Posted tagged ‘San Diego Padres’

Mike Adams traded to Texas

July 31, 2011

The Rangers get Mike Adams, the Padres get Joe Wieland and Robbie Erlin.

I like this trade for both sides, but especially for San Diego. Yeah, Mike Adams is a beast. Insane numbers. But ultimately, he is just a RP and a RP on a losing no less. In return, they get Wieland was a top Rangers prospect, and someone who has been dominating the minors. Robbie Erlin is another young pitcher who has been good so far. I mean, neither may be future aces, but both, especially Wieland, look to have promising careers. So to get them for a relief pitcher who wasn’t the difference between winning and losing on your team is a nice pick up. As for the Rangers, you want to criticize them for overvaluing a RP, but in these circumstances its okay. They are in a pennant race and Adams is more valuable to them than a pair of 21 year old prospects who are still little bit aways from the majors.

 

Divisional Previews: NL West

March 17, 2011

Despite being one of the weaker divisions in baseball for the past couple seasons, the 2010 World Champions, the San Francisco Giants, called the NL West home. Moreover, the NL West was one of three divisions that had 2 90+ win teams, and only one team had a win total below 80. What can we expect from the division in 2011?

1) San Francisco Giants (87-75)

In 2010, the Giants strength by far was its pitching and pitching should be its strong point again in 2011. The staff will be led by ace Tim Lincecum, who had himself a “down year” in 2010. With him and Cain, the Giants have a 1-2 punch that could be the best duo in baseball, up there with Philadelphia, and both LA teams. But their rotation doesn’t end there. Their aces are backed up by Jonathon Sanchez, who is an effective starter despite a bad BB rate and Madison Bumgarner. Last year the Giants only got 18 starts from Bumgarner, who was my favorite rookie entering the past season. The dood is really good at limiting the free passes and keeps the ball on the ground. In 18 starts he had a 3.66 FIP and solid 2.0 WAR. With a “rebound” year from Timmy and a full season from Bumgarner, I think the Giants pitching will be even better in 2011.

On offense though…I’m not impressed. While Aubrey Huff was a beast in 2010, I think it’s safe to assume he will regress considerably. He may not put up 2009 numbers, but he won’t be nearly the contributor that he was in 2010. The same goes for the aging Pat Burrell, whose legs won’t be doing any favors for the Giants in the outfield either. A big question mark will be Pablo Sandoval and Andres Torres. Whether or not Sandoval can overcome a terrible plate discipline could be the difference in whether SF can field a reasonable offense to score runs for their dominant staff. Moreover, was 2010 a fluke year for Torres? If the answer is yes, SF will be a lot more pedestrian than people might expect. Especially with the ancient Miguel Tejada manning shortstop. The one bright spot, in my estimation, is obviously Buster Posey. Whether or not anyone else on the team will care to hit alongside him remains to be seen. Also, the possible emergence of prospect Brandon Belt could go a long ways for an average offensive team.

Players to watch: Brandon Belt, Madison Bumgarner.

2) Colorado Rockies (83-79)

I am a big Rockies fan. I am always on their bandwagon. But I don’t think 2011 is their year. The offense should be better than San Francisco’s, with players like Troy Tulowitzski and Carlos Gonzalez. But their offense isn’t as potent as I thought it was. I am a big Seth Smith believer, but the team will be giving PAs to the likes of Jose Lopez, Ian Stewart, and a past his prime Todd Helton. So while the bats are decent, they aren’t good enough to carry a team past any other flaws.

The rotation is led by Ubaldo Jiminez who had a stellar 2010 and after him is Jhoulys Chacin, a pitcher I really like. But after those two, the rotation goes downhill. Jorge De La Rosa is okay, but nothing special. Huston Street is a real good closer, and there are some okay options out of the pen, but as a whole, the pitching isn’t spectacular- it’s okay.

That’s why I think the Rockies will be just an okay team- 83 wins. They have the potential to hit 90+ wins if players like Dexter Fowler breakout, but that’s asking a lot.

Players to watch: Jhoulys Chacin, Seth Smith

3) Los Angeles Dodgers (78-84)

It’s been a rough past year or so for LA, from ownership problems to Joe Torre ruining good, young players like Jon Broxton and Russell Martin. So I’ll start with what I like. I believe LA has a pretty darn underrated staff. Clayton Kershaw is already an ace in my book and he should continue to improve and get better as he matures. Chad Billingsley is another underrated arm who has been putting up excellent numbers and WARs for a few seasons now. Ted Lilly continues to be an average pitcher and Hideki Kuroda continues to be underrated as well. He is paid like an AS pitcher, but doesn’t get the hype of an AS pitcher. He continually posts FIPs in the mid 3’s and does everything well that a pitcher has some control over. The Dodgers have the starting pitching of a winning team. The pen should also be a strength with Kuo, Jansen, and Broxton- assuming he is over is arm issues which I of course am contributing to Torre overuse.

Now comes the bad. The defense. Gibbons, Kemp, and Ethier has to be one of the worst defensive outfields in baseball. That’s not a good thing since the outfield is spacious and there is a lot of ground to cover. The defensive isn’t so that bad, but it’s not good either. The offense is another weak aspect. Andre Ethier is a legitimate middle of the order bat and I still believe in Matt Kemp, but outside that, there are a bunch of below average or average hitters. Rod Barajas? Juan Uribe? Jay Gibbons? Yeah, no team that features those three as everyday players will have a winning record.

Players to watch: Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw

4) San Diego Padres (75-87)

Last year the Padres were the team I loved to root against, simply because they were defying the odds. Luck was on their side and it HAD to run out. In September it finally did, and I was baffled it took that long. The Padres didn’t get any better and with some regression to the mean, I think San Diego will return to being a below average team that has trouble scoring, and isn’t that effective at preventing runs.

I love Mat Latos and he should have a good campaign, but who else is on their staff? The corpse of Aaron Harang, Wade LeBlanc and the rest of the rotation are simply not talented enough or good enough to repeat their success from last season. Players like LeBlanc were aided by good fortunes and extremely high LOB%. With a return to the mean, their production will decrease from a season ago. The defense will be a strong suit again which should help the pitching staff, but I have a tough time believing the run prevention will be as good as it was in 2010.

With that said, the offense hasn’t improved. Yes, Orlando Hudson was brought in, and he is a good hitter, but he isn’t a team changing hitter and he’s played in hitter and neutral friendly parks (Arizona, Minnesota) the past few years. Moving to Petco could depress his numbers. Morever, I could make the case Hudson is the team’s best hitter. When Orlando Hudson is your best hitter, you have big problems.

Players to watch: Cameron Maybin, Mat Latos

5) Arizona Diamondbacks (71-91)

After a dreadful 2010 the D-Backs will be…well, still bad in 2011. Justin Upton took a step back in 2010, but I and many others still expect big things from him 2011 and I am expecting a 5+ WAR season. The offense should also get contributions from Chris Young, Miguel Montero, Stephen Drew, and Kelly Johnson. The offense is not a weak point, and it’s arguably the second best offense in the division. But Melvin Mora will not be a productive player at third and relying on Juan Miranda at first is a risky play that probably won’t work out.

The bullpen was historically bad last season and while JJ Putz provides a solid arm to close out games, the pen still is weak. The staff is okay, but has little potential outside Dan Hudson. I think his HR tendencies can hurt him in Arizona, but he had a great half season for them in 2011 and I expect improvement. Ian Kennedy is another solid arm, but that’s it. He is just a solid arm, not a future ace. The rest of the rotation is filled with mediocre arms like Joe Saunders. This is a team that doesn’t do anything good, and is pretty weak in several aspects. As a result, the D-Backs should be bringing up the rear once again.

Players to watch: Dan Hudson, Justin Upton

Trevor Hoffman retires

January 11, 2011

And he retires the all-time saves leader (stoopid stat) with 601 career saves.

While I don’t like reliever all that well, it is a role and position of the game that isn’t going away anytime soon. Although Hoffman may be quite overrated, he still had a fantastic career. Will he be a Hall of Famer? No doubt about it. Should he be a Hall of Famer? Let’s take a look.

For obvious reasons, closers compile low WAR numbers. For that reason, most people are probably against their inclusion into the HOF. I disagree. It IS a position and their scale for getting into the HOF should be different than starting pitchers. While a HOF pitcher will generally have a 60+ WAR, I like to look at a reliever’s WAR/200. By scaling their WAR to 200 innings, you can put them on the “same level” as starters. Hoffman’s 22.9 fWAR is clearly not HOF worthy if you treat it the same as you would a starting pitcher. But you shouldn’t do that. His WAR/200 is 4.2. That’s pretty good. Tom Glavine’s WAR/200 is 3.1. John Smoltz is 4.8.

Granted, starting pitcher’s ARE more valuable than reliever’s and typically more talented. But when you put up the numbers of a Trevor Hoffman, it’s clear you have HOF skill and talent. The only reason you’re not seeing success as a starter is because 1) You lack the stamina 2) You lack multiple pitches 3) You dominant in the pen and your team refuses to move you from the position. Those factors should not be held against a dominant reliever.

So yes, Trevor Hoffman should be in the HOF. His numbers are better than current RP in the HOF, including Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage. Hoffman is retiring with more than a K per inning and a 3.08 FIP. For starters and position players, anything above 3 WAR is considered Wins Above Excellent and anything above 6 WAR is considered Wins Above MVP. For a RP I would estimate WAE would be either 1.5 or 2 and WAM would be 2 or 2.5. I could do further analysis on that, but estimating right now, that would give Hoffman three seasons of WAE and a whopping six seasons of WAM.

From 1996-2000 he had a dominant run, posting five consecutive WAM seasons, posting FIP’s between 2.04 and 2.70, accumunlating 12.5 fWAR (or 6.6 WAR/200!) and a K/9 of 11.0. Impressive.

So Trevor Hoffman is a HOF pitcher. I also want to take the time to talk about Lee Smith.

He has been on the ballot for a long while. He is better than Trevor Hoffman. So if Hoffman gets in, which I assume he will, then it is a shame Smith will probably not be. He threw about 200 more career innings, yet his fWAR/200 is 4.5. Remember, Hoffman’s is 4.2. Smith also finished with a better career FIP, which is 2.93. Smith had EIGHT seasons of WAM and another two seasons of WAE.

Lee Smith and Trevor Hoffman for Hall of Fame.

 

San Diego Padres on the verge of signing Brad Hawpe

December 24, 2010

Sorry Padres fan.

Brad Hawpe is a good hitter. But he is a TERRIBLE fielder. His defense is so bad that it practically erases any value his offense gives him. For his career, his fielding value according to FG is -86. In just 831 games. His UZR is -87.4. He is like almost historically bad.

Okay. So Petco Park is like supposedly some really big and spacious park with a ginormous outfield. As a result, you need good defenders with lots of range to cover ground in Petco and the Padres built their success in 2010 off a superb defense.

If they sign Hawpe, they now have baseball’s biggest outfield liability manning right field for them. So a strength of theirs is now becoming a weakness because of one player. They better hope for a lot of ground balls in 2011. But none of their projected starters are big time ground ball pitchers. Moreover, while a good offensive player, Hawpe did receive a boost playing in Coors Field. Now he is going to an offensive wasteland in San Diego. If it affects his offense like I think it will, then I wouldn’t be shocked if Hawpe produces a negative WAR because of his atrocious defense.

To justify the potential signing, the Padres better be paying him minimum wage to be a pinch hitter/inter-league DH or Hawpe better be paying the Padres for a job.

Or maybe San Diego plans on playing him at first base to lessen his defensive burden and because as of now they don’t have a first baseman. In which case it’s just a whatever move and they shouldn’t play him more than a couple mil.

 

Boston Red Sox trade for Adrian Gonzalez

December 4, 2010

After what seems like two years of rumors, the Boston Red Sox have FINALLY completed a trade for Adrian Gonzalez of the San Diego Padres. And the Red Sox instantly become my 2011 World Series favorites.

The prospects going to San Diego are Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, Raymond Fuentes, and a PTBNL. At first when I looked at this package, it underwhelmed me. But when I did the analysis, it’s actually a fair haul for San Diego.

In 2011 Adrian Gonzalez will be paid $5.5mil. As you will see on the table I am posting below, I have Gonzalez’s value in 2011 at $22.5mil. So that’s a net value of $17mil. That’s the target value in the return the Padres should aim for.

Well, they got three of Boston’s top ten prospects according to Baseball America. Casey Kelly is a top ten pitching prospect in baseball and was voted as having the best curve in Boston’s farm system by BA. Rizzo was voted the top power bat and Fuentes was voted the best athlete. Using Victor Wang’s prospect value chart, we can value Kelly at $15.2mil, Rizzo around $12.5mil and Fuentes at $5.5mil. That’s a total of $33.2mil. Even if you don’t consider Rizzo is a top 100 hitting prospect, the Padres still get more than $17mil in prospect value. So from their end, they have done well.

As for Boston, a lot of the trade depends on their extension to Gonzalez. Sure, they overpaid in prospects, but it could be worth it for them if it means a World Series ring and if Gonzalez is a useful player for them over the course of the decade. If they overpay him (to a Mark Teixeira like contract) then it could be a bad deal. If they get him on the cheap or for his fair value, than I like the trade for them. If they sign him for fair value, then his future value to them will be zero, since he will be paid what he’s worth. So that doesn’t change the dynamics of the trade. For now, the Padres are getting +$16mil in value, and the Red Sox are losing -$16mil in value if they sign Gonzalez to a fair contract. That sounds bad for Boston, but it’s not. Yes, they are giving up three valuable prospects, but it’s worth the deficit since he instantly makes them World Series favorites.

So, what type of deal does Adrian Gonzalez want? Rumors say he wants a deal similar to Ryan Howard’s. That’s good for Boston because Howard signed a 5/$125mil deal this past season. Here is my table for Gonzalez:

That’s over six years. So it’s also bad news. It’s good because Gonzalez doesn’t want a super-mega deal like Mark Teixeira. But I have him worth about $21mil per year, not $25mil per year. So the extension discussions should be interesting.

Overall though, I like the trade for both sides. Although the Yankee fan in me wants the Red Sox extension talks to fall apart so he leaves after 2011, costing the Red Sox three good prospects for just one season of a first baseman.

Is anyone surprised by the Padres losing streak?

September 6, 2010

If so, please raise your hand because you shouldn’t be.

After only losing three games in a row once all season (this happened in May) the San Diego Padres are riding a ten game losing streak. And it’s about time.

Don’t get me wrong, the Padres are still a good team and proved a lot of people wrong who picked them to finish last in the NL West. But the offense is putrid. Their team .308 wOBA is beyond poor. I know their road numbers are a lot better than their home numbers, but the offense still is not good. Adrian Gonzalez is a monster and Ryan Ludwick isn’t so bad himself, but this is a team that lets Will Venable and David Eckstein bat. No matter how good a team is in other facets of the game, it’s tough to maintain the best record in the league when you offense is miserable.

What has carried the Padres has been pitching and defense. Mainly defense though. While the Padres have a fantastic team FIP, the bulk of that is carried by the bullpen. Most of their starters have ERA’s better than their periphs indicate because of Petco Park and an amazing defense that catches everything put in play. Like almost literally you need to get a home run to score in Petco, and hitting a home run is near impossible. While the Padres starters have a fantastic 3.65 ERA, their FIP is 4.11, which is just middle of the pack in baseball. In fact, it’s only the fourth best FIP in their own division. So their starters, outside Mat Latos who is a Beast, are not that good. Their flaws are just minimized by a fantastic defense. I mean, their K/9, BB/9, and HR/9 are average. But they have one of the better BABIP’s and a league leading LOB% of 76.8%. So for the first five months of the season the starters were being saved by the defense. Over the past two weeks that has not been a case and their true talent level has emerged.

The Padres all season have won close, low scoring games. The games are low scoring before the Padres can’t score and their defense prevents a ton of runs even though the starters allow quite a few base runners. The Padres win those games because of a legit, dominant bullpen which is a strength. The bullpen by far has the best FIP of 2.88 (the only under 3.00) and by far have the best bullpen xFIP of 3.16. However, it’s tough to expect a bullpen, no matter how good, to hold the lead in every close game. The breaks are finally going against San Diego.

The Padres regression is finally recurring and it should make for an interesting September race unless San Francisco, and even Colorado for that matter, don’t feel like winning.

Three way deal: Ryan Ludwick to San Diego, Jake Westbrook to St. Louis, prospects to Cleveland

July 31, 2010

It’s being reported that Ryan Ludwick will head to San Diego, Jake Westbrook and a prospect will head to St. Louis, while Cleveland will get prospects. So far there is no word on who the prospects are.

I like this deal for all three teams. Lets start with Cleveland. They are a bad team and do not need Westbrook, obviously. He’ll only be paid a couple mil the rest of the season, while only providing a couple mil worth of value. So while they shouldn’t expect much of a return, they are still getting a few prospects. I have no clue if it’s anybody worthwhile, but even if its a couple C level prospects or a B level prospect than Cleveland did good here.

Depending on who San Diego gave up, I really like this trade for them. San Diego has one of the worst offenses in baseball, so adding Ludwick is a big upgrade. He instantly becomes the best outfielder on the team and the best hitter outside Adrian Gonzalez. Ludwick won’t hurt the team defensively either, seeing that he’s been a plus fielder according to UZR over the course of his career and past couple seasons. He comes cheap the rest of the season, and through arbitration will make around $9mil next year, where he could very well leave as a type A free agent. If he gets the Padres picks, he could net them around $19mil in value! That’s on the optimistic side, but still, this is a good trade for San Diego. Their chances of winning the West just went up.

Now onto St. Louis. Essentially, they are trading Ryan Ludwick for Jake Westbrook and a prospect. Straight up, that doesn’t appear to be a great trade. Ludwick is a better player. However, that’s looking at things in a bubble. Outfield and offense is not an area of concern for the Red Birds. Jon Jay can step up and be a more than capable player down the stretch. He was a high round pick out of the University of Miami a few years ago and has had a solid MiLB career. No, he is not as good as he’s been- his talent level is not a 180 wRC+- but he is good. The Cardinals did want pitching though to help them in their tight race in the Central. They have gotten any positive production from the back of the rotation. Westbrook should slot in perfectly there. He is only an average pitcher, but that’s better than what the Cardinals were getting. In a race that could be decided by one game, they need a solid start every time out. That is why the trade makes sense for them.

UPDATE: Only one prospect ended up going to Cleveland, Corey Kluber. Kluber has a good minor league track record and looks like a big time strikeout pitcher, but San Diego should be ecstatic to give him up for Ryan Ludwick. The Cardinals got Nick Greenwood from San Diego. He’s a nice ground ball pitcher, but nothing special, and if anything will end up a reliever at some point down the line.

Also, the Arizona Diamondbacks traded Chris Snyder and prospect Pedro Ciriaco to the Pittsburgh Pirates for DJ Carrasco, Bobby Crosby, and Ryan Church. Not a real big trade, especially since it’s between two last place teams, but I like it for Pittsburgh.

Ciriaco is no-name prospect, but Chris Snyder is a good catcher. He won’t have an impact on the Pirates or improve the team, but it’s a good deal and worthwhile. The Pirates can now move Doumit away from catcher and fill another hole (first base or outfield) with Doumit. Meanwhile, they gave up nobody of value to their franchise. Crosby, Church, and Carrasco are not a part of their future. In the next couple years, Snyder will be. He is a kind of young, solid catcher who will provide stability behind the plate and will be able to work with their young arms and provide “veteran leadership”.

‘Zona, again, wtf? I know you wanted to move Snyder, but you just picked up a bunch of aging veterans who won’t help you win.

MORE TRADES!: Miguel Tejada now a San Diego Padre

July 29, 2010

Miguel Tejada to San Diego Padres in exchange for prospect Wynn Pelzer.

I hate this deal for San Diego. Hate it, hate it, hate it. Miguel Tejada will make them worse, and they gave up a decent prospect in the process. The current Padres third baseman is Chase Headley. Headley is an average hitter (.314 wOBA; 102 wRC+) but he is a really good fielder (7.9 UZR in 982 innings; 7.7 career UZR at third). The Padres M.O. is defense. Defense is the reason why they have been winning games. It’s the reason their pitchers have looked better than they have actually performed. They have a poor offense, but you don’t want to mess with that defense unless you’re getting an offensive upgrade.

With Tejada, the Padres are not getting an offensive upgrade. It’s not 2002 anymore. Tejada has a .296 wOBA and 81 wRC+- a significant downgrade compared to Headley. Yeah, Tejada will now face NL pitching. But he is going from a hitters park to the most extreme pitchers park in baseball. I doubt he’ll start hitting in San Diego. Moreover, Tejada is a bad defender, so if he gets playing time he will hurt the Padres stellar defense.

ZiPS projects a .326 wOBA from Miggy going forward and a .318 wOBA from Headley. Factor in that Headley is the superior defender and you get the conclusion that Headley is the better player. If Tejada becomes the starter, San Diego just got worse. I mean, Headley is 26 and has a 2.5 WAR this season. He is solid ML player now and going forward. Miguel Tejada has been worth 0.1 WAR and is at the end of his career.

But that’s not the end of the story. The Padres gave up a decent prospect in Wynn Pelzer. Before the season, BA ranked him the seventh best prospect in the Pads system and rated his fastball and slider as the best in the system. He is a strikeout/ground ball pitcher who had success in 2008 and 2009 before an okay 2010 season. He isn’t anybody to write home about, but considering Tejada has been a replacement level player in 2010, he is a great return for Baltimore and a better player than one would expect Miguel Tejada to be worth at this point in time.

Baltimore makes a great trade and San Diego just made their starting lineup worse. The Padres needed an offensive boost, but Tejada is not the answer. Not only is he a bad hitter now, but he can’t field his position. This is a case of a GM giving into traditional stats. Both players have a .269 BA, 7 HR, and Tejada has five more RBI.

It’s a shame a players RBI total is the reason a GM of a first place team will make a trade that might cost his team some games down the stretch.

Why the Mariners plan did not work

July 29, 2010

Before the season began, the sexy pick to win the AL West was the Seattle Mariners. They had an innovative GM who put an emphasis on pitching and defense. And hell, they just traded for Cliff Lee. Yeah, the offense didn’t look good, but they weren’t supposed to give up any runs anyway.

But today the Mariners are 39-63, 20.5 games out in the West, and Cliff Lee is a Texas Ranger. As a result of the poor season, many people have criticized the Mariners plan of attack, citing that defense was overvalued. That’s not quite right.

Building a team on pitching and defense, or mainly defense, does work. Yes, having an all-around team or a balanced team probably works best, but a win is a win. As we found out last year, total team WAR correlates to W% with an R2 of 0.77. So if you have the best team WAR in baseball- whether you got it all through offense, defense, pitching, or a combination- chances are you have a great team on your hands.Yet it’s not working for the Mariners for a multitude of reasons:

1) The defense itself has been the “problem”. For a team that knew their offense was not good enough to win, they planned on having the top defense in the league. They signed Chone Figgins who rated as a good defender in 2009, re-signed Jack Wilson, and signed Kotchman to play first. In the outfield they already had stellar defenders in Franklin Guitierrez and Ichiro. But after playing 8184 innings as a team, their UZR is 14.2. It’s a good mark, but “only” the tenth best in baseball. That’s not good enough for a team that needed their glove work to be the best. In fact, divisional foes, Texas and Oakland, have better team UZR’s. When it comes to DRS, the Mariners are tied for tenth, at +34. So the defense has been good, but not as good as projected. And that’s the one problem with relying on defense- it can be unpredictable.

2) The offense. Everyone knew the offense was going to struggle, but not this bad. I thought they were actually going to be decent offensively after trading for Milton Bradley and signing Chone Figgins. But Bradley and Figgins have been the biggest culprits. In 278 PA, Bradley has a .289 wOBA. His career average is .353 and his 2009 wOBA was .345. Eeesh- his WAR is -0.1 WAR by the way. Meanwhile, Chone Figgins has a .297 wOBA in 439 PA, after posting a .358 wOBA in 2009. They have been major disappoints for a team that needed any type of offensive upgrade. The Mariners are dead last in baseball with a team wOBA of .289.

The pitching in Seattle has been pretty good. Missing Lee for a month did hurt and maybe that’s what did them in because of their slow start. But the defense and offense didn’t live up to expectations. And that’s the reason for the poor season- not the strategy to rely on defense.

Just look at other teams for proof that defense can win ballgames. The San Diego Padres have one of the best records in baseball and lead the NL West. They have a pretty bad offense that has a .310 wOBA but appear to have good pitching with a 3.76 xFIP. However, their E-F is -0.42. Wow! They don’t give up runs because of the defense. They lead baseball in UZR and are second in DRS. If they had a mediocre defense, that pitching staff would have an ERA closer to their FIP and the NL West race would be a lot closer than it is. And just looking at the UZR leader board, every team in the top ten is a winning team, with the exception of Arizona. Coincidence? I think not.

Placing value and emphasis on good team defense is important to winning games. It can help your pitching staff and ease the pressure and expectations of the offense. However, it can be the kiss of death if you rely on defense like the Mariners have, because defense can be unpredictable and if it doesn’t live up to expectations, well, just ask the Mariners what happens.

Are the San Diego Padres for real?

July 2, 2010

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.