I’ve had the pleasure of writing Yonder Alonso’s player comment in each of the last three Baseball Prospectus annuals, and it has become my custom to compare him to other players. Here are the career statistics (through August 27) of those players and Alonso:

Player/food PA BA ISO BB% OPS+ wRC+
Lyle Overbay 5802 .266 .163 11.0 106 105
Bruce Bochte 5994 .282 .114 10.9 113 112
Denny Walling 3287 .271 .119 9.4 107 108
Yonder Alonso 1793 .271 .119 9.0 107 105

I’m leaving out many columns here, but this gives some idea of the types of information I find useful in describing a hitter. Batting average has its limitations, of course, but still tells us how often someone gets base hits. ISO, which is batting average subtracted from slugging percentage, gives a good indication of a player’s power. BB% shows a player’s ability to reach base via walk. The advantage to using ISO and BB% over SLG and OBP is that they remove batting average from the equation, leaving only the component that we wish to examine. OPS+ and wRC+ are added at the end to provide an overall feel for the level of hitter.

It’s clear at this point that Alonso lacks Overbay’s power. My original hope that Alonso would be that type of hitter was both a low bar and one that he has failed to reach. Bochte likewise seems overly ambitious due to the batting average and walk rate. This leaves Walling, who was a decent enough player in his day and whose numbers are alarmingly close to those of Alonso.

What Walling wasn’t, however, was a starting big-league first baseman. And that got me wondering: Has anyone with Alonso’s offensive skill set had a long career as a starting big-league first baseman?

Spoiler alert: no.

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Here’s some stuff I read this week that you might enjoy:

  • How baseball’s tech team built the future of television (The Verge) – Ben Popper pens a long but fascinating piece about the development of MLB.tv and the applications of its technology in non-baseball markets. MLBAM, the entity behind MLB.tv, is now partnered up with the NHL, HBO, and others to deliver content to their viewers. Popper touches on regional blackouts, but only from the technical standpoint. No solution is offered (yeah, I know) for folks such as myself who are legally prohibited from watching their hometown team via the Internet, although there is less-than-satisfying movement on that front. [h/t Sean Lahman]
  • Preller, Padres should build on rebuild (MLB.com) – Barry Bloom discusses the future with A.J. Preller, who admits that “we’re not where we want to be as a group” and teases that Justin Upton’s tenure in San Diego might not end with the season. Bloom also notes that increased television revenue and attendance will help pay for things that the Padres haven’t been able to afford in the past, like a fleet of killer whale submarines. Meanwhile, Christina Kahrl suggests that Padres fans should temper expectations regarding potential waiver wire activity (saying farewell to Will Venable, the last player from the Padres teams I watched on television, might be it). [h/t reader Didi for the Kahrl item]
  • Rea shows promise in big-league debut (U-T) – A possible part of the future is Colin Rea, who doesn’t overwhelm with stuff but who knows how to pitch. His catcher, Austin Hedges, has nice things to say: “Knowing Colin for four or five years now, I couldn’t tell a difference if he was pitching in a low-A game, a Double-A game or a big-league game.” John Sickels also has nice things to say.
  • Kemp completes first cycle in Padres history (Padres.com) – Did you know that nobody had ever hit for the cycle while playing for the Padres? Wow, I did not know that. Now Matt Kemp has done it. I was hoping he would throw a no-hitter, but what are you gonna do. Maybe Rea will do that.
  • Cooperstown Chances: Is Trevor Hoffman a Hall of Famer? (Sporting News) – Graham Womack discusses Hoffy’s candidacy, confirming my fears that he is more likely to be associated with the lesser Lee Smith than with the greater Mariano Rivera and putting his chances at 60 percent. He is Tim Raines to Rivera’s Rickey Henderson. And speaking of great left fielders who played for the Padres (Henderson, not Raines), you’ll want to read Michael Barr’s piece about a painting of Ted Williams.

I was so busy researching stuff this week that I forgot to read things, so you’re getting facts today instead of links. It’s the same, only different.

Justin Upton Has Forgotten How to Hit Lefties

Upton is having a strange season. Beyond the fact that his home/road splits are all wrong (951 OPS, 15 homers at home; 626 OPS, five homers on the road), he’s getting destroyed by southpaws. This hasn’t happened to him in the past:

2013 164 .268 .427 .567 10 36 36
2014 139 .286 .384 .597 11 19 42
2015 85 .177 .226 .266 2 5 28

Small sample or not, those are numbers that would make Clint Barmes and Will Middlebrooks blush. Then again, the team as a whole isn’t hitting lefties, which makes earlier complaints about a lineup stacked with right-handed hitters seem quaint now.

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Here’s some stuff I read this week that you might enjoy:

  • Padres Negotiate With All, Strike Deal With None (FanGraphs) – Craig Edwards offers what I would call a very conventional take on the Padres, assuming that A.J. Preller and company were (or should have been) eager to sell and rebuild, talking about “limited budgets” and such. But I believe this misinterprets their intention, which I’ve mentioned before is to rebrand the team as something other than cheap and not simply rebuild again ($). Whether they truly believe they can contend this season, that’s the story they’re selling. They built the team over the winter the way they wanted to build it. Right or wrong, this is the plan, and they’re not going to abandon it just because popular opinion assumes they will do so. Besides, Preller’s inactivity adds to his aura of unpredictability. Everyone expected him to zig, but he zagged instead. As a bonus, people are still talking about the Padres. As a further bonus, there’s no evidence that Preller is pursuing Pablo Sandoval, as some would have the Padres do. [h/t reader Didi]
  • On the Genealogy of Trades, Part I (Hardball Times) – Speaking of trades, John Marsh has written (or at least started) a fascinating series. The first installment focuses on the 19th century, while Part II wonders which trades shaped the way baseball teams make trades, examining among others the infamous Curt Flood deal. Also at Hardball Times, Miles Wray reminds us that the Padres haven’t had an All-Star center fielder since 1989, when Tony Gwynn split time between that position and his more familiar right field. Wil Myers could have broken the streak this year if he’d stayed healthy. And, you know, been able to play center field.
  • My experience on the Cubaball tour (SABR) – Donald Plavnick recounts his recent trip to Cuba to watch and learn more about the history of baseball in that country. Remember all that stuff about Fidel Castro being a great pitching prospect? Fun, but no. Or as Peter Bjarkman puts it, “historical facts rarely stand in the way of enticingly good baseball folklore.” But hey, at least we have visual evidence that Castro pitched in some capacity. Even better, you can watch real Cuban pitcher Luis Tiant do his thing in the 1975 World Series. The Cubaball tour sounds like a great time and includes a stop at the soon-to-be restored Finca Vigia, Ernest Hemingway’s fabled home near Havana.
  • El Paso Notebook-2015 (MadFriars) – John Conniff didn’t travel quite as far but did return with tales of old El Paso. Well, okay, the Chihuahuas. Close enough for government work. Skipper Jamie Quirk likes his bullpen. On the offensive side, Conniff calls out Alex Dickerson, who is enjoying a fine Triple-A campaign despite hitting fewer home runs than one might expect from such a strapping young lad. The former Poway High star, who came to the Padres in a November 2013 trade that sent Jaff Decker to the Pirates, missed much of last season with a nasty heel injury that could have threatened his career. It’s good to see him back on track.
  • After stint in Minors, Gyorko’s found his swing (Padres.com) – Speaking of El Paso and guys back on track, Jedd Gyorko says that he’s “starting to lay off some of the higher fastballs and the low sliders” since returning to San Diego. Meanwhile, Sac Bunt Chris has thoughts on the young second baseman’s batted ball velocity, among other things.

Here’s some stuff I read this week that you might enjoy:

  • When You Think About It, Trivia Isn’t Trivial (Part 1) (Hardball Times) – John Paschal pens a fun three-part series (Part 2, Part 3). Rickey Henderson, Dave Winfield, and Odrisamer Despaigne, Tony Clark, and Brad Ausmus all get mentions in the first installment, which focuses on player names. And if you like names, you might also enjoy John Thorn’s look at early team names. [h/t reader Didi]
  • Why Discriminate (Our Game) – Speaking of Thorn, here he reproduces an open letter written by African American baseball player Welday Walker in 1888 and published in The Sporting Life advocating for the inclusion of blacks in baseball. And although people of different races were eventually accepted, the struggle continues for those of various sexual orientations. Former A’s pitcher Mike Norris remembers his teammate, the late Glenn Burke, as a man who had few friends in baseball despite possibly inventing (or at least popularizing) the high five.
  • The major league baseball games that were played while Apollo 11 landed on the moon (The J.G. Preston Experience) – I was 2 ½ months old when this happened, so my memories of that day are fuzzy, to say the least. The Padres were playing in Atlanta, and in the seventh inning the game was halted to honor the astronauts. Fans were asked say a silent prayer, which was then followed by “God Bless America,” when that song still had meaning. More famously, Gaylord Perry hit his first big-league homer in San Francisco, 25 minutes after the landing. Seven years earlier, then-Giants manager Alvin Dark had reportedly said, “We’ll have a man on the moon before he hits a home run.” Or words to that effect, or maybe not. Who cares, it’s a great story. [h/t SABR]
  • Quick Observations on Austin Hedges’ Defense (Padres Public) – Yeah, Dustin wrote this a while ago, but I was on vacation and am just now reading it. Plus I needed a link that wasn’t about events that happened more than 30 years ago. And it’s a good article. As Dustin notes, although Hedges hasn’t hit much yet, his pitch-framing and throwing ability have been at least as good as advertised.
  • Robot umpires should be the future of baseball (Vox) – Joseph Stromberg notes that on Tuesday night an Indy league game used a computer system to call balls and strikes. He advocates for the adoption of such technology in MLB, which would unfortunately render the aforementioned Hedges’ pitch-framing skills moot. Personally I’m holding out for robot players, but whatever. As long as we have robot something (maybe not toasters), I’ll be fine. [h/t Gaslamp Ball]

Thirteen years ago today, the Padres beat the Dodgers, 8-0, at Qualcomm Stadium. The victory improved San Diego’s record to 43-58 and pulled them to within 4 ½ games of the fourth-place Colorado Rockies. It was epic.

Also epic: Bobby Jones. The Padres employed two pitchers with that name. This is the right-hander from Fresno, not the left-hander from New Jersey (though they sometimes pitched in the same game).

Jones spent 10 years in the big leagues, his final two with the Padres. He went 15-27 with a 5.26 ERA in two seasons here. Opponents hit .303/.334/.511 against Jones, who led the National League in losses (19) and home runs allowed (37) in 2001.

What I’m trying to say is that he had trouble getting guys out, which is probably why he stopped pitching after his stint in San Diego. But he had a nice run as the precursor to Joe Blanton and even made the NL All-Star team in 1997. Hell, he one-hit the Giants in the 2000 NLDS.

Jones wasn’t very good by the time he came to the Padres. But on a warm Wednesday in July, he dominated a Dodgers team that would go on to win 92 games.

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Here’s some stuff I read this week that you might enjoy:

  • The Mets Are Throwing the Dan Warthen Slider (FanGraphs) – Warthen, a former Padres pitching coach, is teaching a “different kind of slider” to his current Mets pitchers. Sounds a bit like a cutter, but he insists otherwise. Whatever the name, as Eno Sarris notes, it’s working well for Warthen’s pitchers. If talk of velocity, movement, and spin rate get you all hot and bothered, read this.
  • ASG or not, Padres plan to contend (Union-Tribune) – Earlier this week I discussed the Padres’ plan of hope, which hasn’t yet borne fruit. Team officials are still talking a good game. As lead investor Peter Seidler says, “It’s not in our DNA to have a fire sale and to tear down. It is in our DNA to make good business moves and good baseball moves.” Yeah, good baseball moves might help. As Seidler said back in 2013, “It’s much more fun to go to baseball games when the club’s winning.” He’s probably right, but for now, we’ll have to take his word on that.
  • The Savant of Spray Charts: Meet the New Star of Baseball Analytics (Rolling Stone) – The talented Daren Willman, of Baseball Savant fame, is profiled. If you haven’t visited Willman’s site, it’s all kinds of fun. You can do things like see how much harder Matt Kemp hit the ball during the week of June 15 than he did during the week of June 8, and compare that with, say, how hard Justin Upton hit the ball over those same periods. There’s a lot more to the site than just that, but you’ll figure it out. [h/t SABR; click through for additional great links]
  • Don’t Be Fooled By Baseball’s Small-Budget Success Stories (FiveThirtyEight) – Noah Davis and Michael Lopez note that “the relationship between money and winning is as strong now as it’s been any time in the free-agency era” and that “fans of teams that win frequently expect them to continue winning, and management pays more to do so.” If you felt all warm and fuzzy after reading Moneyball, you may now return to a more cynical, enlightened view of the world. [h/t Tangotiger; click through for additional discussion]
  • Moyer (9-3) secures win for Seattle (ESPN) – A recent tweet from Jeff O’Meara caught my eye. Fifteen years ago this week, in an early Vedder Cup matchup, John Olerud doubled against the Padres to tie the game. The double was disallowed because first base umpire Jim Wolf (brother of former Padres pitcher Randy Wolf) had called time. Seattle manager Lou Piniella threw a fit before Olerud homered off Brian Meadows to give the Mariners the lead for good. Ruben Rivera, who went 1-for-4 in the game, is still knocking cuadrangulars in Mexico. Meanwhile, then-Padres skipper Bruce Bochy has been recently identified as the best manager in baseball.

The power of hope is a curious thing. —Probably not Huey Lewis

You’re Bathing in It

It seems like a lifetime ago that Padres fans were bathing in hope after new GM A.J. Preller rebuilt the organization in his own image. The entire process captivated us in a way that the Padres seldom do.

Tired of the same old “be smart with limited resources” conservatism favored by previous regimes that yielded sporadic incremental improvement but failed to push the franchise into respectability or capture the public’s imagination, fans embraced this new, bold way of operating. People remembered how to be excited about the local baseball team again, or perhaps in some cases for the first time.

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Here’s some stuff I read this week that you might enjoy:

  • The Commissioner Speaks: Imagining a Redefined Strike Zone (Hardball Times) – Jon Roegele takes a closer look at balls and strikes. This is a long read, with many fascinating tidbits, including the fact that the strike zone is now larger and lower than it was 5 years ago. In a bizarre coincidence, strikeouts are up and scoring is down. Another finding that will disappoint those who would embrace our robot ump overlords is that plate umpires have improved their accuracy over that same period. There’s lots more in here; it’s well worth your time.
  • Jumpsteady (Wax Pack) – Brad Balukjian has started his road trip that will end with a book being written about the experience. The linked article focuses on San Marcos resident and recent Padres Hall of Fame inductee Garry Templeton. The Tempy experience continues here. Former Padres Gary Pettis and Randy Ready also make appearances. (Click the names, this is the Internet.)
  • Cody Decker of the El Paso Chihuahuas is an all-star on and off the field (El Paso Times) – Chihuahuas’ General Manager Brad Taylor has high praise for the young man, who is arguably a better option than Matt Kemp at this point: “I’ve never seen, in my 21 years in Minor League Baseball, a player connect to the community and the community connect to the player — two-way street — like Cody has to El Paso and El Paso has to Cody.” [h/t Keith Olbermann, via Steve Kaplowitz]
  • GM Preller expects better baseball ahead (Padres.com) – Bully for him. Failing that, he can try moving some guys, although maybe we’re not there yet. The difference between last year’s team and this year’s is that now the players are much more expensive. Good luck finding someone to take Kemp or the lousy Upton. This is why my vision of the future is bleak. And while it’s nice to hear that Ron Fowler and the Padres remain “committed to winning,” right now their level of commitment is less of a concern than their level of competence. Could the “spend money, hope something good happens” approach work? Sure, but that doesn’t make it the optimal strategy or even a smart idea.
  • The Most Productive Low-Authority Hitters of All Time (FanGraphs) – Building on previous work, Tony Blengino identifies the ten hitters who were most productive despite not hitting the ball particularly hard. Former Padres players (and current staffers) Mark Kotsay and Mark Loretta crack the top five. Max Bishop, a personal favorite I wrote about in Best of Baseball Prospectus: 1996-2011, Vol. 1, appears farther down the list. Sorry kids, no Alexi Amarista.

Here’s some stuff I read this week that you might enjoy:

  • Tyson Ross on His Walk Rate (FanGraphs) – Eno Sarris chatted with Ross, who notes that “hitters are just a little more patient with me. The slider maybe isn’t as enticing for guys to chase, or maybe they’re just more aware of it, and they’re just trying to lay off it.” Sarris also talked to Justin Upton and Will Venable about the challenges of hitting at whatever the ballpark in San Francisco is called these days. Good stuff, as always.
  • Stock Watch: Padres’ Giron breaking out (MiLB.com) – With A.J. Preller having sold the farm in an attempt to make the big club relevant again, there hasn’t been a lot of good news on the minor-league front. As Jake Seiner notes, Fort Wayne shortstop Ruddy Giron might be the exception. Just 18 years old, Giron has lit up the Midwest League and drawn praise from TinCaps hitting coach Morgan Burkhart, who says, “He doesn’t look like a power hitter, but the bat path is so good and he has so much bat speed.” Hopefully Preller hasn’t traded him for Chase Utley by the time you read this. [h/t reader LynchMob]. Also on the farm, right-hander Colin Rea is opening some eyes at Double-A San Antonio. In sadder news, Civic Stadium, former home of the then-Padres affiliate Eugene Emeralds, burned down on Monday. Venable has fond memories of the place.
  • We’re Seeing More Strikeouts, But It Takes Many More Pitches To Get Them (FiveThirtyEight) – Rob Arthur examines rising strikeout rates. Among his many findings: “With the revelation that pitchers gradually decline every time they go through the order, there has been a shift toward pulling starters before their performance begins to tumble.” So yeah, the 12-man pitching staff that we’ve all grown to despise ain’t going away any time soon. [h/t reader Keith]
  • Sunday Notes: SABR 45 Snapshots, Spray Charts, Roe (FanGraphs) – David Laurila’s recap of the recently concluded SABR convention in Chicago is filled with goodies. There’s even more fun stuff at the SABR web site. I’m particularly jealous that Cecila Tan got to hang out with REM’s Mike Mills.
  • Murphy learning on the fly at helm of Padres (MLB.com) – Interim manager Pat Murphy shares some thoughts on the latest chapter in his illustrious baseball career: “I think as you get more comfortable, you learn a little more. I don’t know how these things are supposed to go. But I have had an open mind and have tried to learn everything I can. But it still comes down to playing winning baseball.” Winning would be good since according to Dave Cameron (and it’s hard to argue the point), “this might be their only chance for quite a while,” which makes staying positive a challenge for fans.