The Padres are off to a 2-4 start. Not great. In fact, at the time of this post, its the fourth-worst record in MLB, surpassed on the futility scale only by Baltimore (2-5), Cincinnati (2-5), and Arizona (2-7). Given the slow starts of the last few years, there’s not much patience out there.
And yet there should be. Nate touched on this yesterday; allow me to talk further about it today.
Currently the Padres are hitting .189/.255/.258 as a team. That is, without question, awful. But here’s the thing: that’s based on 211 Plate Appearances. How many PA’s did the Padres have last year? 6,122. In 2012 a Padre walked to the plate 6,112 times. I’m not writing the season off after only 3% of the expected PA’s have been taken.
What I’m talking about here is the small sample size principle.
Jedd Gyorko is 2 for his first 21. Last year he went 121 for 486. He’s taken 4% of the ABs he took in 2013. To match his 2013 numbers he needs to hit .255 the rest of the season (last year he hit .249). Totally doable. And, he’ll likely be closer to 600 AB, so there’s plenty of opportunity to catch – and surpass, which is really what we’re expecting – his 2013 numbers. Chase Headley, Yonder Alonso, Will Venable – I can make the same point. Now is not the time to panic after only a handful of at-bats.
The other thing to bear in mind is where we are in the season. Everything is magnified the first week(s), because there’s nothing else to compare it to. Would we be collectively losing our minds if this little slump happened in mid-June? Maybe a little, but not to the degree some are freaking out now. It would be (correctly) attributed to the ebbs and flows of the baseball season. Every team goes through winning and losing streaks over the course of a 6-month season. Everyone goes through slumps and hot streaks. What’s so frustrating – understandably so – is right now no one other than Yasmani Grandal is hitting over .270. But it will turn around. The Law of Regression to the Mean mandates it.
Before you accuse me of being a corporate shill, a quick word about the off-season. The Padres have, and this past off-season continued, to sink a lot of resources into high risk/high reward players. Carlos Quentin is the most obvious example. This is his third year with the club, and he’s played just over a full season. He’s made $119,047.61 per game so far in his Padres career (168 games). Carlos has missed almost an entire season, and is missing more time right now. When he’s on the DL he’s not helping the club.
And yet the Padres continue to use this model. Josh Johnson was touted as a top 3 starter for this team. He’s had a recent history of ineffectiveness and arm trouble. He’s on the DL as well. Cameron Maybin‘s been hurt a lot over the last year-plus. And so on. The frustration over how the roster was constructed is, I think, legitimate; but it should be a separate argument from their slow start. It contributes, but it’s a separate argument.
Except for Seth Smith, everyone currently starting played for the Padres last year. Except for Alexi Amarista, all of them had OPS+ over 100 last year (even Grandal, albeit in a small sample). These were average or slightly above average hitters in 2013.
Frustration is understandable, and even healthy, with their slow start. Concerns about the roster are legit. And it’s still too early to write this season off.