Things to Know about the San Diego Padres

The Mets finish off their homestand with four games against the Padres this week. Here are some thing to know about them:

Record: 51-64, last place NL West
Manager: Bud Black, lifetime 368-396 (.481%) managerial record, named NL Manager of the Year in 2010. This season, Black has called for a normal number of intentional walks and pitching changes, used a high number of pinch hitters, and rarely used the sacrifice. All that’s pretty saber-friendly, right?

Quickly…
Can they hit? Nope
Can they pitch? Yup
Can they field? Yes. They can stop the other team from scoring. It’s scoring more runs that’s the problem.
Who’s their best player? Third baseman Chase Headley, maybe? This is a team without any stars.

Lineup:
CF – Cameron Maybin – R
SS – Jason Bartlett – R
3B – Chase Headley – S
1B – Jesus Guzman – R
2B – Orlando Hudson – S
RF – Will Venable – L
LF – Kyle Blanks – R
C – Rob Johnson – R

The Padres are a dreadful offensive club against righthanded pitching (.625 OPS) and when playing at home (.604) – both of those marks are last in the league – but they’re almost decent against lefthanded pitching (.701) and not half-bad on the road (.686). They’re an absolutely terrible offensive team overall, being second to last in the NL in runs-per-game and on-base percentage, and last in slugging percentage . . . but if you put them in the right situation, they can be a respectable hitting club. Almost. Something like that. The Padres’ three biggest problems are:

A. Their park. Petco is brutal on hitters, particularly lefthanded hitters (Adrian Gonzalez: .808 OPS in Petco, 1.006 in Fenway)
B. Having too many righthanded hitter, with just two lefthanded bats on the current roster
C. Not having enough good hitters. Jesus Guzman, a career minor leaguer, is the only player on the team with an OPS above .792, having a .984 OPS in 112 plate appearances. Third baseman Chase Headley and center fielder Cameron Maybin are the only regulars with an OPS above .700.

Their position players run better than any other NL team (league leading 128 steals and 14 runs gained on the bases per Baseball-Prospectus’ count), and they can field. But they can’t hit, and hitting is more important than those other two.

Pitching Matchups:

August 8: RHP Tim Stauffer (7-8, 2.96 ERA) vs Mike Pelfrey (6-9, 4.48 ERA)

The ERAs of the Padres’ staff are artificially low, thanks to the effects of their home park, but Stauffer has pitched like about as well as his 2.96 ERA suggests. Working out of the bullpen most of last season, the sinker-slider righty improved his control dramatically, seeing his walks per nine innings drop from 4.2 to 2.6. He’s kept them that low moving back to the rotation, 2.5 walks per nine this season, and pitchers who don’t walk batters and don’t give up home runs like Stauffer tend to fair pretty well.

August 9: LHP Wade LeBlanc (0-2, 4.98 ERA) vs Chris Capuano (9-10, 4.44 ERA)

Called up to replace injured righty Dustin Moseley, Quad-A starter LeBlanc made his fourth start of the season last Sunday, allowing three runs and striking out six in six innings of work. A fastball-changeup, flyball pitcher, he’s had a problem with home runs, allowing 25 last season in 28 games between the majors and minors last season, but just nine in 21 games this season.

August 10: RHP Aaron Harang (10-3, 3.91 ERA) vs R.A. Dickey (5-10, 3.72 ERA)

The Padres must really like Harang, scoring 5.1 runs per game for him and just 3.4 for everyone else. And while he hasn’t pitched as well as his 10-3 record suggests, he also isn’t as bad as his below-average ERA might have you think either. Harang had three disaster starts this season that have ballooned his ERA, but 12 of his 16 other starts have been quality starts and only three of his wins have come in non-quality outings.

August 11: LHP Cory Luebke (4-6, 3.06) vs Jon Niese (11-8, 4.12 ERA)

I’ll be interested to see the rookie Luebke pitch. He’s never been a top prospect, but he showed good control with 3.57 strikeouts-per-walk in the minors and posted a 2.68 ERA across the upper levels last season and 2.78 ERA in 2009. The Padres stuck him in the bullpen this year, where he pitched well, and then moved him to the rotation, where he’s pitched even better, a 2.92 ERA and 2.81 FIP in eight starts. He doesn’t throw all that hard, which explains why he’s never been a top prospect, but he keeps succeeding everywhere he goes.

The Mets miss RHP Mat Latos this series.

Bench:
C – Luis Martinez – R
IF – Logan Forsythe – R
IF – Alberto Gonzalez – R
OF – Aaron Cunningham – R
OF – Blake Tekotte – L

The Padres regulars can’t hit, and these are the guys on the bench. So I’m going to assume that they really, really can’t hit.

Bullpen:
RHP – Heath Bell
RHP – Chad Qualls
RHP – Luke Gregerson
LHP – Josh Spence
RHP – Ernesto Frieri
RHP – Anthony Bass
LHP – Joe Thatcher

The NL’s best bullpen by ERA (2.79) and second-best by FIP (3.32), but it’s not quite at full strength with Mike Adams being traded to Texas and Cory Luebke moving into the rotation. By Fangraphs’ count, the Padres bullpen has been worth 3.0 wins above replacement; Adams and Luebke accounted for 2.1 of those wins. Closer-person Heath Bell’s strikeouts are way down, which may be why the Padres were unable to move him at the deadline, and overall it’s not the same pen that put up those impressive numbers. But San Diego grows ace relievers on trees, and Australian rookie Josh Spence, a ninth round pick in last season’s draft, has emerged as a potentially dominant lefty reliever. The soft-tosser has a 0.45 ERA and 26 strikeouts against three unintentional walks in his first 20 big league innings.

And those are some things to know about the Padres.

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