Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Bringing the Playoff Hammer

You don't want to play the Padres these days.

After spotting the Cardinals an early 2-0 lead, San Diego roared back to take control of the game via 3 consecutive 2-run innings. Then, after Dale Thayer got Matt Holliday to bounce into a 4-6-3 double play with the bases loaded to end the seventh, the Padres broke the game open with 5 runs to win going away. 11-3 was your final.

Some scoring tidbits:

- The last time San Diego hung 11 on the Cardinals was last April 2 in St Louis.
- The last time they scored 10 or more against the Cardinals in San Diego was 5/28/2006 (W 10-8). That game is memorable because Josh Bard hit 2 home runs off Mark Mulder. It's the only 2-HR game of Bard's career.
- You have to go back to 1993 to find a home game where the Padres scored at least 11 runs against St Louis - 8/24/1993 to be exact. The Padres scored 13 in the first inning that Tuesday night, although only 9700 people saw it.

Some odds and ends from last night (quick hits, since I started this post at 0650 and now it's 1510):

- You're no doubt aware that Cameron Maybin and Logan Forsythe had three opportunities to be the first Padre to hit for the cycle. In those 3 AB neither one put the ball in play (Maybin walked). Oh, well.

(Seque: Andrew Cashner will throw the first no-hitter in Padres history. Bank it.)

- I couldn't tell if Forsythe burned Cardinal CF John Jay on his RBI double in the second, or if Jay just took a bad route to the ball. Some on Twitter thought the latter. That ball was drilled, however.

- Initially I thought wild pitch was the correct call, allowing Everth Cabrera to advance to third; after looking at the replay, however, he was going. Perhaps it should have been a stolen base.

- Taking Carlos Quentin out after his AB leading off the third - right call. He looked uncomfortable at the plate during that at-bat.

- Good Grief Maybin's HR was crushed. 439' was a conservative distance.

- When was the last time a Padre got six plate appearances, at home, during a 9-inning game? Can't remember seeing it in person this year.

- Reports that Pete Kozma can't hit seem greatly exaggerated. Then again, one game is the definition of a SMALL SAMPLE SIZE.

- Jamie Garcia couldn't find the plate, and when he did find it he caught too much of it. I've been out of touch a lot, but there seemed to be a lot of hysteria amongst #stlcards Tweeters about his home/road splits. Yes, Garcia is a much different pitcher at home than on the road. It has to be all mental; is he able to locate that badly at Busch and get away with it? Can't be.

- Cardinal pitching in this game was awful overall. They gave up 4 - FOUR - unintentional 4-pitch walks in this game. Headley got 2, Kotsay 1, Grandal the other. I believe there is a study out there documenting that the strike zone gets bigger in the pitcher's favor on a 3-0 count. St Louis hurlers couldn't even hit that expanded zone.

- Shelby Miller pitched well. Hey, he kept the Cardinals in the game for 3 innings when San Diego threatened to blow it open early. When he has a HOF career, I can say I saw his first ML at bat. Assuming I don't lose my scorecard.

- Holliday's double play. Killer.

- David Freese was hit twice last night. St Louis came way in to Yonder Alonso in the eighth, after Freese got hit the second time, but didn't hit him. I wonder if this will carry over to tonight's game. St Louis can't afford to give the Padres free baserunners, not the way they're currently swinging the bat.

St Louis came in leading for the second Wild Card spot, but you would have thought the Padres were playing for a post-season berth, not the Cardinals, the way last night's game unfolded. It's too bad the Padres are 8.5 back with 20 to play, because I would not want to face them in the post-season.

Neither do the remaining teams fighting for a playoff spot.

CORRECTION to my last post: I said if the Padres won 4 of 6 from the Diamondbacks they'd tie AZ. Yeah, not quite. They'd need to win 5 of 6 to catch AZ, assuming they both win the same number of games outside of those head-to-head matchups. Math is hard.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Games That Matter

Let's face it - sports are a lot more fun to play when there's something to play for.  When asked, every player will tell you they want to win the World Series this year.  Not everyone gets to do that.  As the season progresses, teams fall out of contention, and by September they are 'playing out the string'.

Thanks to the Wild Card construct, the number of teams with something to play for has gone up dramatically.  But that doesn't just include those teams vying for a playoff spot.  It also includes those teams in their way, who no longer have hopes of getting deep into October.

Two months ago, when looking at the September schedule, one knew the Padres would have games that mattered to play, but only because they played teams trying to get to the post-season and could stand in their way.  Los Angeles.  San Francisco.  St Louis.  That's still true.  But they also have games that matter to play for their own sake.  They have an outside shot at getting to .500 before the season ends.  They have a better shot to catch Arizona for third in the West.

I'm glad they're playing well.  It makes me smile that they have a chance to torpedo the Dodgers' chances for a playoff spot, and they scored a direct hit last night with the 6-3 win.  Maybe they'll administer the coup de grace in late September at Petco.  They can also gain a small measure of revenge for years of playoff futility by smacking around the Cardinals next week.  They've already left the Pirates playoff ship dead in the water and listing heavily to port by taking 5 of the 6 games from Pittsburgh.  That's a lot of nautical references, isn't it?

The games I'm REALLY looking forward to are the 3 here against Arizona this weekend, and the three in AZ in 2 weeks.  Why?  Because no one in their right mind thought the Padres would finish higher than fourth in this division this year.  No one in their right mind thought they'd be within shouting distance of .500 in early September.  Yes I realize they need to finish 18-7 to reach .500, and that is a tall order; the mere fact we can talk about it without looking really stupid is a victory.

San Diego last won the season series from Arizona in 2010.  They've only won more than 10 games from the Diamondbacks once in their history (12, 2004).  If the Padres win both those series they'll match that total.  If they win both series they'll catch Arizona in the loss column (assuming they each have identical records in their other games).

I hope (and expect) they'll continue to be a thorn in the side of the Dodgers, Giants, and Cardinals down the stretch.  Two weeks from now I really hope they'll be looking down at AZ from third place.  Wouldn't that be great.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

2009 Reprise?

A quick thought ahead of the 1030 news conference with new ownership:

In 2009 the Padres went 39-35 after the All-Star Break, 37-25 after July 27. They carried that momentum into the 2010 season and to within a game of making the playoffs.  As play started on 29 August 09 they had gone 19-23 since the Break , and would win 20 of their next 33 games to close out the season.

In 2012 the Padres have gone 26-18 since the All-Star Break.  I'm not saying they'll play .606 ball the rest of the way like they did in 2009.  They are playing better ball already than that team did, and we know how the 2009 late season success carried into 2010.  Better play now has to portend to a brighter season in 2013, right?

Something to think about.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Game Reflections - Game 130 vs Braves

It's not very often the Padres have a seven-game winning streak.  It's not very often they come home riding a seven-game winning streak, which included 3 straight against a Wild Card contender.  But that's exactly where we find ourselves today.

Well - check that.  It's 8 straight now.

After a most satisfying 3-game sweep in the desert, the second 3-game sweep of the season in Phoenix (the last time San Diego swept the D-backs in AZ before this season was NEVER), the team returned home to face Atlanta, leaders in the NL Wild Card.  Today was a great day, because:

1.  Of the aforementioned 7-game winning streak,
2.  It was Padres Social night, which I was not aware of until I got to the ballpark (MAN I've been away a long time), and
3.  It marked the Major League Debut of Casey Kelly, that 'other' player we got from Boston for Adrian Gonzalez.  His father was in attendance - former major leaguer Pat Kelly, he of 7 ML at-bats in 1980 for the Toronto Blue Jays.  And, it was his father's birthday (check that link again).

A lot going on.  So let's get to it.

- Interesting tidbit - all the runs Atlanta starter Paul Maholm has allowed since becoming a Brave have scored via a home run.  When I read that, my sarcastic thought was 'well here comes the shutout!'.  Maybe with the May 2012 Padres.  Not the August 2012 Padres.  Yasmani Grandal took care of business with a laser of a 2-run HR in the second inning.

- The Kid Kelly pitched 6 effective innings.  He worked around a 2-out double from Jason Heyward to get out of the first inning.  He froze Paul Janish with a ridiculous curveball for the second out of the second, and straned two runners when Maholm flied to center.  After Michael Bourn was doubled off second on a busted hit and run (Martin Prado lined out to second), Kelly allowed only one more baserunner and no more hits.

- In fact, the next Brave hit after that Bourn single was Prado's base knock leading off the ninth.  Padres pitchers retired 16 of 18 hitters faced, the only two that reached were via walks, and one of those was erased thanks to a double play.

- That said, Dale Thayer made the eighth inning interesting.  Dan Uggla hit a 2-2 pitch to the 396 sign in CF before Cameron Maybin jumped and hauled it in.  Chase Headley had to sprawl behind the bag at third to snare Janish's ground ball for the second out of the inning, and Bourn drove Carlos Quentin to the track in LF with his drive.

- Uggla wasn't the only guy who got Petco'd tonight.  Quentin's drive in the fourth died just short of the 401 sign in LC, and Logan Forsythe drove Bourn into the wall just to the right of that spot with his blast in the eighth.

- Welcome back Jesus Guzman! Guzman enjoyed his second 2-hit game of this month in only his fourth start of the month.  I was feeling all warm inside about my guy ... then he got picked off to end the sixth.  Oh well.

Not much else to mention.  Maholm pitched well, his only mistake was to Grandal.  Tommy Layne came in and threw 6 strikes to retire the side in the seventh.  Luke Gregerson notched his second save and ran his scoreless inning streak to 23.  A crisply played game in 2:24.  3-0 Padres.

Here's something fun to ponder - the Padres only trail Arizona by 5 games on the loss side.  Let's make climbing into third a goal for the rest of this season, yes?  If we do that, we'll finish at .500, something unthinkable as even a possibility 6 weeks ago.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Spoilers

How mad must the Pirates be?  They take 2 of 3 from the Cardinals in St Louis, then come here and drop the first 2.

In fairness, if San Diego was going to win any game in this series it was going to be Monday night's.  Pittsburgh had just survived a 19-inning game in St Louis which used every pitcher they had available, including 3 starting pitchers, and so were slightly undermanned in the bullpen.  San Diego jumped on Kevin Correia early and rode that 3-0 lead to the victory.

Pittsbgh figured to bounce back last night, and they did.  I didn't see much of this game (playoff softball); in fact, I saw exactly two pitches.  Chase Headley get caught looking at an AJ Burnett curveball, and Carlos Quentin bounce into a 5-4-3 DP.  Ugh.

Still, the Padres went into the ninth up 5-3.  Garrett Jones tied the game at 5 all and it looked like they could carry that momentum into an extra innings win.  Queue the music, right?  Nope.  Chase Headley took care of that with his game winning 2-run HR in the tenth.

So that makes 4 wins in 5 games against Pittsburgh this season.  The Pirates can thank the schedule maker for putting both their series with the Padres after the All-Star break, when San Diego began playing much better. In the heat of a playoff race, the last thing contending teams want to see is a team in the second division playing with nothing to lose. Note to Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and St Louis - look past the Padres at your own peril.

The Padres look to sweep today; it will be their first home sweep against the Pirates since 2010.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Bludgeoning

There had been a flicker of hope, in some corners, about the Padres improved play since the All-Star break. In fact, since June 12th they had been the best team in the NL West - a game better than San Francisco.  And they had gone into Pittsburgh, taken 2 of 3 from the Wild Card contenders, then taken the first game of a 4-game set in Atlanta, the Wild Card leaders.

Then a Logan Forsythe home run was the only run they scored in the final 3 games against the Braves.  THEN they come home and get crushed by the Giants last night, 10-1.  Reality check.

One wonders how different the game would have been if Forsythe's throw to third had been more on-line and nailed Angel Pagan for the second out.  Marco Scutaro's bloop single might have been caught, and Ross Ohlendorf could have escaped down only 2-0.  They likely still would have lost - Matt Cain was tough last night, not allowing a hit until the fifth inning - but it could have remained competitive.  Who knows.

Watching Ohlendorf get hit around in the third inning made me wonder:  exactly why did they keep this guy and cut Kip Wells?

Wells was designated for assignment on 3 August.  Since that date Ohlendorf's been really bad - 3 total starts, 11 innings pitched, opponents OPS'ing almost 900 against him.  Including his 2 August start at Cincinnati he's failed to pitch into the fourth inning in 2 of his last 4 starts, and he got pulled in that inning during one of the two starts he did see the fourth.  Not real good, that.

Wells?  Well, he was knocked out in the fifth inning of 3 of his last 4 Padres starts, and two of those games were against the worst two teams in the NL (Colorado and Houston).  Not real good either.

Comparing the two, neither strikes out many and both walk a lot of guys (Wells 20 in his 37 innings, Ohlendorf 24 in his 48).  The league was hitting .287 on balls in play off Wells, .342 off Ohlendorf.  Both tended to give up HR.  The only statistic I could find where Ohlendorf had a measurable advantage over Wells was FIP.  Ross' FIP so far in 2012 is 4.90, including last night's shellacking.  Kip's was 5.85.  (xFIP they're actually much closer; 5.28 to 5.51)  It would be kind of interesting if the main reason the team kept Ohlendorf is because his advanced metrics were better than Wells.  Or, it could be as simple as Ohlendorf is 5 years younger than Wells and throws slightly harder.

I dunno.  I thought the Padres had a chance to win every time Wells took the ball.  It's not a matter of if Ohlendorf will give up a big inning, it's when.  Neither of these guys were going to be with the team in 2013; why not keep the guy who seemed to be doing a better job of keeping your team in the game.

(Hopefully I'll be posting more now.  My schedule seems to have settled down a bit, finally.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Ownership Roller Coaster

As the 2012 season winds along, the unsettled ownership issue percolates in the background. Yesterday, as Padres fans everywhere turned their energy to winning the Vedder Cup, the story broke that Thomas Tull has withdrawn his bid to buy the franchise.

The 'it doesn't economically make sense' comment caught my attention.  Just how much is John Moores asking for to buy this team?  Forbes valued the franchise at $458 million back in March, and although I would not be surprised to learn he's trying to sell the team for more than that how much more does he want?  Is the team asking $750 Mil?  $1 Billion?  Some other amount even more obnoxious?

The Dodgers could fetch $2 billion because they have cachet.  They are the team of Robinson, Koufax, Drysdale, and Scully.  They have a storied, successful history.  The Padres?  We have Gwynn, Hoffman, Jones, and Joe Randa.  They've been to 2 World Series in their history and won one game.  Sorry -  no one is going to pay an exorbitant price for a team that's been a doormat for most of its existence.

The other variable in this equation, the wild card, and the one that prompted this post, is the Jeff Moorad question.  Near as I can tell his ownership group still controls 49% of the team.  What do they plan to do with their shares?  I see two options:
  1. They sell their stock in the Padres along with Moores and get completely out, recouping whatever money they can.
  2. They don't sell any of their stock in the Padres and remain as a minority owner.
What makes this fascinating to me is my belief that Moorad got played.  Having someone get denied form buying a major sports franchise is not without precedent in North America but it certainly is rare in baseball.  Baseball is much more likely to force an owner to sell (see McCourt, Frank; Schott, Marge; and Veeck, Bill) than to prevent a group from buying.  Even though all the reports state it was because of questions about his finances I can't help but think Jeff Moorad doesn't own the Padres today because people didn't like him (fairly or unfairly).  Either way it was a stinging rebuke for a powerful man.

He has absolutely no requirement to work with Moores to finalize the sale.  It also makes you wonder if his side of the aisle is the one driving the price way up.
Moores only controls 51% of the team.  Fifty-one percent of $500M is $255M.  Heck, Phil Mickelson could buy the team himself for that price.  Yet the Tull group left the bidding because the asking price doesn't economically make sense to them.  That tells me Moorad's shares are for sale, and that the total asking price for the entire team is way up from what Moores agreed to sell it at in 2009, thanks to the $2B price the Dodgers sold for this spring.

This morning the Dave & Jeff show relayed a report from Ken Rosenthal that MLB expects to be ready to announce a winner by next Friday, which would finally bring this whole soap opera to a close.  I prefer to spend my time looking at the product on the field, but I am looking forward to seeing who wins the bidding and how much they pay for this franchise.

Then, I'm looking forward to how they go about making the San Diego Padres the franchise we all want it to be:  Competitive.  Savvy.  Successful.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

How Bad is Alonso's Defense?

Yonder Alonso has been one of the few bright spots this season for the San Diego Padres.  Acquired in the Mat Latos trade, he currently sits fourth on the club in OPS+ among those players with 140 PA or more.  Yet if you look at his Fangraphs page, his 2012 season so far grades out at -0.3 WAR.  Why?  Two reasons:  he's a bad baserunner, and he's not so good defensively.

So just how bad is Alonso's defense?  Well, his UZR as of this morning is -2.4, and his UZR/150 is -6.4.  Numbers in a vacuum don't mean anything, so I looked at first baseman with at least 400 innings played this year (Alonso has played 483 innings).  On that list, the best defensive 1B so far in 2012 is James Loney.  Alonso is not the worst defensive first basemen  - that honor belongs to Kansas City's Eric Hosmer - but he's in the bottom half of the league.

Not surprisingly Prince Fielder shows up at the bottom as well.  Suprisingly so does Casey Kotchman.

Can we see what specifically Alonso struggles with?  For that we have to go to Dewan Plus/Minus.  According to those numbers, Alonso is -2 on balls to his right, -4 to his left, and +1 on balls hit right at him.  Overall it's a -5.  Balls in the air haven't given him any trouble.  Looking at the Runs Saved statistics, his defense has allowed two more runs to score than the average first baseman, and places him 28th in the league.

Being left-handed, it makes a little bit of sense that he'd be weaker trying to field balls hit down the line than otherwise, but it can't be used as an excuse.  Adrian Gonzalez is left-handed as well and by the same metrics is actually BETTER fielding balls hit to his left than to his right. Of course he's also the second-best defensive 1B according to that list I linked to above, so feel free to scream into a pillow or punch a Red Sox fan in frustration.

The good news is Alonso's only 25.  Defensive is something that can be improved as players get older; being a lousy defender now is not a death sentence.  As the Padres coaching staff works with him he will improve, but these things take time.  He can improve his value dramatically if he'd quit getting doubled off first base on fly balls to the outfield, but that's a post for another day.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Spruce up your Desktop

Here's something to take your mind of last night's 9-5 drubbing at the hands of the Brewers....

The good folks at Brand Thunder have created an official browser theme for the San Diego Padres.  No, this isn't a case of a random guy selling the 'official' Calvin and Hobbes SDSU Basketball T-shirt through your dorm or College Area neighborhood back in the day; Brand Thunder's products are licensed by Major League Baseball.  They actually are official.

Better yet, the theme provides scores, breaking news and trades affecting the Padres, as well as ticket links to upcoming games.  Kind of 'one-stop-shopping' for mainstream Padres news.  The kits are free to download and there are versions to support IE, Mozilla, or Google Chrome.  It also has the new Petco Park logo as the background, which I think is the best of the new logos the team rolled out this season.

Click on the photo below to check it out.



*I have received no compensation for posting this story and links to this product. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

2012 Padres First Round

The 2012 MLB draft got underway yesterday.  There won't be a lot of draft coverage at the Trail.  Lots of people get paid a lot of money to prognosticate, predict, and pull apart the players major league teams draft every year.  I am not one of them.

For a small-market team like San Diego, however, the draft is the main way the club can improve.  Some would say the only way.  So even I can't completely ignore it.

Last year the Padres had 2 first round and 3 compensatory picks, and they used those selections to take 2 college infielders (Cory Spangenberg/Jace Peterson), 2 high school pitchers (Joe Ross and Michael Kelly) and a high school catcher (Brett Austin, who ultimately didn't sign).  This year, the Padres had one first round pick and 3 compensatory picks.  They again focused the majority of their picks at the HS level, taking 3 pitchers.  The other pick was for a college OF.

Max Fried is the Padres #1 pick (seventh overall) for 2012.  A lot of folks thought they would get the kid Correa, a shortstop from Puerto Rico, but Houston took him first overall and kind of blew that plan up.  Fried was rated the #1 left-handed pitcher in the entire draft by Baseball America.  I would think he's got to be estatic on a number of levels, not the least of which is the future opportunity to make half his starts in the best pitcher's park the NL has to offer.  He's from Encino, CA, and played at Harvard-Westlake HS, which I only mention because my father taught there for the better part of 30 years (he semi-retired and moved out of the state in 2002) so I have a small affinity for the school.

He's committed to play for UCLA in the fall.  With the new slotting rules in effect this year it will be interesting to see if San Diego can throw enough money at him to lure him into the organization.  Would that we all had such problems at 18.

Zach Eflin is not a Disney Channel teen show character name, he's the Padres #2 pick (#33 overall), a 6-5, 200 pound RHP out of Haglin HS in Florida.  A quick google search reveals he has 3 solid pitches (fastball/curveball/change), hits 92 on the gun with the fastball, and has improved dramatically over the past 12 months.  Eflin appears to be a bit of a project - my opinion entirely, and only based on the radical change in his mechanics over the past year - but he also appears to be a guy with a ton of upside, much like Fried.  These are exactly the types of kids San Diego should be taking now given the current state of their minor league system (read:  stacked), guys they probably would not have willing to touch even 2 years ago.

Travis Jankowski is the lone position player taken by the Padres in the first round (#3 pick, #44 overall), a 6-3 CF from Stony Brook U in New York.  He was named a Louisville Slugger second-team All-American this year and is the current American East player of the year.  He's just finished his junior year of college and I would imagine will turn pro now that he's a first round draft pick.  Based on his college numbers he looks like a kid with gap-to-gap power, and he has speed on the basepaths.  I'll assume he's a good defensive OF, which he'll have to be in order to play at Petco.  San Diego has a lot of OF on the major league roster, but those who know think the organization suffers from a lack of OF depth.  Good pick, then, this one is.

The team's last first round pick (#55 overall) is Walker Weickel, another tall (6-6) RHP out of Florida (Olympia HS).  He reportedly also features fastball/curveball/change up, and his fastball can reach 94.  He's only 195 pounds - a big skinny guy - which means he still has room to grow, put on muscle, and possibly throw harder than that before he's done.  Yet another guy with a ton of potential as a pitcher.

Given the lack of an impact bat on the major league roster, many thought the Padres would focus on getting hitters in this draft; after all, they have stockpiled good pitching prospects over the past few drafts and traded for others.  However it appears they took the best talent available when it was their turn, and I for one am totally OK with that.  Of course, if they don't sign all these guys it's for naught, so let's see how that plays out over the upcoming weeks.

Some information in this post is courtesy the San Diego Padres Media Relations department.

Caveat:  As I do every year, I'll tell you up front - I am not a draft expert. If you've come here looking for in-depth analysis on these 4 men you'll want to look elsewhere.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Yasmani Yo-Yo and no more Soup for You

As San Diego endures a skid that's reached 11 losses in their last 13 games, the roster moves have started.  Some of the movement is because guys are starting to get healthy, but some of it is due to poor play.

The Padres had been carrying 13 pitchers and 12 bench players but decided to shift the mix back in favor of the hitters last Friday.  Prized prospect Yasmani Grandal, who it turned out was the main guy San Diego targeted to get back when they sent Mat Latos to Cincinnati (per AJ Hinch's Friday radio interview with Darren Smith), was called up before Friday's game.  Grandal, the #2 rated prospect in the San Diego system (which is a bit of a misnomer; Yonder Alonso was ranked #1 but he's spent the entire year playing 1B for the Padres, so he's no longer a prospect) and the #40 ranked prospect by Fangraphs' Mark Hulet, could be the kind of impact bat San Diego so desperately needs.

Well he still could be.  We have no idea yet, since he was up for only 2 games.  Grandal was sent back down to AAA before Sunday's game in favor of Mark Kotsay.  Grandal did get into one game, as we talked about in our last post, so at least his trip to SD wasn't completely for naught.  He's got #12 if you keep track of those things.

As Grandal came up, someone had to move out.  Turns out that someone was Jeff Suppan.  Soup pitched pretty darn well in his first 3 games with the club, throwing 5 shut out innings in his first start and allowing only 1 run in his second.  Really he pitched good enough to win in his third, played in that noted band-box of Philadelphia's Citizens Bank park; he might have left the game tied at 2 if not for Chase Headley's throwing error in the third inning.

His last 3 starts, well, they were pretty bad.  The Angels hung 4 on him in 5 innings enroute to a 7-2 loss.  Staked to a 3-0 lead in the first inning of the last game in STL, he couldn't hold the lead for 3 outs.  Beltran's HR in the fifth ultimately chased him before the inning ended.  He was staked to 1-0 and 4-3 leads in his final start, in Chicago against the Cubs, but left the game after 5 tied 6-6.

Soup has to keep the ball down to be successful, and has to not only get the low strike, but get those pitches that barely clip the bottom of the knee called strikes too.  He never could overwhelm hitters with power, and now at 37 truly has to rely on guile and control to compete.  He struggled to do that his last 3 games.  Although he didn't walk anyone in Chicago he walked 9 in his two outings before that.  Suppan was a stop-gap guy and the gap just simply swallowed him.  The upcoming Padres schedule has enough off-days that the club doesn't need a fifth starter until 9 June.  By then maybe another former Cardinal - names bandied about recently are Kip Wells and Jason Marquis - will step into the #5 slot.

Suppan still wants to pitch but this might be the end of the line for him in the majors.  It's hard to imagine him getting another shot at this level.  At least the Padres decided to DFA the man; there's a chance he could return to AAA Tuscon if he clears waivers, but that will play out over the next week or so.

To close the thought on roster moves - Sunday the Padres activated Logan Forsythe as well as Kotsay; to make room they placed Andy Parrino on the 15-day DL.  Forsythe was on-track to make the club out of spring training until suffering the broken foot that cost him 2 months.

The roster moves will continue to come.  Players will continue to get healthy (we should see the return of Huston Street this week).  But also, as San Diego appears to be headed to another All-Star break with one of the three worst records in the NL (third time in the last 4 years), the evaluation period for next may start early.  I'm sure there are players in AAA (and maybe AA) the team would like to take a long look at.

Update:  Gaslamp Ball is reporting Huston Street will be activated today, with Matt Palmar DFA'd.  No official press release yet from the Padres.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Random Thoughts on Game 54 (vs Diamondbacks)

Well, Daniel Hudson beat the Padres again, improving to 5-1 lifetime against San Diego, although his ERA ballooned to 1.86.  The winning run scored thanks to a Joe Thatcher balk; the insurance run scored courtesy of an Alex Hinshaw bases loaded walk.

Highlights of the game for me:

1.  The bottom of the fourth was the most fun I've had watching the Padres this year.  Will Venable executed a perfect drag bunt to start the inning, then stole second. Cameron Maybin lined a single to right, and an excellent slide by Venable just beat Manny Parra's throw to the plate.  Maybin, who had taken second on the throw home, then scored standing up on Yonder Alonso's soft single to center.  Alonso then defied the Fates by stealing second.

Sadly that was the end of the fun.  Carlos Quentin flied to Parra, who threw out Alonso trying to tag and go to third.  Parra had also thrown out Cabrera in the third trying to stretch a double into a triple; the moral is, as always, don't run on Parra.

But that is the way the Padres should play the game.  The team doesn't have a lot of power, and doesn't have an offensively charged lineup like St Louis or Texas.  They need to press the action, and use the one asset - SPEED - they do possess.  Make the opposing team's defense turn the perfect relay or play to stop the madness.

2.  Back in December, Quentin told XX 1090's Darren Smith he didn't have any walk-up music and didn't want any.  I've been waiting for 2 months to see if he meant it.  He did.  Quentin is rapidly becoming my favorite Padre.

3.  Thru three plate appearanes, Arizona's Montero and Young had the exact same line - 2 walks, and a strikeout looking.  Odd.

4.  Cabrera made a very heads-up play to snuff an Arizona rally in the second.  He gloved Josh Bell's sharp grounder while moving into the hole; with no play at first, he threw to third to force Montero.  Nicely done.

5.  Goldschmidt's HR was crushed, measuring 425' by the Padres PR staff.  it was what - 7 rows back in the LF upper deck?  Wow.

6.  Parra forced the balk by Thatcher by bluffing coming down the line at third to steal home.  Thatcher had started his wind-up, then froze.  Oops.  Parra had a huge game.

7.  Finally, we got to see the ML debut of Yasmani Grandal.  He hit a 3-1 pitch to the track in LF.  He was fooled on the pitch, and hit it off his front foot, so don't read' Warning Track Power' into that swing.  As a friend of mine said, 'he's got swagger'. Welcome to the big leagues Yasmani.

SD tries to win the series tomorrow afternoon.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Contact Play

I hope all enjoyed their long weekend, and I would like to welcome Carlos Quentin back to the fight.  Nice to see him finally take an at-bat as a Padre during a regular-season game.  I hope he plays every game from this point forward.

If you have watched any of the Padres current 10-game road trip, you have been quite frustrated.  San Diego has been swept out of St Louis, dropped 3 of 4 to New York, then lost a slug-fest yesterday.  Although I found time to watch at least part of all 3 games in STL I haven't seen much of the 5 games since.

I did manage to catch the top of the seventh yesterday, and saw one of those plays that I just don't get.  The Contact Play. It should be called "The Contact Play That Never Works".

Let's set the stage.  San Diego trailed 8-7 after six.  Chase Headley leads off the seventh inning with a hustle double to right.  Jesus Guzman hits a fly ball to center, and Headley tags, making it to third standing up.  Cubs Manager Dale Sveum makes the somewhat curious decision to play his infield in for Everth Cabrera.  This is only curious because 15 runs have been scored, and 7 home runs hit, in the first six innings; it seemed likely the Cubs could score more runs over the next 3 innings.  Anyway, with the count 3-1 Cabrera hits a sharp ground ball to third.  Headley breaks for the plate as the ball is hit.  It is fielded cleanly by Cub third baseman Ian Stewart, and he throws out Headley at the plate by 6 feet.  The Padres ultimately don't score in the inning.

Why in the world would Bud Black put the contact play on in that situation?  The infield is IN, with limited ability to react to a sharply hit ground ball.  Wouldn't it make more sense to wait the half-second and make sure the ball is through before moving towards the plate?  Let's say Stewart gets a glove on the ball but can't field it cleanly, and the ball caroms away.  With the rest of the infield in there's no possibility the shortstop (or anyone else for that matter) can recover to pick the ball up and retire Headley at the plate.

If what usually happens happens, the batter is thrown out at first and the team still has a runner on at third with two out - and it's a lot easier to score from third on a single with two out than from first (I know - Master of the Obvious here). 

With the infield back, and a fast runner at third, I can maybe see putting the contact play on.  First, the defensive team is conceding the run.  Second, even if the infielder fields the ball and throws home, it takes longer for the ball to arrive at the infielder, and it is a longer throw to the plate.  A speedy runner has a chance to beat the play (and depending on the runner, a GOOD chance). 

I know this falls under the 'As It So Often Happens' byline - you know, the line of reasoning that states whenever a player makes an outstanding defensive play to end one inning, he leads off the second?  It doesn't happen all that often, but everyone notices when it does.  For me, whenever the contact play is put on the runner is gunned down at the plate with Ivory precision (99 44/100% of the time).  It's probably not that often - otherwise, managers would not continue to run the play - but it certainly seems that way.

In this particular inning, it ended up being a moot point.  Cabrera stole second on the very next pitch, and advanced to third when the 2-2 pitch to Andy Parrino got away from the Cubs catcher.  So 5 pitches later the Padres were in the same situation they would have been if Headley had held the bag at third.  And San Diego caught a bad break when the 3-2 pitch hit Parrino; if it had merely been in the dirt, it was such a bad pitch that Cabrera would have scored easily on the wild pitch.  That sequence of events is the exception, the anomaly, the fortuitous turn of good luck vice the rule.  Invariably when a runner gets thrown out at the plate on the contact play that is the end of the scoring chances for that inning.

I'll add to my list of things trying to mine Baseball Reference or Retrosheet for incidences were, with the infield in, a runner got thrown out at the plate, just to see how often it does happen.  There's no scoring category for THE CONTACT PLAY so the data will be somewhat inaccurate; but it will at least give us a glimpse into how often this kind of play is called, and what the success rate is.

Some folks are vehemently against the Sacrifice Bunt.  I am vehemently against the Contact Play. Teams who use the contact play are gift-wrapping an out for the other team.  Seems really dumb.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Random Thoughts on Game 42 (vs Angels)

Nothing like 13 innings of baseball to break up your Sunday, is there? Padres take 2 of 3 from California over the weekend. Some thoughts from yesterday's 4-and-a-half hour marathon:

- The game actually entered the seventh inning in under 2 hours. I believe it was 2 hrs 5 min to the seventh inning stretch. Of course it took another 2:18 to play the rest of the game. Time slows down as the game gets longer.

- Both teams played the last 2 innings with no more position players available. In fact, Langerhans injury on John Baker's double that opened the eleventh set in motion a whole chain of events (which ultimately was decisive in how the game ended):
  • Backup catcher John Hester came in for Langerhans, pushing
  • Starting catcher Bobby Wilson to first, moving
  • Starting 1B Albert Pujols to third, sending
  • Starting 3B Maicer Izturis to second, and exiling
  • Starting 2B Howard Kendrick to LF.
That's fun.

If it seems stuff like this happens more and more it's because it does. Back in the day when bullpens were 4 men deep, and starters on their throwing day would be long men out of the bullpen, managers had a lot more flexibility because they carried 16 position players on the roster. Now, with starters routinely not getting out of the seventh, and all the specialization out of the bullpen, pitching staffs have expanded. There have been a couple of teams this year (albeit it briefly) where they carried 13 pitchers and 12 position players.

Baseball is great because there is no time limit. You can't run out the clock; you have to get 27 men out to win, or more if the game is tied after 9. Because of how the game is played today, and how rosters are managed to play today's game, teams are only built to play 9. If the game goes longer than, say, 11 innings, teams are forced to use the worst guys in the pen. The guys like Hisanori Takahashi with a 5.91 ERA, or Miles Mikolas with a 5.40 (numbers include yesterday's game).

Look at yesterday. Bud Black used his best 3 bullpen arms for an inning each - in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings. With the score tied and those guys out of the game you're just hoping you score before one of your less reliable arms gives up the go-ahead run.

- Of course, this game wouldn't have gone 13 if anyone could drive in a runner in scoring position. Anaheim was 1-for-14 with RISP; San Diego 1-for-13. The winning run scored from first base thanks to Kendrick's bobble on Will Venable's single, which allowed Clayton Richard to scamper home. Kendrick was playing out of position, as noted above; although he did start 20 games in LF last year, yesterday was his first exposure there in 2012.

- Additionally, starting with Chris Denorfia in the bottom of the seventh inning Saturday night, 9 consecutive pinch hitters in this series struck out. That streak includes both teams, and also includes Peter Bourjos' first AB after Vernon Wells left with a thumb injury. This particularly random streak of futility didn't end until Baker's double.

- Will Venable was hit by Angels starter Ervin Santana in consecutive AB's. He is the first Padre to be hit-by-pitch twice in the same game since Everth Cabrera was plunked twice by Texas' Kevin Millwood in 2009.

- Apparently HP umpire Doug Eddings doesn't like to ask for help. The first 3 check swings in this game were called strikes by Doug himself. On replay it looked like he got 2 of them wrong (Nick Hundley with the bases loaded in the first, and Venable with 2 out in the second). He finally asked for help when Andy Parrino checked his swing in the sixth inning.

I'm not in a position to tell a seasoned umpire how to do his job, but one would think that the 1B or 3B umpire has a better view of a check-swing than the HP guy who's focused on whether the pitch is a ball or a strike. I don't think it a stretch to say the call on Hundley changed the game; he was hitting with the bases loaded in the first, and the Padres had been hitting the ball hard off Santana early in the game. We might not have played 13 innings had Hundley delivered there. Of course, the WHOLE game is different if the Padres tie it up or go ahead in the first inning, so saying the Padres win in regulation if Hundley has another pitch is a stretch - I know that.  There is the possibility the game goes a lot differently if he gets another pitch.

- This just in: Mike Trout is fast. He hit a slow roller to short leading off the 10th inning and beat the throw by a step. Usually that play is bang-bang. Trout hits right-handed.

- This also just in: So is Alexi Amarista. He hit a line drive to LC in the bottom of the 10th and left the box thinking 2 bases. If Bourjos doesn't slide to cut the ball off, it's in the gap and Amarista circles the bases. Although Bourjos threw the ball to second, Amarista slid in without a play. Love love LOVE the energy he's brought to the Padres so far.

- Amarista also hit a line drive to Angels SS Erick Aybar in the twelfth inning which Aybar then dropped, attempting to turn the 643 DP. Kerwin Danley, working 2B, said 'nay nay moosebreath' on that. Scioscia then tried to argue it.

Uh, fellas - if I can't get away with that on my slow-pitch, beer league softball team, you can't do it in the majors. The fact the Angels tried was hilarious. The fact Danley vetoed it was just.

- Is Pujols lost at the plate? Well, he had homered at Petco every year since 2008. He also homered here in 2006 and 2005. He didn't homer this weekend, and had only 2 singles in the series. He didn't hit a ball out of the infield yesterday. San Diego attacked him with fastballs and sliders. He looks lost to my untrained eye.



Yesterday was a big win in the most-attended home series so far this year. San Diego flies to St Louis to take on the Cardinals, who are currently reeling, and were just swept by the Dodgers. The Padres might be more competitive in this series than many thought they would be just 2 short weeks ago.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A night with Baseball Prospectus

So I don't spend a lot of time on Baseball Prospectus (BP).  However, I do follow Geoff Young (formerly of Ducksnorts) on Twitter, so when I saw some tweets to him about a BP event at the stadium I checked into it, and ended up signing up.

Well, the event was tonight.  And it was great.

We formed up (sorry - Navy term.  We stood around) at the Park Ave gate at 1645, and about 15 min later Joe Hamrahi arrived with the tickets.  After everyone had checked in and gotten their seats, we entered the stadium and were escorted to a small conference room above the concourse down the third base line.

There we had two question and answer periods.  The first was with BP staffers and included Dave Pease, Corey Brock (Padres beat writer for MLB.com), Geoff, Sam Miller, Stephani Bee, and Jason Martinez.  About 30 min in, Dan Evans entered the room; he had been held up in traffic trying to come down from LA.  Too bad on Evans being late; he was a dynamic personality in the room and I for one would love to pick his brain.

Oh, the questions.  The first one asked about why the Padres didn't sign Adrian Gonzalez, which was hilarious because Padres COO Tom Garfinkel walked into the back of the room right as the guy started asking it. Garfinkel's smirk was awesome, kind of a 'still gotta answer that question, eh' look.  Then the inevitable ownership inquiry.  In fact, that the 'move the fences in' question DIDN'T get asked was the surprise of the evening.

Joe H. jumped in with a minor league system comment, which led to a CBA question about how it will help the small market teams during the draft.  Miller's comments on how he believed it would help the small market clubs in the long run was interesting; new perspectives are always good.  Follow up to that was about high-end talent in the Padres system.

I think it was Brock who made the point about how bare the Padre system was 4 years ago in a discussion about organizational depth.  San Diego couldn't focus on the high risk, high gain players because the cupboard was completely bare.  They had to completely restock the system; when there's no one there you can't afford to take a big risk and be wrong.  Only now are the Padres in a position to start taking a chance on guys who could be gigantic stars but have some hurdles to over in the near term.

A player development discussion followed, then a 'does Josh Hamilton resign with Texas' question, and will the DH be required in the NL (most agreed it would).  Here Evans had some great points.  He thinks it a disadvantage for AL teams to play in an NL park.  First, they have to pull one of their main hitters out of the lineup.  They are also scared to death one of their starters will get hurt running the bases; starters take up ~60% of the team payroll and are hard to replace.  Just ask this year;s SD team.  He thinks it an advantage for an NL team to play in an AL park, because it's so much easier to add a hitter to the lineup than to take one away.

Most interesting to me, Evans believes NL managers are more push-button; that the game situation largely dictates when to take a pitcher out, double switch, and so on.  AL managers manage more by feel, because the pitcher never comes up so theoretically you could leave him in the game forever.  I should note that Evans grew up in the Chicago White Sox organization before becoming the GM of the Dodgers.  That might play a role in his thinking; but there is some truth to what he said.

Last question was on which fanbase should be more disappointed at this point in the season, SD or LAA?  Consensus - LAA.  Something about some guy named Pujols hitting less than .220.

After that question Garfinkel and Padres Senior Analyst Chris Long took the stage.  We only had about 35 minutes with the two of them, so not many questions asked.  But the ones that were focused on
  • how they got into baseball
  • any word on the sale of the franchise
  • lots of good info on the draft process
  • what is being done so all fans can see the team locally.  I finally had a question answered on MLB blackout rules - Major League Baseball doesn't drive them, the rules are written by WHO HOLDS THE TV RIGHTS.  We can't get the Padres locally via MLB Extra Innings because the network with local broadcast rights doesn't want us to. It's the same nonsense as why one can't watch a ML game via Extra Innings on Saturdays between 1000 and 1700.
Since all those questions were aimed at Garfinkel, he tried to bring Long back into the discussion.  Long made two comments - that college player analysis is an untapped area, and that there is original research out there to be done (it all hasn't been covered) - figure it out and do it.

That was it.  Great night.  We hung around in the conference room for another 10-15 min before they kicked us all out.  The missus and I never made it to our seats, but that's a story for another time (get your mind out of the gutter - we were engaged in conversation).  However, we were in the ballpark during the game on a night the Padres won, so that counts - my personal record now is 6-4 this season.  Or, look at it this way - San Diego is 5-12 when I don't attend.  I look forward to my season pass.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Random Thoughts on the Dodgers series

It has been a long time since I watched an entire regular season series between two teams. Any two teams. Maybe it happened in 2001. But I got to observe both games this week between the Dodgers and Padres. Talk about two different games.

Clayton Richard started Wednesday. That game kicked off at 3:35 which although not odd because the Padres play a lot of Wednesday afternoon games, it was odd because it was the first game back after a 5-game road trip. When was the last time a team played a day game following a cross-country flight? At least the Tuesday game had started at 10am our time.

LA started 4 lefties against Richard, another oddity because Richard is left-handed. Typically teams don't stack their lineups with lefties when facing a lefty. Then again, the Dodgers started SIX lefties last night against Edinson Volquez, so maybe it's not that unusual for them.

Wednesday's game did not start well. Eight pitches in the Dodgers led 2-0, the big blow being Elian Herrera's double, also his first major-league hit. Richard got out of it, and Chase Headley's HR in the home half brought San Diego back within one.

It may have also relaxed Richard. After giving up 2 hits in 5 pitches, he allowed 2 hits over the next six innings. Clayton didn't walk anyone for the first time since his 8 April start against LA, and his 6 K's matched his second-highest total in a game this season. Game Score: 67, second best to that 8 April game (72). Richard apparently loves both pitching against the Dodgers at Petco and pitching during the day.

On the other side, Dodger lefty Chris Capuano pitched pretty well himself. He allowed only one other hit besides the Headley HR, a hustle double by James Darnell. Darnell plays every game like it's his last. His aggressive approach paid off on this play; it wouldn't last night, as he sublexed his left shoulder trying to make a diving catch on Tony Gwynn Jr's line drive in the sixth.

If Capuano could have solved Headley he might have won this game. Chase followed his HR with a 10-pitch walk leading off the fourth. Headley came up with 2 on and 1 out in the sixth, saw seven more pitches, then lined a 2-run double up the gap in left-center to give the Padres the lead. Here's a cool statistic: At this point in the game Capuano had thrown 78 pitches, and Headley had seen 21 of them. Twenty-seven percent of Capuano's pitches had been thrown to Headley. Ridiculous.

Richard kept cruising. He gave up a 1-out double to Jerry Sands in the fourth, then retired the last 11 hitters he faced. Andrew Cashner came on and blew away the side in the eighth. Although Bobby Abreu broke the consecutive retired string at 15 with a 1-out single off Dale Thayer, Darnell made a spectacular diving catch to rob Andre Ethier, and James Loney fouled out to Headley to give the Padres a 4-2 win.

The only other weird things in this game were the two throwing errors by pitchers, one by each team. If one can throw the ball to the plate with precision at 90MPH, they should be able to toss it to first. Not so much. There'd be another pitcher throwing error in last night's game.

*********
Between the games the Padres made a number of roster moves. Jason Bartlett was placed on the 15-day DL with a knee issue. Eric Stults was claimed off waivers from the Chicago White Sox. The Padres called up Everth Cabrera (his first return to the majors since July 2011) and Alexi Amarista (acquired in the Ernesto Frieri deal). Both those players started last night.

By far, the biggest news was Orlando Hudson's unconditional release. Initially I thought this was just a fancy way of saying 'Designated for Assignment', but that's not true. If a player is DFA'd, the club places him on waivers for 10 days, during which time any other club can claim him; then the two clubs have ~10 days to work out a deal. If the player clears waivers, he can be sent to the minors or given his release.

When the guy is given his unconditional release, he just leaves. That's it - see ya.

I was a little bit surprised by that. O-Dog still has some value at the major league level. Yes he's 34, and he's hitting .211, but he's still a veteran guy who was a 2-time All-Star and a 4-time Gold Glove winner. Some team out there will give him another chance (hello, San Francisco?), wouldn't they? Couldn't a trade have been worked out once he was on the waiver wire?

Is the team better without him? Well they can't be much worse. Hudson struggled this year, and he struggled last year, at the plate. His defense is what it is, and this year by UZR/150 (-3.3) it's as mediocre as it was last year (-3.5), granted in about 1/4 the innings. I guess from that perspective why not let the kids play.

It's also worth noting Hudson isn't the sole reason San Diego has started 13-24. Carlos Quentin hasn't yet taken the field for a Major League game in 2012. Cory Luebke may need season ending surgery. There are 10 other Padres who have done time on the DL (not including Darnell, who may go there today). In some ways, though, Hudson and Bartlett became the most visible examples of what this team is lacking - sometimes sloppy defense and a lot of futility at the plate. One wonders how much time Bartlett has left on the roster.

*********

Last night's game was no contest. The Dodgers walloped San Diego 8-1. If it weren't for Don Mattingly's decision to bring Todd Coffey in for the ninth inning - against whom the league was hitting .474 before the game - it would have been a shutout. More random-ness from last night:

- Volquez got squeezed right out of the gate. His first pitch to Dee Gordon may have been a strike, but his second one was definitely a strike. Nope, both called balls. Volquez struggled to get ahead of hitters the rest of the game.

- Was it my imagination or was Volquez throwing a lot of off-speed stuff early in the count? Seems his previous starts he's featured his 94-95 MPH fastball and worked off that. Last night he seemed to reverse that pattern. I thought initially he might be injured, but there was nothing wrong with his velocity so it must have been the game plan they tried to execute. Ted Barrett having a phone book for a strike zone didn't help.

- Bobby Abreu takes FOR-EVER to get into the box. Then, he steps out after every pitch to collect himself. No wonder games at the ML level last around 3 hours.

- Abreu's triple in the first was smoked. I thought Cameron Maybin took a good angle to the ball, it was just hit so hard it skipped past him. Stuff happens.

- It took 16 pitches last night for the Padres to fall behind 2-0. I guess that's an improvement over Wednesday.

- As good as Richard was on Wednesday, that's how good Aaron Harang was last night. He scattered 4 hits, two of those doubles off John Baker's bat. Harang also struck out 6 and didn't walk anyone. True to form, he allowed a lot of fly balls; San Diego hit 10 balls in the air (9 outs), but it didn't matter.

- Amarista made a very heads-up play to end the second inning. Mark Ellis' ground ball up the middle was hit such that Amarista had no play at first; so instead, and knowing that Gwynn Jr is aggressive, he threw behind the runner to third. Result - 4-5-2-5-3-4 putout that ended the inning. Nicely done.

- Maybin should have Ethier's fly ball in the fifth. There's no other way to say it. I bet if you asked him, he'd say he should catch that ball 100 times out of 100. Yes, it was hit hard; but Maybin was there.

- Darnell sold out trying to catch the Gwynn line drive. Unfortunately he was already moving downward when the ball glanced off his glove and he didn't have time to brace himself. I love the way this kid plays, but the risk of injury is always great with that style. Hopefully his DL stint isn't too long.

- Is it me or does Andy Parrino strike out a lot?  Eighteen K's in 77 PA (24%) seems like a lot.

- Alex Hinshaw had a bad-luck seventh. Cabrera couldn't corral Ethier's hard ground ball up the middle. Adam Kennedy rolled the ball down the third-base line, which was perfect since Headley was swung over into the hole. Harang hit a soft ground ball about 25 feet into no-man's land that went for a hit. Only Loney's single to right was well struck. Hinshaw ended up giving up 2 runs in the frame. Sometimes it's not your night.

- Memo to Mr. Amarista: For the Love of God, PLEASE pick a different walk-up tune. I'd rather hear fingernails on a chalkboard or someone dragging a cat across a washboard than be subjected to Jorge Cantu's theme music again on a recurring basis.

- Surprised Scott Van Slyke uses batting gloves. His dad never did.

- Harang managed to strike out on a foul bunt twice in last night's game. Baseball Reference doesn't let one search for foul bunt strike three's, or if they do I'm not smart enough to figure out how to write the search. I can't imagine there's been a lot of players who've struck out twice in the same game on a foul bunt. Maybe that minutae is only interesting to me.

Interleague starts tonight with the Angels from the Greater Los Angeles Basin. Signs indicate Albert Pujols is heating up, just in time for the Padres. Oh goody.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Wanna Win Tickets to See the Padres in St Louis?

OK, some items before we start...

Congratuations to Stephen and Robert, who won the World Series Game 6 DVDs. Here's where I say 'the check's in the mail', however the check is not in the mail yet because I haven't made it to the post office. Yet. They should go out tomorrow.

Next, I'm 5-3 now at Petco after watching yesterday's 4-2 win over the Dodgers. I'm going again tonight, so I'll combine my random thoughts into one mega-post. Early tease - James Darnell plays the game the way I like to think I play it.



OK, onto today's contest offer.  In tandem with a couple of fellow BBA websites, I-70 Baseball, Pitchers Hit Eighth, and C70 at the Bat, and on behalf of the Sports Vacation Guys, two of you have a chance to see the Padres in St Louis Monday night.  Yes that's this Monday, the 21st of May.  If Fortune has favored you (or Fate has sentenced you) to a trip into the Greater St Louis area next week get there on Sunday, do your business, and watch the Padres play the World Champs Monday night.

How do you compete?  Just tell us,

1.  If you could go see the Padres play a road game in any other MLB team park, which one would it be?
2.  Who would you take with you?
3.  Why?

Two ways to enter.  You can post your reasons in the comment section of this here site, OR you can email it directly to Contest@SportsVacationGuys.com, which is probably a better call since you have to provide your name and address with your entry.  And it would also mean you're covered in case I get hit by a bus or something.

Now I must say THIS OFFER DOES NOT INCLUDE air fare, accomodations, rental cars, or anything else you might need to get from here to there.  You're on your own.  I'm cool, and so are the SVG folks, but we're not that cool.  Or independently wealthy.

As you probably know, Neo-Busch is typically engulfed with folks sporting cardinal red during a game.  A little Brown and Gold in the crowd would clash deliciously with all that monochrome.  You want to talk 'Best Fans in Baseball'?  How about a couple of kids from the Coast adorned in colors their team hasn't used as its primary scheme for 30 years!  THAT'S FANDOM PEOPLE!

So get your entries in, and Good Luck!  Winners to be announced Saturday afternoon at this site.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Random Thoughts on Game 30 (vs Rockies)

I don't know what ya-all's problem is - I go to Petco, the Padres win.  Tonight's 3-2 victory moves the Padres 4-2 when I'm able to attend.  Here are tonight's random thoughts:

- Loved Cameron Maybin's hustle on his first-inning double.  Think he might have seen Harper double just past shortstop in Sunday's game against the Phillies?  Also was it just me or did Maybin need about 4 strides to make it from first to second?  Speed never goes into a slump.

- I think people were seeing the ball well out of Drew Pomeranz's hand.  Yonder Alonso's single to score Maybin was smoked, and almost took the young Rockie hurler with it into CF.  Edinson Volquez's drive found Pomeranz, although Drew recovered to throw Volquez out.  That line drive would eventually force Pomeranz from the game with a right leg quad contusion, but not before he clobbered a 3-1 Volquez fastball off the facade in LF.  That was a shot, people.

- Friday's theme of weirdness continued.  We saw another wild pitch, another passed ball, another runner caught stealing, and the weirdest play of all, Rockies catcher Rosario out trying to advance on a ball just barely away from Nick Hundley.  Rosario was out by 3 feet.  And BZ to Orlando Hudson for keeping the tag on Cuddyer and throwing Cuddyer out when his momentum carried him past the bag.

- Chase Headley's slide to score the Padres third run was exemplary.  He's safe IMHO even if Rosario holds onto the ball.

- Nothing kills a rally like Hudson and Jason Bartlett striding to the plate.  They were a combined 0-4 with runners on, and stranded 5 in scoring position between them.  San Diego should have blown this game open in the third inning.

- I'll be the baseball is a big as a beach ball to Alonso right now.  Everything he hits is a rope.  One will never prove it but it sure looked like Colorado pitched around him in the fifth inning, even though Jesus Guzman was on first base.

- Headley's caught stealing earlier in the fifth looked like a busted hit and run, busted because Guzman didn't make contact.

- Gotta love the Padres bullpen, the lone bright spot on this team.  They threw 3 2/3 no hit ball, striking out 6, to preserve Volquez's first win with the club.

Jeff Suppan goes tomorrow, his opponent is still TBD (at least as of 5pm Monday).  I won't be back in the ballpark until sometime next week, but the Padres don't need me to win - do they?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Random Thoughts about Game 27 (vs Marlins)

Last night's 9-8, 12-inning loss to the Miami Marlins has to be the wackiest one I've seen in person.  Unlike the mainstream media, Gaslamp Ball, and some others I was not up to writing about it at 1am this morning.  This is what happens when your day starts 21 hours earlier.

What made this game so wacky?  Here's a short list:

Wild Pitches.  There were 4 in the game.  The wackiest had to be the wild pitch on a pitchout in the third inning by Anthony Bass, which allowed Emilio Bonifacio to reach second.  I can't recall the last time I saw that happen, or if I've ever seen it at the ML level.  Marlins reliever Randy Choate threw two during Chris Denorfia's AB in the seventh that pushed Andy Parrino to get all the way to third.

Balk.  Jose Reyes baited Bass into a balk that allowed him to score from third and tied the game in the sixth.

Baserunning Hijinx.  Three stolen bases (two by the Padres), two additional bases taken by San Diego thanks to defensive indifference, a runner picked off first by the catcher (Bonifacio, by Nick Hundley in the eleventh thanks to a timely pitchout call by Bud Black), and a runner cut down trying to advance (Yonder Alonso, by Giancarlo Stanton in the seventh).

We saw Chase Headley hit by a pitch in the first, Reyes called out on batter interference for running on the infield grass while trying to beat out a bunt in the eighth, two middle relievers hit for themselves in a one-run game, Parrino intentionally walked in consecutive at bats, and Bud Black NOT ejected from the game for arguing a strike call (I forget when that happened)

By the way, Marlin reliever Dan Jennings grounded to short in his first ML at-bat in the fourth, and fellow Marlin reliever Chad Gaudin struck out for the first time this season (he had 2 previous at-bats).

And all that's before we get to the Marlins' staking Josh Johnson to a 5-run lead before the Padres batted, then Johnson's inability to get out of the third with the lead, Bass' huge night at the plate, Heath Bell's bad luck in the ninth, or the fact that the game ended 10 minutes before midnight.

I kept waiting for bees, rain, and Godzilla to move through the Park at the Park.  Why not?  The whole game seemed surreal.  If you were one of the 29,201 who went yesterday you got your money's worth.

- Last night Bass became the 19th Padre pitcher ever to triple, and the first since Jake Peavy did it on April 19, 2007.  He also became the 14th Padre pitcher to drive in at least 3 runs in a game.  FWIW, the team record for most runs driven in by a pitcher is 4, shared by Mike Corkins (9/4/70), Tim Lollar (5/15/84), Eric Show (9/27/85), Mark Thurmond (6/8/86), and Peavy (7/26/06).

Two more thoughts on this:  (a) Bass' ball got past Stanton and rolled all the way to the wall.  He had a shot at an inside-the-park HR, but honored Glenn Hoffman's instruction to hold at third base.  If it was you, would you have run through that stop sign?  I think I would have.  How many pitchers have hit an inside-the-park HR in their career since WWII?

(b) Tim Lollar hit 3 triples as a Padre and drove in at least 3 in a game runs four times.  I'd forgotten how good a hitting pitcher he was.

- Having Alonso tag on a fly ball to Stanton was ridiculous.  The slowest guy on the Padres against one of the best arms in the NL.  The ball beat Alonso to the bag on the fly.

- I thought Venable's attempt to throw out Bonifacio in the seventh was ill-advised.  Bonifacio was already around third when Venable picked up the ball, and Will was playing deep against Greg Dobbs; not to mention there were 2 out and Bonifacio was off at the crack of the bat.  He had no play.  The throw allowed Dobbs to take second, and subsequently score on Omar Infante's single to left.

- A lot of folks commented about it on Twitter during the game, and I agree:  booing Bell when he came in was crap.  Total and complete crap.  The guy bled Padres brown for 4 years, wanted to stay here, and only left because the team wouldn't pay him.  Boo guys like Albert Pujols who get competitive offers from their former teams and leave anyway for slightly more money; don't boo guys like Bell.

Yes, Bell blew the save, but it's not like he got tattooed during the ninth.  Jesus Guzman had swung through one, and fouled off another, 93+ MPH fastball before hitting a ball just fair down the RF line.  And just fair by, like, 2 feet.  Cameron Maybin's double came on a check-swing and would have been a ground out to first had the infield been playing back.  I'd call that some bad luck.  Bell's closer position is in jeopardy.

- Dobbs takes for-EVER to get into the box.  That is all.

- Everyone was ready to start the top of the 11th except for Alonso, who was nowhere to be seen. He emerged about a minute later.  There's no witty comment here, I just thought it was funny.

So not only do the Padres use everyone in their bullpen (Miami used everyone but Home Run Ed) and lose in 12, but before the game we heard Cory Luebke likely needs season-ending Tommy John surgery, and during the game Huston Street left with a right posterior shoulder strain that was changed to a lat strain after the game.  If Street he headed to the DL - and it's probable he is - I would expect Andrew Cashner to fleet up to the closer's spot.  The hits just keep on coming for the Padres this year.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Win a copy of WS Game 6

This is a quick follow-up to a post I wrote two weeks ago about MLB's latest Baseball Greatest Games release.  I've been provided two additional copies of the 2011 World Series Game 6 BluRay/DVD combo set that I'd like to give away.

Of course, this being a Padres blog and that game not involving the club makes devising a giveaway appealing to my readers a little problem-matic.  I expect it will generate some interest amongst Cardinals fans, however.

So let's do this.

To my count there have been 4 major trades between the Padres and Cardinals in the last 30 years.  One involved someone currently on the Padres roster.  I will send one copy of this game to the first two people who can name the player, and list the other player(s) involved in that trade.  Send your guesses to padrestrail@gmail.com.

Please note that if you've already won this disk from another website you will be ineligible to receive one of these two. 

Disk provided courtesy A&E Networks Home Entertainment/MLB Productions.

2001 World Series Game 6 can be found here: 
http://shop.mlb.com/product/index.jsp?productId=12643416&cp=1452371.2366583
 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Redemption Soup

After watching Ryan Braun club 3 HR on Tuesday night (cue the 'move the fences back' music), most expected the Brewers to roll through San Diego for the balance of the series.  I don't think anyone expected Braun's 2-run ninth inning triple that night to usher in an 18-inning scoreless streak.

But that's exactly what happened.  And the main architects of that scoreless inning streak are two right-handed pitchers, one looking to resurrect his career, the other looking for one more summer in the sun.

Edinson Volquez has actually pitched pretty well this season, his meltdown 4th inning on opening day not withstanding.  His last two starts at Petco have been really good - 14 innings, 3 walks, 11 strikeouts.  One doesn't want to jump the gun and say the light bulb has come on, and Volquez is pitching like he did a couple of years ago, but consider - if he maintains his current xFIP of 3.80 it would be the second lowest of his career.  His current FIP of 3.35 is the lowest of his career.  His HR/FB rate is the lowest of his career (6.5%) with the enormous caveat that 5 of his six starts to date have been at Petco, and his BABIP is the lowest it's been since 2009.  Volquez is doing a lot of things right.

The other guy, Jeff Suppan?  All he was asked to do was replace San Diego's best starting pitcher this season.  Soup hadn't pitched in the majors since 2010 and hadn't won a game since the last day of that season (a 6-1 triumph over Colorado).  For him, this was a long road back.  I may have been the only Padres blogger hoping he'd make the team out of spring training but based on the recent injury histories of Dustin Moseley and Clayton Richard I think most expected he'd pitch for the club at some point this season (if he stuck with the organization out of spring training).

Soup got a favorable opponent in Milwaukee, a team he'd beaten 6 consecutive times going into yesterday.  And yesterday was vintage Suppan.  He attacked the bottom of the strike zone and stayed away from the middle of the plate.  You knew he was going to have a good day when his first (and only) real jam came in the second, when the Brewers loaded the bases with two jam-shot singles and an intentional walk.  When Suppan's sinker is working he is a tough pitcher to hit, and that's what he did yesterday.

He's 37 years old and near the end of his career.  When Lubeke comes back there may not be a rotation spot for him - although if Clayton Richard continues to struggle, I wonder.  But for this day it was nice to see vintage Suppan throw, a reward for the Padres who took a flier on him this off-season.

And finally - FINALLY - San Diego has won a series this season.  I do believe they are the last ML team to do that in 2012.  Padres have today off before starting a 3-game set with the new-look Marlins tomorrow night.

And as an aside - why are the Padres celebrating Cinco de Mayo tomorrow?  They have a home game on 5 May, why not do their promotion on the actual day?  Just wondering....