against Rhodes - 4 for 20, 2 BB, no extra base hits.

Dusty Baker pops out of the dugout.  He signals the bullpen for Nick Masset.  Masset has had a good year too, but not as good as Rhodes (not an All-Star, ERA+ 114, better K/9 but worse WHIP, 16th in holds)

Eckstein career vs Masset:  Never faced.
Tejada career vs Masset:  2 for 5, no extra base hits.

Baseball is fun because baseball is replete with small sample sizes, and many many MANY decisions are made based on small snippets of information.  I suspect Dusty Baker had these snippets at his disposal.  Small sample sizes are fraught with danger, but even so one COULD say Tejada had better numbers against Masset than Rhodes.  With the game on the line one would think the best matchup is what the manager seeks to set up, and in that vein Rhodes vs Tejada seems to be the best matchup.

Given that, why in the world would he have Masset pitch to Tejada instead of Rhodes, if he was going to walk Eckstein?

On another slightly less controversial subject, WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD DUSTY BAKER INTENTIONALLY WALK ANYBODY TO PUT THE GO AHEAD RUN IN SCORING POSITION?

Wait - why am I complaining?  Thanks Dusty, for the gift tonight, and the NL Wild Card lead.  Please, continue doing what it is you do.

I hope Joe Posnanski tears this decision apart in about 5000 words.  I look forward to that read.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Back in First Place


"Don't worry, boys - I got this."
Does the air seem cleaner today?  The sky brighter, traffic lighter, and people happier than yesterday?  It could be the Wednesday AM drizzle cleared out some of the lingering summer crap.  OR, it could be the Padres return to first place.


Yes, thanks to the Diamondbacks beating the Colorado Ubaldos, and Chicago shutting out the Giants, San Diego returns to their rightful place atop the NL West.  Philadelphia's sweep of Atlanta also pushed the Padres ahead of the Braves in the Wild Card race.

Overnight, San Diego's playoff odds jumped from 44.1% to 61.9%.  Awesome.

Miguel Tejada provided the big blow with his 300th career HR, and that's a big milestone to be sure.  But let us pause a moment and consider what Tim Stauffer has done in the rotation lately.  He's made for high leverage starts in September, thrown 21 innings, allowed 6 runs.  Four of those came in the same game, last Thursday in St Louis; 3 of those runs scored because Albert Pujols' RBI dying flare landed JUUUUUST out of Ryan Ludwick's reach, and Yadier Molina's hit a 2 RBI flare off Ryan Webb in a perfect spot (on the RF line out of everyone's reach).

Overall he's thrown 26 innings as a starter and posted a 2.08 ERA.  In September he's been the best Padre starter not named Clayton Richard.  With Jon Garland's and Mat Latos' struggles, Stauffer has been essential to keeping San Diego in the playoff hunt.  It is not an exaggeration to say the Padres probably would be dead and buried without him.

Mat Latos will start today against Hiroki Kuroda.  Frankly I'm a bit surprised by this.  Yes he did get an extra day of rest following his Friday start/drubbing in St Louis, but I kind of expected San Diego to skip his turn in the rotation and have Chris Young start today on normal rest.  Granted, CY has not beaten LA in LA since 2007 (and in fact has only beaten the Dodgers once up there), but it seemed a good time to rest Latos.

The Cardinals and Giants attacked Latos early in the count with great success.  It will be quite interesting to see how Latos adjusts to that strategy in this start.

The Padres Trail Podcast returns tonight!  We've a lot to talk about.  Hope you can listen in.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Because, You Know, We Need Some Levity Here

When I came to work today, I was blue.  No, not literally.  I was tired, I blew off my workout period (which I later regretted), my right calf ached where I was hit by a batted ball last night (Sure sign you should stop pitching to your team in 3-pitch softball?  You start getting hit every game, because you're too slow to get your glove down and/or get your legs out of the way gracefully).

Then I came to work, found my way to Deadspin, and discovered the Fire Joe Morgan team was posting.  Oh Happy Day.

Amongst the usual excellent satire (which included a Joe Morgan piece, appropriately enough) was a story on a subject that drew me to their site in the first place:  David Eckstein and his grittiness.

It is worth the read.  But in case you don't have the time today/tonight to read the full article, I carefully chose this paragraph for your perusal, mostly because I don't want to lose it to history.

No room in the game for David Eckstein? "I hope that's not the case," Black said recently. "He's a baseball player with talent. One thing I think gets overlooked: he can play.

IT IS NOT OVERLOOKED. IT IS ALL ANYONE EVER FUCKING TALKS ABOUT.

You know who's overlooked? Adrian Fucking Gonzalez. Nobody in the world outside of Adrian Gonzalez's immediate family has any idea he even exists, much less that he is one of the very best hitters in the world. A reporter recently asked Yorvit Torrealba to talk about how good Adrian Gonzalez has been for the Pads this year, and Torrealba said, "There is no one on our team by that name. You are mistaken. Perhaps you mean to ask about David Eckstein?" Then he directed the reporter over to a velvet-roped-off area down the left field line where David Eckstein was standing on a giant lazy susan, like a 20-foot Bowrider at a boat show, rotating slowly as thousands of screaming journalists took his picture so they could say they once got the chance to see the great David Eckstein in person. And while this was happening, Adrian Gonzalez, who has a .922 OPS hitting in fucking Petco every night, was outside gnawing on discarded chicken wings in a dumpster because he doesn't even get paid for playing baseball, because nobody knows who he is. That's a true story, people.

Man I miss Fire Joe Morgan.

Richard goes The Route. Twelve to go.

Clayton Richard threw his first shutout as a Padre, Ryan Ludwick continued his resurgence with 3 RBI, and the Padres whipped the Dodgers 6-0.  Giants won, so they stay a 1/2 game out.  Rockies lost, so they picked up a full game (Rocks now 2.5 back of SF).

As I detailed yesterday over at Baseball Digest, San Diego is in a dogfight now.  I think they have two advantages - a slightly easier schedule, and one more home game than their rivals.  Of course they still have to win.  The unfortunate reality of their recent struggles is, they no longer control their own destiny.  San Francisco must lose, and so too Atlanta, for the Padres to play post-season baseball.  Happily they trail Atlanta by a 1/2 game as well in the Wild Card race.

More good news:  ESPN has upgraded their playoff chances to 44.6% from 35.1% yesterday.  Almost a 50/50 chance now.  That's awesome considering what's transpired since 26 August.

Tim Stauffer vs Ted Lilly tonight.  Lilly mesmerized the Padres at Chavez Ravine back on August 3 in a 2-1 Los Angeles win. I think he retired 21 in a row at one point.  Stauffer has made 5 career starts against the Dodgers, the last being September 6 of this year.  San Diego has won 3 in a row when he starts.  Stauffer has been the Padres' other good pitcher over the last 2 weeks (in addition to Richard), so we've got that going for us, which is nice.

Ubaldo goes for the Rockies against Rodrigo Lopez in Arizona.  Jonathan "Big Mouth" Sanchez will face Randy Wells in Chicago.  I find myself in the interesting position of rooting for the Small Bears.  The things we must do to see our teams through.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Love Coors Field

The Padres have one one series in Colorado every year since 2003.  Did they pick a good time to get their series win for 2010, or what?  With the buzzards circling, and Colorado seemingly on the same path they took to the World Series in 2007, virtually no one expected the Padres to put up much resistance this week.

Someone forgot to tell the 25+ guys in the visitors dugout they'd been buried for 2010, and ought to work on their tee time schedule.

The much bally-hood inability to score 5 runs in a game, at least since August 26?  San Diego has scored 6 and 7 runs in the two games of this series.  Put that little streak to bed.  There's nothing like playing in Coors Field to cure whatever offensive ills one has.

The problems San Diego starters not named Richard and Latos seemed to have?  Mostly put away.  Yes, Cory Luebke and Jon Garland each had one bad inning in their starts, but by and large the starting pitching has been solid.  The bullpen has returned to its former lights out form (Heath Bell's adventure in the ninth inning last night notwithstanding).

Suddenly the Padres find themselves with a 1.5 game lead on San Francicso, and 3.5 on Colorado.  A little breathing room never felt so good.  A sweep of this series is too much to ask, but the Padres will go for that behind Clayton Richard today.

Two other notes of interest regarding this blog:

1.  There will not be a Podcast this week because,
2.  I will be in St Louis for the Thursday game with the Cardinals.  It is Social Media night at Busch, and in my other capacity as a Cardinal blogger I'm going.  There is a panel discussion scheduled, including some of the local press writers covering the team.  I will not be on the panel, which is probably good.

As a result, there won't be much (if any) content on this here blog before the weekend ends.  However, come Monday I should have a summary post up on the weeks activities somewhere.

Monday, September 13, 2010

It gets harder from here

Let's start with some good news:

- After losing 10 straight, the Padres went 4-3.  Improvement, baby!
- Tim Stauffer looks legit, and with Wade LeBlanc/Kevin Correia struggling the Padres rotation needed a lift.  We really needed you Tim.  Nice job.
- The strike 'em out, throw 'em out to end Saturday's game was ridiculous.  That was exciting.
- Bud Black finally dropped Ryan Ludwick down in the order.  I'm probably the biggest Ryan Ludwick fan in San Diego, but it's about time.  Ludwick has been killing us.
- San Diego is still in first.
- They are headed to Colorado.  If there's a tonic for a struggling offense, it's Coors Field.
- I'm going to appear on the I-70 baseball Podcast tonight about 8:15 local time.  This is a Cardinals/Royals focused production, but since San Diego will be in St Louis the end of this week, I was invited.  Should be interesting.  I'm expecting lots of questions on the 'collapse'.
- I did something very rash this week:

Yes that is a bet on the Padres WINNING the World Series.  It might be throwing money away, but what the heck.  I'll cut 10 sodas out of my diet.

Now the bad news.

- Padres still aren't hitting.  They scored 3 meaningful runs this weekend against San Francisco in 4 games.  Ludwick's HR on Thursday night was nice, but cosmetic as the Padres were down 6 when he hit it.
- The brutal September continues.  Now in a virtual tie for first, with Colorado only a game and a half behind both us and the Giants, we travel to Denver.  Colorado has won TEN STRAIGHT at the moment, and are 11-4 this season against San Diego.
- Then they get to play in St Louis.  San Diego is 7-26 in St Louis since 2000, and have lost 9 in a row there.

Hope springs eternal, but reality is starting to smother hope.  Today ESPN projected the Padres have a 48.8% chance of making the playoffs.  Unless they snap out of their funk starting today they might be out of the playoff hunt eintirely by next Sunday.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sweep

Four consecutive series sweeps.  At least this one went the Padres way.  This marks the first time San Diego has swept LA here since June 2007 (June 5-7 2007, to be exact).

It could not come at a better time.  Coming off the long losing streak, San Diego needed a shot of confidence.  They've gotten it.  Coupled with San Francisco losing to Arizona, last night's win marked the first time since 25 August the Padres have gained ground in the division.  Also quite nice.

Cory Luebke?  I think this is more what the Padres expected when they promoted him last week.  We all were concerned when he gave up 2 long HR in that game vs. Colorado, but I liked the fact he settled down and retired the last 11 hitters he faced.  Luebke seemed to find himself after the Tulowitzki HR, and he carried that into Wednesday's game.  He's probably earned himself another start, next Monday in Colorado.  I'm sure he'd like to face those guys again.

Ryan Ludwick sat last night, a move that was long overdue.  I think he would be well served to sit tonight too; one more change to regroup before hitting it again on Friday.

Big series tonight - I don't need to tell you that.  It looks more and more likely I'll be at tonight's game.  There won't be a Podcast tonight if I'm at the ballpark, but I will tweet periodically throughout the game here.  Feel free to respond and participate.  And oh if you're going to tonight's game too let me know - maybe we'll meet for a beer or something.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Two straight

This just in:  Mat Latos is good.  Just for fun, let's compare his strikeouts per nine inning ratio to other notable National League pitchers (not including games on 7 Sept):
  • Lincecum - 9.5
  • Latos - 9.3
  • Jimenez - 8.4
  • Wainwright - 8.3
  • Halladay - 8.0
  • Carpenter - 6.9
A question on the Padres post-game show last night that Scanlon answered asked if Latos should be included in conversations on the NL Cy Young.  Absolutely.  That comparison above is just a sampler of how good Latos has been in 2010.

I thought Bud Black really rolled the dice bringing Mike Adams in to start the eighth inning, given the high leverage 5 outs Adams got Monday night.  Adams was not up to the task.  Black decided to bring Heath Bell in for a 5-out save.  Considering the Dodgers had the tying run on second with one out in the inning, and that Bell hadn't pitched since 27 August before last night, I thought it absolutely the right move.  Bell striking out 4 and getting the save was gravy.

The only downside?  I suspect both Adams and Bell will not be available today.  San Diego has assured itself of at least a tie for first place going into the Giant series.  I would think having both those pitchers ready for Thursday's game is more important than running them back out there Wednesday.  Besides, everyone else (less Tim Stauffer) should be available to back up Luebke.

Padres go for the sweep today.  Is it too early to talk magic numbers?  Yes it is.  Let's save that discussion until after the weekend series with San Francisco.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Why hit Hundley eighth?

I'm KILLING the ball right now!
One of the recurring themes of this season is a lack of offense.  Or at least a lack of consistent offense.  The other more recent theme (that, mercifully, has been laid to rest) is the 10-game skid and various people ('fans') screaming "The Padres are falling straight out of first place and through the center of the earth!  AAAAA!"

Talk about getting all worked up over a small sample size.  But speaking of a small sample size, last night Nick Hundley hit his second HR of the homestand . . . from the 8-hole.  Which begs the question:  Why is Hundley hitting eighth?

To start the argument, here are the offensive numbers for the main Padre hitters since the start of the losing streak (August 26 thru last night):
  • Hundley:  .375/.375/.792, 2 HR (24 PA)
  • Denorfia:  .214/.290/.321, 0 HR (31 PA)
  • Eckstein:  .184/.256/.184, 0 HR (44 PA)
  • Ludwick:  .200/.256/.225, 0 HR (43 PA)
  • Gonzalez:  .385/.467/.538, 1 HR (45 PA)
  • Tejada:    .214/.233/.429, 3 HR (43 PA)
  • Headley:  .175/.233/.225, 0 HR (43 PA)
  • Venable:  .059/.059/.059, 0 HR (34 PA)
  • Torrealba:  .235/.316/.412, 1 HR (19 PA)
One expects to see a lot of lousy averages after losing 10 of 11, and those numbers are truly horrible.  Other than Adrian Gonzalez, Hundley has been the best hitter on the club over that stretch, yet he and Yorvit are splitting time behind the plate, and he is hitting low in the order.

Based on these numbers, I would rearrange the lineup thusly.
  1. Chris Denorfia
  2. Ryan Ludwick
  3. Adrian Gonzalez
  4. Nick Hundley
  5. Miguel Tejada
  6. David Eckstein
  7. Chase Headley
  8. Pitcher's spot
  9. Will Venable
Gonzalez and Hundley lead the team in OBP right now.  Neither one is a guy you want hitting leadoff based on their speed and/or their power.  So it defaults to the #3 guy right now, Denorfia.  Ludwick has better power potential than Eckstein.  Personally I like him hitting #2; he thrived there with the Cardinals, and it puts him in front of a marquee hitter again in Gonzo.  Gonzalez returns to his customary #3 hole, Hundley is #4 because he's hot.  Tejada hits fifth, again because of power potential over the rest of the candidates.  Eckstein has the highest remaining OBP, so he's sixth, followed by Headley.  Venable is struggling so bad the Padre pitchers are more of a threat right now, so they hit eighth and Will slides into the ninth slot.

That's a major shake-up.  This team hasn't scored more than 5 runs in 10 games, and their last 5-run outburst came well after that game was decided.  If that proposed lineup makes you uncomfortable, fine; let's go with this one:
  1. Denorfia
  2. Eckstein
  3. Gonzalez
  4. Hundley
  5. Tejada
  6. Headley
  7. Ludwick
  8. Pitcher's spot
  9. Venable
Moves Gonzo back to #3, Hundley to #4, Pitcher to #8, and Ludwick/Venable down to #7 and #9, respectively.  A little less radical, but still moves people around based on how they're doing right now.

Again, we have to be careful with small sample sizes - they can be very misleading.  However, Nick Hundley is such a 'shimmering star in the [Padre offensive] firmament' at this moment in history he should not be hitting 8th UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.

Move him up, Mr. Black.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Enjoy the Silence

At last we don't have to listen to any more talk about the stupid losing streak.  Finally.

There is still a long road to hoe.  Bud Black pretty much burned his bullpen tonight.  Mujica a third of an inning, Thatcher 2/3, Webb an inning, Gregerson a third, Adams 1 and 2/3, Bell an inning.  Not to mention Stauffer's 4 innings in the emergency start tonight for Mat Latos.  At least Latos should be well enough to pitch tomorrow night, and Kevin Correia/Wade LeBlanc will be available to relieve if needed.

Figure Stauffer and Adams are out for tomorrow.

But in any case, enjoy the silence. (DINGgggggggggggggg!)

Enough

Let's keep this short.  It is, after all, a Federal Holiday and we all have barbeques to attend, beer to drink, and baseball to watch (and perhaps, a football fantasy draft to complete).

I'm not going to panic because the Padres have lost ten straight.  I'm going to get pissed off.  There's NO WAY the team that has stumbled through the last 10 games is the true talent level for this group, not after they went 76-49 over the first 125.  If you find yourself jumping off the Padre bandwagon because of the last 10 games good riddance.  Don't let the pavement give you too much of a road rash when you hit it at 40 miles an hour, because I'm driving and I'm accelerating.

Get pissed, Padres.  You're not this bad, not even close.  Stop pressing.  Stop blaming others for what happened.  Stop suggesting MLB has it in for you because you're a small market.  Stop trying to hit 3-run HRs with no one on base.  Get back to what got you here - long at bats, aggressive baserunning, good pitching in the rotation and out of the bullpen.

Believe you can do it.  You did it for the first 125 games, why in the world would you let a two-week funk invalidate all that effort and change your mindset?

Here's what's going to happen.  After you take 2 of 3 from the Dodgers - and you will take 2 of three from the Dodgers - we're going to smack the Giants in the mouth.  They can't beat us, haven't all year.  They aren't going to beat us this weekend either.

Go put on Green Day, or Depeche Mode, or Eminem, or Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, or whatever music you need to get the blood running.  Go call your mother.  Go take an enormous dump.  Go light a candle at your preferred house of worship.  Whatever you need to do to clear your system and reset yourself.

Then go stretch and have a good session in the cage.  Then put a hurt on the Dodgers.

Enough is enough.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Nine Straight

I said the series against Philadelphia, at Arizona, and Colorado would be harder than the 17 of 20 games on the road.  I didn't expect the Padres to lose 8 of those 9 games with one to go Sunday.

This is the franchise's longest losing streak since losing 9 straight in 2003 (May 14-23).  The last time they lost 10 straight, it didn't stop until they'd lost 14 in a row (May 8-21, 1994).

A point of order.  Cory Luebke pitched well, or as well as could be expected for a rookie starting a September game in a pennant race for a team on a 7-game losing streak.  Yes he gave up two long bombs in the game.  Remember, though, after the Troy Tulowitzki HR he retired the last 9 batters he faced.  I'd be a lot more concerned if he'd retired 9 in a row to start the game, then got lit up by the Rockies.  Coming back and making the adjustment is the mark of a good pitcher.  I'm not worried.

That said I would be a lot happier today if the Padres had completed the comeback against Colorado.  Jason Giambi's play on Chase Headley was a killer.  Will Venable not being able to drive the runs in hurt.  Ryan Ludwick being caught looking to end the seventh hurt, although I sympathize with Ludwick.  It certainly looked like the 2-2 pitch called strike three was in the same location as the first pitch of the at bat, which was called a ball.

Today's game?  Well Garland couldn't get out of an inning unscathed.  All the runs he allowed were after two out (and nobody on).  When you're going bad, things like Cabrera bobbling the inning ending ground ball happen - just like Giambi's great play the night before.  Padres fought back again and fell short again.

Tomorrow the Padres get Jorge De La Rosa.  The Rockies have not lost a game he started in Petco (2-0).

Help us, Clayton Richard - you're our only hope.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Season Ticket Holder Night


I had hoped to have this up much earlier, seeing as I had the day off.  Unfortunately I was informed by the missus we were table shopping today.  Which lasted from 0930-1600.  So much for that.

In the interim some dude using Axiom as his handle did a post for Gaslamp Ball which, well, is a real good summary of the nights events.  You can read it here.  There are some minor errors, but seeing as the guy did that post from memory let's not quibble.  Well done, sir.

So instead, let me inundate you with photos and a couple of stories.
Jerry Coleman still looks awesome, doesn't he?


Jed Hoyer at the microphone.  Good seats, but no zoom on the ol' iPhone.
I took photos like this of Jeff Moorad, Tom Garfinkel, and Jarrod Dillon (VP of ticket sales and service), but do you really need more photos of a couple of guys you can't really make out?  Really?  Email me and I'll send them to you.

say 'Cheese' REAL LOUD!!!
Okay, so after all the speeches and discussion we were herded onto the field for the photo.  There was an interlocking 'SD' outlined in blue/white strand line, with a yellow border around it.  We all stood patiently waiting for the signal to raise the banners we'd been handed on our way in.  The Padres staff had told us the picture would be taken from the top of the stadium, and they weren't kidding.  If you look CLOSELY right below the arrow you'll see a Padre staff member standing at the top of the aisle.  Just to his left is the camera.  I didn't know the camera was actually to the left until the flash went off.

As an aside, I would hope the Padres hired a professional photographer for this memento.  Mr Photo-expert-guy - you do realize a flash at that distance is completely useless, right?  Unless you're trying to illuminate the bannister of the aisle just below you to get a good picture of it, that flash had absolutely no effect on the quality of the photo you shot.  Just sayin'.

Here are some more shots from the OF grass during the photo shoot.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Okay, some anxiety is in order

Well getting swept in Arizona was not in the forecast.

As predicted, Ian Kennedy pitched worse this week than last week, allowing 3 whole runs.  And Kevin Correia, believe it or not, did pitch better, but he still couldn't get out of the fifth inning, and allowed 6 ER this time too.  Improvement, yes, but not enough.  Padres lost 7-4.

Oh, it is so frustrating to see the little Padre miscues come back to haunt them.  Walk to Ian Kennedy leading off the fifth inning Wednesday night opened the door to 5 runs.  The botched double play ball last night in the seventh opened the door to 4 runs.  San Diego, struggling for offense all year, has thrived while doing a high wire act, supported by the best pitching staff in the league and superior defense.  When either of those two legs of the triad falter this team will struggle.  As we have seen over the last week, that's what's happening.

Losing seven in a row is tough.  San Diego's September schedule is tough - they only have 4 games remaining with teams below .500.  San Diego will play 17 of their remaining 30 games at home, so they've at least got that going for them.

It doesn't seem like a good time to throw one of the organization's prized arms into the mix, but the Padres are starting Cory Luebke tomorrow night.  He'll oppose the Rockies' Aaron Cook.  Luebke started this season in AA and was promoted to AAA Portland on 15 July.  His statistics for the 2010 campaign:
  • San Antonio (Texas League) - 8 starts, 5-1 record, 0.941 WHIP, 3.67:1 K:BB ratio
  • Portland (PCL) - 9 starts, 5-0 record, 1.023 WHIP, 2.59:1 K:BB ratio.
According to what I've read, both those leagues are hitters leagues.  Assuming that's actually true, Luebke's numbers are really impressive.  If he can translate that to the big stage look out.  I just hope he doesn't get over-excited given it's both his ML debut and how badly the Padres need to win that game.

Today is a much needed day off.  A chance to clear heads and re-attack tomorrow starting with Colorado.  Tonight there is a season-ticket holder event at Petco starting at 1800.  I'll be there.  If anything interersting happens or is said, I'll get it up to my twitter account.

The Padres Trail Podcast returns tonight.  There's a lot to talk about.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

It's STILL not time to panic

Sometimes I wonder if anyone reads this blog.  Since no one hazarded a guess on my quiz from Friday, apparently the answer is 'no'.  Bummer.  Either I'll put out the answer after I get a guess, or I'll discuss it on Thursday.

But, since I'm quite clearly writing this blog purely for my own amusement, I can say pretty much whatever I want, right?

Well at least within accepted standards of good taste and decorum.  Except for the quiz post from last week.

Anywho, the Padres are in a bit of a funk right now, aren't they?  Five runs scored in 4 games.  For the first time this season, every member of the rotation has lost a game in succession (and yes, I realize Latos got a no decision on Friday).  If you're a #padres twitter follower, not only did you see a lot of bile and anxiety from Padres fans post-game last night, but a lot of yukking from those small pathetic mortals who call the Giants and Rockies their team of choice.

Like I did earlier this month, I say again (with emphasis this time because I love you):  IT'S NOT TIME TO PANIC.  STILL.

Note that even with a 5-game losing streak in progress, the Padres still sit 6 games ahead of San Francisco on the loss side.  San Diego will play at least .500 ball the rest of the way, meaning the Giants will have to go 22-8.  You know, .733 ball?  Now they have played that well for a stretch this season, but that was before Jonathan Sanchez forgot how to get people out in successive games, and before Tim Lincecum forgot how to get people out at all.  Not worried.

Colorado has to be better - 23-7 (.766 ball) - to catch up.  They haven't played that well all year.  LA?  24-6 (.750 ball).  They haven't played that well all year.  AZ is already out.

Now, I'm not saying this is not a difficult stretch for the Padres.  As I pointed out on Baseball Digest (you like the shot of Bud Black's ear?  I can't figure out the photo settings over there.  Yeah I suck) this is a critical week.  In many ways, the 9 games starting with Philadelphia last Friday through Sunday's final game with Colorado are more difficult than the 17 road games in 21 days.  Philadelphia is now 18-4 all time in Petco.  Arizona has won 2 of every 3 games played against the Padres in Phoenix.  Colorado has won 8 of 12 meetings with the 2010 Padres.  There is cause for concern.  There's just no reason to panic yet.

So who will snap the Padres out of the funk?  Here's the records for our starters following a loss:
  1. Chris Young (1-0).  He's probably not going to snap the funk.
  2. Bullpen (10-2).  I didn't track who started these 12 games, but they pitched well enough to keep the game close.
  3. Mat Latos (7-2).  The best starter on the staff for a reason.
  4. Clayton Richard (5-3).  Not to shabby.
  5. Jon Garland (6-4).  Winning 60% of the games started following a loss?  I'll take it.
  6. Kevin Correia (3-3).  Considering how bad he was in May/June, this is a pleasant surprise.
  7. Wade LeBlanc (1-6).  Another data point highlighting LeBlanc's struggles.
Correia goes tonight.  He won't pitch as badly as he did last Thursday, and I'll bet real money Kennedy won't throw a one-hitter for 7.  HERE ENDETH THE LOSING STREAK.