Friday, December 2, 2011

Bell to Marlins

Yesterday my second post on the Padres for Baseball Digest went live.  It was a projection on what off-season moves the Padres would make; because San Diego was among the bottom 5 teams in the league offensively in 2011, it seemed logical they would attempt to improve the club at the plate.

Late yesterday Heath Bell reportedly signed a 3-yr, $27M deal with Miami.  Josh Byrnes reportedly stated his priority at the Winter Meetings would be finding someone to pitch the 8th and 9th innings.  So much for my powers of prediction.

One other errata to correct.  In an earlier post I noted that the Padres would not get compensation picks if Bell signed with someone else before 8 December.  In reviewing the rules that is not the case, which makes sense as people who cover baseball for a living say the Padres will get 2 comp picks for Bell.

OK.  Enough of the self-flagellation.  It surprises me that the Padres would make filling in the holes in the back of their bullpen a priority.  They must think they are good to go already offensively.  The model they used successfully in 2010 involved shut-down pitching and just enough offense, to be sure, but even in 2010 their wRC+ as a team was 93, in the bottom half of the league.  Last year it was 89, fifth-worst in baseball. 

It doesn't matter how effective one's pitching staff is.  If the team can't score runs they will not win.  San Diego was one of 3 teams not to score 600 runs last season.  Their final total of 593 was 68 fewer than they scored in 2010.  They have to fix that.

San Diego has been stockpiling arms for a couple of seasons now.  Brad Brach was the closer in AA last season; while doing that in AA is not the same as doing in in the majors, he's not completely green either.  One would think they could find an internal candidate to cover the eighth, or just slide Luke Gregerson into that slot and give the 6th/7th to a less-experienced arm.

I look forward to seeing what Byrnes does next week.  The winter meetings just got a whole lot more interesting.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bell, Harang Offered Arbitration

First, a bit of self-promotion.  I'm providing a couple of articles for the Baseball Digest website on the Padres.  The first went up on the site Tuesday, and yes - it's yet another 2011 season review.  If you have some time I hope you surf over there and take a read.  You can link to it from here

Baseball Digest is the oldest baseball magazine in the US, currently published 6 times a year.  They are trying to expand their on-line presence, which includes content different from what appears in the magazine.  Thanks in advance for reading.

Back to the Padres.  Since the news came out a week ago, on the day before Thanksgiving, I missed it, but it included some of the news we've been waiting for.  San Diego offered arbitration to Heath Bell and Aaron Harang.

The Bell decision has been discussed ad nauseaum both here and on other forums.  Based on how the closer market has initially played out (see the contract offer to Ryan Madson and contract signed by Jonathan Papelbon), Bell will likely make around $10M to pitch in 2012 regardless of where he toils.  For a Padres team likely to not have a payroll north of $50M, his salary represents at least 20% of the total team payroll.  That is a lot - especially considering he will throw less than 80 innings next season. 

From a PR perspective the Padres were forced to offer arbitration to Bell.  He is the biggest name draw currently on the roster.  He has previously stated he wants to pitch here and the Padres can use all the good PR they can get.  From a practical perspective, because of their limited financial assets this team has to build through the draft, and getting the 2 compensation picks for Bell is a must.  Now the team has to hope he both does not sign a free-agent deal with someone else before 9 December and declines arbitration, so they get those picks.

Which brings us to Harang.  Did you know he was a Type B free agent?  He led the Padres in wins but was only worth 0.6 WAR according to Fangraphs (1.9 by Baseball Reference).  This arbitration offer is really interesting to me, but from a social perspective vice a baseball one.  Recall that the Padres held a mutual option on Harang for 2012, at $5M.  Aaron wanted to return but San Diego declined to pick up his option.  Now they've offered him arbitration.

So basically what they're saying is, 'We wouldn't mind having you back, but we think you're worth less than $5M, and what we really want is the draft pick.'  I'd have loved to be a fly-on-the-wall for the conversation between GM Josh Byrnes and Harang's agent.  Can you even have that discussion without insulting the player?  The poetic-justice outcome here would be for Harang to accept arbitration and get a pay bump north of the $5M he was to have received if the option had been honored.

Heath Bell's contract resolution will be more extensively covered, but I for one can't wait to see how Harang's arbitration case plays out.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

LeBlanc to the Marlins

The Padres announced yesterday they had traded Wade LeBlanc to Miami for catcher John Baker.

About 2 months ago I talked about doing a series of stories on what I would do as the Padres GM.  As usual those posts never materialized, mostly because I suck at time management.  I may still get to them - I hope to get to them - but one topic is now off the table.  I had intended to discuss trading LeBlanc for a back-up catcher because that's about what I thought San Diego could get for him.  I can't prove it; I never documented it anywhere; but it's true nonetheless.

LeBlanc is one of thousands of guys who have utility in a major league organization but are never going to contribute much on a year-to-year basis.  That sounds like a knock on him, but it really isn't.  Wade LeBlanc's talent level is such that he successfully made it to the Majors and has thrown almost 300 ML innings over parts of 4 seasons.  He's in the top 1% of all people playing baseball.  The Elite.

The problem was his skill set was never going to get him out of the spot starter/possible long man role, nor get him off the shuttle from the big club to AAA.  In 2010, the lone season he spent most of his time in the majors, he made 25 starts, threw 146 innings, and struck out 110.  He also allowed a whopping 24 HR over those 146 innings, or a dinger every six innings.  In 54 career appearances (52 starts) he allowed 44 HR.  It was never a question of if Wade LeBlanc would allow a HR - it was a question of when.

By ERA+ he was below average every year less 2008 (103).  By Fangraphs WAR last season was the first one he didn't post a negative number (Baseball Reference is somewhat more forgiving, crediting him with 0.7/0.3/0.2 WAR each of the last 3 seasons).  With the Padres currently projecting a rotation of Latos/Luebke/Stauffer/Richard/Bass there was no room for him at the inn. (Ed. Note:  Dustin Moseley would also be a candidate for the rotation assuming he re-signs wtih the Padres.)

The Padres get John Baker in return.  He has 104 PA in the majors the last 2 seasons, and missed virtually all of 2011 while recoverng from right elbow surgery.  In 2009 he played in 112 games and posted a .271/.349/.410 line, good enough for a .333 wOBA and 99 wRC+.  He'll be 31 when this season starts.

San Diego had to do something to protect Hundley.  Rob Johnson was released, Kyle Phillips posted an OPS+ of 56 in thirty-six games, and Luis Martinez isn't ready.  As a back-up option, they could do worse.  Baker is also left-handed.  I can't imagine the Padres will platoon Hundley - that would really be dumb - but Baker will give them another left-handed option off the bench besides Mark Kotsay.

Wade LeBlanc will likely not be long remembered.  He was, however, a useful piece of the puzzle for the last 4 seasons, be it as a long reliever, a spot starter, or a regular starter due to injury.  If he becomes a mainstay in the Marlin rotation I would be the first one in line to congratulate him on his success.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bell Through the Papelbon Glass

You may have heard about Jonathan Papelbon's 4 year/$50,000,058 contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.  You may have also heard the Phillies initially offered incumbent closer Ryan Madson $44M for those same 4 years.  What does this all mean for Heath Bell returning to the Padres?

Using Fangraphs WAR (fWAR), and looking only at the years since Bell became the primary Padres closer, we find that Papelbon was worth 6.2 WAR from 2009-2011 (2.0 in '09, 1.2 in '10, 3.0 in '11).  Over that same period, and looking at only the free-agent closers, we get this list:
  • Bell 4.8 WAR
  • Madson 4.3 WAR
  • Broxton 3.7 WAR
  • K-Rod 3.0 WAR
  • Nathan 1.9 WAR
If you agree with Dave Cameron's supposition that free agents will be paid approximately $5M per win per year, the Phillies actually paid about the right amount - they're paying for 2.5 wins per year on that contract, and Papelbon has averaged 2.43 wins over the past six years.

It would also mean Bell's 1.6 average WAR over his past 3 seasons is worth about $8M per.  He made $7.5M last season and posted a 0.5 WAR season, so perhaps he would be satisfied with that.  Not likely, based on what the Phillies offered Madson.  Amaro's $44M for 4 years way over-estimated what Madson was worth based on past performance.  It will, however, likely set the market for the men on the above list - more so than what Papelbon got.

What's it all mean for Josh Byrnes and the Padres?  They're screwed.  If they offer arbitration and Bell accepts, he's likely to get between $11M and $12.5M next year, which would be about 25% of the Padres intended payroll for 2012.  Tying up that much of your payroll in a guy who hasn't thrown more than 70 innings since becoming the closer (or ~5% of the total innings Padres pitchers will throw in 2012) is ludicrous.  If they don't offer him arbitration they will lose the two draft picks they would get for Bell (he's a Type A free agent) when he signs somewhere else.

Bell's not coming back.  I believe the Padres will decline to offer him arbitration based on how this free agent market is playing out.

Update:  There's a story about Heath Bell in today's UT.  In the story there's a money quote:
Bell said accepting arbitration is still an option, although it doesn’t seem as strong an option as it was before.
“I have to weigh all my options,” said Bell. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. But it seems like there are going to be some very good options soon. And after everything that has happened with the Padres, I don’t know what is going on.
“They lost the general manager (Hoyer) and the guy (Jason McLeod) responsible for building the future Padres through the draft.”

That sounds like a man who's resigned to leaving.

The story also says the Padres would receive the two comp picks if he signs with another team, even if they don't offer him arbitration.  Can anyone confirm that's true?  Assuming it is, why in the world would the Padres offer Bell arbitration?

Update #2:  From Twitter, arbitration offer must be made in order to get the comp picks if a Type A/B free agent signs with another team.  Caveat - if the FA signs before the arbitration offer deadline (this year 8 Dec), then even if an offer was made the picks are forfeited.  Thanks to @PitchersHit8th, @JonDoble, and @Dathan7 for the assist in clearing this up.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Quick Hits

Couple of things on this holiday Friday:

- Padres unveiled the 2012 uniforms Wednesday night. Lots of reactions out there, ranging from from 'meh' to 'Outrage!' I'm finding myself in the meh camp. Other than a wish they'd left the Friar in an ecumenically correct habit, I can't get fired up about the modification.

Fans build strong attachments to teams when the team is successful over a sustained stretch of time. San Diego has never really had that. The closest they came, in my opinion, was from 1996 to 2007, and they changed their unis during that stretch of success. So changing them now is par for the course. Whatever.

- I have a Veterans Day post up at I-70 Baseball, if you're interested.

If you have today off, enjoy it. And thank a Vet if you run into one.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Headley vs Freese

Flashing a little leather. Even when the ball is ruled foul.
 David Freese is the reigning NL NLCS and World Series MVP.  A lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth has appeared recently regarding the 2007 trade of Freese to St Louis for Jim Edmonds.  Let's separate fact from fiction.  Freese became the Cardinals third baseman in 2009.  Chase Headley became the Padres full-time third baseman the same year.  How do the two men stack up?

Headley came to the majors as the next great Padre power hitter, and he charged out of the gate.  Headley hit HRs in 2 of his first 4 games after being called up for good in 2008.  Since?  He hit 34 HR in his next 517 games.  Freese didn't make it to the majors with as high of a set of expectations as Headley did, but he's hit the ball about as well.  Freese's OPS+ (116) is slightly better than Headley's (105), but their career slash lines are pretty close:
  • Freese .298/.354/.429
  • Headley .269/.343/.392
Freese hits for a higher average and more power.  Most will assume his power numbers are a product of playing at a more hitter-friendly park, but the reality is Busch is only slightly less of a pitcher's park than Petco.  You read that correctly.  So the edge on pure offense goes to Freese.

Defensively the edge goes to Headley, and it's not particularly close.  In his three years as the everyday starter he has excelled with the glove.  Chase Headley was ranked the #1 defensive third baseman on the Dewan Plus/Minus scale (which can be found at Bill James' website), saving 19 runs.  Last season he was 10th but still credited with saving 2 runs in his 113 games.  Freese, on the other hand, has never had a positive runs saved number.  This year he was -1.  Last year he was -4.  If you watched any of the World Series, you saw Freese get eaten up by several ground balls to third.  He looked slow.  And no, I am not counting the pop up that hit him in the head in Game 6.  Headley in a rout.

Then there's the injury bug.  In his three major league seasons, Freese has yet to play 100 regular season games.  Over the same span Chase Headley has yet to play LESS than 100 regular season games. San Diego suffers from a systemic lack of infield prospects.   Suppose Freese had stayed with the Padres and reached the majors, with Headley having been moved.  The Padres would have had to have someone play almost as many games at third as Freese did.  Could you see Jesus Guzman trying to man the hot corner for the 40% of the season Freese is on the DL?  Better offensively, worse defensively.

Because to his injuries, Freese lags Headley in fWAR.  For the 3 years in question Freese's WAR is 4.4.  Headley's is more than double that (9.1).  It's what we expect given the disparity in playing time and defense.

What is the point of this exercise?  To show that Headley has been a better bet than Freese over the past 3 years in terms of defense and durability.  The Padres have been better off with Headley at third than they would have been had Freese taken over the hot corner.  Those recently bashing Kevin Towers for that late 2007 trade have lost sight of this fact.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Padres beat the Cardinals

Apologies for the hiatus.  Baseball's playoffs got in the way.

This won't be a long post.  Just a quick explanation of what's going on that I can't pack into 140 characters.  Many/most of you probably know I have two blogs that I author:  this one, and Stan Musial's Stance, which as the name implies focuses on the Cardinals.  As much as I would have liked to keep both going, it became increasingly difficult to put up well-thought out commentary on both sites.

Well as well-thought out commentary as you're ever likely to get from me.

Once the Cardinals completed their exhilarating run to the 2011 championship, I took a hard look at where I should focus my attention and the Padres won out.  This area is my home now, I see significantly more Padres games on a yearly basis than Cardinal contests, and I'm immersed in Padres source material from the SDUT and XX1090 (as well as my fellow Padres bloggers).

This may be the first time the Padres have beaten out the Cardinals at anything.

So here we go.  There are a lot of good Padres blogs out there and I hope you add this one to your rotation of weekly reads.  I will be posting as my schedule allows but promise at least 2 posts per week.  The occasional Cardinal-themed post may appear - hopefully that won't put you off too much - but the majority of topics will be Padres commentary and SABR-focused articles on the team.

Thanks in advance for reading.   Looking forward to interacting with you.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Jed Hoyer to Cubs: My Two Cents

Rumors have been floating for two weeks that Theo Epstein will leave Boston and become a Senior VP with the Chicago Cubs.  I could not care less about that.

The last few days have seen the start of, and intensifying reporting on, rumors Jed Hoyer or Josh Byrnes are going to Chicago as GM under Theo. Today it seems all but a done deal that Hoyer is gone.  I care a little more about that.

The San Diego Padres currently suffer from a lack of offensive talent on the major league roster.  The reasons why can be distilled into three parts - the trade of Adrian Gonzalez to Boston, the low team payroll, and a farm system bereft of offensive talent.  The Gonzo trade and the low payroll go hand-in-hand IMHO - ownership has artifically restricted the size of the payroll, and decided it did not want to pay Adrian what he was worth.

The other problem is systemic and needed to be fixed anyway for the long-term viability of the franchise.  One of Boston's claims to fame has been their ability to identify, develop, and promote prospects into contributing members of the Red Sox.  The best two examples of that success are Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury.  Since Hoyer worked in the front office that did that drafting, it made a certain amount of sense to hire someone with a strong player development background.

To that end he brought Jason McLeod with him from Boston and significantly expanded the player development department.  San Diego still has a bottom-half farm system but is at least working in the right direction.  This is a good thing.

Now Hoyer is reportedly leaving to go to Chicago.  Maybe he chafed under the small payroll he had to work with in San Diego.  Maybe Josh Byrnes' relationship with Moorad made things awkward in the Padre front office.  We don't know, and probably won't know.  What we should care about is that the Padres continue to aggressively draft premium talent and get them to the major league roster.  What we should also care about is that McLeod stays in the San Diego front office.  What we should also care about is that Moorad takes the austerity measure handcuffs off the team payroll and allow it to grow.  Not to a number that starts with a "5", but something more reasonable, like a "7" or "8".
Hoyer, Byrnes, Kevin Towers, Daffy Duck, Ivan Drago, Optimus Prime, Mel Zeb, me, you ... it doesn't matter who the Padres GM is.  It does matter that the payroll budget get bigger.  And, it really matters the organization continue to draft good offensive prospects and get those guys to the majors.

I don't care that Hoyer's leaving.  I will care if McLeod follows.

UPDATE:  This story has gained all sorts of momentum.

Item:  The Cubs asked for Josh Byrnes first but Padres said no.
Item:  Hoyer offered to stay in San Diego for a 5-year extension and was told no.  Honestly this one is funny to me.  It would appear Hoyer tried to leverage his impending departure into a pay raise.  A little corporate blackmail, perhaps.
Item:  Jason McLeod is also almost out the door.

All that can be found in this story at ESPN.

It pisses me off.  I appreciate the loyalty Moorad is showing Byrnes, but these developments piss me off.  He's letting the architect of the Padres minor league revival walk.  He's letting a GM with a plan walk.  And for what, in return?  Nothing.

I don't care that Ricketts and Moorad are friends.  Owning a baseball team is like being a sovereign country.  Owners don't have friends - they have INTERESTS.  It should be in the INTEREST of Moorad and the Padres ownership to build and bring a championship to San Diego.  It is not in the INTEREST of the San Diego Padres to let two bright young minds, who are under contract, leave without compensation.

Moorad traded away the best position player San Diego had since Tony Gwynn retired.  Now he allows the core of his front office to walk away.  If he's trying to build a fan base that's the wrong way to go about doing it.  I feel for the Padres ticket sales staff - how do you sell this product?  Related, get ready for hordes of visiting team fans to descend on the ballpark next year - they may be the only ones who go in large numbers.

Assuming, of course, YOU go.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

BBA Topic - Walter Johnson Award

After each regular season, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance votes on the best manager, rookie, relief pitcher, starting pitcher, and most valuable player in each league.  Today we discuss the best starting pitcher - aptly named the Walter Johnson Award.

The BBA ballot requires three names.  For the National League, the three names are easy.  The hard part is deciding in what order they should fall.  Roy Halladay, Clayton Kershaw, and Cliff Lee were the best three pitchers in the National League this season, and they threw virtually the same number of innings (Halladay 233 2/3, Kershaw 233 1/3, Lee 232 2/3), so one can compare their numbers without applying any correction factor.

So let's compare them.  Here are their season numbers, per Fangraphs.

I left their W/L/WAR numbers off deliberately.  Innings Pitched we've already discussed.  Wins/Losses have become less relevant to measuring a pitcher's worth in the relief pitcher era, and WAR?  Well, WAR has become too simple an answer for me (that's a topic best left to a future post).

So what do we have?  Halladay issued the fewest walks, allowed the least number of HRs, got the most groundballs, and had the best Fielding Independent Percentage.  Kershaw struck out the most per nine innings, had the lowest percentage of balls in play turn into hits, and the lowest Earned Run Average.  Lee stranded more runners then either two, and had the lowest Expected Fielding Independent Percentage.

Doesn't really help, does it?

Let's try again.  The fact that Kershaw has the lowest ground ball rate (so conversely, the highest fly ball rate) of the three matches his lowest BABIP of the three.  Fly ball pitchers tend to have a lower BABIP.  Using that logic, it would explain why Halladay's BABIP is slightly higher than Lee's.

Some folks have argued part of Kershaw's success is based on his home ballpark.  Dodger Stadium is a pitcher-friendly ballpark, Citizen's Bank is a pitcher-neutral one.  Kershaw giving up fewer HR than Lee can be explained by the ballpark factor, but Halladay gave up fewer than either while pitching in the same home ballpark Lee pitches in.

Lee's strikeouts per nine, strand rate, and expected FIP are better than Halladay's.  Halladay, however, has fewer walks, HR, a lower ERA and FIP than Lee.  I think ultimately that places Halladay ahead of Lee.  Kershaw has a higher walk rate than Lee, but in the other categories (K/9, HR allowed, ERA, FIP) he's better.

Cliff Lee becomes the #3 NL pitcher.

How to split Kershaw and Halladay is tough - very tough.  They are virtually even everywhere, and the one area where they do differ (HR's allowed) I believe has more to do with Halladay being a ground ball pitcher in a park where fly balls fly out than in any real difference in quality between the two pitchers.  Roy Halladay has been consistently brilliant for years, and is the reigning Walter Johnson Award Winner.  Clayton Kershaw is only 23 years old and may just be starting to realize his enormous potential.

I've tried to be objective.  Let's be arbitrary.  Halladay had fewer bad days than Kershaw did.  Roy Halladay had only one 2011 start in which he gave up more than 5 ER. Kershaw had four.  Halladay was more consistently brilliant than Kershaw.  We'll make that the straw that broke the camel's back.

The Padres Trail 2011 Walter Johnson Award Ballot:

  1. Roy Halladay
  2. Clayton Kershaw
  3. Cliff Lee
As always, thanks for reading and your comments are welcome.

UPDATE 10/22: I neglected to make the ballot 5 deep, which is the BBA requirement.  So, hurriedly, I've added these two names:

  • 4.  Ian Kennedy
  • 5.  Jair Jurrjens
 Kennedy pitched extremely well for the Arizona Diamondbacks throughout the 2011 season, and tied for the league lead in wins (21).  Jurrjens had a fantastic first half of the season before getting hurt and missing all of September.  If I've missed someone deserving, post it in the comments.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Team Leaders

Ryan Ludwick does not exist.  He never existed.
If you go to the Padres official website, about half-way down you'll find a section labeled '2011 team leaders'.  It lists Nick Hundley, Cameron Maybin, and Will Venable as the team HR leaders with 9 each.  It also shows Jesus Guzman, Chase Headley, and Venable as the team RBI leaders with 44 each.

Ryan Ludwick's 11 HR and 64 RBI as a Padre are conveniently forgotten.  For some reason this really offends me.  It's as if the team does not want to acknowledge his contributions to the 2011 effort.

I got into a psuedo-argument about this on Twitter last night.  The reasons given for why he's not listed included 'he was traded' and 'its more about who's on the current roster'.  Fine.  Then don't label that section on the website '2011 Team Leaders'.  Call it something else - Active Padres Leaders, or Current Roster Leaders, or The Best We've Got Left As The Season Ended.

Ludwick's stats didn't cease to count just because he was traded to Pittsburgh 15 minutes before the trade deadline.  He was still the most productive Padre in these two areas during the 2011 season.  It's ridiculous to pretend he wasn't.  Besides, what good does it do to present the data in this way?  Ludwick is still listed on the sortable stats page as a Padre (as he should be), and if one sorts by HR or RBI guess who's name sits at the top of the list.  Go to the 2011 San Diego Padres team page on Baseball Reference, and guess who's still listed there?  Ludwick!  Of course B-Ref has him as the everyday LF, but that's because he played more games in LF than any other Padre in 2011, which is how B-Ref organizes their data.

So who are we trying to fool here - the fans?  That's insulting to all fans everywhere.

There are other ways to sell the current roster.  Highlight Maybin's success in 2011.  Talk about how Hundley recovered from his first half injuries to become a force at the plate after the All-Star Break.  Mention Anthony Bass' development, and how (according to what I've read) he's continuing to progress in the Arizona Fall League.  Hype Cory Spangenberg.

Just don't tell me the team leaders in HR and RBI were guys who fell 2 HR and 20 RBI short of a player that left via a team decision 7/31.

In case you think I'm being unreasonable (and you might), consider this.  In 1990 Willie McGee was traded, at the end of August, from St Louis to Oakland.  At the time he led the NL in batting average (.335).  Even though he spent the last month of the season in the other league, he had accrued enough at bats to qualify for the NL batting title.  At seasons end, no other NL hitter had caught him, so McGee won the NL batting title ... despite no longer playing in the league

If Major League Baseball, that stodgy organization, could recognize McGee for his performance in the NL before he was traded, why can't the Padres do the same thing with their '2011 team leaders'?  Who are they trying to kid.

Pretending Ludwick's numbers don't qualify as a team leader because he was dealt at the trade deadline is dishonest.  The Padres are wrong to present the 2011 team leader stats without including him.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

BBA Topic - Connie Mack Award

Each year, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance member chapters vote on their post-season awards.  Some awards are similar to those voted on by the BBWAA, and some are unique.  The Connie Mack award is given to each league's top manager.

The San Diego Chapter gets two votes for each category. You can read Left Coast Bias' selections here.  Mine are below.

Manager of the Year is tough, because it seems the odds-on favorite for the award typically manages a team widely expected to suck before the season started.  Which then means the award goes to the team that did the best job proving the prognosticators wrong.  I don't have a snappy, simple solution for fixing that; I just point it out.

With that said, whom to vote for?  I need to narrow down the field, so let's make it easy - I'll eliminate all teams that finished below .500 this season.  The only team I slightly regret dropping from consideration this way is Pittsburgh.  Clint Hurdle did a fantastic job (or was the NL Central just that mediocre) keeping them in contention until the end of July; but after that the Pirates collapsed, finishing 18 games under.  So it's a slight regret.

That leaves Philadelphia, Atlanta, Milwaukee, St Louis, Arizona, San Francisco, and Los Angeles as the contenders.  Atlanta is out; you blow a 9.5 game lead, you get no votes as the league's best manager.  San Francisco gets dropped; the Giants faded badly after the trade deadline.  That takes us to five.  Five is a manageable number.

The Padres Trail ballot for Connie Mack is:
  1. Kirk Gibson, Diamondbacks - Yeah, I'm in the 'vote for the team that most exceeded pre-season expectations' category.  Gibson took a Diamondbacks team widely expected to challenge the Padres for NL West basement occupancy and instead led them to the NL West Title.  Granted, most of the rebirth in Arizona is the handiwork of several GMs, including Kevin Towers' rebuild of the bullpen.  However the Diamondbacks have had one of the more talented rosters in the league for several years, and never played to their talent.  Gibson got that talent to shine.
  2. Charlie Manuel, Phillies - The amount of pressure placed on the manager of a team widely expected to be the best in the league is immense.  Many buckle under it.  Manuel led his team to the best record in the league.
  3. Tony LaRussa, Cardinals - He lost his best starting pitcher in spring training, and his early bullpen was a mess.  And yet, he found a way to motivate his team and get them into the post-season. 
  4. Ron Roenicke, Brewers - Another manager with the weight of expectations.  Prince Fielder is widely expected to play somewhere else next year, so the Brewer management went all in for this season, and brought in a new manager to lead the troops.  Additionally, he lost one of the off-season prizes, Zack Grienke, for 6 weeks due to injury.  A torrid August secured the NL Central for Milwaukee.
  5. Don Mattingly, Dodgers - The Dodger organization is a mess.  Everyone knows about the McCourt scandal and legal death match with MLB.  All that drama affected the major league team. It took them about 4 months to successfully deal with it, but they finally got it together, closing with a 41-28 kick and getting into third in the NL West.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Game Reflections - #162 vs Cubs

It's been an emotional roller-coaster of a last 24 hours.  Three ridiculously tense elimination games stretched the drama out for almost 3 hours, and then today Geoff Young announces he's hanging them up

What will tomorrow bring?

We have one more Game Reflection to go, as I was at last night's game.  Then, back to the GM series (no really - they are going to happen; it's not just a tease).  Padres won last night 9-2.

-  Cameron Maybin stole his 40th base last night, a third inning swipe of third with two out.  He became the ninth Padre to steal at least that many and the first Padre to do so since Dave Roberts in 2006.  The milestone was important to him and congratulations are appropriate for acheiving it.  In terms of pure baseball, however, there was no reason to steal that bag.  With two out, he would have been running on any pitch hit into play, and with his speed, he would have scored easily from second on a base hit to the outfield.  I guess these are the things that happen during the last game of the season.

- Chase Headley's strikeout to end the third, and Will Venable's strikeout for the second out of the eighth, should be credited to home plate umpire Mark Ripperger.  Why? Because the 3-1 pitch Ripperger called a strike was a ball.  It was off the plate outside, and had been called a ball pretty consistently by Ripperger to that point.  Headley swung and missed a 3-2 pitch in the same spot (also a ball).  Same thing happened to Will Venable on a 3-0 pitch.  He swung at a 3-2 pitch that was ball because the same pitch was a strike 3-0.  When people get irritated by inconsistent umpiring, this is what they're talking about.

- The fourth inning ended with a caught stealing of home, but it wasn't a true caught stealing of home.  Wade LeBlanc picked off Cub speedster Tony Campana with the third consecutive throw over.  During that rundown, Lou Montanez broke for the plate, and the Padres tagged him out.  I love rundowns, because you get cool sequences of numbers when the out is recorded.  This play went 1-3-6-2-5-3.

- Ryan Dempster was cruising right along until he walked LeBlanc on 5 pitches.  Then the wheels came off.  Double to Maybin, walk to Venable, 3-Run shot to Nick Hundley.  The 3-2 pitch Hundley hit out was RIGHT down the middle; I mean, it couldn't have been set on a tee in a more advantageous hitting position.  Dempster wobbled through the 4th, although to be fair his defense betrayed him, kicking a sure double-play ball; recovered for a strong fifth, then started getting tagged in the sixth.  I was very surprised Cub manager Mike Quade left him in there for 119 pitches.

- Venable ended the drama in this game with a Grand Slam in the sixth, Dempster's last pitch.  It was the only grand slam hit by the Padres this year at Petco, and brings us to an interesting stat.  San Diego (by my count) has hit 12 home grand slams since Petco Park opened in 2004 (they're buried in this list).  That's not what's interesting, here is what is:  last night marked only the second time since Petco opened that the home team has hit a 3-R HR and a grand slam in the same game. The other time?  September 17, 2005, the night the first grand slam was hit at Petco by a Padre.  Ramon Hernandez hit the 3-run shot and Khalil Greene the slam.

Once Venable's HR left the ballpark the scoreboard watching started in earnest.  I don't have to explain what that was like, as it's all over the internet today.  An incredible night of baseball.  The funniest thing about it to me is the sequence of games.  St Louis/Houston was the last of the 4 wild card impact games to start and the first one to finish, thanks to Chris Carpenter's 11-strikeout complete game.  Philadelphia/Atlanta, Boston/Baltimore, and New York/Tampa Bay all ended within 25 minutes of each other, or, in different units of measure, while I was walking across the parking lot, while I was on the freeway headed home, and while I was turning onto my street.  If the playoffs bring half that much tension to the table, it will be an exciting 2011 post-season.

We can only hope.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Short Term Gain, Long Term Loss

Amazingly, the Scott and BR show this morning did not start off with a Chargers discussion.  They actually talked a little baseball.  What, you might wonder?  San Diego's loss last night to Chicago?  The race for second best record in the NL?  The now impossible to predict outcome in both Wild Card races?

No.  They talked about Channel 4 and the San Diego Padres broadcast rights.

Well, OK, that is a bit of a local story.  As you probably know, Cox Communications and Channel 4 will not be carrying Padres games in 2012.  Nor formal announcement has yet been made, but Scott rightly called it the 'worst kept secret in San Diego'.  Earlier this year Channel 4 employees were notified they would likely not be brought back for 2012.

On the one hand I agree with the XX 1090 morning talent.  It is sad to see Channel 4 lose the Padres.  They have done a professional job in presenting the Padres; they are not losing the contract due to a lack of competence.  Besides, who wishes job loss on anyone?  On the other hand, this turn of events is ultimately not solely the Padres fault; this decision today is the product of a business decision Cox made years ago, to not allow Padres games to be broadcast locally on anything but cable.

One of the biggest problems the San Diego Padres face in this market is how to build brand loyalty.  This team has had some success, but over their entire history they have usually been a bad team playing bad baseball.  Obviously brand loyalty starts there.  It has been said on multiple occasions San Diego is restricted by who their local fan base can be, hemmed in by the Pacific Ocean to the West, the Mojave Desert to the East, Mexico to the South, and Los Angeles Baseball to the North.  Complicating that, their three closest rivals (in terms of Geography) have all won a World Series; two of them have won one this millenium.  The other, the Dodgers, has been an institution in Southern California for better than 50 years, with multiple World Series titles, players making multiple appearances on TV, Vin Scully, and Fernandomania.

Having an artifical constraint like the broadcast rights has made the brand loyalty-building that much tougher, specifically hamstringing efforts in the San Diego Metro/San Diego County area.  The Padres could not reach all the households they should be able to reach based on a business decision Cox made.  I do not know and would be interested to find out if that exclusivity was written into the broadcast rights contract signed by Cox and the Padres.  I suspect it was, which would explain why the Padres could not influence Cox to amend their stance.  Once it was raised as an issue Cox should have seen this coming.

Of course it's moot now.  Fox will get the Padres for the next 15-20 years; they are building a channel specifically to cover the Padres; they will allow it to be received via cable or satellite.

I hope Cox enjoyed their short term gains and exclusive rights to the Padres.  In the name of that short-term gain they slit their own throat.  Whether or not the station continues to exist after this season remains to be seen.  When Fox San Diego stands up, it would be nice to see many familiar faces from the past few years doing Padre broadcasts again.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Game Reflections - #157 vs Dodgers

Yeah a little behind on the GM series.  We'll get back to that.  Tonight I sat through a 2 hour 43 minute 2-0 game.  There should be a law against games in which 8 runners are stranded and 2 runs scored cannot last more than 2 hours 15 minutes.

Anyway, some random thoughts.

- Why in the world did Anthony Rizzo not start this game?  Rizzo has actually had the most success against lefthanded starters (.194 batting average).  Yeah that's still below the Mendoza Line, but still.  One would think a guy with his long swing would match up pretty well against a guy who throws a lot of junk.  Besides, Rizzo has demonstrated better plate discipline than Alberto Gonzalez has this season.

- Gonzalez looked absolutely flummoxed up there against Ted Lilly.  After he looked at two curve balls and swung at a pitch in the dirt for strike 3 in the second inning, all I could think of was Pedro Cerrano.  He popped to first and tapped out weakly to Lilly in his other 2 ABs versus the Dodger lefty.

- Dodgers had 2 extra base hits.  Both of them came around to score.  Padres were oh-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

- Did you know Matt Kemp has a shot at the triple crown?  I didn't.  After his 426' HR to the deepest part of Petco, he is tied for the league lead in HR, leads the league in RBI, and trails Ryan Braun/Jose Reyes in AVG by .002.  Sabermetrics has taken a lot of the luster out of 2/3 of those statistics, but if he does something no NL hitter has done in 74 years?  That's pretty special.

- Wade LeBlanc dominated as he has not dominated since pitching against the Phillies way back in May.  He struck out 10, including the side looking in the seventh following Kemp's HR.  The high strikeout total may have been helped by all the AAA hitters in the Dodger lineup...

- Three of the first 5 Dodger hitters tried to bunt. Only one of those was a sacrifice attempt to move a runner over.  Weird.

- I didn't see the balk play clearly, but I will say it is unusual in my experience for the home plate umpire to call a balk, unless it is because the pitcher flinched, i.e., started then stopped his windup.  LeBlanc didn't flinch.  Neither the second nor first base umpires thought it was a balk, and first base umpire Todd Tichenor had the best angle.

- Speaking of Angel Hernandez, Friday's home plate umpire, his strike zone was ridiculous and inconsistent.  It looked to me some of his inconsistency on outside pitches derived directly from how the catcher caught the ball.  If the catcher set up off the outside corner and the pitcher hit his glove, even if it was a ball, they generally got the strike call.  If the catcher set up somewhere else and the pitch missed the target (like for example, he sets up inside and the pitch is outside so he has to reach across to catch it), even if the pitch was a strike Hernandez called it a ball.

Fully 24 of the 54 total outs were by strikeout.  That's 45% of all the outs in this game.  Of those, a third were looking.  Ted Lilly strikes out about 7 hitters per 9 innings.  He did that tonight in 6 and 1/3.Wade LeBlanc strikes out about 5 per 9.  Tonight he struck out 10 in 7.  Methinks an inconsistent strike zone had a lot to do with that.

- Aaron Cunningham made a bad baserunning play with one out in the seventh, trying to advance to third on a ground ball to third.  Ultimately it didn't matter - Jeremy Hermida walked, so the Padres had runners on first and second with two out anyway - but it was still a bonehead play.  He should have waited until Dodger 3B Justin Sellers went to first before taking off for third.

Padres need to win all their remaining games to avoid losing 90 this season.  No odds will be given on that happening.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Well, What WOULD You Do?

During one of my recent drives home, the Coach John Kentera started asking the audience, "What would you do if you were the Padres GM?", hoping to engender discussion.

State laws and my lack of a head set on that particular afternoon prevented a call-in, but as Dispicable Me lead 'villian' Gru might say, LIGHT .... BULB!

This Padres club will lose 90 games and is headed for the long off-season.  Why not talk about how to improve next year's team?  Over the next several posts, I'll explore that.

To set the battlespace for debate, let's look at Padre contractural obligations for 2012.  It's a pretty short list.  Currently the Padres have only two players under contract for next year:  Orlando Hudson and Jason Bartlett.  They will each make $5.5M in 2012.  Now naturally the rest of the roster is not nearly that simple.

San Diego holds a club option for Chad Qualls ($6M), and a mutual option for 2012 with Brad Hawpe ($6M) and Aaron Harang ($5M).  There's no way Hawpe returns for 2012.  GM Jed Hoyer will decline the option, pay the $1M buyout, and cut his losses.  Not only has Hawpe been hurt most of the year, but San Diego has a lot of guys who can play first.  Qualls might return - he's pitched fairly well out of the Padres bullpen - but I wonder if the club will pick up his $6M.  Can you imagine a world where a middle reliever is the highest paid player on the roster?  That could happen if Qualls returns.  Aaron Harang might return as well, and would be a bargain for $5M.  Harang has pitched very well this year.

The big Free Agent question San Diego has is Heath Bell.  Only Heath Bell has an inkling on how that will play out.  The Padres would be crazy not to offer him arbitration, unless they know he'll accept arbitration, in which case they'd be crazy to offer him arbitration.  What to do, what to do....

Jeremy Hermida will also be a free agent at the end of the year (5 years service time) but his contract demands won't be very high given the amount of time he's spent in the minor leagues lately.  San Diego can manage that if they decide to retain him.  The rest of the roster is either arbitration eligible or not quite ready for arbitration.

The Arbitration Eligibles:
  • Pat Neshek (Year 3)
  • Chase Headley, Tim Stauffer, Dustin Moseley, Chris Denorfia, Alberto Gonzalez (Year 2)
  • Clayton Richard, Luke Gregerson, Will Venable, Nick Hundley, Joe Thatcher, Rob Johnson, Ernesto Frieri, Jeff Fulchino (Year 1)
The not-yet eligibles:
  • Mat Latos, Cameron Maybin, Kyle Blanks, Cory Luebke, Wade LeBlanc, Anthony Bass, Josh Spence, Andrew Carpenter, Brad Brach, Aaron Cunningham, James Darnell, Logan Forsythe, Andy Parrino, Evan Scribner, Blake Tekotte.
There has been a lot of ink spilled about the size of the Padres payroll, whether or not it will start with a 3, 4, or 5. With the players they have under contract, San Diego could certainly field a team whose payroll still sits in the mid-to-upper 40s.  Which would pretty much guarantee another season groping for runs.

It is a cost-effective roster at the moment.  But what this team really, REALLY needs is a big bat in the lineup.  We'll explore that and other questions over the next several days.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Game Reflections - #152 vs Diamondbacks

Tonight's game took 2:31, and 3 of the 4 runs scored were via solo home run.  Not a whole lot to talk about, but I have some thoughts on the limited action.

- Had a chance to talk with David Garcia before the game.  Well actually Mr. Garcia talked and I listened.  His baseball reference page talks about his 6-year managerial career, and that is only the tip of the iceberg.  He's been in the game for over 70 years, the vast majority of which spent as a scout.  I wish I had more than 25 minutes with him.

- Wonder why Josh Collmenter has such an awkward motion? He learned to throw an ax before throwing a baseball.  Rumor has it he was a Michigan state champion in ax-throwing.

- Andy Parrino walks to the plate to Iron Man.  I like to think it's the Ozzy Osbourne version.  I do believe I'm an Andy Parrino fan.

- Orlando Hudson suffers from a lot of mental lapses.  Apparently last night he lost the handle on the ball while attempting to throw Justin Upton out at first, then lay on the ground while the ball rolled away from him.  Upton ended up at second, gifted a double.  Earlier in the year he did the same thing after Troy Tulowitzki's low line drive glanced off his glove and rolled away.  Tonight it appeared he missed a hit-and-run sign and hung Nick Hundley out to dry - caught stealing 2-6-3.  He's a former All-Star in the 152nd game of the season - why does this stuff happen?  Hudson did homer later in the at-bat to give the Padres the lead.

- Starter Wade LeBlanc had an odd line - 103 pitches thrown, 53 strikes.  He got hit hard in the first inning, which is a trend.  He's allowed 8 first inning earned runs this season, and 16 ER to teams the first time through the order (of 37 total allowed).  On this night, however, LeBlanc gutted through 6 innings, allowing only that first inning home run to Aaron Hill.

- Odd line of the night.  Chris Young of Arizona saw 14 pitches from 3 different pitchers.  One strike.  And he just missed that strike, hitting a 'home run in a silo' off Gregerson that went as a pop-up to short.  I can't remember the last time I saw a hitter walk 3 times in a game on 12 pitches.

- At one point, there was a Qualls and a Ziegler pitching against each other.  When was the last time the pitching matchup was a guy who's last name started with a 'Q' facing a guy who's last name started with a 'Z'?

- Four caught stealings in the game, although one was of the picked-off-caught-stealing variety.

- Finally the double play Anthony Rizzo started to end the fifth.  He made a nice play on the ground ball from Parra as it reached the bag, but his throw was sublime.  He threw it so it pulled Jason Bartlett's glove to the feet of John McDonald, who was running from first to second on the play.  If he doesn't throw that ball that way McDonald is likely safe.  Superb defensive play.

San Diego goes for its first series sweep since taking four from Florida almost a month ago.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Game Reflections - #141 vs Giants

Another game, another 10+ strikeout day for a Giant pitcher.  This game was closer, and not as close, as the 7-2 final would suggest.  Hard to believe, but true.

- Pablo Sandoval hit the longest HR I've seen at Petco this year with 2 out in the first - 436' to the beach in deep RC.  Two innings later he followed up with a moonshot to RF.  It's worth wondering what has happened to Tim Stauffer.  In his last 31 innings he's been torched, including 12 HR allowed.  His 173 2/3 IP this season is more than double the most innings he'd ever thrown at the major league level.  Fatigue maybe?

- Stauffer did hang on to finish six innings.  I was mildly surprised Bud Black didn't pinch hit for him in the fourth with Chris Denorfia at third and two out.  At that point the score was 4-1.  Faced with a similar decision on Saturday afternoon Black also chose to stay with Cory Luebke.  At least Stauffer went out and pitched two more effective innings; Luebke got lit up in the fifth inning Saturday and was removed.

- Welcome Back Chris Denorfia.  The first three balls he hit were hammered, including his double to deep CF in the fourth which missed being a HR by about 5 feet.  However, when he struck out against Santiago Casilla in the ninth it meant every Padre hitter struck out at least once on the afternoon. And that does include the lone pinch hitter (Aaron Cunningham).

- Maybe it's me, but it seems every time Cunningham hits he either strikes out or pops up.

- The 4-1 score held through the seventh, which is why I said at the top the game seemed closer than it was.   Giant starter Madison Bumgarner retired 12 in a row after Denorfia's double in the fourth, broken by Bartlett's soft single to CF in the eighth, which is why I said at the top the game seemed not as close as it was.

- The top of the eighth is one of the more surreal innings of the year.  Newly acquired reliever Jeff Fulchino walked Andres Torres on 5 pitches.  Torres stole second, Jeff Keppinger signed softly to center, Fulchino's 1-0 pitch to Sandoval found the backstop sending Keppinger to second.  Sandoval was walked intentionally.  After getting Darren Ford to hit into a force out (Torres retired 4-2), Cody Ross hit the next pitch into the LF corner for a 2-run double.  Cue the RAIN, and Black taking Fulchino out.  Josh Spence walks Brandon Belt; Brad Brach walks Mark Derosa, forcing in a run; the second runner is retired at the plate on Chris Stewart's ground ball to third; and Bumgarner strikes out looking to end the inning.

So four walks (one intentional), three pitching changes (including Fulchino relieving Andrew Carpenter to start the inning), two runners retired at the plate, and a rain squall.  Surreal.  It sounds better if you sing it to 'A Partridge in a Pear Tree'.

Yesterday's game was the 10th time this season a starting pitcher has rung up at least 10 Padres in a game.  It's the second time a Giant has done it; it's the second time said Giant has struck out 13.  Tim Lincecum fanned 13 on April 6, the fifth game of the year; San Diego was 3-1 going into that game.  Seems like a very long time ago.

Eric Surkamp will make his second career start tonight against Wade LeBlanc.  LeBlanc has only faced the Giants once at Petco; he won that night.

It would have helped if I had looked at my notes before I finalized this post.  Some other things from yesterday's game that I meant to mention:

- Belt rolled a single to RF in the second, sending Ross to third.  Jesus Guzman didn't even flinch as the ball went through the infield.  It is entirely possible he had no play on the ball - it was to his right, he was holding Ross at first - however the ball rolled closer to him than it did to Hudson, who ran a long way and couldn't get it.  I've played a little 1B in my time; I was surprised Guzman didn't move at all.

- Denorfia might have had a play on Ross at the plate in the third inning, but the ball slipped out of his grasp on the exchange from glove to hand so that went by the boards.  He then had a play on Brandon Crawford at first (Crawford had taken a wide turn), but his throw to Hudson (who alertly came over to cover first) was a bit behind him and he couldn't get back to tag Crawford in time.  Tough play.

- Torres should have scored on Fulchino's wild pitch in the eighth. The ball ended up kicking all the way to the camera well next to the Padres dugout.  No idea what Torres was thinking on that play.

- I think Kyle Blanks got an off-speed pitch on a 2-0 count in the first inning, but it was middle-out on the plate and he fouled it straight back off the end of the bat.  He might have been off-balance because he was expecting a fastball, but it really looked like he was trying to pull it.  I said it before but it bears repeating - Blanks desperately needs to learn to take that outside pitch the other way and not try to pull everything.  I can't understand why any pitcher would ever pitch him inside since he can't handle the outside pitch.

- Jason Bartlett almost lined into an other 5-3 DP in the third inning. It would have been the second time in 3 days that had happened to him, but this time the baserunner (Cameron Maybin) managed to get back.  Talk about hitting in tough luck.  Maybin inadvertently caught Aubrey Huff's glove hand under his body as he dove back in; Huff came up in obvious pain and eventually left the game because of it.

- Bumgarner set a career high for strikeouts yesterday.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Game Reflections - #139 vs Rockies

The Padres will drive you crazy sometimes...

Last night's game was a bit surreal.  Four foul outs, including a rarely foul popout/double play when Ryan Spilborghs broke for the plate and was cut down by Orlando Hudson.  One of the fastest men in the NL picked off second . . . on a throw down from Nick Hundley. A 1-6-4 force out at second.  And so on.

Part of it was not so surreal, as the Padres dropped their ninth straight.

I was really looking forward to seeing Cory Luebke pitch again.  The last game I attended that he started, he retired the first 11 hitters he saw.  Last night's game was aptly summed up on Twitter by Geoff Young of Ducksnorts:

Great second inning surrounded by a whole lotta batting practice.

On to the thoughts.

- Lubeke must have thought he was in a shooting gallery.  On three separate instances a hard shot went right through the box, started by Todd Helton on his line drive single in the first.  Kevin Kouzmanoff and Dexter Fowler also buzzed the tower, as it were. I would think that unsettles a pitcher.  After Helton's near miss Luebke retired the next 7 hitters he saw.

- It could have been eight, but Hudson had a sinking line drive off Troy Tulowitzki's bat glance off his glove and roll away. O-Dog then watched it roll into short RF. Tulo, hustling all the way, made it to second standing.  Two thoughts here - (a) why did O-Dog buy a ticket after missing the play, and (b) what the heck was Jason Bartlett doing not covering second base?

- Luebke threw 37 pitches in the first inning.  Not to be outdone, Rockies starter Alex White threw 28.  The first inning took almost 40 minutes to play.

- Padres got the leadoff hitter on in the first, third, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth innings.  In the third, sixth, and seventh he didn't get to second.  In the eighth he did thanks to a 2-out walk, but was still stranded.

- San Diego showed no interest in trying to move the runner up by bunting in the seventh or eighth innings.  I don't count the half-hearted bunt attempt by Hudson that he fouled back over the screen.  Stuck in an eight-game losing streak, I would have expected to find Bud Black willing to pull out all the stops in an attempt to break the streak.

- Of course, if Kouzmanoff does not make a tremendous play on Jason Bartlett's line shot in the seventh the game might have ended differently.  Kouz dove to his left to snare the drive, then doubled Will Venable off first.

It's been said elsewhere but will be said again here.  San Diego lost 10 straight last year from 26 August to 5 September.  The current streak started 24 August. Let us hope long losing streaks in late August don't become the norm.

Padres send Mat Latos to the hill today against Padre Killer Aaron Cook.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

2012 Frick Award Fan Ballot

The Ford Frick Award is presented annually for excellence in baseball broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.  This year, for the ninth consecutive year, fans have a chance to determine 3 of the 10 names that will be on the final ballot.

I did not know the fans had a voice in the nominee selection process for the Ford Frick Award.  I suspect neither did you.

From the press release:

The process will allow fans to cast votes at the Hall of Fame's Facebook page, . . . Voting runs from September 1 through September 30, and fans can cast votes once per day through September for their favorite broadcaster.
A note on eligibility - Eligible candidates must have a minimum of 10 years of continuous major league broadcast service with a ball club, network, or a combination of the two.

Results will be announced October 5 when the final ballot is also published.  Committee to determine the awardee includes all the living Frick Award winners, plus Bob Costas, Barry Horn (Dallas Morning News), Stan Isaacs (formerly of New York Newsday), Ted Patterson, and Curt Smith (historians).  The winner will be announced December 6 during the winter meetings.

So who's on the ballot?  Every team has 2 nominees.  The three SOCAL teams are represented by:
  • San Diego - Ted Leitner, Eduardo Ortega
  • LAA of Anaheim - Dick Enberg, Jose Mota
  • LA Dodgers - Rick Monday, Ross Porter
I've not had occasion to listen to Mr. Ortega, as he does the Spanish language broadcast of Padres games, so I'll have to defer to those who have heard him call a game.  Does Ted Leitner deserve your support?  Absolutely.  Ted's been an integral part of summer baseball in San Diego for over 30 years, but that's not why we should vote for him.  We should vote for him because he does a superb job calling a game and we enjoy listening to him.  You don't stay in one town for 30 years without connecting with your audience on a deep personal level.

If I'm allowed more than one vote per day, I'm picking Ross Porter, who called Dodger games when I was a kid.

I'll leave the Dick Enberg discussion to Avenging Jack Murphy.

The rest of the names on the ballot:
  • AZ - Greg Schulte, Daron Sutton
  • ATL - Skip Caray, Pete Van Wieren (both great choices, BTW)
  • BAL - Joe Angel, Jim Hunter
  • BOS - Joe Castiglione, Jerry Remy
  • CHN - Pat Hughes, Ron Santo (Santo is sure to get a lot of votes)
  • CHA - Ed Farmer, Ken Harrelson
  • CIN - Waite Hoyt, Joe Nuxhall
  • CLE - Mike Hegan, Herb Score
  • COL - Jack Corrigan, Wayne Hagin
  • DET - George Kell, Jim Price
  • FLA - Tommy Hutton, Rick Waltz
  • HOU - Bill Brown, Larry Dierker
  • KC - Ryan Lefebrve, Paul Splittorff
  • MIL - Merle Harmon, Bill Schroeder
  • MIN - Dick Bremer, John Gordon
  • NYM - Gary Cohen, Ralph Kiner (big fan of Kinerisms back in his WWOR days)
  • NYA - Michael Kay, John Sterling
  • OAK - Ray Fosse, Bill King
  • PHI - Richie Ashburn, Chris Wheeler
  • PIT - Steve Blass, Lanny Frattare
  • SF - Mike Krukow, Duane Kuiper
  • SEA - Ron Fairly, Rick Rizzs
  • STL - Al Hrabosky, Mike Shannon (Shannon's another favorite of mine)
  • TB - Todd Kalas, Dewayne Staats
  • TEX - Mark Holtz, Eric Nadel
  • TOR - Tom Cheek, Jerry Howarth
  • WAS - Bob Carpenter, Charlie Slowes
  • AT-LARGE - Thom Brennaman, Joe Buck, Ken Coleman, Jacques Doucet, Ernie Johnson Sr, Ned Martin, Buck Martinez, Tim McCarver, Al Michaels, Joe Morgan, Amaury Pi-Gonzalez, Phil Rizzuto, John Rooney, Steve Stone, Gary Thorne
Voting starts 0700 our time 1 Sept and concludes 1400 our time 30 Sept.  Vote Early, Vote Often, VOTE FOR TED!

Press Release data forwarded courtesy San Diego Padres media relations department

Indian Summer

Last Wednesday the Padres were 10 games under .500, on their longest winning streak of the season, and making a push to get into third place. No really - we were.  Five games later the Padres have fallen back into the cellar and scored only 4 runs total.

What happened?  Looks like an Indian Summer to me.  After sending Ryan Ludwick to Pittsburgh, the Padres ripped off wins in 14 of their next 22 games, averaging 5.8 runs per game.  Yes that average is padded somewhat by 3 games in which they scored 13+ runs.  However, it was a marked upswing in offensive prowess from the season's first half, and its 15 shutouts, and its 30 other games scoring 2 runs or less.  IUn 41% of their games played through 31 July, they didn't score 3 runs.

Then, three weeks of offensive gluttony.  I briefly entertained hope they would claw their way back to .500 by the end of the season.  Heck, going into the Tim Lincecum start last Wednesday they were within 8 games of second place.

So much for that.

In hindsight I guess we should have seen this coming.  The Padres can't beat Lincecum (8-4 lifetime vs San Diego), they can't beat Clayton Kershaw (6-3 lifetime), and they don't win in Arizona (80-37 all time vs Padres in the desert).

Today Tim Stauffer, recently bitten hard by the HR bug, will take on Hiroki Kuroda.  The Padres have had success against Kuroda in LA, so perhaps their bats will awaken tonight.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Luebke 2011 vs Latos 2010

In a 2010 season full of Padres feel-good stories, the biggest was the emergence of Mat Latos.  Latos got tons of national notoriety as the face of those over-achieving Padres, and with good reason - he was flat-out filthy over the summer.

2011 has been nowhere as much fun for the Padres, but there have been feel-good stories anyway.  Jesus Guzman's resurrection.  Aaron Harang's comeback.  Cameron Maybin's maturation.  And another young arm has emerged  in the Padre rotation - Cory Luebke.  Luebke has not gotten the media attention Latos did last year, but he's been pretty darn good too.

I took a look at Luebke's starts in 2011 and compared them to what I consider as Latos' best stretch in 2010, 22 June to 27 August.  Each comprises 11 starts and 1090 pitches (actually Luebke has thrown 1092 pitches in his 11 2011 starts).  As you might expect, Latos' numbers are better, but look at how well Luebke measures up.

Latos:    70.2 IP, 79K, 21BB, 1.27 ERA, .188/.249/.270, 0.9829 WHIP, .254 BABIP
Luebke: 66.1 IP, 69K, 14BB, 2.71 ERA, .201/.248/.335, 0.9682 WHIP, .251 BABIP

So why no hosannahs for Luebke?  Likely because the Padres are currently 11 games under .500 at the moment, and Luebke spent most of the first 3 months of 2011 coming out of the bullpen.  Also, I suspect that in spite of the inroads advanced statistical metrics have made in recent years, people were/are still seduced by won/loss record.  Latos entered last September 14-5 and a dark horse Cy Young candidate.  Luebke is currently 5-6, 4-4 as a starter, and no one is talking about him as a Cy Young candidate.

He is going to be, however.

Looking for an answer to Lincecum and Cain?  You've found it in Latos and Luebke.  The Padres have two potential aces in their rotation right now, and neither is 27 yet.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Waiver Process Explained (related - Heath Bell not going anywhere)

Tuesday it was reported Heath Bell had been placed on waivers by the Padres.  Yesterday it was leaked the Giants had claimed him.  This has led to all sorts of consternation in Padre-land about why San Diego would allow Bell to join the hated Giants.  It's a tempest in a teapot.  Allow me to try and explain the waiver process post-trade deadline for you, gentle reader.

First, the trade deadline is a misnomer.  The only thing 31 July represents is the last day a team can trade a player away without having to subject him to the waiver process.  Teams do still make trades after 31 July.  It is harder to do, but it happens.  So to expect no more trades in a baseball season starting 1 August is kind of silly.

Second, it is standard practice for clubs to put their players on waivers.  In many years, WHOLE TEAMS are placed on waivers.  Does this mean a fire sale is in the offing?  No, it means the GM is keeping his options open.  He can't trade someone away unless he clears waivers.  It also gives him some intel on who is interested in guys on his roster (a tactically savvy move, in my opinion).

So Heath Bell being placed on waivers is not at all unusual.  I'll bet he was not the only Padre placed on waivers; he's perhaps the most interesting because most folks in the industry expected him to be traded away before the deadline.

Now he's on waivers.  What's that mean?  A couple of things.  Any team can put a claim in for him, but the priority of who gets the claim is in reverse order of record.  So the Houston Astros would have the highest priority if they wanted Bell, then Baltimore, then the Royals, and so on.  Only one team will be awarded the waiver claim, and if there's no deal struck, the next team in the list does not get a second chance to pick the player up.

In Bell's case, the Giants were the worst record team to make a claim on him, which is why reports have stated the Giants claimed Heath Bell on waivers.

Once a team is awarded a claim, three two things can happen.  The two teams have 48 hours to negotiate a trade.  It should be noted, if the claiming team offers a player on their 40-man roster in exchange for the claimed player THAT player has to clear waivers too (I did not know this until Jed Hoyer's interview with Darren Smith yesterday afternoon).  The team placing the player on waivers can tell the claiming team, 'He's yours.  Enjoy.'  Think Randy Myers in 1998.  Last, the team placing the player on waivers can pull him back and say, 'Nah, we've changed our mind.' Ed note:  This last course of action is no longer possible.  All players claimed on waivers remain there until the 48 hour window has closed.

Assuming the Padres would want a player on the Giants 40-man roster, that guy would either have to have already cleared waivers, or have been put on waivers at roughly the same time as Bell in order to make a trade work.  Or, the Padres would have to accept a lesser player, a low minor-leaguer, a guy not protected on the 40-man roster - and the chances of them trading Heath Bell for a low level prospect are virtually nil.

Everybody got that?  No?  Let's sum up:

- Placing players on waivers post-trade deadline is standard operating procedure in baseball;
- Claiming a player placed on waivers is no guarantee that player will join the claiming team;
- Heath Bell is not going anywhere.

Comments welcome.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Thoughts on Trevor Time - Epilogue

I said Sunday night?  I guess I should have said Wednesday morning.  This is the life I lead.

Anticipating a sellout, I decided to get to Petco Park real early on Sunday.  I ended up pulling into a parking spot around 1115.  The streets were full of fans at a level I normally see 30 minutes before game time, so there's that; but I was surprised to learn later the game was not a sellout (fairly obvious from looking around during the ceremony, confirmed with the announced crowd of 40,065).

I know it's late August, and I know the Padres are 10 games under (after winning last night), and the Chargers had a pre-season game Sunday night at Dallas.  If Trevor Hoffman is really the second-most beloved Padre ever as Gaslamp Ball asserts (and I believe), one would think the game would have been a sellout.  Philosophically that fact speaks volumes about the amount of work this organization still has to do to connect with a metropolitan area of 3 million.

The ceremony started with Beautiful Day by U2.  Great choice.  Love that song, and the weather Sunday was Chamber-of-Commerce good (71 and mostly sunny).  Ted Leitner strode to the microphone as the emcee, and there was no better choice to run this ceremony.  None.  Leitner has his faults, but he is very, VERY good as a public speaker and did an outstanding job on this afternoon.

There was discussion during the game (mostly led by Leitner) about why Hoffman is 'the greatest closer in the history of major league baseball'.  It centered on the saves record.  Hoffman is the only man with 600 saves, finishing at 601.  The problem with counting statistics is they will eventually be broken. On this very day, Mariano Rivera recorded save #592, meaning he will break Hoffman's record before this season is over.  I'd rather use this one - Hoffman is the only man to save 40 games or more 9 times in his career (Rivera has done it seven times).  As opposed to a longevity stat, it's a sustained superior performance one.

The proximity of Rivera to breaking Hoffman's record likely drove doing the ceremony now vice 5 years from now when Hoffman (hopefully) is a first ballot HoF.  Don't underestimate the power of having a public ceremony where the phrase 'best of all time' can be used without argument.  Hoffman deserved to have his number retired period - the 'worlds greatest closer' is just a bonus - but there was no reason to rush to do this ceremony.  I'm certainly not saying the Padres shouldn't have retired his number this year, but I do think they wanted to honor him while he was still top dog in terms of total saves, which will not be true after the 2011 season.

Twice now this season Trevor Hoffman has come out of the bullpen to Hell's Bells - Opening Day, and Sunday.  I've gotten goosebumps watching it each time.  The stadium exploded in cheering as the music started and Trevor walked onto the field.  The Padres etched 'TREVOR TIME' on the warning track in dead center during the lead-up to this ceremony, Hoffman came out with his entire family holding hands.  Cool moment.

If Greg Hoffman says Trevor wore 51 because he couldn't have 15 (Bruce Bochy had it) when he became a Padre I believe him.  That said, Kurt Stilwell wore #15 when Trevor was traded to San Diego.  Stillwell was sent to the California Angels on 26 July.  Now Bruce Bochy was on that staff, so it may be Bochy took 15 as soon as Stillwell left the team. Here's something interesting - Baseball Reference indicates Hoffman wore 51 as a Marlin.  I wonder if Hoffy reversed his number because he shifted from shortstop to the mound.

21 August 11 will forever be known as Trevor Hoffman Day.  Wouldn't it be cool to have a day named after you?

I did hear a small 'boo' when Jeff Moorad's name was read by Leitner (thanking him for honoring Hoffman).  Understandable, but not needed on this day.  There are plenty of other forums to express dismay at the Padres $40 million dollar roster cap.

I did not know Hoffman played college ball with JT Snow.

Jerry Coleman got one of the 3 biggest ovations during the 'parade of well-wishers'.  And the Colonel can still run!  I hope I'm that agile when I'm in my 80s.  Heck I hope I'm still vertical when I'm 80.

Second of three big ovations for Steve Finley.  Finley should run a class on how to leave an organization.  I still remember the full-page ad he took out in the SDUT thanking the fans for their support when he left for Arizona following the 1998 season.  Of course, it doesn't hurt that he was one heck of a CF while here (2 Gold Gloves and an All Star appearance; he also finished in the Top 10 of 1996 MVP voting, something else I'd forgotten).  I had season tickets in 1997* and can still see him chasing fly balls down in my mind's eye.

*yeah I know - Division Champs in 1996, NL Champs in 1998, I had season tix in 1997.  My timing always sucks.

Other big cheers came in for Ryan Klesko, Rickey Henderson (and his ridiculous suit that only Rickey could pull off), and Rollie Fingers.

Love that Caminiti's wife was included, as were Mike Darr's widow and Rob Beck's widow.  One of several wet eye moments for me.

Jake Peavy on the big screen brought a surprised cheer, as did Bruce Bochy's comments, and Brian Johnson of AC/DC's tribute was all kinds of awesome.

The four already honored players (Steve Garvey, Randy Jones, Dave Winfield, and Tony Gwynn, who got the last big ovation) came in through the CF fence to the strains of music from Field of Dreams.  It got me thinking - what other franchise can say all those honored with a retired number are still alive?  Obviously I'm not including Jackie Robinson  because he never played for the Padres.  Turns out, there are several - Arizona, Milwaukee Brewers, and Montreal/Washington in the National League; and Baltimore and Toronto in the American League.

More U2 when Hoffman's #51 was unveiled, this time Pride.

Words cannot express how great that 1958 Cadillac looked in the mid-afternoon sun on Sunday.  What a beautiful car.

It's interesting how connected Hoffman and current Padres closer Heath Bell are beyond sharing the same role on the ballclub.  Bell reprises the Hell's Bells by having a bell toll at the beginning of his entrance music (which leads into a quote from the movie 300).  Both are sons of USMC veterans, Hoffman's father having fought at Iwo Jima and Bell's father having served 3 years in the Corps.

And like many others said, having a video clip of Trevor's father Ed Hoffman singing the national anthem was a fantastic personal touch.  The man could sing, too.

I attended Randy Jones' number retirement ceremony back in 1997, and Tony Gwynn's in 2001.  Of those three, this one stands out.  The San Diego Padres went out of their way to make Sunday special, and succeeded.  It was a pleasure to attend and share in the festivities with the Hoffman family.