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.

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The National League West might just be the most interesting division in baseball.

Actually, there are a bunch of interesting divisions in baseball, especially in spring training. But the NL West features four franchises with overhauled front offices (the Padres, Dodgers, Rockies, and D’Backs), the defending World Series champions (the Giants), two of the busiest teams this offseason (the Padres and Dodgers), and the on-paper best team in the major leagues (the Dodgers). There’s a lot to look forward to.

Below, I’ve provided a brief (hah!) preview for each team, with teams ordered by my Very Unscientific Predicted Standings algorithm. That’s VUPS, for short.

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We last checked in on the National League West as a whole just after the Kentucky Derby in early May, where we found the San Francisco Giants out to a quick division lead thanks to a sparkling 20-11 start and the (surprising) Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers set up in good stalking position just a couple of games off San Francisco’s hot pace. The San Diego Padres were hanging around at 14-18, but showed glaring signs of an atrocious offense that would solidify its futility as the season progressed. The Arizona Diamondbacks, at 11-23, had all but checked out early.

In the comments of that post, Lonnie Brownell wondered if I would again review the NL West at the half-way and three-quarter points of the season. It made perfect sense, but somewhere along the way, I sort of forgot. Plus, it probably would have been overkill. We’re almost three-fourths of the way through the season anyway, so I figured now would be a good time to take another glance at the Padres four NL West foes – along with the Padres – as the regular season nears its finish line. The current standings:

Team Record GB RS RA Pythag. Record
Dodgers 67-52 488 436 66-53
Giants 62-56 4.5 456 433 62-56
Padres 54-62 11.5 374 390 56-60
Diamondbacks 51-67 15.5 476 559 50-68
Rockies 46-71 20 545 617 52-65

*Above records through Sunday, August 10th. Stats are through the 10th or 11th.

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If a division race is like a horse race, then the five National League West foes haven’t done their most meaningful running yet, as that’ll take place down the stretch in August and September. The start, however, both in horse racing and in baseball can often set the tone for what’s to come.

My pick in the Kentucky Derby – Vicar’s in Trouble – lived up to his name right out of the starting gate on Saturday. He drew the dreaded rail post position and was bumped repeatedly in the early going, forcing jockey Rosie Napravnik to take back and attempt to drop in behind horses. Vicar’s in Trouble, a horse with early speed that likes to be on the lead and in the clear, was having none of it. After finally settling in he actually worked out a nice trip behind the leading wave of horses, but was empty when they turned for home. The bad start probably did him in.

California Chrome, on the other hand, had no issues out of the gate and was able to set up just outside of the leading pair, allowing the post-time favorite and eventual winner to spurt for the finish line and take a commanding late advantage. While the start didn’t necessarily decide the race for any of the 19 Derby runners, it did play an important role in setting the stage for the stretch running.

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“All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence;

then success is sure. “

– Mark Twain

As I sit here and write this the Padres are exactly at .500, 3 games back of 1st, and are about to start a 4-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Jason Marquis is starting and I’ll likely have to update this opening paragraph to account for whatever it is he does. But more on Marquis and his black magic later. (UPDATE: Jason Marquis threw another solid game tonight helping the Padres beat Los Angeles 6-3. His line: 6IP, 2ER, 1BB, 5SO. So an un-Marquis type performance with a very Marquis-like result. At least Marquis-like as of late.)

The Padres began the season with an Over/Under line of 74.5 wins. Which means that Vegas essentially was saying the Padres were roughly a 73-75 win team (the idea being that Vegas wants equal amount of bets on both sides of that line). Jonah Keri of Grantland.com predicted 72 wins and in his first “The 30” article of the season had the Padres as the 2nd worst team in baseball…behind Miami. 

For awhile, these predictions seemed accurate. The Padres, as has been well documented, got off to a 5-15 start with no sign that they could pull out of that slide.

But then they did and here we are.

Which begs two questions for me? Have (and should) expectations changed for the 2013 Padres? How would we define success for this team as of today? The second question is difficult to answer as many people have many different definitions of “success.” So we’ll deal with that first.

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The Padres have now played 40 games so far this season which brings us just about to the quarter poll of the 2013 campaign. As that is the case, I thought it might be a good moment to take stock of what the Padres have, what they don’t have, where they’ve been, and where they may be going. So, with the Padres back home for a 7-game homestand, let’s see what we have.

To say it’s been a roller coaster opening quarter would be an understatement. The Padres have been involved in 8 sweeps so far this season. 4 times being swept, 4 times sweeping. For reference sake, the Padres were involved in their 8th sweep in 2012 on July 4th when they completed a sweep of the Diamondbacks. Considering this you’d be excused for waffling on whether this team is good, bad or something else entirely.

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Guest Post

By David Israel

 

In the ongoing search for baseball oddities, one bit of trivia remains stuck in the mind of many Padres fans – the Tour De NL West.  Both Steve Finley and Matt Herges completed the tour, and with the signing of Jon Garland to the Rockies, presuming he starts a game, I was reminded of the phenomenon.  It raised the question: What other divisions, if any, have played host to a player who has played for each team within the division?

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