As I write this, the Padres have just been dominated by a no-name pitcher and seen their record slip to a barely believable 20-24. Fans were promised a better team, and yet there’s this:

Year W L RS RA
2013 21 23 180 190
2014 21 23 133 154
2015 20 24 182 203

On the other hand, because of that promise, there’s also this:

G 2014 Att/G 2015 Att/G Diff
23 26,674 31,758 +5,084

(Data courtesy of Baseball-Reference.)

Only the Royals and Mariners have seen a greater increase in attendance. The Royals are coming off their first World Series appearance in three decades, and the Mariners are, uh, in Seattle.

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Here’s some stuff I read this week (actually, no, I’m a little behind) that you might enjoy:

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

  • Notes from the Field (Baseball Prospectus) – Chris King tells the story of Colt Daninos, a high school pitcher who has faced some adversity, to put it mildly: “Colt was born with a rare disease known as DiGeorge Syndrome. It is caused by a missing chromosome in his body and has many symptoms, including neuromuscular problems, learning disabilities, congenital heart disease, and many others. It has required Colt to undergo surgery 14 times; it required his entire spine to be fused together. It keeps him reading at a third-grade level and will likely prevent him from attending college.” This article is so full of awesome. You might need tissues. And heck, as long as we’re all having a good cry, go ahead and read this bit about the guy who proposed at a Tampa Bay Rays game.
  • James Shields on his Changeup, Longevity, and Age (FanGraphs) – Eno Sarris examines Shields’ signature pitch, mixing good research with good quotes. As for Shields, dude gets it: “The game evolves. Everyone around the league knows I have a changeup. Sometimes, if you see the guys are sitting on it, you’re going to throw other pitches.” Seems like common sense, but not everyone applies it. In other pitching news, Craig Kimbrel recently blew a save, which was unexpected enough that Jeff Sullivan had to dissect it. More pitching? David Kagan talks radar guns, which sort of qualifies and is interesting in any event. And speaking of radar guns, Ben Lindbergh wrote something cool [h/t Craig Elsten] that mentions Randy Jones.
  • Tate, Padres Haven’t Given Up On Career (Baseball America) – Bill Mitchell reminds us that Donavan Tate remains in the organization. The third pick overall in the 2009 draft, now 24, is at High-A Lake Elsinore (whose Diamond somehow didn’t make Baseball America’s list of best ballparks in the minors). Tate still believes in himself: “I can play at a high level. I can compete with anybody, so I think this is going to be a good year.” While his optimism is admirable, he is way behind the proverbial curve. Big-league success is probably unattainable at this point, but life success remains within his grasp. Here’s hoping. [h/t Mike Couzens]
  • The Mental ABCs of Postmodern Baseball: Searching for Every Possible Edge (Bleacher Report) – Scott Miller notes the growing trend among organizations to have a dedicated specialist that helps players with the mental side of baseball: making sure they get enough sleep (which Russell Carleton has discussed ($) in the past), improving their concentration skills, etc. Former Padres pitcher Bob Tewksbury has worked with the Boston Red Sox for much of the last decade in such capacity. And we’ve talked with San Diego resident Geoff Miller about his work with several big-league teams. It’s good to see decision-makers taking this area of expertise seriously. [h/t Corey Brock]
  • For ex-Dodgers star Matt Kemp, Padres offer chance at fresh start (SI.com) – Ben Reiter chats with Kemp about injuries, aging, and more. Money quote: “I can still run, but I can’t run like I used to run. I got to do a lot more maintenance, making sure my body is right. When I was younger, I could just get out of bed, go play a game and be good. I’ve got to warm up, get those muscles loose to get ready for a game. It’s a process now.” [h/t Brady Phelps]

 

 

Ready for some hot #VedderCup action? Oh yeah, bring it.

Since I watch a fair number of Mariners games, I thought I’d share some observations with you in advance of tonight’s first pitch. Do with these what you will.

Offense

Nelson Cruz. Everything revolves around Cruz. He will swing through a lot of pitches, but he has good plate coverage and can hit the ball a very long way. Cruz is in constant attack mode. He also gets down the line quickly for a guy listed at 6’2”, 230 lbs. Good athlete.

After a miserable start (.149/.197/.194 in 71 PA), Logan Morrison has given the Mariners a second legitimate weapon. He uses all fields and, like Cruz, can hit the ball out of any park.

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

  • Checking In On the Padres’ Defense (FanGraphs) – Jeff Sullivan revisits preseason concerns that San Diego’s gloves, or lack thereof, might pose a problem. Spoiler alert: oof. Dan Szymborski provides additional perspective as well. Wil Myers’ play in center field has been particularly brutal. On the bright side, Eno Sarris points out that Myers is finally healthy enough to cause damage with the bat.
  • MLB Fixes the Trea Turner Problem for Everyone Else (FanGraphs) – As Dave Cameron notes, the 12-month waiting period for trading draftees has been reduced to “roughly five months.” However, Cameron’s assertion that “it was always a silly exercise to have to go through” ignores the historical context of this stipulation, which came into existence after Pete Incaviglia forced the Montreal Expos to trade him for pennies on the dollar. Owners hate lacking leverage in pretty much any situation. It makes them look bad. So they probably didn’t consider this a silly exercise. Which, come to think of it, kind of makes Cameron’s point.
  • Padres’ pitching victim of Padres’ offense (U-T San Diego) – We’ve reached new levels of excuse making. Remember when the offense used to always be the problem? Well, now that the hitters are hitting, they are to blame for the pitchers not doing their job because “the need to act no longer exists.” Stupid hitters doing their job. Hey, maybe Austin Hedges won’t hit. Then the pitchers will need to act again. Whew, solving problems is hard.
  • Is Yonder Alonso back on track? (Beyond the Boxscore) – Spencer Bingol wonders how much injuries have hurt Alonso’s production in the recent past. Bingol concludes that “he may never be a superstar, but finally healthy, Yonder Alonso can still be an above-average bat in a very difficult ballpark.” In other words, he might become the Lyle Overbay we all once dreamed he would become. Yay.
  • Padres face big decision on Black’s future (Padres.com) – Skipper Bud Black is in the final year of his contract, and as Barry Bloom reminds us, Black’s services will be in demand. Bloom peppers his piece with quotes from Padres players and coaches, and even works in a fun dig at a previous management regime for letting Black’s predecessor, Bruce Bochy, walk in 2007. Rumors persist that Bochy has enjoyed some success since then.

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

  • Every Player In Its Right Place (Baseball Prospectus) – Jeff Long presents results of BP’s collaboration with a company called Ayasdi to create “similarity maps” that attempt to put players into various buckets based on shared characteristics. Many of the technical aspects are over my head, but I like the concept and will be interested to see where they take this.
  • Ayala High’s Jonathan Buckley pitches a winner against diabetes (Los Angeles Times) – Need a reason to love Brandon Morrow? Try this: “The player turned around and whether because of fate or luck, it was Morrow. For more than 30 minutes, he graciously talked to Buckley and his family, explaining that Type 1 diabetes would not prevent anyone from pursuing their dreams.”
  • What MLB scouts see when they watch the Chihuahuas (Sports Town El Paso) – Jason Green tells us what’s happening at Triple-A. His report includes thoughts from an American League scout on Rymer Liriano, Austin Hedges, Nick Vincent, and more. Meanwhile, BP’s Brendan Gawlowski saw El Paso right-hander Aaron Northcraft (acquired in the Justin Upton trade) and came away less than impressed. Further down the chain, Curt Rallo profiles Michael Gettys at MiLB.com. Desire? As Gettys says, “I try to make every part of my game better, whether it’s hitting, hitting for power, base running, defensively. I try to be the best at every aspect. I work at everything.” Seems like a good plan. [h/t reader LynchMob for the Gettys article]
  • Introducing Deserved Run Average (DRA)—And All Its Friends (Baseball Prospectus) – Harry Pavlidis et al. have introduced a new pitching metric. This bad boy checks in at nearly 5,000 words, so cancel those afternoon meetings that you would have slept through anyway. If you’re still bored and/or awake after that, here’s an even longer (!) article on the same. Still need more pitching stuff? At Hardball Times, Saul Jackman examines Tyson Ross’ devastating slider, among other things.
  • Cardinals minor league strength coordinator breaks gender barrier in baseball (Peoria Journal Star) – This is good to see. Hopefully Rachel Balkovec isn’t categorically dismissed by closed-minded individuals the way former Padres massage therapist Kelly Calabrese once was by Keith “Just for Men” Hernandez. As Calabrese correctly noted back in 2006, “I don’t think the big issue is whether it’s a woman or a man, but just finding the person for the job.” [h/t SABR; follow the link for more goodies]

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

  • How To Design A Modern Box Score (Baseball Prospectus) – I don’t completely understand Jesse Krailler’s model, but I love the thought process. You can see more of his stuff here. And because I geek out big time on keeping score, here’s a fun Jim Caple article from a couple years ago that’s also worth perusing.
  • Sol White’s Family, Lost and Found (Our Game) – MLB official historian John Thorn published this in May 2014, but I’m only discovering it now. White was a 19th century ballplayer, manager, and baseball historian. As the article notes, “Sol White’s History of Colored Baseball, published in 1907, is the starting point for black baseball scholars following his path.” The rest of the story unfolded in January 2015: “He spent his last years warehoused in a New York state mental hospital. He was buried in an unmarked grave until the Society for American Baseball Research’s Negro Leagues Baseball Grave Marker Project provided a headstone in May 2014.” This is why I’m proud to be a SABR member.
  • The San Diego Hedgehogs? (Baseball Prospectus) – Jeff Quinton wonders whether A.J. Preller rebuilt the Padres using “fox-thinking” (dealing with situations as they arise; dynamic) or “hedgehog-thinking” (having an overarching strategy independent of surroundings; static). Quinton offers several hypotheses at the end. The most likely to me are Hypotheses C (the new front office went out and acquired “their players”) and E (make the team not boring), but we have no way of knowing for sure. Related, Jon Heyman also has an article on Preller’s antics that is worth reading.
  • The Physics of Baseball in Super Slow Motion (Hardball Times) – This piece from Steve Kagan is beautiful. Come for the pretty pictures, stay for the lucid explanations: “When the ball is hit on the ‘sweet spot’ there are few vibrations in the bat. So, no energy is spent on vibration, leaving more available to speed the ball on its journey to the cheap seats.”
  • Myers working hard to prove doubters wrong (Padres.com) – As Tracy Ringolsby discovered, new Padres center fielder Wil Myers isn’t shy about discussing his former team: “I am playing with a chip on my shoulder. Last year was the first bad year I had in my pro career. When Tampa traded me away, I felt they had given up on me.” Chips are good, right? I like mine with pico de gallo.

Today’s question is a fun one:

Thanks for the question, Richie. With the caveats that a) the Padres have played only 11 games so far and b) I haven’t seen any of them, I’ll take a stab.

Myers isn’t a traditional leadoff hitter by any stretch of the imagination. He owns a career .326 OBP and hasn’t drawn a walk this year in 46 plate appearances. He did show some patience in the minors, drawing 85 walks in 2010, which is also when he stole a career-high 12 bases (in 18 attempts; again, not numbers normally associated with a leadoff hitter). Myers also owns a career .522 SLG in the minors and hit 37 homers at two levels in 2012, suggesting more of a middle-of-the-order profile.

All that being said, the early returns are promising and the Padres are winning. It will be interesting to see if pitchers eventually exploit Myers’ free-swinging ways. If they do, then maybe dropping him to a lower spot in the order makes sense. If not, his game will play anywhere in the lineup. Good hitting is good hitting.

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

  • 2015 Lake Elsinore Pre-Season Preview (MadFriars) – I missed this last week on account of being lame, but you’ll want to read John Conniff’s look at the Padres’ High-A affiliate, as well as his previews of the Fort Wayne TinCaps (Low-A), San Antonio Missions (Double-A), and El Paso Chihuahuas (Triple-A). Then get out there and watch some games if you can, because Minor League Baseball is the best. You can see some of the brightest prospects before they become stars, and if you’re real lucky, you can see a manager completely lose it.
  • Examining Potential MLB Expansion Cities, Part 1 (Hardball Times) – Chris Mitchell wonders where MLB might expand next should it choose to do so. Part 1 sets up the framework for his discussion, while Part 2 has names of actual cities. Many of the usual suspects appear (including Portland, one of my favorite non-San Diego places in the world), although some curiosities also make the list (Riverside?). Good food for thought here.
  • A Story About Baseball and a Father and Son I’ve Never Met (Baseball Prospectus) – As someone who recently lost his estranged father, I was touched by Sam Miller’s anecdote. The book inscription mentioned contains perhaps the most accurate description of baseball I have ever seen: “It is something which enraptures even as it saddens. It is something which uplifts even as it frustrates.”
  • Trevor Hoffman makes dramatic speech addressed to fans to start Padres season (Gaslamp Ball) – Having a Padres legend pump up a home crowd that has been revivified thanks to A.J. Preller’s build from outside the organization approach is a savvy marketing move. Sure, it’s cheesy as hell, but who cares? Also from GLB comes news that Dick Enberg has joined Twitter. Not everyone is a fan of Enberg or of Twitter, but when he posts things like photos of his scorebook, maybe it’s time to rethink that stance.
  • Nieves’ heroics key Padres’ victory (San Diego Union-Tribune) – This might end up being one 2015’s coolest stories. At age 37, some 13 years after first reaching the big leagues, Padres backup catcher Wil Nieves launched a grand slam against Jake Peavy at Petco Park. It was the first grand slam of Nieves’ career, and it came off the guy he caught in his debut just down the road at Qualcomm Stadium (Peavy notched the win in that one, with Hoffman getting the save). Not bad for a former 47th-round pick taken 1,284 slots after the more heralded Ben Davis in a miserable 1995 draft.

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

  • Baseball teams use in-depth data to win (Democrat and Chronicle) – Sean Lahman, of Lahman’s Baseball Database fame, pens a thoughtful piece on the current state of analytics in MLB and where it is headed next. As Houston Astros front-office staffer Sig Mejdal notes, “Sabermetrics used to give teams a competitive advantage. Now it’s just table stakes.” Of particular interest is how the Pittsburgh Pirates have used statistical analysis to inform their defensive positioning, pitch selection, and more. This is a fascinating read, as Travis Sawchik’s Big Data Baseball–referenced in the article and due out in May–also promises to be.
  • Pre-Season Predictions (Baseball Prospectus) – The Washington Nationals are the overwhelming favorites to win the World Series, though Jeff Long casts a vote for the Padres. Justin Upton and Matt Kemp receive minimal MVP support, while James Shields gets one third-place tally for the Cy Young award. FanGraphs has predictions as well, which you should also read.
  • Most Extreme Ballparks In The Minors (Baseball America) – Two California League locales make Matt Eddy’s list. The first is High Desert, home of professional baseball’s most extreme environment. I once asked a guy who had played in the league (he posted a sub-600 OPS over parts of two seasons) what his favorite ballpark was. He said this one, because he could hit a pop fly to shortstop and it would leave the yard. The other to make Eddy’s list is Sam Lynn Ballpark in Bakersfield, which serves as an excellent example of how not to build a stadium.
  • Ho-Hum, Another Preller Blockbuster (Padres Public) – Dustin gives his take on the last-minute deal that brought stud closer Craig Kimbrel to San Diego. As Dustin notes, A.J. Preller loves hard-throwing right-handed relievers. Kimbrel fits the bill and might be the best in baseball. The downside is Melvin “Kimbrel Tax” Upton Jr., who hit .198/.279/.314 over the last two seasons and is owed $46.35 million over the next three. Dustin also slings this sobering thought: “The future payroll commitments are getting a bit scary — $75 million is already locked up in the 2017 payroll, and almost all of it goes to three over-30 players and a flame-throwing closer.” Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs also weighs in on the deal, as do Baseball Prospectus ($) and Baseball America. Oh, and now the Padres have another pair of brothers.
  • Matt Vasgersian talks MLB Network, Padres, and chili fries with GLB (Gaslamp Ball) – I miss Matty V.: “2004 was fun because it was the first year at Petco, but 2006 was a blast. Having veterans like Mike Piazza, Boomer Wells and Woody Williams made the team feel legit… Chris Young had an amazing year, Mike Cameron was amazing to watch, that team was a lot of fun.”