It is hard to argue that, through the month of May (and a bit of June) the Padres season has been disappointing. We can argue over the severity of that disappointment (put me in the mild category so far). But below .500 at this stage isn’t what many people had in mind. Despite the mediocre play of the team, however, the Padres remain 3 back of the wild card and 4.5 back in the West. One need only look as far back as one year ago to see a team below .500 at this same stage of the season that went on to make the playoffs. The Kansas City Royals, them of 90 ft from tying Game 7 fame, were 4 games below .500 on June 1 (26-30) and didn’t get back to .500 until June 10th thanks to a 10-game winning streak during that time frame. Even after that the Royals still dipped below .500 on July 20th before saying good-bye to mediocrity forever en route to a World Series appearance.
Are the Padres the Kansas City Royals? No. They are not.
Can the Padres put together a 19-10 month like the 2014 Royals did in August? Yes. Yes they can.
The Padres have just finished a stretch of 20 games in which they played teams all above .500, all teams at or near the top of their division. And while the argument of “to be competitive these are the teams they need to beat” is valid, the Padres have shown some encouraging signs of late. Winning the series in Anaheim, splitting the series against a red-hot Pirates team, and winning the series against the division leading Mets are relatively good barometers of where this team is at. The Padres aren’t on the level of the Nationals, Dodgers or even Cubs for that matter. But they are more than competitive against the tier of teams right below that top tier.
Moreover, the schedule eases up, considerably, moving forward. Not surprisingly when you look at the first 50+ games they’ve played. Through the Mets series, the Padres have played a TOTAL of 16 games against teams below .500. That’s 39 games vs winning teams. Out of 55 games total.
In those 16 games: 10-6
In those 39 games: 17-22 (records as of Tuesday, June 2)
But help is coming. Cincinnati is up next, followed by Atlanta. One team well below .500, another hovering right around .500. In fact, the schedule for the Padres between now and September 2nd (a stretch of 78 games) will see the Padres play 44 games against sub .500 teams (Oak: 4, AZ: 6, Tex: 6*, Col: 6, Mia: 6, Phi: 6, Cin: 6, Mil: 4). Conversely, they will play only 10 games against teams that typically give the Padres fits. Only 3 games for the Dodgers in that stretch (at Petco Park) and 7 vs St. Louis. A sprinkling of games vs the Giants (Padres are 4-3 vs SF this year) and Atl (hovering around .500).
Unfortunately for the Padres, they’ve put themselves in a bit of a hole. And the teams they need to jump to get into that Wild Card spot (Chicago and Pittsburgh) aren’t going away. Fortunately for the Padres, the digging should get easier. A 45-33 record over this stretch would put the team around 10 games over .500 with a month to play. And that should put them right in the thick of a playoff race.
The Preller off-season, and whether it was a success or not, now rest on the next 78 games.
*As of writing the Rangers were 26-25 thanks to an 8-2 stretch. I clumped them in here because I didn’t think it was sustainable. I suppose the same could be said for Atlanta. You get the picture though.