I never imagined it would be this bad.
I knew the starting pitching wasn’t great to start the season. But I had also watched a similarly underwhelming starting rotation lead a Padres team to a very solid 2nd half of 2013.
So sure, I didn’t think the Padres were sending out Cy Young and his buddies to the mound. But this?
The Padres starting 5 (for the purposes of this post, this does not include Andrew Cashner) have an average ERA of 5.50. Small sample size alert but that would be, if the starting 5 for San Diego were combined to make one pitcher, currently 102nd in MLB. But they’d be ahead of David Price! So that’s something! Blerg…
Now, ERA may not be the best stat in which to judge a pitcher but I also don’t think I need to convince you that the starters have been bad. Getting through the 5th inning has become the high-water mark early on in the season.
But help is on the way. Mercifully, help is on the way.
On Wednesday it was announced that Padres Public’s #6 ranked prospect Robbie Erlin was making his way to San Diego. Kudos to Padres Prospects for predicting his call-up within “100 MiLB innings pitched.” He did it in 13.1 innings. It’s clear that he is coming in to help put out a fire that is burning in this rotation. Tyson Ross, who had been the most effective starter until Wednesday’s start from Volquez, is out with a shoulder injury. Clayton Richard can’t keep people off-base.
The corresponding move sent Thad Weber back to the minors thus suggesting that, at least for now, Erlin will be working out of the bullpen in a long-relief capacity. Cashner, as of today, is scheduled to start Friday vs San Francisco. In about a month the Padres rotation may have already gone through a facelift of 2/5ths of the staff.
So, is this the solution for what ailes the Padres pitching? Bringing up the young, promising arms? I can’t possibly imagine it being any worse than it is currently though the risk is run that the Padres shatter the confidence in some young arms. A quick glance of the Tucson Padres staff shows former Opening Day starter Tim Stauffer, another likely candidate to make the quick flight to San Diego sooner rather than later.
Cashner. Erlin. Stauffer. I’m not sure who the other two arms would be (likely Marquis and Volquez if I had to guess) but I already feel better about that rotation. And even if the Padres decide to keep Erlin in the bullpen for long-relief (which wouldn’t seem to make sense as Erlin needs work and innings more than anything and in the bullpen both are sporadic at best), Cashner and Stauffer replacing Ross and Stults makes the staff better (though based on performance, I’d replace Richard and Marquis, though that seems very unlikely). And this is not including Bass in the conversation.
In the meantime? Maybe abandon this whole “starter” concept. This is sort of tongue-in-cheek but stay with me for a second. The Padres bullpen hasn’t been terrible. Certainly not in comparison to the starters. But when the situation is as dire as it is for the Padres (and things have to be really bad for it to be dire on April 26th), it’s time to think outside the box. This came to me while watching the 30 for 30 documentary “Survive and Advance” which is the story of Jim Valvano and the NC State Wolfpack’s run to the National Championship. In it I learned that Valvano, due to the lack of a shot clock back then, came up with the idea to purposely foul the other team to stop the clock at the end of the game. This tactic that is so ubiquitous in basketball today was INSANE back then.
Outside the box thinking. So, how would this work? First, all 5 starters move to the bullpen. No starters. 0 starters. Everyone is a long reliever or less. The Padres carry 13 pitchers on the roster presently. They have 9 innings to get through. Each game, 3 pitchers minimum. So, for example, on Friday it would go like so: Cashner (3IP), Bass (3IP), Erlin (3IP). Have a lead? Erlin for 2IP and Street.
It’s a ludicrous idea. But right now the Padres have shown no ability to get through 3 innings anyway, so screw it. Twice during the Brewers series the Padres were done in by one bad inning only to watch the long relievers shut down Milwaukee for the rest of the game.
Again, a ludicrous idea that will never be implemented. But when you watch the starters that we’ve watched for the first 4 weeks of the season, your mind will wonder to the dark recesses of baseball strategy. Where boys fear to tread.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have healthy thoughts to send to Cory Luebke.