The Bar: 2013 Padres Year In Review – Pleasant Surprises

This is where we gather from time to time to talk about something big in the Padres world or just the Padres or just baseball. It’s a roundtable discussion. Except, you know, no round tables. This is a Public House . . . so we’re at the bar.

Old-Fashioned-Bar

It’s time for all of us here at Padres Public to sit back and reflect on the season that was in the only way we truly know how: Drinking bears.

Pleasant Surprises

Left Coast Bias

A team playing sub .500, middle of the division baseball isn’t going to have a ton of pleasant surprises. And stop me if you’ve heard this one, but the Padres appear to be building momentum for next season. I know, I know, we all said this last year and that got us to a 5-15 start. Also, I’m not certain momentum can be carried over an entire winter.

That said, pleasant surprises, or things that make me look forward to the 2014 season I can sum up with two players: Jedd Gyorko and Andrew Cashner.

There was no way to know what Cashner would be this season. Last season his year was cut short thanks to arm issues. Then the hunting accident and a DL start to the season. That was followed by a relegation to the bullpen and it seemed like the Cashner/Rizzo trade was going to be a fleecing by the Cubs. But then, he found his groove. He learned how to pitch, how to not simply throw as hard as he could, and he developed secondary pitches. Injuries are a concern with every pitcher so I’m not certain it’s fair to say he’s “injury prone” anymore than any other pitcher. But he has the makings of a legitimate ace in my mind.

As for Gyorko, he’s been as advertised. He switched positions and has turned himself into a very solid 2nd baseman. His bat, after suffering a lull (post-DL stint), is back and is as advertised. Gyorko has become the rare thing in Padres history . . . a prospect that worked out.

Ghost of Ray Kroc

Chris Denorfia embraced his role as a platoon outfielder. Will Venable stepping his game up in the 2nd half (although it remains to be seen if he can do that for an entire season).

Avenging Jack Murphy

Gyorko’s defense surprised – I didn’t think he would be so solid at 2B. Seeing what he did with the bat and glove makes me comfortable moving forward.

Andrew Cashner‘s ability to harness his velocity surprised me. Cash loves to #dressthdeer with that fastball yet he figured out how to pitch rather than throw and it got him deep into games. He’s become must see viewing.

I also never tried the Kotsay Tacos. From what I hear it’s a good thing I passed on them – therefore, pleasantly surprised.

Son of a Duck

Three things stood out to me this year:

AT&T U-verse picking up Padres games: The number of people in San Diego who still can’t watch the team on live TV remains unacceptably high, but getting one more major provider on board is progress.

Middle infield success: Before his suspension, Everth Cabrera was the disruptive leadoff hitter that has been missing since Dave Roberts played here. Jedd Gyorko led the team in homers and played a solid second base. The last time the Padres had a double-play combination this good was 2006, or maybe even back to 2004, and both men are just entering their primes.

Here is every Padres double-play combination where both guys had 2+ WAR (age in parentheses):

*Jerry Royster (32), Flannery’s backup, also had 2+ WAR
**Baseball-Reference only, not FanGraphs

Emergence of two young power arms: Andrew Cashner stayed healthy and became a pitcher, finishing with a dominant last two months. Tyson Ross entered the season as roster fill and ended it as an important part of next year’s plans. They still have plenty to prove but have exceeded expectations so far.

GoRAK

Time-Warner is the lone holdout and I don’t know if they’re ever going to carry Fox Sports San Diego at this point. I know the club likes to tout the fact that “Padres games are available on more TV sets in the county than ever before.” but I don’t know how true that is. Cox Channel 4 was available on Time-Warner. Is the combined audience from AT&T, DirecTV, and Dish equal to or greater than Time-Warner’s? I guess it could be.

AJM

When I saw Ross in Spring Training I felt good about him. Today? Great. It’s exciting to think about him and Cash at the top of the rotation next year.

RJ’s Fro

I’m pleasantly surprised at Andrew Cashner‘s season. It’s safe to say that almost every one of you guys (myself included) thought that Cashner would never stay healthy enough to last a full season in the starting rotation. His stuff has never been a question but he proved everyone wrong this year by staying relatively healthy all year and throwing over three times his previous career high in innings pitched. Another surprise was how solid Jedd Gyorko‘s defense was at 2nd base. We knew the bat would be there but making the switch from 3rd to 2nd was what everyone was worried about.

Both players erased the concerns we had and now must build off of this season next year if this team has a shot at competing in 2014.

Vocal Minority Nate

How about this? The fence modifications ended up looking great. As someone who always thought moving in the fences was a waste of time and money, at least they did an excellent job designing it and implementing the design. The #whiskeydeck is a fun addition, and having the bullpens together looks a lot better. It was also nice to not hear anyone blaming the fences for Padres offensive troubles. If nothing else, the park’s dimensions are no longer an excuse for sticking with below average players. That was definitely a pleasant surprise.

Vocal Minority David

Andrew Cashner (repeat, repeat, repeat): We’ve been through the hyperbole, the “103 ON THE GUN!!!” bullshit, and now we’re actually seeing some real results. First, we need to acknowledge that his acquisition was still bad process. That said, it’s bad process that seems to be working out for us. Cashner was about as big of a question mark as could be, with durability/injury issues added to his seeming love affair with radar gun readings. It’s weird to say this about a player who approaches the game with childlike abandon, but Cashner seems to have matured on top of his new-found ability to stay healthy. I love it. He’s fun to watch, he’s got great stuff, and I’m excited about a rotation with him penciled in near the top.

Padres Trail

I definitely agree with everyone else regarding Andrew Cashner. Cashner (forgive me) was like a Padawan for a year and a half – he could feel the Force, but he couldn’t control it. Now that he’s learned how to harness his velocity, manage his talent, and pitch, the sky’s the limit. Nice to have a legitimate #1 on the ball club.

With Cashner as #1, Tyson Ross is #1A. During the NLDS a lot was written about Francisco Liriano and his improvement, from the perspective of the Pirates (a) taking a flyer on him and (b) changing his mechanics to give him a repeatable delivery. I can’t help but wonder if the Padres did something similar with Tyson Ross. He was another guy with lots of ability who couldn’t consistently throw strikes; now he can. Now, Cashner and T. Ross aren’t Grienke and Kershaw; but the Padres don’t have Olhendorf and Wells at the top of the rotation anymore, and that’s exciting.

The other surprise to me was the emergence of Nick Vincent. After years of yo-yoing between AAA and the majors, Vincent finally seems to have made the big club to stay. His 161 ERA+ was the best amongst all Padres relievers.

AJM

My favorite part about Nick Vincent appearances were the Ramona county fair jokes from David. A very pleasant surprise.

GoRAK

County Fair? I always thought he was making a joke about a strip club in Ramona.

VM David

http://www.ramonamainstage.com/

I noticed the sign on the way up to Julian one weekend a while back, and it never went away. It’s like they have a state fair stage going all year long! Ramona is also inherently funny.

Sac Bunt Melvin

My pleasant surprises were Andrew Cashner and Will Venable, and we haven’t talked about the latter enough so lets Git R Done if you get my reference lol. By straight fWAR Venable clocks in at 4th on the team behind Chris “Fia” Denorfia, Chase Headley, and Everth Cabrera. That was dragged down because Ultimate Zone Rating totes hates on his game in right this year. Somehow it kind of liked his play in center, and both UZR and B-Ref’s Defensive Runs Saved think Will is an above average defender in both spots for his career. I’m therefore using powers I just invented for myself and awarding Venable some bonus WAR which I stole from Fia for the same but opposite reasons, and calling it a tie.

GoRAK

I’ve got some unpleasant surprises:

Everth Cabrera‘s suspension, while unpleasant, was not really a surprise. Ronny Cedeño‘s play in Cabrera’s place as an “insurance policy” I would classify as a pleasant surprise though.

Sac Bunt Melvin

My unpleasant surprises were the continued injuries to Cameron Maybin and Cory Luebke. Between their good looks and star potential, having them hurt somewhat indefinitely stings. These are the kinds of players you can legitimately dream about (pun intended) which combined with their uncertain futures means you have to temper your expectations from taking over the world down to like, taking over Stockton, CA. It hurts.

VM David

Being bad enough to be bad, but good enough to miss out on a top-10 pick. That’s #SanDiegoSports in a nutshell.

GoRAK

If that doesn’t say it all, nothing does.

***

 What about the 2013 season did you find to be a pleasant surprise? Leave a comment below.

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  • bobbybaseball

    This is your blog – have some pride, proof-read your work dude. With all of the spelling & grammar errors, it takes away from your message. You lose credibility. I can see writing “he’s” accidentally one time, but when you do it multiple times it makes me wonder if you even understand basic english.

    • Thanks for the heads-up.

      • SDPads1

        What’s he’s problem’s?

      • He’s probably just got a poopy diaper.

    • Nathan Veale

      In fairness, we’re really drunk.

  • ballybunion

    Nobody mentioned Stults or Marquis (first half)? Sure, they were veteran fill-ins, but compared to Ohlendorf, Wells and Suppan last year, they were a pleasant surprise: veterans who provided acceptable veteran presence and performance.

    I’m also surprised nobody mentioned Rob (not Robbie) Erlin. Maybe you thought you were looking at LeBlanc again, but Erlin has more movement, a better fastball and has actually learned how to pitch from the dynamic duo of Black and Balsley. With a five man rotation, the best balance includes two lefties, and with Stults taking the veteran role, Erlin filled the 22-year-old-with-promise role very well, with a 1.97 ERA his last five starts against the Dodgers, Giants, Braves and Zonies.

    Finally, Huston Street provided the closer consistency Travor and Heath spoiled us with. Balsley apparently cleaned up his early slider, and he put up a great run, marred only by his starting the off-season a day early.

    Overall, this is a pretty good team, judging by their run when (almost) everybody was healthy. There are questions about the back of the rotation, a couple of knee surgeries, and one pending contract, but this looks like a team that can easily reverse that 76-86 record next year.