Vincent Velasquez And All The Rest

Vincent Velasquez had the kind of outing yesterday against the Padres he’ll probably talk about for the rest of his life. There’s a non-zero chance—heck, a pretty good chance—it ends up being the highlight of his professional baseball career, and that’s not a dig at Velaszquez. It’s just that 16 strikeout, no walk shutouts don’t happen all that often. In fact, since 1913 only 24 16 K, no walk games have been recorded, and the list of guys who’ve done it is full of Hall-of-Fame types like Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, and Dwight Gooden.

The Padres scored 29 runs in two games in Colorado yet they are averaging just 3.7 runs per game, thanks to what took place during the other eight games—the Velasquez shutout plus four other shutouts plus a one run game. If you’re a glass-half-full type, maybe you want to believe the Padres have just faced really good pitchers. After all, they faced Clayton Kershaw on Opening Day and this Velasquez guy looks like a monster. To attempt to prove/disprove your glass-half-full theory, I looked up the PECOTA projection for each starter the Padres have faced so far, along with each starter every NL West team has faced.

First, here are the starters the Padres have went up against with their accompanying projected ERAs:

Pitcher Projected ERA
Clayton Kershaw 2.38
Scott Kazmir 3.50
Kenta Maeda 3.24
Jordan Lyles 4.29
Jorge De La Rosa 4.27
Chad Bettis 4.25
Aaron Nola 3.88
Charlie Morton 4.28
Jerad Eickhoff 4.12
Vincent Velasquez 3.92

Next, here are the averages for the entire division, with one added column showing the percentage of opposing starters with a projected ERA over 4.00 and another showing how much that team’s offense has scored per contest:

Team Projected ERA, Starters Faced 4.00-plus ERA Percentage Runs Scored Per Game
Giants 3.93 70 6.2
Padres 3.81 50 3.7
Diamondbacks 3.77 40 4.0
Rockies 3.70 11 6.4
Dodgers 3.61 10 5.2

Your theory stinks.

The Padres have actually faced the second easiest set of starters so far in the division, and since that opening series with the Dodgers they haven’t went up against a single starter with a projected ERA better than 3.88. I didn’t park-adjust any of these numbers—look, I have a life, alright?—but that likely wouldn’t help the Padres anyway. They’ve played three games in Coors and four games in neutral-ish Citizens Bank Park compared to just three games at home in pitcher-friendly Petco.

The Dodgers, on the other hand, have been handed a difficult group of opposing hurlers—they’ve only faced one “bad” pitcher in Rubby De La Rosa—yet they’ve scored north of five runs per game. The Giants have feasted on poor pitching, as seven of the 10 starters they’ve opposed have projected ERAs over four—even Ross Stripling. The D’backs are just kind of meh here, and the Rockies lead the division in scoring despite facing a tough group of starters, which sounds impressive until you realize they’ve played all their games in Colorado and Arizona.

Anyway, the Padres can’t use the excuse of a hard-luck run of dominant pitching. Sure, the pitching they’ve seen has been dominant, but Velasquez and Eickhoff and Charlie freakin’ Morton aren’t supposed to look this good, that’s for sure. You can argue that it’s the Padres lineup that’s fueled the fire, and that Velasquez against LA or San Fran wouldn’t have turned in the same overpowering performance.

The Padres are slated to face better pitching on the upcoming schedule, highlighted by Zack Greinke (tonight), Gerrit Cole, Adam Wainwright, and Madison Bumgarner. In fact, using ESPN’s probable starters, the projected ERA of opposing starters faced over the next two weeks is 3.47.

The good news is that you can’t get worse than a shutout.

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  • ballybunion

    If there is a worse way to lose than a shutout, the Padres might find it. It would probably involve a forfeit while they have a huge lead. But that’s unlikely. It’s just early, and Andy Green hasn’t had his first team-scalding, read-the-riot-act reminder that there’s new management in charge.