Yesterday I posted about Jesse Hahn probably being shut down for the year in September.  Later yesterday the Padres optioned Jesse to AA and called up LHP Frank Garces.  A coincidence, or action/reaction?

Challenge accepted.  Hey Padres – play Jace Peterson more!

(pause)

They probably need a better argument than just that. 

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Jesse Hahn has been a bright spot during a diappointing  season. Acquired in January from Tampa with Alex Torres for Logan Forsythe (among others), Jesse was not expected to contribute at the major league level in 2014.  But, injuries to the starting rotation afforded him an opportunity and he’s made the most of it.  At this point, though, he may have hit the wall.

The Padres have done a good job of limiting Hahn’s total pitches per game this season. He’s made only one start where he cleared 100 (101, July 6 against San Francisco).  For the vast majority of his starts, at least at the Major League level were we have data,  he’s thrown between 87 and 95 pitches.  But he’s starting to show signs of fatigue anyway.  Consider:

  • First 9 starts:  53 1/3 innings, 12 ER, 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio (54 K to 21 BB), 2 HR allowed, 2 HBP.
  • Last 3 starts:  16 1/3 innings, 11 ER, 1:1 strikeout to walk ratio (11 K to 8 BB), 2 HR allowed, 2 HBP.

It certainly looks like he’s starting to have trouble repeating his release point, causing a slight loss of control on his pitches.  He’s not as pinpoint as he was earlier in the year.

Another more obvious reason he’s tiring is all the innings he’s thrown this season.  Hahn has a well-documented history of arm trouble, which has limited his innings as a professional.  Looking at his total (major and minor league) stat line we find he threw 52 innings in 2012 and 69 innings last year.  This year, between AA and the Majors he’s thrown 110 1/3.  That’s a 37% jump in innings; by comparison, his workload increased 25% from 2012 to 2013.  It’s natural for him to be tired at this point; he’s thrown more innings this season than he probably had for 3 years, at least.

Losing 3 of 4 to St Louis (a most frustrating series, since the Padres could have won all 4 games) killed off any lingering hopes of a wild card berth this year.  With nothing to play for there’s no reason to keep running Hahn out there once we get to September.  He’s scheduled to get 2 more starts this month (8/22 at Arizona, 8/27 vs Milwaukee).  I’m guessing San Diego will shut him down for the year after that Milwaukee start.

Any relation to similar posts on the same subject is purely coincidential.

As was mentioned last week, last Saturday brought the semi-Annual San Diego Ted Williams Chapter of the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) meeting. The SD Central Library hosted, and we had about our average turnout (25-30 people).

I got downtown about 0910, armed with a large cup of coffee, my notebook, and an amplifier. Toting an amplifier through downtown early on a Saturday morning actually helped me blend in. I was amazed at the large number of people already formed up outside the library. I assumed they were waiting to get in until it became clear they were just … waiting.

Several of us got there early to set up; however, Pete Meisner of the library was all over it, having arranged chairs for the attendees and set up a podium for a wireless mike. We brought up a table for check-ins and other items, and moved 3 plush chairs to the front for Jodi, Geoff, and I to use during the round table. That took all of about 5 min, which was great for it left a lot of time for some small talk with a bunch of folks one only sees twice a year.

SABR meeting 9 Aug 14

We delayed starting for 10 min to accommodate the fashionably late. Alan Mindell approached the podium and off we went.

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tw-sabr-logo-1

This Saturday (9 August) the San Diego Ted Williams Chapter will host it’s summer shindig.  The meet (and greet) will be held at the SD Central Library, in the Baseball Research Center, located on the 8th floor of the building, from 1000-1230.  We have three main presentations on the agenda.

Alan Mindell will talk about his fictional baseball novel, The Closer.  The Closer chronicles a career minor league knuckle-balling relief pitcher who finally gets his chance at the majors, and makes an immediate impact both on the pitching mound and with a family in distress.  Alan’s an interesting dude; he played CF for three years at UC Berkeley, leading the team in hitting and stolen bases his junior year (which, if my math is correct, was around 1963).  He was good enough to win a try out with the Los Angeles Angels, but wasn’t quite good enough to make professional baseball a career.

Alan has discovered a latent sprinting skill, and used it to win 4 gold medals at the 2012 San Diego Senior Olympics.  You can read more about the author and his book here.

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Huston Street is an Angel.  Chase Headley is a Yankee.  Cameron Maybin picked a bad time to start using different amphetamines. It’s been a bad week for the Padres already.  Might as well talk a little Eric Stults.

By any objective measure, Eric has been awful this season.  He surrenders just under 2 HR a game.  The league is hitting .305 against him.  His xFIP is 4.34, and his -1.0 WAR is the worst among qualified starters in the Majors.  He’s also tied with Kevin Correia (former Padre) for the major league lead in losses (12).  It’s been a professional year to forget.

There might be a silver lining.  You know what’s more rare than a 20-game winner?  A 20-game loser.  Mike Maroth is the last major league pitcher to lose 20 (2003).  It hasn’t happened in the National League since Hall of Famer Phil Niekro lost 20 for the 1979 Atlanta Braves (he won 21 games that season.  How about that?).  A Padre hasn’t lost 20 since Randy Jones dropped 22 way back in 1974.  Eric has made 20 starts so far in 2014.  He has, probably, 13 left, unless he gets injured or Bud Black quits sending him out there.

Assuming he keeps the same ratio of starts to losses as he has to date, 13 more starts means he’ll lose 7.8 more games.  Having a baseball card say 6.2 Wins and 19.8 Losses would be unique; unfortunately the Baseball Gods demand integers for wins and losses.  So, using the rounding convention Sister Mary Elizabeth taught, Eric would finish 6-20 on the season.

The Padres have had three pitchers lose 20-games in a season:  Jones, Steve Arlin (1972), and Clay Kirby (1969).  There’s a decent chance Stults could become the fourth.  I’m actually conflicted by this.  On the one hand, I’m not going to actively root for Stults (or the Padres) to lose; on the other, much like seeing someone with awful fashion sense walk down the street, I would struggle to look away.

Is it something to keep an eye on for the rest of this season?  Yes, in a morbid way. ‘Let’s see if someone can continue to fail 60% of the time.’  Like I said, it’s been a lousy week, and the silver lining always exists in a storm cloud.

Ghost has the recap, but I wanted to add a couple of thoughts in addition to his usual excellent work.

Tonight was the best I’ve seen the Padres execute in hitters counts all season.  A hitters count is 2-0 or 3-1.  Tonight’s results:

  • Seth Smith (B1) 2-0 count:  3-unassisted (and he didn’t move from the batters box.  Oh well)
  • Yasmani Grandal (B2) 3-1 count:  HR to RC
  • Tyson Ross (B3) 2-0 count:  Force at 2nd on a bunt.  To be fair, he was squared around to bunt on the first 2 pitches but Gee missed.
  • Chase Headley (B3) 3-1 count:  Single to LF that led to 2 runs scoring, thanks to an error by Nieuwenhuis.
  • Will Venable (B4) 2-0 count:  HR to RF
  • Smith (B6) 2-0 count:  HR to RF
  • Headley (B8) 2-0 count:  Double to LF

Seven hitters counts, 5 hits, 4 XBH, directly contributed to 5 of the six runs scoring (and indirectly to the sixth).  It’s unrealistic to expect 71% success from Padre hitters in these counts the rest of the way, but it was sure enjoyable to watch tonight.

Granderson lined a single to right with one out in the sixth.  Know who the happiest guy in the ballpark was?  Headley.  He’d allowed d’Arnaud’s dribbler to roll up the 3B line in the fourth, thinking it’d go foul.  Instead it hit the bag, for the first hit Ross allowed.  Can you imagine if that was the only hit?  The Outrage!

When was the last time the Padres 3-4-5 hitters all homered in the same game?  If you know please comment.  Doesn’t seem all that often.

I mentioned this on Twitter – the Padres are 40-24 (41-24 now) when they score at least two runs, or a .625 team (I can’t take credit for that – the Padres Media folks published it).  I’ll take a team playing baseball at a .625 clip every year; that’s 101 wins a season.

Anyway, I found all this interesting.  Hope you do too.

It’s the All-Star break, so that means a whole bunch of articles assessing the half-year’s effort of each team. It’s a somewhat lazy post. Luckily I’m a lazy guy, so this fits nicely with my milieu. Without further ado, one blogger’s assessment of the 2014 Padres to date.

Grades were assigned based on games observed and after reviewing four metrics: xFIP, wRC+, Fangraphs WAR, and the Fielding Bible Runs Saved for defense.

Head Of The Class

  1. Seth Smith – Far and away the best Padre position player. wRC+ of 155 is 5th in the NL and 10th in baseball. Naturally his 2.2 WAR leads the hitters. Smith has been surprisingly nimble in the OF, saving 6 runs so far this season. A+
  2. Tyson Ross – His 3.07 xFIP is second-best among the starters. Ross would have significantly more than 7 wins if this team could hit AT ALL. Thank God we don’t care about wins anymore. No-hit caliber stuff every time he steps between the lines. A deserved selection to the All-Star team. A
  3. Jesse Hahn – A pleasant surprise. His 2.94 xFIP leads the starters and is second-best on the team. Hahn was recently sent down to limit his innings.  That means some lesser starters stay in the rotation, but given where this club is going in 2014 it makes total sense. The kid’s been great and has a bright future. A
  4. Joaquin BenoitThe Padres have lost one game when leading after eight, and Benoit has been one of the big reasons why. He has the best xFIP on the staff (2.92) and has been worth 0.7 WAR. Too bad he likely won’t finish the season here. Bring us some good prospects! A
  5. Huston Street Started the season with 22 consecutive saves. He is quietly putting together another stellar season. xFIP of 2.95 is third-best on the club. Many think he should have been the original choice for the All-Star team; glad he’s on the team. Too bad this is likely his swan song in San Diego. A
  6. Ian Kennedy In many ways this is a career year for Kennedy. Currently he sports his best-ever xFIP (3.17) and leads the team in WAR (2.3) – not the pitchers, the team. Too bad he’s probably also going to be traded. A
  7. Andrew Cashner There’s a lot of pitching on this list, and there should be. The Padres have dominated on the bump. Cash’s 3.48 xFIP isn’t quite up to the level of the rest of this list, and he’s spent time on the DL, but he’s earned 1.4 WAR and he’s actually saved 4 runs with his glove. That gets you into the top bracket. A-

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Seth Smith will be a Padre through the 2016 season, with a club option for 2017.  Mixed reactions to this extension are to be expected.

On the one hand, he has been an average to above average player based on his 108 wRC+ over the entirety of his career. As Dave Cameron points out, the contract isn’t onerous and actually retains his services at a discount based on his performance.

Fangraphs credits him with 2.2 WAR worth $11.8M so far in 2014.  Assuming he’ll end up a 3 to 3.5 WAR player at the end of the season, he’ll have been worth ~$18M.  He’s been between a 1.1 to 1.3 WAR player for most of his career. If he returns to that production level, he’ll still be worth the $6-7M per year he’s going to get.

On the other hand, he’s 31 and below average defensively.  It seems the Padres have once again extended a player based on ‘career year’ numbers.  This has become a modus operandi for the club since they declined to extend Chase Headley following the 2012 season. A fatalistic observer would conclude they’re now cursed to extend every hot player because they didn’t extend Headley. The cynical one sees no difference between the fired GM and those currently entrusted to steward this club.

What was the urgency to sign him now?  If the plan is to have a new GM in place by the end of August, could this decision have waited until that individual was in place?  Smith would still have been months away from free agency.

For what it’s worth, I like Seth Smith as a baseball player and have for years.  For a franchise close to contending or fighting for a playoff spot, this extension makes total sense, but San Diego is neither of these.  He’s a great guy to have on the club, but if this club intends to go in a new direction I’m not sure this is the best first move.

If you listened to the Josh Byrnes and Mike Dee interviews on yesterday’s Darren Smith show (and if you didn’t you probably should), the sticking point boiled down to expectations. So let’s talk about expectations.

Josh claimed he never oversold this team’s ability to ownership. To paraphrase, based on the projections he saw (the same ones we have access to, by the way) he figured the team could win between 71 (if everything broke wrong) and 91 (if everything went right) games this season. I think fantasizing this group could win 91 games was exactly that – a fantasy – but I have 3 months of mediocre play coloring my view of the past.

Including a margin for error in any projection is sound practice, so the problem perhaps wasn’t in his forecasting.  But there was a disconnect in the way Byrnes went about building this team, and it’s in some of the things he said as well as what he did. When you publicly proclaim Seth Smith could be ‘the final piece’ – as Josh did way back in December – people latch on to that. I’m sure ownership latched onto it. Statements like that cause people to get excited, and expectations to rise. Hey – he’s the final piece!  We’re going to contend!

Teams don’t spend $15M on a set-up man if they don’t think they’re right there for a playoff spot. Teams don’t keep and extend players on a 76-win roster if they don’t think those players are playoff-caliber already, and minor improvements will put them over the top.

It also seems everyone’s conveniently forgotten what many thought heading into spring training.  There was widespread belief the Padres would be a dark horse contender for the playoffs this season. Buster Olney even sent a tweet naming San Diego as his pick for one Wild Card slot. That optimism was based on the Smith trade, the belief that Josh Johnson would front this rotation, that Chase Headley and Carlos Quentin had put their injury-plagued 2013 behind them, and that the rest of the roster would be at least average offensively. I’m sure Josh believed it. I’m sure he talked about it. I’m sure his optimism resonated with and excited ownership.

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Tony Gwynn had his last really great year at the plate in 1997.  Some of the more gaudy numbers he put up include:

  • Career high for hits in a season (220)
  • Career high for HR in a season (17)
  • Career high for RBI in a season (119)
  • Won his eighth, and final, Silver Bat for the best batting average in the National League (.372)
  • Career high for doubles in a season (49)
  • He posted his third best OPS+ and second best wRC+ for a single season

That’s just the stuff you can pull off his baseball card at Baseball Reference or Fangraphs.  He did a couple of other things I find amazing, as well.

He walked 55 times that year, but only 12 of those were intentional.  That low IBB number didn’t make the top 10 in the NL that season.  With Ken Caminiti hitting behind him most of the year, I guess that’s understandable.

He saw only sixteen 0-2 counts all year. But this pitcher’s count was no friend to the hurler in 1997 when Tony Gwynn stepped into the box.  He hit .375 when the count was 0-2.  He was backed into a 1-2 count 62 times that season, and hit .344 in those situations.  For the entire 1997 season, according to Baseball Reference, there was no count in which he didn’t hit at least .300; oddly, the count that gave him the most trouble was 1-1 – he only hit .300 on that next pitch. Mere mortals struggle to hit .300 in a hitters count; Tony just hit.

But by far, my favorite stat from that season is his otherworldly .459/.489/.760 with RISP.

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