What Do We Have Here?

The Padres have now played 40 games so far this season which brings us just about to the quarter poll of the 2013 campaign. As that is the case, I thought it might be a good moment to take stock of what the Padres have, what they don’t have, where they’ve been, and where they may be going. So, with the Padres back home for a 7-game homestand, let’s see what we have.

To say it’s been a roller coaster opening quarter would be an understatement. The Padres have been involved in 8 sweeps so far this season. 4 times being swept, 4 times sweeping. For reference sake, the Padres were involved in their 8th sweep in 2012 on July 4th when they completed a sweep of the Diamondbacks. Considering this you’d be excused for waffling on whether this team is good, bad or something else entirely.

The turning point thus far was the sweep of the Dodgers between April 15-17. As you will likely recall, only a few days prior Carlos Quentin had charged, tackled and subsequently injured the Dodgers prized off-season acquisition in Zack Greinke. The Padres went on to lose that game and be swept by Colorado for the second time in two weeks. The Padres had been outscored to that point 68-39. Pitchers couldn’t get through the 5th (if they could get to the 5th at all). They found themselves 6.5 games back and the season was only 12 games old. There was no joy in Mudville.

Then April 15th rolled around. Jackie Robinson Day across the nation and Padres fans watched with curiosity as to what might happen when the Padres arrived at Dodger Stadium. As it turned out, no Jets vs Sharks turf war broke out on the field or in the stands. The game wouldn’t be without it’s own oddities as Eric Stults got the offense rolling with a 3-run HR in the 2nd inning. The Padres went on to win the game 6-3 and sweep the Dodgers. It was, to say the least, unexpected.

What was more expected was the subsequent sweep at the hands of the Giants in San Francisco that weekend. But something was different. Even in losing the team seemed better. It didn’t feel like a team that was going to be MLB’s punching bag for the season. These were games they could have, and nearly, won. A walk-off double to lose on Friday night. Being shutout but only surrendering 2 runs. Nevertheless coming off the sweep of the Dodgers the Padres went on to lose 5 games and it would appear that the promise of that Dodger sweep would be an anomaly.

Then the winds of change blew. Edinson Volquez went 7 innings in a win against Milwaukee. They put Cashner into the starting rotation and swept the Giants, took 2/3 from Arizona and swept the Marlins. And yes, they were swept by the Rays. But much like the sweep at the hands of the Giants a few weeks earlier, this felt different. They lost 3 games in which they easily could have won 2 of them.

Since starting 2-10 the Padres have outscored their opponents 117-109. The team ERA has dropped from 4.53 in April to 3.52 so far in May. The pitching staff has dropped opponents BA to .233 clip vs .266 in April. The offense has been better as well. Though they have a lower BA in May than April (.224 vs .251) and is slugging at roughly the same clip (.374 vs .376) they will almost certainly eclipse April in HRs (16 so far in May, 18 in April) and SBs (16 in April, 13 so far in May).

The team is better. This is true by any metric but you likely didn’t need a bunch of numbers to tell you that. Your eye can tell you that this team is playing better and with more confidence. The pitching is spotty at times, no question. The bullpen is living on an edge at time, yes. But remove the first 12 games of this season and this is an above .500 team very much in the NL West conversation. Of course, you can’t remove that 2-10 start so here we are.

The good news is the Padres, after being 6.5 games back on the 12th game, are 5.5 games back on the 40th game. That’s not so much noteworthy for the ground they made up as it is for the fact that they stopped a freefall mid-freefall. And more help is on the way. Grandal returns at the end of May/beginning of June. Luebke, despite some setbacks, is due back this year. Some pitching help has already arrived (Cashner and Smith) and possibly more to come (Stauffer?).

Which brings us back to our central question. What do we have here? The team is likely not as bad as the 2-10 start they got off to. And we’d be remissed in not mentioning that Chase Headley was not playing during that stretch. They are also likely not as good as the 11-3 stretch they went on in late April/early May. Typically, a quarter of the way into a season, you would have a pretty strong grasp on your teams identity and ability. I’m not sure that we can say that about the Padres in 2013.

Can this team contend for the NL West? It’s probably to0 early to determine that. But as of today, the Padres are not out of that race. And that’s something that couldn’t be said on April 14th when they were 2-10.

The Padres pre-season Over/Under for wins was 74.5. I took the over. I feel very comfortable with that today. Beyond that the answer to “what do we have here” is simply “I’m not sure yet.”

 

So, what do you think the Padres are? Contenders? Pretenders? Middle-of-the-roaders? Or is it too early to tell? Leave a comment. And as always you can find 140 characters worth of nonsense and optimism on Twitter @LeftCoastBias.

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  • Patrick

    I like our chances, especially with Luebke hopefully rejoining soon. This is, and has historically been, such a volatile division, especially in the past decade. I’m really impressed with our offense, and I think Bud does a decent job putting together the lineup, but I’m pretty concerned about our starting pitching. I don’t know how far they can carry us, but I have some degree of faith in this team.

    • Humanure

      Luebke is coming off surgery (and setbacks)! How much can he really contribute this year, other than a psychological shot in the arm?

  • Humanure

    If it’s still unclear in a month, they might not be able to sell off pieces like Gregerson or Volquez.

    • http://www.facebook.com/geoff.hancock.3 Geoff Hancock

      If they aren’t selling off pieces that likely means they are competing in the division. I’d prefer that.

      • Humanure

        Yes, yes,.. of course! We would all prefer the Pads to go out and get the best possible players to help the team achieve the best possible results. BUT, since the reality of the situation dictates the front office make prudent moves (as they may not have done during the most recent off-season), let’s look at some examples of pieces that can net the highest possible return- Volquez is a FA and will probably reach highest (any) trade value at this year’s deadline. The future rotation doesn’t and shouldn’t include him. Gregerson may never have higher value simply because his numbers thus far are probably better than his numbers going forward. Teams contending are looking for guys like Volquez and Gregerson. And here’s the kicker- If the ’13 Pads are contenders, their ultimate fate likely doesn’t revolve around those guys!

      • http://www.facebook.com/geoff.hancock.3 Geoff Hancock

        I can’t argue that Gregerson will have a ton of trade value. But with the shakiness of Street recently, Id be very nervous letting him go.

    • ballybunion

      I wonder who started the notion that if your team isn’t a contender in a given year, it must be broken up and rebuilt? Volquez is a FA after this year and Gregerson is the backup closer and isn’t FA eligible until 2015. Why sell off pieces for prospects when most of the position players are young and there’s a wealth of pitching coming up? The team is young and improving and the farm has prospects coming up. All the ingredients for a steadily improving team are there, except maybe fan patience. Lean back, relax, and watch the team develop INTO a contender. Getting there is half the fun.

  • http://twitter.com/ChangeThePadres Change the Padres

    The Padres staff has the worst K/BB ratio in the NL and the second worst HR/9 in the NL en route to a -2.4 WAR: http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=pit&lg=nl&qual=0&type=c,3,4,5,7,8,13,24,19,18,-1,42,36,37,40,43,48,-1,6,45,62,-1,59&season=2013&month=0&season1=2013&ind=0&team=0,ts&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&sort=20,d

    The offense is better than it has been in the past and should get even better with the return of Grandal, but the pitching staff is so woeful statistically — especially in the predictive stats like K/BB, HR/9, etc. — that there’s really no conceivable way the Padres have a chance in the NL West over 162 games (unless they add some considerable top-end talent to the rotation mid-season. That would require trading prospects, which doesn’t make much sense for this franchise.)

    Bottom line: the Padres dropped the ball in not signing some top arms this offseason, as the team could legitimately contend if they had more positive contributors in the rotation. They were available and they clearly have performed better than the Padres arms: http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=pit&lg=all&qual=0&type=c%2c3%2c4%2c5%2c7%2c8%2c13%2c24%2c19%2c18%2c-1%2c42%2c36%2c37%2c40%2c43%2c48%2c-1%2c6%2c45%2c62%2c-1%2c59&season=2013&month=0&season1=2013&ind=0&team=0&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=6176%2c4849%2c8782%2c517%2c6283%2c1943%2c2072%2c1757%2c1841%2c3283%2c3201%2c739%2c6204%2c105%2c4662%2c962%2c3551%2c7872%2c14444%2c3284%2c8011%2c3990%2c12784&sort=21%2cd

    After waiting seemingly forever to get a decent offense, it’s being squandered.

    • http://www.facebook.com/geoff.hancock.3 Geoff Hancock

      The pitching has been better of recent times. With the addition of Cashner and some young arms they may continue to improve. The whole point of this is that they are playing better as a team. Bit early to suggest anything is being squandered.

      • http://twitter.com/ChangeThePadres Change the Padres

        It can’t possibly be too early to suggest it’s being squandered if it’s not too early to refer to Burch Smith as “pitching help”.

      • http://www.facebook.com/gottrocks Lance N Fogel

        Marver, cant let his vendetta go and is incapable of admitting any improvement; since it would be detrimental to his silly campaign of blaming Fowler, Byrnes, and the Padres FO for any and every sin of the past. It’s tiresome to constantly hear about the last off season, and whether this pitcher or that pitcher should have been signed. It’s done, and its time to move forward with the team that is on the field. Naturally, Marver is silent when his boy Haren was beaten like a rag doll, as Cashner continued to show his growth into the front line pitcher we hope he would be come. Also, lets not forget, Stults. He isn’t flashy, not a fireballer, and was claimed off waivers, and what has he done? Out dueled probably the best starter in the NL, Zimmerman, while the Padres sport a very nice 16-7 record when starting. So, let Marver be the grinch who wants to bring everyone down, but the fact is these Padres are playing some good ball, and let’s see how the remainder of the season unfolds.

      • http://www.facebook.com/gottrocks Lance N Fogel

        More on the stats Marver likes to lean on; they are baloney.

        From the Boston Globe:

        “WAR stat in baseball is complete nonsense”

        http://b.globe.com/15WY0vs

      • Geoff Young

        Ryan’s article is complete nonsense. For a more thoughtful and nuanced take, I suggest reading Colin Wyers’ recent piece: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=20569

      • http://www.facebook.com/gottrocks Lance N Fogel

        I don’t think the piece is complete nonsense. Is it a bit over the top?sure; but he is trying to be entertaining, after all its the sports page. However, thanks for the link, and suggestion, I will give it a read.

      • http://twitter.com/AvengingJM Avenging Jack Murphy

        If Bill James said, “WAR stat in baseball is complete nonsense.” then I would listen. But Bob Ryan? No.

  • GoldenBoy

    I like our chances to hang in the race throughout the year. This is the best offensive team we’ve had since 2007, and we’re showing a lot of offensive depth too. Our defense has been great. For all the pitching uncertainties, the Padres have a knack for surviving through shaky pitching, largely thanks to our coaches. And we probably have the strongest minor league system pitching depth in MLB. I’d love to see Stauffer come up soon, as well as some young guns in Aug/Sep. You never know, we could easily be a dark horse this year.

  • http://www.padrespublic.com/padres-trail PadresTrail

    You must have read my mind Geoff. I’ve been thinking a this post needed to be written. Nice job.

    We’re 8 games into a tough 12-game stretch and they’re 3-5. We still don’t know. I was hoping for at least 6-6 over these games and that’s still possible. Need to win today…

    • http://www.facebook.com/geoff.hancock.3 Geoff Hancock

      6-6 during this stretch would be phenomenal. They won’t play another stretch like this all year. And they are 2 pitches away from already having those 6 wins.