San Diego Padres

Posted by Baseball Bob at 10:10
Jan 262011

The 2010 San Diego Padres did not start the season with baited breath. Fresh off a 75-87 season, the team had exactly ONE star player, young slugging first-baseman Adrian Gonzalez, and a bunch of misfit hitters and mostly unproven pitchers, and NO ONE I know predicted them for anything but last place in the NL West. Some of the elements for a “miracle” season were in place: a compressed division (no standout team), some young unproven pitchers, but their star had already HAD his breakout (Gonzalez earned 7.0 bWAR for 2009) and the team was actively shopping him – he had nearly been traded to the Red Sox during the previous off-season, and talks would continue throughout the year (and of course, be brought to fruition THIS off-season). Their payroll of $37.8M was at the bottom of the MLB list. Please remember, too, as you read this that they play in an extreme pitcher’s park, which affects the perception of their lineup and their pitching.

Starting like they planned to fulfill these non-expectations, they lost 2 of 3 in each of their first three series, to Arizona, Colorado and Atlanta, not any of them highly regarded pre-season 2010. They then began their surprise, sweeping Arizona and San Francisco at home for six straight wins to go from last to first in a week. They extended the streak to 8 with two wins in Cincinnati to go to 11-6, still a game up. Two losses were followed by four more wins and they led by 1½ games, ending April at 15-8. We all knew it couldn’t last. They had scored 106 runs in those 23 games, 4.61 per game which was well above league average, and allowed 77, 3.35/G.

Three losses in 5 games dropped them back into a first-place tie on May 5th, but 2 of 3 from the Astros and another sweep of the Giants pushed the lead to 3 ½, at 22-12 on May 13th. Cool standings, which was still using 2009 info as part of the algorithm, had them as 60% to make the postseason. 3 straight losses and 6 in 8 games, however, put paid to the lead and by the 21st they were back to tied and Cool standings had dropped them to 48%. The won 7 of 9 to close out the month, however, finishing May with a 16-12 record, a 2-game lead, and a 66% playoff chance (no more 2009 weighting). They were still scoring 4.35/G (league average) and led MLB in fewest runs allowed.

On June 8th they lost for the 4th time in 7 games, and relinquished first place for the first time since April 21st. Ah, we thought, here it comes. W-L put them a full game down, but a win tied it up and another put them ahead by a game. 3 of 4 losses again put them ½ down on June 16th, but they took 2 of 3 from the Orioles and Rays, and swept the Marlins, as the rest of the division struggled, and on June 27 they found themselves with a 4½ game lead (!) and a 77% playoff probability! They lost 2 of 3 to Colorado to finish June at just 15-12, with a 3-game lead and a 75% postseason chance. Their Achilles heel had appeared, however, as they scored fewer than 4 runs per game in the month.

A 5-5 run-up to the all-star game took them to 51-37, 2 games up in the West. They came out of the break rolling again, though, winning 9 of 12, and extending the lead to 3½ games by July 29th. Their playoff chances had soared to 86%, though the Giants were playing well (and leading the wild-card race). But they lost 2 of 3 to the Marlins, then 2 of 3 to the Dodgers, and their lead slipped to a single game on August 4th. They then lost 2 of 3 in Arizona, but the win in the finale pushed their lead back to 2 games. A sweep of the Pirates put them up 2½ and 2 of 3 from the Giants (whom the Padres had killed all year) made it 3 ½ on August 15th. The Padres then went into Chicago, swept the Cubs in a 4-game set while the Giants fell, and on August 19th the Padres found themselves totally in command of the West, at 73-47, on pace for 99 wins, best record in the NL, and a 96.4% lock for the playoffs. Almost all of us were now believers, though I remember writing that I could see that the Padres were headed for October, but I did not understand HOW. More on that later.

That was not quite the high-water mark of their season. They went into Milwaukee and lost 2 of 3, but that matched SF and they still led by 6. Two wins in Arizona, matched by the Giants, and the Padres were at 76-49, still up by 6 but 5 games closer to the finish line, so 97% likely to play extra games, on August 25th. Plus, their scoring was back up, and at that moment they were averaging 4.48 runs per game. Gonzalez was smoking, Headley and Tejada and Torrealba were all hitting, the pitching was wonderful, and all was well near the Mexican border.

And then: the lost the last game against Arizona, 11-5. The red-hot Phillies, left for dead in the East, came into town and swept the Padres 3-2, 3-1 and 5-0 as the Padres stopped scoring. They went to Arizona and lost 7-2, 7-4 and 5-2 to extend the losing streak to 7, and the lead was down to 3 games. It is now September 1st, the Rockies have injected themselves into the discussion, passing the Dodgers and now trailing SF by only 4 games, with another late-season surge. The Padres playoff percentage is down to 83%. The Rockies then came into SD and extended the losing streak to 10 by scores of 4-3, 6-2 and 4-2. The Padres had scored only 18 runs in 9 games, and now led SF by a single game and the Rockies by only 4. Cool standings still had them at 63% for the postseason, but we all knew that math didn’t tell the whole story. How many teams lose 10 straight late in the pennant race (and still retain first place!) and then recover to go on to win. Not too many I would guess, though I have no data. The Padres stood at 76-59, on pace for 92 wins (instead of 99), and cool standings was projecting them to win 90.3 to the Giants’ 89.7. And probably no wild card, as now both Atlanta and Philadelphia had better records and better projections.

Last year, it seemed to me like the best way to get healthy was to play the Dodgers (not true, of course, but it SEEMED like it to Dodger fans!) and indeed the Padres righted the ship by sweeping LA at home, extending the lead to 2 games and recovering their PO% to 73%. The Giants were coming into San Diego for a key 4-game set, and the Padres had OWNED SF all season. If they only split those games they would have a 2-game lead and still be favorites for a playoff berth. But Cain beat Garland 7-3, and Richard and Sanchez locked up in a classic pitcher’s duel. Sanchez came out after 5 allowing just a single hit but walking 7 (GS 62), and the game was still scoreless as Richard took the mound in the top of the 7th, having allowed just 2 hits and 1 walk (GS 70). He hit Huff with a pitch leading off the 7th, though, and was pulled for Gregerson. Gregerson struck out Burrell as Huff stole second (!), and Guillen grounded to short, where Tejada tried for Huff at third and failed, putting runners on the corners with one out. A grounder to Headley gave the Padres a chance, but Uribe beat the relay as Huff scored the game’s only run, and the Padres lead was gone. Stauffer returned the favor to Bumgarner the next day, the Padres winning 1-0 with GS of 69 (Stauffer) and 71 (Bumgarner) but Lincecum bested Latos in the finale, 6-1 and the teams were tied (Giants 81-63, Padres 80-62) with 20 games to play. And the Rockies were just 1½ back at 79-64, and the Padres were due to visit them next. At this point, a lot of analysts were saying that Colorado was the team to beat, as they were the hot hand.

The Padres actually scored some runs in Colorado (a LOT easier than in SD) and won the first two games 6-4 and 7-6, dropping the finale 9-6, and headed to St. Louis with a ½ game lead. They lost 3 of 4 to the Cardinals, and dropped to 2nd place by ½ game for the first time in months. It is September 19th, the Padres stand at 83-66 with the Giants at 84-66 and the Rockies at 82-67. But Cool standings notes the lack of scoring, and makes the playoff odds Giants 60.1$, Padres 34.4%, Rockies 16.4%. After a day off they go into LA and beat the Dodgers two straight to reclaim the lead, but lose the finale as Kuroda tops Latos and fall back ½ game behind. The win two straight at home against the first-place Reds, reclaiming the lead, but again lose the finale to fall ½ behind. The Rockies have faded, the Giants are 88-68 and the Padres 87-68, and the Braves are 87-69 so the Padres are in a 3-team race for 2 slots, and Cool standings gives them a 57% chance to claim one of the spots. The Giants are at 83% and the Braves at 60%. San Diego has seven games to play, and the Giants six. SF’s magic number stands at 7, so if SD wins all its games the Giants can’t win it on their own.

SD hosts the woeful Cubs in a 4-game set at home then go on the road for the showdown final 3 games against the Giants. We all assume it will come down to those games, and it does, but not how we wanted it to be: Zambrano shuts out the Padres, Stauffer allowing only 1 run in the 1-0 loss, and Dempster beats Latos 5-2, putting the Giants up by 2. The Padres hold it there with a 3-0 win, but then lose 1-0 AGAIN to Bell, and they trail SF by 3 with 3 to play, in San Francisco, facing Cain, Zito and Sanchez. They made it exciting, beating Cain 6-4 and Zito 4-2: one more win and they get to play again, a 163rd game (facing Lincecum, though) but it was not to be: the offense failed one last time, as Sanchez shut them down and they lost 3-0. Their season ended at 90-72, at least a dozen games above where they had any right to expect but just short of fulfilling the August 25th promise of 97% playoff chance.

It was an amazing season, and I hope to figure out what made it so.

Overall 90-72 B

The Padres spent only 31 days NOT in first place, half of them at the start of the season, and 148 days IN first place. On the other hand, they were shut out 20 times, most in the majors. They fell 2 games short of their Pythagorean projection (92-70) which is within the statistical norm. They deserved to win as many games as they won.

Their month-by-month shows a steady decline from the fast start: April .652, May .571, June .556, July .583, August .429, September-October .452. In September the only scored 81 runs in 28 games, 2.89 per game, and it cost them the pennant.

They had a 28-22 record in 1-run games, which is .560 and slightly better than their overall .556, which is unusual. And 50 1-run games is ALSO unusual, though it IS usual for the leader in this category to play in a pitcher’s park. They went 12-6 against the Giants; they needed it to be 13-7 to tie for the division. But they were 6-12 against the Rockies, so you could say that their failure to play Colorado even also cost them the division.

Their lineup was not particularly young (weighted age 29.2 years) but it WAS a young pitching staff (26.8). And they CERTAINLY got more wins per $$ than any other team, 90 wins out of $37.8M (compare Tampa Bay, for example, 97 wins but $72.8M).

Hitters 62-100 F

Runs Times
<3 45
3 29
4 15
5 19
6 16
>6 28

Remembering that these figures are not park-adjusted, by the end of the year the Padres had become the worst hitting team in baseball. Over all, they scored 665 runs (4.10/G) which was NOT the worst by a lot (the Pirates scored only 587, and the Mariners only 513, but in fact they were above league average for most of the year, and it was clearly the lack of scoring down the stretch that cost them dearly in August and September. The fact that they were shut out 20 times reiterates this point, and they lost THREE 1-0 games in the unfortunate stretch run.

Adrian Gonzalez was amazing, once again, following his 2009 season (7.0 bWAR) with one nearly as good (6.3). His .298/.393/.511/904 season would be impressive anywhere – in San Diego it is an OPS+ of 152 and one of the best in the league. He will be 29 this coming season, but he will be 29 for the Red Sox, as he was traded in the off-season, just before entering his final arbitration year, and he signed a contract whose value is several times the Padres entire payroll.

Also having a great year was Chase Headley, the Padres young(ish) third baseman. He will be 27 this coming season, and earned 3.7 bWAR with a .264/.327/.375/702 (OPS+ 97) season by virtue of an outstanding glove. He is, amazingly, the ONLY position-playing Padre who will start the season 2011 at the same place he started 2010. Defensive metrics are still fairly unreliable (he was +1.5 for 2010, but -1.2 for 2009) but everyone says he was pretty terrific. 2010 was his first good year in the majors, in his second full season.

Yorvit Torrealba supplanted Nick Hundley as the team’s #1 catcher (Hundley will apparently reclaim the role in 2011) and he was worth his $750K free-agent contract with a vengeance, earning 2.8 bWAR (1.8 offense, 1.0 defense).

36-year-old Miguel Tejada came over in a July 29 trade, was moved back to his old shortstop position (EVERYONE said this was a bad idea) and he surprised everyone by hitting AND fielding well enough to earn 1.8 WAR in a half-season. His TOTAL season is only 1.4, as he was a below-replacement third-baseman in Baltimore, and a quality starter shortstop in San Diego. Tejada’s SD stay was 104 OPS+.

The only other Padre who was in the starting lineup in 2010 and expects to be so again in 2011 (although in left instead of right) is Will Venable, who will be 28. He earned 1.5 bWAR in 2010, down from 2.2 in 2009, also at 104 OPS+.

The other 2010 Padres most used players, all since departed, were 35-year-old David Eckstein (OPS+ 83) at second-base, 30-year-old Scott Hairston (OPS+80) in left field, and 27-year-old Tony Gwynn (Jr., unfortunately) (OPS+ 68, not exactly his old man!) in center. Nick Hundley, the backup catcher, actually earned 1.8 WAR with an OPS+ of 114 in the role. Ryan Ludwick joined the team mid-season and in 239 PA had an OPS+ of 78, but will apparently start in 2011.

There are NO young hitters that got any real playing time in 2010 and showed anything. The most ABs by a young player were Everth Cabrera, a 23-year-old shortstop with an OPS+ of 58 in 241 PAs (.208/.279/.278/557) and Aaron Cunningham, a 24-year-old outfielder who did have a 109 OPS+ but in only 147 PAs and he doesn’t currently project to make the 2011 roster.

Sadly, it appears that the low-scoring Padres were 1) over their heads a little in 2010 and 2) have traded away their only real hitter. Not a promising start for building on a surprise season.

Starters 97.75-64.25 A

Starter GS IP ERA W-L Deserves
Clayton Richard 33 201.2 3.75 14-9 18.75-14.25
Jon Garland 33 200.0 3.47 14-12 19.75-13.25
Mat Latos 31 184.2 2.92 14-10 23-8
Kevin Correia 26 145.0 5.40 10-10 11.75-14.25
Wade LeBlanc 25 146.0 4.25 8-12 14.25-10.75
Tim Stauffer 7 82.2 1.85 6-5 5.5-1.5
Chris Young 4 20.0 0.90 2-0 3.5-0.5
Cory Luebke 3 17.2 4.08 1-1 1.25-1.75

While none of my metrics are park-adjusted, so the hitters are not as bad as I make them out and the pitchers are not as good, I think few would argue with the claim that the Padres success was fueled by pitching. Yet looking at the Baseball-Reference league adjusted “master stats” (OPS+ and ERA+) four of eight Padre hitters are below 100, and 3 of 5 Padre starters are also below 100. So how can I rate this rotation an A overall?

Well, first, the point of my metric (deserved W/L) is that it takes into consideration, as FIP and ERA do not, that you can’t lose more than one game per game. Obvious, I know, but I have seen players who come to the majors just to make a single start, get pounded (say, 10 ER in 2 IP), so they have an ERA of 45.00 and a similar FIP (sometimes), and they are awarded -1.2 WAR. This is patently silly – they CAN’T be more than a win below replacement – because no matter how you slice it, the team couldn’t have lost more than the one game they played in. My metric, of course, says they deserve to be 0-1. Next, my metric says that a .600 team (96-66) is rated A. I assume that most people would accept that grade. So what my metric says is that if the starting staff deserves a .600 record collectively, then they are rated A.

The Padres just achieve that .600 deserved record (.603 actually) in a somewhat odd way: despite losing a couple of key contests down the stretch, and winding up just 14-10, Matt Latos pitched brilliantly all year, and I have him deserving a 23-8 record, which is .741, WAY over A+. Garland is near .600 (A-) and Richard a touch below that (B+). But these three made 97 of the Padres 162 starts between them. And Wade LeBlanc made 25 starts at B+. So obviously these four pitchers, accounting for 75% of the Padres’ starts, are clearly rated A. This happens a lot, and the guys that start the rest of the games drag you down – the emergency starters because someone gets hurt. You usually have a bunch of guys who deserve records like 0-2 and 0.5-3.5 or some such. The Padres other regular starter, Kevin Correia, made 26 starts and grades out at D – but he doesn’t offset Latos’ excellence: Latos is 15 OVER .500 but Correia is only 2.5 BELOW .500 – D for me is .450. It is guys who deserve 3-12 that wipe you out. So these 5 guys, making most of the starts, together rate an A (.597) in 148 starts.

The final key is that the guys that normally drag you down, the also-rans, were anything but for the Padres. Tim Stauffer started seven games and was brilliant, and I have him as deserving of 5.5-1.5 in those starts. Chris Young started 4 games and was even better (see: ERA 0.90), and I have him deserving 3.5-0.5 in those games. And even Cory Luebke, who started 3 games, was not bad: I have him at 1.25-1.75. Overall these guys RAISE the team deserved W/L by several games, and the percentage from .597 to .603. So, for me, ERA+ does not tell the story. Of course, if I had some way to park-adjust the stats, it would tell a slightly different tale, but it might raise the hitters to D- and lower the starters to B+.

On thing this analysis still doesn’t tell us is how the Padres won 90 games. This starting staff should have, in theory, won 96 games with an AVERAGE hitting team (and an average bullpen, more on that later of course), but the Padres were WELL below average. 62-100 is .383. To get to D- you need .425. To get to C you need .500, and obviously they are 19 games below that. The rotation for the Padres was a strength, but not enough to off-set the weakness of the hitting.

Bullpen 185/498 A+

Reliever Games IP ERA Value Grade
Luke Gregerson 80 78.1 3.22 30 A+
Mike Adams 70 66.2 1.76 30 A+
Heath Bell 67 70.0 1.93 28 A+
Joe Thatcher 65 35.0 1.29 30 A+
Edward Mujica 59 69.2 3.62 22 A+
Ryan Webb 54 59.0 2.90 12 B
Ernesto Frieri 33 31.2 1.71 16 A+
Tim Stauffer 25 82.2 1.85 13 A+
Sean Gallagher† 15 23.1 5.40 1 D+
Cesar Ramos 14 8.1 11.88 -2 F
Adam Russell 12 15.2 4.02 4 A
Kevin Correia 2 145.0 5.40 2 A+
Wade LeBlanc 1 146.0 4.25 -1 F
Cory Luebke 1 17.2 4.08 1 A+
Luis Perdomo 1 1.0 9.00 -1 F

But the bullpen was even better than the starters, by any measure. No Padre reliever pitched even 30 innings with a below-league ERA, park-adjusted (ERA+ < 100). I have never seen a bullpen like this one: my metric suggests that even those with higher ERAs and/or FIPs were actually contributing quite a bit, and just had a couple of bad outings. Remember, the reliever metric tries to limit the damage to a pitcher’s rating by a bad outing: if you pitch 0 innings and give up a walk and a homer, that’s -3. But if you pitch 2/3 of an inning, give up 6 hits, 5 ER, 2 walks that is still -3; -3 is as bad as it gets (YIKES!). Three good outings combined with that one rates as 0. It focuses on how OFTEN you pitch effectively, as opposed to the combined stats. So even Mujica, who FanGraphs gives 0.0 fWAR for his 61 innings, shows as A+ on this scale – he often pitched well, but when he sucked he REALLY sucked. I give him more credit for that than other analysts. (Aside: who knows if I am RIGHT – it is a fan’s perspective. It was born of the question: how often do I, as a fan, feel that the game is slipping away or is GOING to slip away when this guy comes into the game. It is the Jose Mesa stat, the Mitch Williams stat, the Tug McGraw stat. Yes, all were Phillies: it is a stat born of the frustration or exhilaration of being a Phillies fan).

Just as ERA+ likes all of these guys, my metric likes them all, too, and a LOT. And absent are the usual suspects who pitched for 10 games and were sent back down, because they weren’t getting it done. Closest is Sean Gallagher, who pitched 15 times at about break-even by my measure, but he had a couple of bad outings that ballooned his ERA and he was sent down, to be brought back in September in time to participate in the collapse. But he wasn’t that bad, certainly not as bad as most other teams “didn’t cut it” young reliever.

In addition to never having seen such consistently high marks at the top of the bullpen, I have never seen a team which, over the course of a full year, had NO relievers lower than -2. While ANY negative number rates an F, most teams have LOTS of them, and at least a few that are -7 or -10 or something. The Padres have THREE, for a total of -4. Now THAT’S a bullpen.

Combined with the stellar rotation, the Padres stayed in the game despite their lack of hitting, and that is how they won 90 games. The WAR systems don’t see it, which gives me some pause (B-R has the hitters at 19.9 WAR, the pitchers at 15.5, FanGraphs has them at 23.8 and 16.0), as I really question that summation. EVERYONE says that the Padres, even remembering their extreme park, did it with pitching.

One thing that I have to remember, of course, is that by pitching I really mean pitching and defense – run prevention. We charge a pitcher with allowing a hit, but of course it is the pitcher AND HIS FIELDERS that allow the hit. Similarly we credit a pitcher with recording an out, but except for a strikeout, the fielders had to do their job, too. The Padres did have some good fielders out there, and that credit goes over to the WAR of the position players.

Still, I would argue that the Padres’ surprise 90-win season and near-playoff accomplishment was done primarily on the run-prevention side, and that run prevention begins with the pitchers.

It was a remarkable season, sadly marred by the 10-game losing streak that brought them back to the pack and, ultimately, cost them a seat at the playoff table.

On to 2011

ESPN.com has its act together, and 2011 depth charts are up (if not altogether accurate) but I like having the $$ information, so I will continue to combined that with Cot’s Baseball Contracts to guess at a roster. So here are the 2011 Padres as of this moment:

Nick Hundley C Arb
Brad Hawpe 1B $3.0M
Orlando Hudson 2B $4.0M
Chase Headley 3B $2,32N
Jason Bartlett SS $4.0M
Everth Cabrera INF Pre-Arb
Will Venable LF Pre-Arb
Cameron Maybin CF Pre-Arb
Ryan Ludwick RF $6.775M
Chris Denorfia OF $0.8M
Mat Latos SP Pre-Arb
Clayton Richard SP Arb
Tim Stauffer SP $1.075M
Aaron Harang SP $4.0M
Dustin Moseley SP $0.9M
Heath Bell RP $7.5M
Luke Gregerson RP Arb
Chad Qualls RP $2.55M
Mike Adams RP $2.53M
Joe Thatcher RP Arb
Ernesto Frieri RP Pre-Arb

One thing that immediately strikes you is the size of the payroll. Ryan Ludwick, seen by both WAR systems as below replacement, is their highest-paid position player, still south of $7M, and Heath Bell, a RELIEVER, is their highest-paid pitcher at $7.5M. The entire roster is about $40M, a modest increase from 2010 unless they unload Ludwick, which they may well try to do (I would). This continues to be the smallest of small-market teams.

The second thing that struck me is the number of new names. The Padres traded Gonzalez, let a bunch of free-agents go, and signed a bunch of new guys for small contracts. It is much more hitters than pitchers, but overall, I really wonder how often a 90-win team turns over so much of its roster before the next season starts. Occasionally a case like the Marlins (a team put together specifically to try to win once) in which a bunch of high-priced talent is signed for a single year, they win, and the owner moves on. But when you fall just short, the tendency is to try to build on that base, add a few wins, and make it to the end of the rainbow. What the Padres did was essentially the opposite – they reacted like the 90 wins were a crushing disappointment, and they needed to remake the roster and try again.

Hitters

Nick Hundley C 1 2.8 Torrealba
Brad Hawpe 1B 0.5 6.3 Gonzalez
Orlando Hudson 2B 2.2 1.4 Eckstein
Chase Headley 3B 2.3 3.7
Jason Bartlett SS 2.5 1.8 Tejada
Will Venable LF 1.6 -0.4 Hairston
Cameron Maybin CF 0.5 0 Gwynn
Ryan Ludwick RF 0.5 1.5 Venable

Note that exactly ONE position player (Headley) will start 2011 where he started 2010 (third base) and one other (Venable) also started in both seasons, but will move from right to left field. A third player (Hundley) returns to a starting role (at catcher) where he started in 2009 but was supplanted in 2010, and is now back. The other 5/8 of the lineup is new to San Diego. Well, not entirely: Ryan Ludwick was acquired last season and played for a while (badly) during the Padres’ collapse.

Projecting this lineup by my 3-2-1 adjusted method suggests that they will be 6 games worse than the 2010 starting lineup. The biggest dropoff (actually, essentially the ENTIRE dropoff) is at first base, where Gonzalez earned 6.3 bWAR and I project free agent pickup Brad Hawpe to earn 0.5. But he will be cheap.

It is hard to get excited about a lineup where the only player under 27 will be Cameron Maybin, and the likely best player in the lineup is Chase Headley. They are not a young team, not an old team (oldest of these is Hudson at 33), but an ordinary team – only one player on this team has achieved 4 bWAR in a season in any of the past 3 years (Jason Bartlett 5.0 in 2009), and of the 24 player-seasons for these 8 players over the past 3 years, here is the breakdown by bWAR: 4+ 1, 3-3.9 2, 2-2.9 3, 1-1.9 5, 0-0.9 10, <0 3. Sad, really.

Starters

Matt Latos is someone to be excited about. He was great last year, as I pointed out, and is just 23, but young pitchers can break your heart. Last year was only his second ML season and he wasn’t very good (ERA+ 82) in the first one, and pitched only 50 ML innings (was he technically a rookie last year? If so, I might have voted for him for ROY. He was 8th in the Cy Young voting, but no votes for ROY so I suspect he was ineligible). I want to see him do it in consecutive years, and show he can carry the workload, but at least he creates some buzz.

Clayton Richard is a 3-year veteran, and last year was his best by far, in my opinion (bWAR has him at -0.3, 1.4, 1.5 so it doesn’t agree). He went from 153 to 201 IP without apparent ill effects, and I expect him to be a quality pitcher, perhaps improving on his 2010 a little bit. He walks too many, but brought it down from 4.2/9 (in 2009) to 3.5/9, while his strikeouts stayed above one per inning. I like him a lot.

Tim Stauffer is 29, and has never pitched over 83 innings in the majors, so projecting him as a #3 starter is risky. He was a starter in 2005 at age 23 but did not pitch well. He got into only 1 game in 2006 and 2 in 2007 (all starts) but allowed 6 walks and 5 HRs in those three games (13 2/3 IP) and did not appear in 2008 at all. In 2009 he started 14 games and was good (ERA+ 106) but was hurt and did not appear after July 11th. So last year they started him out in the bullpen. After appearing in 9 games in relief (all effective, the last on 3 innings, he got a start on May 9, went 5 innings (6 hits no runs GS 56) and apparently was hurt (no reason to send him to the minors, his ERA at that point was 0.39), and did not appear again for 2 months. Back in July, and back in the pen, he relieved in 16 more games (11 effective, 1 ineffective, 3 yikes, score 4, grade A+) he was returned to the rotation September 5, and pitched in the game that broke the losing streak. His GS in September: 50, 69, 39, 65, 66, 65 including the win in SF that put them into the 162nd, do-or-die game. So he is great when he can pitch, but has had durability issues, and I am interested to see what he can do, but expect that the workload may be too much for him.

Aaron Harang was the weak link in an otherwise strong Cincinnati rotation last year, and figures to play the same role for the Padres in 2011. Signed as a free agent for $4M (despite -1.2 bWAR in 2010; he should pay YOU for a chance to pitch) he was an excellent starter 2005-2007 but really hasn’t been good for 3 years. He is 33, hope springs eternal, but I hope they see something the rest of us can’t see, as otherwise this is a terrible signing and a big hole.

And former Yankee great Dustin Moseley has never actually been good. He made 9 starts for the Yankees last year, deserving a 3.5-5.5 record which is not truly awful, but not good, either (D- by my report card scale). The Yankees used him because they ran out of starters, but his 4-4 record is a tribute to their offense more than his pitching. At 29 he is hardly a prospect, either.

So the Padres have 2-3 big holes in their rotation, which is unlikely to even approach their 2010 quality, more likely a C than an A.

Bullpen

The Padres re-signed closer Heath Bell for $7.5M, avoiding arbitration (where he might well have gotten more) and it would be consistent with their approach to trade him while his value is high before paying the (also high) cost.

They also signed Chad Qualls as a free agent for $2.5M, which is completely inexplicable to me. Qualls was solid for the Diamondbacks in 2009 (bWAR 1.5 and ERA+ 123 in 52 IP). He started off terribly in 2010, with an 8.29 ERA (ERA+ 51) after 43 games in Arizona, who shipped him to Tampa Bay for the stretch run where he improved to 5.57 (ERA+ 72). bWAR sees him as 2.5 games below replacement for Arizona, and an additional 0.5 below for the Rays. -3.0 bWAR is an astounding number. I would think a minor-league contract and a promise of $1M if you make the ML roster would have been generous.

Rounding out the pen are the kids who were so good last year: Gregerson (27), Adams (32 – OK, he’s not a kid), Thatcher (29) and Frieri (25). Only Frieri is really young enough to expect significant growth, and even he is not an exciting youngster (like Latos). These four may pitch as well again, they may take a step forward, but in fact they are likely to take a step backward, as it was the best year of their career for all of them.

So the bullpen, too, is unlikely to match its 2010 performance; it would be hard put to, given how good it was.

Summary

The closer you look at it, the more it looks like the Padres in 2010 caught lightning in a bottle. They got better-than-you-could-expect years from aging hitters (Torrealba, Tejada) who are gone, got a super year from a growing super-star (Gonzalez) who is also gone, got fine pitching from a rotation anchored by a 22-year-old potential superstar (Latos), and amazing production from a patch-work bullpen. Only Latos really can be expected to repeat, and the 2011 Padres are likely to come back to earth with a thud.

My take: if Latos and Stauffer hold up all year, 80-82. If one or the other is hurt and misses 6 weeks or longer, 75-87. If both are hurt, or if one is hurt most of the year, 72-90. If both are hurt early and miss most of the year, 63-99. It will be a long season in San Diego, made all the longer by the memory of what was, and what might have been.

4 Responses to “San Diego Padres”

  1. What strikes me about the Padres is the size of the payroll comparative to the actual size of the San Diego market. Shouldn’t they be considered a large or a mid market team? 2009 US Census data put San Diego as the 8th largest city in the US, and the San Diego metropolitan area (MMA) as 17th–one behind Minneapolis and one ahead of St. Louis. Thinking of these cities in terms of baseball, here they are in order of MMA:

    1. New York: two thriving MLB teams; could probably support a 3rd (remember Yanks, Giants, Dodgers?)
    2. LA: two thriving MLB teams, 90 minutes from San Diego, so could also support a 3rd?
    3. Chicago: two teams in various degrees of thrive-ness (thrive-osity?)
    4. Dallas: Rangers, competed in post season last year
    5. Philadelphia: currently perennial contenders
    6. Houston: oops
    7. Miami: EKG contenders (high, followed by flat line, followed by high)
    8. Washington: oops
    9. Atlanta: perennial contenders
    10. Boston: thriving
    11. Detroit: oops
    12. Phoenix: EKG
    13. San Francisco/Oakland: supporting two teams, and the current WS champs at #12 on this list!
    14. Riverside, CA: contributes to the strength of the southern CA market
    15. Seattle: oops
    16. Minneapolis: perennial contenders
    17. SAN DIEGO
    18. St. Louis: perennial contenders
    19. Tampa: currently contenders
    20. Baltimore: oops
    21. Denver: perennial late-season contenders
    22. Pittsburgh: oops
    23. Portland, OR: NO MLB TEAM. You have to get to #23 on this list before you have a market without a team (they have a AAA franchise).
    24. Cincinnatti: currently contending
    25. Sacramento: contributes to the Oakland market somewhat (about a 90 minute drive)
    26. Cleveland: oops
    27. Orlando: contributes to the Tampa market somewhat (about a 90 minute drive)
    28. San Antonio: NO TEAM
    29. Kansas City: legitimately small market team
    ….
    39: Milwaukee: legitimately small market team (smaller than Salt Lake City, if you count the Provo and Ogden corridors)

    So why are the Twins a small market team and the Orioles are not? Why aren’t the Indians, Reds, and the Rays considered small market? And can we really consider San Diego a small market team?

    It seems to me that San Diego could get run-off from the LA MMA the way that Tampa gets run-off from Orlando. Even without that run-off they are in a bigger market than St. Louis, Baltimore and Denver–cities that we don’t usually consider “small market.” If they used their latin players well, they could actually draw traffic from over the border into Mexico.

    Small market is a function of ownership investment, not necessarily population size. It always frustrates me when supposed “small market teams” complain about their small market status, even when it isn’t deserved.

    • I couldn’t agree more. Last year I did a piece on market size versus payroll, and it covered some of the same ground you cover. San Diego did well this year on a small payroll, but you would like to see them build on that: sign some REAL free agents (not Brad Hawpe) to bolster the weak spots, and see if they can’t go from 90 to 93 wins (a $15M investment at current market) and from almost to YEA!

  2. Thanks for giving the summary of the year — it’s a useful reminder for those of us who only sort of remember the goings on.

    The 2010/2011 transition for this team is such a weird one. So often, a miracle team will try to repeat with the same players leading fans to expect them to repeat the performance. This almost inevitably leads to disappointment as the miracle was often achieved by a bunch of career years getting strung together or by young players taking big steps forward. In both cases, fans expect the good times to keep rolling and even dream of those young players stepping up even further. When players regress to the mean and the team doesn’t quite reach their previous heights, this feels a crushing blow to the fans whose expectations were raised.

    I don’t know any Padres fans (living in MA), but I suspect that very few of them have high hopes for this year due to the Gonzalez trade. Even if they agree with the thought process, the trade was giving up present value for future value (they hope). I suspect 72-82 wins is probably about what most Padres fans would predict.

    • I’m glad to know that someone likes the summaries. I do them in part because I need, myself, to remember how the year went for this team, or else the analysis is barren. Yes, you can look at the final record, but you forget the 10-game losing streak or the final, one-down-one-to-go game or the Tejada trade. Plus, reliving the season this way is fun, which is what (for me) this blog is all about. Thanks for listening.

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