Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Do The Padres Need A Hitter?

One of the impressive things about this Padre start is what they've been able to do without much offense.  Coming into Tuesday's action, they had the third lowest wOBA in the National League, yet sported the league's best record.  Naturally their somewhat (somewhat?) anemic offense has started calls for the team to pick up a bat.

Last January, the San Diego SABR chapter was pleased to have Merv Rettenmund speak at one of their semi-annual meetings.  During that meeting, Rettenmund mentioned how Petco Park is very difficult to hit in during April/May, but that the ball "jumps" better once the summer starts.  Since 81 games a year are played at Petco, the park should play a big role in the team's month-to-month wOBA numbers*.  That, coupled with this year's team, got me thinking.  Has the Padre offense improved when the weather warms up, and can the Padres rely on this improvement to give them the 'jump' of offense they need to contend this summer without acquiring another bat?

*Granted, the monthly numbers will be affected by the number of home/road games played in that particular month.  I did not look at the schedules for each month when conducting this analysis.

Thanks to Fangraphs, I took a look at the Padre team wOBA, month by month, since Petco Park opened.  I included Mar-May 2010 in the data set, and threw out the high and low value for each month.  Here's a graph of the averages.

What I find interesting about this graph is, on average, the Padres struggle MORE to get on base once the summer starts (here summer is defined to start on Memorial Day.  Nothing if not a traditional outlook at Padres Trail).  The team wOBA is worse in June and July than it was in March/April, and May.  Note the big jump in August, and that jump is consistent across seasons (and talent levels of teams).

This tells me, although the ball may travel better once June 1 rolls around, it doesn't start jumping until August 1, and the Padres will continue to struggle offensively through 2/3 of the summer.  The team can't wait until August for an offensive boost.  A lot can happen in 60 days, including the Padres sinking completely out of contention.

There are a couple of positions on the diamond (most glaringly, shortstop, Jerry Hairston Jr's 3 HRs in the last 8 games not withstanding) where the Padres would be better off with a better bat.  I'm sure that Jed Hoyer's team, with their renewed emphasis on building a team that fits in Petco, has a list of candidates that could improve the team if on this roster.  It's probably time to start seriously looking at those options.

This team will contend all season given their pitching and defense.  It would be fantastic for their offense to get some help, and get them into the post-season.

(Here's the complete data set)


  1. Good stuff. The spike in August is interesting.

    I wonder what it'd look like if we looked at all teams, and smoothed out the data a little bit. I can't believe that the August spike is all "real," but I've been wrong before!

    Of course, with that said, we want our data specific to Petco. Interesting subject.

  2. Thanks Myron. I'm going to split out the home/away numbers to see if the trend is still there.

    That August spike caught me by surprise too.

  3. The August spike shouldn't be that much of a surprise. That's when pitchers start dragging - they don't call 'em the 'dog days' for nothing.

    I suspect the graph is similar for all teams. Then it's not a Padres phenomenon, but a regular stage of the baseball season.

    Larry Faria
    Ocean Beach