Are the San Diego Padres for real?

Short Answer: No.

The Padres have been one of the leagues biggest surprises so far this year. They currently sit at 46-32 coming into today’s play and they have a three game lead over the second place Los Angeles Dodgers. With each passing game the Padres are starting to remind me of last years version of the Seattle Mariners. They have the best rotation and defense in the league this season and lead the league with a team ERA of 3.13 and a UZR of 31.5. Their offense, however, has been lacking. They have a team wOBA of .305. The Padres have a perfect team that is built for PETCO Park so they can probably afford to have below-average offensive numbers if they continue to pitch well and play excellent defense. However, therein lies the problem. Their rotation just does not have the skill level to keep up this stellar performance and their offense is not going to get much better to keep them afloat. The Padres could end up making a couple of nice moves at the deadline and prove me wrong but as of now they don’t strike me as a playoff team and they look like a team that has played their best baseball at the beginning half of the season.

What do Wade LeBlanc, Jon Garland, Mat Latos, and Clayton Richard all have in common? Well, they are out pitching their peripherals. Kevin Correia is just about the only Padres starter that is down to earth, the rest are floating sky high. xFIP, as well as BABIP, are used to measure if a pitcher is out pitching their peripherals or not and see if he is possibly getting lucky. xFIP basically takes into account walks and strikeouts, and implements a league-average defense and HR/FB rate because pitchers have little control on balls in play and home runs. xFIP is a good predictor of future ERA and is on the same scale as ERA. BABIP is a pitchers batting average on balls in play. Usually a pitchers BABIP will hover around .300 and the rule of thumb is that any BABIP higher than .320 or lower than .280 is unsustainable in today’s game. For relievers the average BABIP is lower but we aren’t dealing with them here. I will also use LOB% (Left On Base Percentage).

Wade LeBlanc:
2010 Season: 3.25 ERA / 4.60 xFIP / .314 BABIP / 83.2% LOB%

LeBlanc has only pitched 148 big league innings so its difficult to get a read on him. However, I will say that his current performance is not going to be sustainable. The league average LOB% is around 72%. Usually really good pitchers have LOB% in the high 70’s. I would not call LeBlanc a good pitcher just yet and he probably won’t sustain that high of a LOB%. When I looked at his home/away splits I was shocked. In only 26 road innings, he has given up 14 earned runs. In 54.1 home innings, he has given up 15 earned runs. He benefits greatly from PETCO. Since PETCO suppresses home runs that is probably why his xFIP is at 4.60 and his ERA is just 3.25. With a couple more starts (especially on the road), his luck should take a turn.

Jon Garland:
2010 Season: 3.13 ERA / 4.34 xFIP / .278 BABIP / 74% LOB%

Garland is definitely going to tank in the second half. Hes not pitching all that differently from his career averages and ZIPS has projected him to have an ERA of 4.07 from now through the rest of the season and have him finishing with an ERA of 3.61. I think that’s a reasonable projection and it makes sense given that his ERA is 3.13 and he is only striking out 5.71 batters per 9 and walking 3.59 batters per 9 so he is having to rely on his defense behind him to make the outs. The reality is that he is going to begin running out of that luck. Also expect his BABIP to regress towards .300.

Clayton Richard:
2010 Season: 2.74 ERA / 3.87 xFIP / .294 BABIP / 80.6% LOB%

Similarly to LeBlanc, Richard is young and has not pitched many major league innings (just 302.2). I would except some regression from Richard but not as much as the other two pitchers we have looked at thus far. Richard is striking out 7.15 batters per 9 and is walking 3.35 batters per 9 while maintaining a GB% of 52.4%. However, he is a guy who is due for allowing some home runs which should bring his LOB% down. Clayton Richard is probably the Padres second best starter at this point as he has definitely improved from last year.

Mat Latos:
2010 Season: 2.85 ERA / 3.74 xFIP / .246 BABIP / 79.9% LOB%

Latos is probably the Padres best starter so far this season and at just 22 years old I expect him to be a really good pitcher going forward. Hes got the best stuff out of any Padres starter that I have seen so far this season. However, similarly to LeBlanc and Richard, Latos is suffering from small sample size issues. Immediately I notice that Latos’ BABIP and LOB% are not going to be sustainable. That BABIP is likely to skyrocket and it will be harder for him to keep runs from scoring.

Now im sure some of their success is attributed to luck and some of it can be attributed to the Padres excellent defense. We just don’t know how much of it is luck and how much of it is great defensive play. I expect the Padres to finish with a record close to .500 given their great first half, but the second half could get ugly for the Padres, especially if they don’t make a move to acquire a batter at the trade deadline.

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2 Comments on “Are the San Diego Padres for real?”

  1. Disco Says:

    Latos and Richard still have solid xFIP though and I heard SD is looking into another starter as Latos is getting close to his innings limit.

    I agree though. Their offense blows and they need pitching. Even if coming back to earth is still good- as is the case with Latos- just that small decline is enough for another team in the crowded division to take command.

    However, sometimes luck in the form of BABIP or LOB% can last a season.

    • 10thbatter Says:

      Yea, Latos and Richard probably won’t regress as much as Garland and LeBlanc because their numbers are closer to their skill level. However, all should regress to some extent. LeBlanc has shown vulnerability on the road this year, which is a concern to me and Garland has no chance to continue what hes doing.

      Depends on which starter San Diego is looking at. If the rotation remains as is I don’t see how they beat out the Dodgers, Rockies, or even Giants who are breathing down their necks.


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