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.

Read More…

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.

Read More…

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.

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

  • Contact Quality: Excessive Ground-Ball Pullers, 2014 NL (FanGraphs) – This one from Tony Blengino is a little old, but Matt Kemp shows up on the list, which probably helps explain why Kemp, Yangervis Solarte, and Cory Spangenberg all have nearly identical batting lines. Speaking of Blengino, he recently discussed the “most authoritative hitters” of all-time. One such hitter, not surprisingly, is San Diego’s own Ted Williams.
  • The Ironic Jersey Omnibus Lives (Hardball Times) – Patrick Dubuque’s long-running NotGraphs series has found a new home. This installment includes the Padres (yay!) and Giants (boo!). Dubuque was kind enough to ask for my input, which I gladly provided. Nate Colbert makes an appearance, as do Enzo Hernandez and eight other players. Fun stuff.
  • Anatomy of a Murder: The Federal League and the Courts (Our Game) – In the department of super-long reads, this is the first part of an article written by Gary Hailey in the mid-’80s for SABR and reproduced now by John Thorn. To blatantly name drop, Hailey and I played in a Scoresheet league together for many years. He’s an interesting guy and an excellent writer, and you should read this. See also Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.
  • On Derek Norris’ Surprising Strength (Padres Public) – Dustin observes that the Padres catcher is much harder to run on than he used to be. Note that this does not hold true when the Tyson Ross Track Meet™ is in effect.
  • Inside a Beanball War: How One Play Turned into Three Days of Royals, A’s Rage (Bleacher Report) – Scott Miller does some nice investigative reporting on a series of brawls that took place earlier this season. Miller digs into the psychology behind such incidents and highlights some famous wars of the past, including the Carlos Quentin/Zack Greinke affair of 2013 and the Padres/Braves ugliness of 1984.

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

  • Bud Black was fired this week, replaced by Pat Murphy on an interim basis, as A.J. Preller continues to overhaul the organization he rebuilt over the winter with the promise of a brighter future that has yet to materialize. Among those with thoughts on Black’s firing are Jeff Sullivan (FanGraphs), Wonko and jbox (Gaslamp Ball), Dustin (Padres Public), Jon Heyman (CBS), and Tim Brown (Yahoo!). And Dennis Lin tells us a little about Murphy, who had been the manager at Triple-A El Paso.
  • Gwynn Jr. reflective on anniversary of father’s death (Padres.com) – Overshadowed by the current regime’s ongoing drama was the anniversary of Tony Gwynn’s death. Barry Bloom checked in with son Anthony: “For me, living in San Diego, there are constant reminders of him. I don’t know if I’ve had a full chance to grieve, but I’ve had time. It gets easier every day. But you’re still going to go through your first year with him gone. The anniversary of him passing, birthdays will always be popping up.”
  • Scandal on the South Side: The 1919 Chicago White Sox (SABR) – Here’s another book I haven’t read that sounds fascinating: “We now have access to crucial information that changes what we thought we knew about ‘baseball’s darkest hour’ — including rare film footage from that fateful fall classic, legal documents from the criminal and civil court proceedings, and accurate salary information for major-league players and teams.” This one is edited by former North County Times staffer and all-around good guy Jacob Pomrenke. The e-book is free to SABR members. Shifting to the other side of the Windy City, Mark Kram wrote in 1977 about why Hack Wilson isn’t in the Hall of Fame. [h/t Jay Jaffe for Kram on Wilson]
  • For a Catcher Who Had a Pitcher’s Surgery, Recovery From a Different Angle (New York Times) – Baltimore’s Matt Wieters shares his theory on the current Tommy John epidemic: “Pitchers are now throwing with 100 percent effort almost every pitch they throw out there. I think back in the day, one, they didn’t have all the M.R.I.s and things to find it, but also those guys would save their 100 percent effort for when they needed it.” Speaking of catchers, former Padres backstop John Baker (FOX Sports) pens a pensive piece on “playing the right way.” [h/t VocalMinoritySD for the Baker bit]
  • The Physics of Calling Pitches from Your Sofa (Hardball Times) – David Kagan discusses the difficulty of judging balls and strikes on television thanks to the various camera angles employed in different ballparks, aka parallax error. From the comments, this collection of center-field camera angle screen shots is also worth reviewing.

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

Offense

The A’s are solid from top to bottom. The weak links are Eric Sogard and Billy Butler. In Sogard’s case, he has never hit much, while Butler is just struggling. Plus he makes Yonder Alonso look like Billy Hamilton and can be thrown out from almost anywhere on the field.

Stephen Vogt and Josh Reddick, both left-handed hitters, have been Oakland’s biggest threats for most of the year. Vogt is having a rough June, but when he’s on, he works counts and drives the ball hard. Right now he is expanding his zone and not making contact.

Unlike Vogt, whose platoon splits exist but are fairly mild, Reddick can be beaten by good southpaws. And if the Padres had any, that might help, since he mashes right-handed pitching: .369/.438/.631 in 176 plate appearances through June 14.

Billy Burns has been a catalyst at the top of the order since his May recall. He is a pest who fouls pitches off, makes good contact, and can drive the ball harder than you might expect from a guy listed at 5’9”, 180. He also runs well and is one of the A’s few threats to steal.

The other guy worth mentioning is Brett Lawrie, who hacks at everything and occasionally hits one real far. He’s also a bit intense. Lawrie has been known to scream while rounding the bases after a home run and launch epic F-bombs after striking out. Whatever the case, it’s nothing personal. That’s just what he does, like those crazy people on Broadway.

Read More…

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

  • Removing the Fangs From Ty Cobb’s Notoriety (New York Times) – There’s a new book out about Cobb, and what author Charles Leerhsen discovered after four years of researching his subject surprised even him: “I thought I’d find new examples of monstrous monstrosity. Instead, I found a very different person than the myth. I was a little disappointed at first. He’s more normal than I thought.” Sounds like a great read, as is Cobb’s SABR biography.
  • The Braves are Salvaging a Salary Dump (FanGraphs) – As Jeff Sullivan notes, former Padres center fielder Cameron Maybin has stopped hitting so many groundballs in Atlanta. That and health are turning him into the player folks once envisioned him becoming. For now, anyway. [h/t reader Didi]
  • Attendance Update and the Angels’ Latest PR Mess (FanGraphs) – Through June 4, the Padres ranked 12th out of 30, just ahead of the Rangers and behind last year’s American League champion Royals. The Pads also have had the third largest gain from 2014, behind those same Royals and the hated Mariners (go figure). On the downside, literally, the Pads’ attendance slipped from April to May more than all but three teams. Hosting teams outside the division is a little different from hosting the Giants and Dodgers, who knew? That the Padres haven’t lived up to preseason hype probably doesn’t help either. Hey, at least they aren’t the Phillies.
  • Padres Pics #1 (The 5.5 Hole) – This new blog promises to be fun. Anything that starts with Kurt Bevacqua dressed as Dick Williams being harassed by umpires has to be good, right? Speaking of Padres from the ’80s, Wax Pack is a book due out in 2017 (plan ahead!) that author Brad Balukjian calls “the story of a single pack of 1986 Topps baseball cards and the attempt to track down each of the players inside nearly 30 years after they were bundled together with a stick of chalky bubblegum.” Balukjian will be interviewing the players in this single pack, including Garry Templeton. Pretty cool. Others in the pack with Padres ties are Gary Pettis, Randy Ready, and Rick Sutcliffe.
  • Padres draft RHP Austin Smith at No. 51 (San Diego Union-Tribune) – A.J. Preller likes his team’s first pick in the 2015 draft: “It’s a big body, good frame, big, strong and durable. Clean arm action, good delivery, and he shows three pitches.” MLB.com adds: “He works at 90-92 mph and tops out at 96 while looking like he’s just playing catch. He could sit in the mid-90s once he fills out his 6-foot-4 frame and gets more consistent.” Learn more about the Padres draft class (including third rounder Jacob Nix, who has an interesting backstory) at Draft Tracker 2015 and from our own Dustin.

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

  • Home Run Trajectories and Pitchers (Beyond the Box Score) – John Choiniere wonders whether a pitcher could, in theory, snare a line drive that otherwise would end up a home run. This might be the most fun you’ll ever have with physics. [h/t Baseball Prospectus]
  • In Iowa, good luck trying to watch the Twins (or five other MLB teams) (Star Tribune) – Michael Rand points out, as others have before, the stupidity of MLB’s blackout rules. I am prevented from legally watching the Padres without cable TV despite living fewer than 10 miles from Petco Park. Annoying? Sure, but folks in Iowa are kept from watching six different teams (and their opponents) despite being nowhere near a big-league ballpark. That is probably not the best way to engender fan loyalty. [h/t SABR]
  • Sunday Notes: Featherston, Bass, Knucklers & Eddy R (FanGraphs) – David Laurila’s column is one of my weekly must-reads, a reminder that good questions beget good answers. This installment includes thoughts from former Padres right-hander Anthony Bass, who discusses adjustments he’s made in his delivery over the years to improve command. Now with the Rangers, Bass is filling the role that Tim Stauffer once filled in San Diego. Good to see him doing well. Alas, the same cannot be said of Stauffer in Minnesota.
  • Conner: First draft a ‘fun challenge’ (San Diego Union-Tribune) – Is there a draft in here, or is that just Padres Scouting Director Mark Conner talking about the future? [h/t madfriars] San Diego doesn’t pick until 51st overall, but draftniks might like to know what various sources see in their crystal balls. And MLB’s Draft Central is the place to be on June 8 (yes, that’s Monday).
  • The Future of Baseball Technology, Part One: The Internet of Things (Hardball Times) – The opener of Jesse Wolfersberger’s two-part series examines swing trackers (think radar guns for bat speed) and “sleeves” that track a pitcher’s motion and “provide data which can be used to help improve the pitcher’s delivery, measure fatigue, prevent injuries, and rehab after injuries.” Part two delves further into wearables, as well as future possible uses of virtual reality, augmented reality, brain measurement, and improved health technology to advance the game. Who knows how much of this stuff will actually come to pass, but it’s fascinating to consider.