When looking back at the disaster that was the 2015 season for the San Diego Padres, there will be some goodness to be found as well. Why a disaster? Maybe hearing Craig Elsten and John Gennaro’s podcast reviewing the season could influence the posit, however when winning winter seemed to be quite an accomplishment in AJ Preller’s young tenure, winning only 74 games and losing two managers in the process does require an evaluation. The quick and dirty eval would be bad. Probably very bad. And you should feel bad too.
But the positives are there to glean and grow. Tyson Ross established himself as a true Number 1 pitcher. And his 0.8 offensive/defensive production with only 68 plate appearances (PA) placed him as the number eight highest contributor to the team’s fWAR tally. That is more of a disparaging comment regarding the Padres (lack of) offense, but also shows Tyson is no slouch with more than just a wicked slider. His 4.4 fWAR for pitching had him tied for ninth in the National League among starters. That’s right; the Padres have a top 10 NL pitcher. Sure, you can crack that there are only 15 teams, so being among the top 10 should be easy. But when the Dodgers, Cubs and Mets each have two, it really doesn’t leave a lot of room for other contenders.
Tyson is head and shoulders above the rest of the staff, almost doubling the production of his closest competitor, Andrew Cashner. Clearly he would win the Padres “Cy Young” award, but does he go as far as MVP? In a word yes, yes he does. Justin Upton was easily the player who accumulated the highest fWAR, but his rate statistic (wRC+) is only slightly above average. The best on the team for wRC+ was Brett Wallace. He was in the Great to Excellent range (at 149) of the spectrum and with 107 PA should see consideration for a role in the team’s near future. But Wallace does not reach the level of MVP with only a limited amount of playing time. Maybe if Yonder Alonso’s 402 PA could have been Wallace’s we could be viewing his campaign differently.
Justin Upton was definitely a good player for the Padres in ’15. He led the team in home runs (26), second in wRC+ and OPS (.790), and also paced the team with 19 steals. And though he was often criticized early in the season for his defense, he did finish the year with a positive UZR/UZR150 and DRS (8). His 3.6 fWAR placed him ahead of the likes of Derek Norris (2.4) and Cory Spangenberg (2.1), but would he be considered the MVP? And what other players should garner consideration?
Matt Kemp hit for the cycle. He is the first Padre to do so. A statue should be erected where Steve Garvey’s retired number now sits in his honor. There should be a nice big old Matt Kemp in place of the other ex-Dodger on the Batter’s Eye. Really though, Kemp had a fairly good offensive year. The problem is the NL has not adopted the designated hitter yet, and Kemp mostly plays right field with no glove and his back to the batter. But he does have a gun. Advanced stats suggesting he actually didn’t save runs with his arm be damned. He threw out plenty of runners to deter scoring. Damn stats.
Comparing the accumulated production of the offensive guys just doesn’t stack up to the year Tyson Ross had. His had a top 10 all-time year for Padres pitchers. He tied with Jake Peavy’s ’06 campaign and Clay Kirby’s ’71. He had an excellent FIP (2.98), kept the ball in the yard with 9 home runs allowed, and most of his peripherals were very good, save his walk rate. He was better than his career average but still below league average.
So there you have it. Your 2015 Padres MVP is Tyson Ross. Well-earned and he should be rewarded fairly well in arbitration this winter. Hopefully the team does recognize they have a top level pitcher on staff and promote him so. To compete in the NL West next season, the Padres are going to need Ross to use this season as a stepping stone for even better results. Maybe he can propel Cashner to do so as well. Maybe even James Shields can jump into the competition next season and the Padres have a triumvirate of starting pitching prowess. At least it sets up Ross as the early leader for being a Padres representative to the ’16 All Star Game. Let’s hope there are more.
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