Showing posts with label Heath Bell. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Heath Bell. Show all posts

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 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.

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 10, 2011

Somedays Peanuts, Somedays Shells

Reason #3457 why I like baseball - it's exactly like life.  The Padres could not have looked more dominant than during their weekend dismantling of Pittsburgh, which they followed by losing 2 gut-punch games at the hands of the Mets.  You're up, then you're down.

You may have heard the stats Andy Masur put out last night in the first inning of the broadcast.  It had been 186 games since the Padres blew a 2-run lead in the ninth inning, all the way back to 2004 (I believe).  It had been 195 games since the Mets came back from a 2-run deficit in the ninth inning to win.

San Diego tried to bounce back last night, taking a 4-2 lead into the eighth, but surrendered 3 runs and lost 5-4. 

In the last 2 games they've given up 8 runs after the eighth inning started.  For the season they've allowed 61 runs total in the 8th and 9th innings.  That's 13% of the total in 2 games.  Some more numbers to chew on:

- Chad Qualls has now been charged with 11 runs in the eighth.  Five of those scored this week (45%).  Current ERA in the eighth:  7.07.  ERA in the eighth before Monday:  3.46.

- Heath Bell had allowed 11 ER in the ninth going into Monday.  His total surrendered jumped 21% with the loss.  It had been almost 2 years since he gave up 3 runs in an inning (9/11/09 vs Colorado)

- Josh Spence had walked 6 hitters total (not counting intentional walks) in 20 innings before last night.  I wonder if Bill Welke has an unusually small strike zone?  I didn't get to see Spence's inning.

Not much to do besides get up, dust off, and try to win one for Harang tonight.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Two straight

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Back to back rallies fall just short

As was mentioned last night on the broadcast, the Padres have pretty much had their way with Washington since the team moved to DC.  Going into this series, San Diego had won 12 of the 15 games in our Nation's capital.  So some of what we're seeing this week is surprising, and some may be simply the Nationals were due to start winning at home against San Diego.

That said, it is frustrating to play the bottom team in the NL East and lose two in a row.  What's more frustrating it the way they have been losing.

San Diego has leapt into first place by preventing runs through superior defense and a lock-down bullpen.  The pitching model really works when the team turns over a lead to the Gregerson/Adams/Bell cohort. Since their 23 June game in Florida, however, they've shown a disturbing trend to get behind early.  See for yourself:

  • 24 June (@ Tampa Bay):  Trailed 1-0 after one inning.  They came back with 3 in the second, but lost 5-3.
  • 25 June (@ Florida):  Shutout (Win).
  • 26 June (@ Florida):  Trailed 1-0 after 2 (came back to win).
  • 27 June (@ Florida):  Scored first; game tied 2-2 after 7 (Win)
  • 28 June (vs Colorado):  Trailed 2-0 after 1 (Loss).
  • 29 June (vs Colorado):  Trailed 1-0 after 4 and 4-0 after 6 1/2 (Loss).
  • 30 June (vs Colorado):  Scored first, tied 2-2 after 2 (Win).
  • 1 July (vs Houston):  Trailed 3-0 after 1 (Loss).
  • 2 July (vs Houston):  Shutout (Win).
  • 3 July (vs Houston):  Shutout (Win).
  • 4 July (vs Houston):  Trailed 1-0 after 1 (Win).
  • 6 July (@ Washington):  Scored first, trailed 3-1 after 1 (Loss).
  • 7 July (@ Washington):  Scored first, trailed 4-1 after 1 (Loss).
They've trailed early in 8 of their past 13 games, where early is defined as the fourth inning or before.  In 6 of those games they've given up at least a run in the first inning.  Additionally, in every game but the 3 shutouts the Padres have not held on to an early lead they got.

I know this is small sample size, being only 13 games and all.  I further realize the All-Star break starts after Sunday's games, which will give everyone a much-needed 3 days off.  But this trend seems - SEEMS - to indicate the pitching is starting to wear down a little bit.

Losing an early 2-run lead isn't that unusual in baseball, especially when teams average scoring around 4 runs a game.  I'd be much more worried if the Padres were blowing 4+ run leads (like the Cardinals have the last 2 nights in Colorado - thanks fellas).  It's the early runs allowed that's bothering me.  This team's offense simply isn't built to come from behind night after night.  Much like the US Men's National Soccer team (Hey! World Cup Reference!) , they don't have the firepower.

I'm quite sure Bud Black and Darren Balsley are scratching their heads and actively working on a solution to the first inning run problems.

Finally congratulations to Heath Bell on being added to the All-Star team.  He probably should have made the team out of the chute, but at least that wrong was addressed.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Well That's More Like It

OK, first a mea culpa.  I spent last week in TAP class.  TAP stands for Transition Assistance Program, and is one of many things the military offers folks getting ready to 'transition' prepare for life on the outside.  The class was great, but it also meant I had to do actual work in the evenings - so I didn't get to write much.

Friday is softball night in these here parts, so I was able to listen to the game on the drive up to Hourglass.  I got out of the car with the Padres down 3-2 and Wade LeBlanc in a heck of a jam.  I got back in the car in time to hear San Diego score ... and make the score 15-5 Mariners.  Of all the things I thought would happen during Friday night's game, 23 runs and 30 hits combined did not enter into my calculations.

I don't think Wade LeBlanc enjoys his trips to Seattle.

Tonight's game was much more like what I expected when two of the weakest offenses in baseball hooked up.  Matt Stairs popped a couple of stitches on the ball he hit, didn't he?  True to form, the winning run scored on a wild pitch (USS Mariner has been rather vocal regarding the state of play by Seattle catchers this season.  Josh Bard has been the best of the bunch).  I thought Heath Bell was going to blow the save, but he managed to strike out Milton Bradley and get Casey Kotchman to ground out to end the game with runners on the corners.

So the Padres stay tied for first with Los Angeles, and open up a 2.5 game lead on San Francisco.

Tomorrow's game should be a doozy - Mat Latos and Felix Hernandez.  Looking forward to it.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Podcast Recap

Spent an hour talking to Steve Adler of Friarhood, Peter Friberg of Padres RunDown, and Web SoulSurfer of websoulsurfer last night on the Podcast.  We also had Mike from Avenging Jack Murphy, and for a time RJ's Fro in the chatroom during the discussion.  That's a lot of Padres expertise in one chat, and it generated a high level of discussion, references to Joe Randa aside.

Some of the highlights:

- No issues with Jon Garland/Chris Young making the opening day starts (on the road and at home, respectively).  Who the leader of this staff will be needs to be sorted out amongst the guys in the rotation; it may not be Young by default based on seniority.

- Wade LeBlanc will definitely be up this season, if for no other reason than attrition during the 162-game season.

- Lots of discussion on potential trades should the Padres fall out of the race.  Heath Bell, Chris Young, Gonzo moving all covered.  Listening to the podcast is worth it just for that part.

- The Padres are pretty deep at second base, according to Pete.  I was not aware of this.  Even if Antonelli doesn't carry his spring training success into the AAA schedule, the Padres have some up and comers in their farm system.

- All agreed Catcher is still an organizational concern, but aren't worried about the offensive production from that position as much as how they call a game, shut down the opposition's running game, and so on.  Lots of love for Hundley (and some for Dusty Ryan), not so much for Torrealba.

A great way to conclude the spring training season and get ready for Opening Day on Monday at Arizona.  Besides, the Padres beat Anaheim in Anaheim while the podcast was in progress - doesn't get much better than that.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Padres Re-Sign Heath Bell

I've advocated, both here and at Baseball Reflections, trading Heath Bell away. The team has positional needs, and Heath is one of the few chips they have to acquire players to fill those needs.

On Friday, the team announced re-signing Bell for 1 year at $4 million. So now that they've resigned him, is it a good signing?

Bell made $1.255 million last year (plus a $25K bonus for making the All-Star team), and posted a 2.0 WAR. His WAR made him the 6th most valuable Padre overall and second most valuable pitcher behind only Kevin Correia. Among relievers, he was fourth in the NL (behind Broxton, Brian Wilson, and Rafael Soriano), and 1oth in the Majors. Fangraphs calculated his worth last year at $8.8 million. So based on that, Bell's deal would appear to be a good one.

The going rate for wins above replacement, well documented at various sites around the web, is $4.4 million. While Bell might not be an elite closer in 2010, there are no indications he'll regress badly next season - he should still be above average. Conservatively estimating his worth for 2010 at 1 WAR, the Padres paid less than the going rate for his services. So based on that, Bell's deal would appear to be a good one.

I took a look at Closer salaries for 2010. Unfortunately, not all teams have settled on their closer for this season. By my count, 11 of the 30 teams had their closer's contract expire at the end of the 2009 season and haven't renewed that particular pitcher's terms. So, for those teams I took a look at their salary for 2009. The average salary for a closer at the moment is $5.28 million, which means the Padres have paid less than the going rate for a closer in 2010. So based on that, Bell's deal would appear to be a good one.

Finally, consider the closers who put up comparable numbers to Bell in 2009 (based on WAR):

Jonathan Broxton - $1.83M (2009)
Brian Wilson - $0.48M (2009)
Andrew Bailey - $0.4M (2009)
Rafael Soriano - $7.5M (2010)
Mariano Rivera - $15M (2010)

Bell's deal puts him right in the middle of this pack. The Padres' deal for Heath Bell is a good one for the club.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Trade Rumors: Kouzmanoff and Bell

On the ride home, Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton spent a lot of breath discussing potential Padre moves at this week's winter meetings. What started this hot-air-a-blowin'? Trade rumors having Kouzmanoff headed to San Francisco, and Heath Bell headed just about anywhere.

The SD U-T online edition has a story detailing the Giants offer:

The Giants are said to be interested in Kouzmanoff, although the Padres are not interested in the Giants reported first offer – left-handed hitting outfielder Fred Lewis and middle infielder Kevin Frandsen.
I don't want to get into the specifics of this trade offer. The larger question is, is trading Kouzmanoff and/or Bell the right thing to do?

There is some sentiment out there to leave the current Padre roster as is. After all, they went 45-27 down the stretch, which means they played .625 ball. Although the Padres finish was something to be proud of, and cause for hope, even that Padre team isn't good enough to compete for a division title or a wild card. They have to get better. Currently, by my estimation, they need a catcher, second baseman, and since they intend to non-tender Correia, another starting pitcher.

How do they acquire those guys? Buy trading players they can afford to give up, players whose loss may sting in the short-term, but won't in the long view.

And that means trading Kouzmanoff and Bell.

Heath Bell had a spectacular first year as a closer, complete with selection to the NL All-Star team. His value may never be higher than it is right now. Who would replace Bell? Consider:

Heath Bell: 2.42 FIP, 10.21 K/9, .303 BABIP
Mike Adams: 1.66 FIP, 10.95 K/9, .166 BABIP
Luke Gregerson: 2.50 FIP, 11.16 K/9, .332 BABIP
Luis Perdomo: 5.35 FIP, 8.29 K/9, .287 BABIP

Ok, so including Perdomo might be a mistake. And Adams' BABIP is probably unstainable over a career - actually it most definitely isn't sustainable. But the point is either Adams or Gregerson has the stuff to close. Losing Heath Bell won't hamstring the Padres at the end of games. Kevin Towers did a fine job reconstructing the bullpen during the first half of 2009. And they have other power arms to fill out their 2010 bullpen should Bell leave.

Not to mention there are plenty of GM's out there willing to overpay for a closer. Remember JJ Putz? The Mets over-paid for his services, and that trade helped resurrect the Mariners. Hoyer should pull the trigger if he gets the pieces he's looking for and ship Bell somewhere.

Kouzmanoff is a tougher call, but they should move him too. Kevin is coming off a season where his UZR was the second best in baseball for third basemen, and he set a ML record for fielding percentage. Why should the Padres trade him? The Padres have three players for two positions - third and left. Kouz, Chase Headley, and Kyle Blanks. Headley and Kouz can play third, Headley and Blanks can play left. Well, they try to play left.

Blanks has ridiculous power. Dave Kingman/Willy Mo Pena kind of power. Looking for a guy to support Gonzo in the lineup as a consistent power threat? Blanks is your man. They have to find a way to get his bat in the lineup every day. And, albeit with a small sample size, Blanks was the better left fielder. Headley's UZR/150 was -11.1 in 2009. Blanks' was 21.9. Start Blanks in left.

So that means either Headley or Kouz at third. Kouz is the better fielder, but Headley wasn't a slouch. At third his UZR/150 was 4.4 (granted, that's a small sample size of 28 games). But here's the kicker for me: in 17 straight games at third (from 9-27 Sept), Headley hit .303 and had an .816 OPS. For his career he's pnly hitting .263 with a .740 OPS. I would say that's a pretty significant jump in production when he quit having to worry about playing the OF and returned to his natural position. Kouz? career .308/.743. Headley has more power upside (potentially) at third, and hits for average at about the same rate.

Headley can replace Kouz rather effortlessly. Kouz is another tradeable Padre. I think they should trade Kouz.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Winning Streaks, Trade Rumors, Hitting Coaches, and Trevor Time

Why, what's this? A winning streak? Our beloved Padres actually looked like a major league team in Cincinnati this week.

Some corners of the Padre sphere think the 2009 version will set a new club record for futility in a month. That might still happen - they have to win tonight to avoid it - but since most of us thought there was no way they'd win the final 4 games this month, taking 3 from Cincinnati is a nice mid-summer present.

Also since Dusty Baker is one of baseball's biggest asses, the winning streak couldn't come against a better team. Thank you, sir, for continuing to rip the hearts out of fanbases in the NL Central.

Trades?

Rumors persist Heath Bell and Adrian will find new places to store their cleats today. Here's two thoughts:

- Closers aren't important. They aren't. This whole myth about teams needing a shut-down closer is exactly that: a myth. It has never made sense to me when managers keep their best reliever housed in the bull pen for 9th inning duty, and lose the game because they ran Joe Thornton out there in a tough spot in the 7th. If some other team thinks getting Heath Bell will advance them to the post season, and are willing to give up players at one of the Padres 'need positions' (which is everywhere on the diamond right now except first, short, and center), then trade him.

- Marquee names are important. A recent SI article about Adrian pointed out the marketing difficulties the Padres face; to paraphrase, they are forced to expand south, what with the Pacific, the Mojave, and Angel/Dodger dominance ringing them in. People in TJ (specifically) and Baja (in general) who follow baseball identify with Gonzo, marking him as 'one of their own'. Trade him, and Moorad might as well move the franchise to Montreal. Those few hardy souls going to the ball park do so to watch Gonzo hit. What will they watch when he leaves?

Can't anyone Play this game?

Padres fired their hitting coach Jim Lefebvre today. He's replaced by former Major Leaguer Randy Ready, a career .260 hitter with 5 teams over parts of 13 seasons (1983-1995). As Chris Jenkins pointed out, this is the 5th hitting coach since 2006. Clearly the hitting coaches are the problem:

2006: .263 Batting Average (tied for 8th worst in MLB, with Pittsburgh)
2007: .251 (third worst in MLB)
2008: .250 (thrd worst)
2009: .232 (worst, by A LOT; the Reds are the '27 Yankees in comparison (.244)).

Oh, you don't like batting average as a metric? Here's a little weighted On Base Average, SABR-heads:

2006: .326 wOBA (20th)
2007: .319 (25th)
2008: .311 (26th)
2009: .302 (DEAD FRIGGING LAST)

Hey Padre Management: maybe, Just MAYBE, Dave Magadan, Merv Rettemund, Wally Joyner, and Lefebvre weren't the problem? Maybe the free-swinging Friars are. All these guys can do is dispense advise; they can't go to the plate and take the at bats for the Chase Headley's of the world. The 'Think Method' doesn't work when trying to hit at the Major League level.

Trevor Time Returns

Milwaukee comes to town for a weekend set, bringing a host of former Padres, but most notably Trevor Hoffman. There's been some chatter (I'll call Scott and BR talking about it this morning as chatter) on whether or not the Padres should play 'Hell's Bells' if Hoffman enters a game this weekend.

Let me be emphatic: HELL NO.

We don't follow the San Diego Hoffmans, we follow the Padres. Trevor was a great player for us for years. A perfect scenario would be the Brewers get swept and he doesn't get into a game. But if he does, on his first appearance this weekend, as he heads to the mound he should get a lengthy, loud, heartfelt ovation.

And that's it. No soundtrack. No bells.

I'm not rooting for him to beat the Padres.