Archive for Padres

The Eyes Have It: Seth Smith’s Laser Show

Seth Smith is having the best year of his career at the plate. He has slowed down during the second half of the season after a monster first half, but his overall line is still quite good. These days, .266/.370/.444 with half of the games happening in one of the league’s tougher parks for hitters is good for a 134 wRC+.

Even though Smith is having his best year as a hitter at 31, an age at which most players are expected to decline, in itself the story is not terribly interesting. During the off-season and the trade deadline, one could take about the Padres trading Luke Gregerson for him, giving Smith an extension, and electing not to trade him at the deadline (when his numbers was much more impressive) to generaet a bit of heat, but this is not exactly Trout-versus-Cabrera 2012-2013 territory. The Padres are a mediocre team (to put it kindly) in another transitional year, and Smith is only really good by their 2014 standard. He has hardly reshaped himself into a superstar. Smith is a platoon hitter whose greater level of success this year might very well be random variation.

What makes Smith’s performance this season more intriguing than it might appear at first is the possible connection to laser eye surgery Smith had late last season.

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New Padre Elliot Morris Flashes Power Stuff

When our other prospect writers submit scouting reports, I will provide a short background and industry consensus tool grades. There are two reasons for this: 1) giving context to account for the writer seeing a bad outing (never threw his changeup, coming back from injury, etc.) and 2) not making him go on about the player’s background or speculate about what may have happened in other outings.

The writer still grades the tools based on what they saw, I’m just letting the reader know what he would’ve seen in many other games from this season, particularly with young players that may be fatigued late in the season. The grades are presented as present/future on the 20-80 scouting scale and very shortly I’ll publish a series going into more depth explaining these grades. -Kiley

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Rafael De Paula Shows Big League Potential

When our other prospect writers submit scouting reports, I will provide a short background and industry consensus tool grades.  There are two reasons for this: 1) giving context to account for the writer seeing a bad outing (never threw his changeup, coming back from injury, etc.) and 2) not making him go on about the player’s background or speculate about what may have happened in other outings.

The writer still grades the tools based on what they saw, I’m just letting the reader know what he would’ve seen in many other games from this season, particularly with young players that may be fatigued late in the season. The grades are presented as present/future on the 20-80 scouting scale and very shortly I’ll publish a series going into more depth explaining these grades.   -Kiley

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The Dark Side Of Booming Local TV Deals

Bud Selig has been giddy watching baseball teams attract bigger and bigger local television deals. More local TV revenue to a team means more money for the league to spread via revenue sharing and greater competitive balance. And Bug Selig sure loves competitive balance. On a recent visit to PNC Park, Major League Baseball’s commissioner told Pittsburgh Pirates broadcasters that he got “goosebumps” watching the Reds and Pirates square off in last year’s postseason.

But big local TV contracts aren’t all Skittles and puppies. Certainly not for fans who are forced to pay higher and higher cable and satellite TV bills to watch their home team. Nor for cable and satellite TV customers who don’t care about baseball but have to pay the higher prices as part of their bundled programming.

It turns out that big local TV contracts aren’t always good news for teams either. That has turned Selig’s mood quite sour.

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Padres Finally Trade Chase Headley Two Years Too Late

In 2012, 28-year-old Chase Headley put up one of the five best seasons in the history of the Padres franchise, a 7.2 WAR year that made him one of the six most valuable hitters in baseball that year. He had two years of team control remaining, he was on the right side of 30 and he was playing a position that is always difficult to fill ably. His value was through the roof; the Padres could have had almost anything they wanted for him. Preferring to try to win, they made a few extension offers that didn’t pan out, and kept him around to go 119-141 since the end of 2012.

Less than two years later, he’s been traded to the Yankees for a 27-year-old infielder who was a minor league free agent last winter (Yangervis Solarte), an inconsistent (though talented) 23-year-old A-ball pitcher who wasn’t on anyone’s top-100 list (Rafael De Paula), the loss of the option to give Headley a qualifying offer if they wanted, and they even had to kick in a million dollars to the Yankees to make it happen. When you talk about holding on to an asset too long, well, this is the prime example right here. Headley is no longer part of the Padres’ future, and he didn’t turn into anything that is very likely to be a big part of that future.

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Whom The All-Stars Are Looking Forward to Seeing

Because of  interleague play, many of this season’s All-Stars have already seen who’s on the other side. But there’s a unique opportunity to see the best of the other league on one field in Minnesota. So I asked some All-Stars if they were looking forward to a particular matchup today.

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The Emergence of Tyson Ross

This is me writing a positive post about the San Diego Padres in 2014. That’s notable, because there haven’t been too many good things to say about the Padres this year. Sorry, Padres.

To be fair, it’s mostly because of their lineup, which had a wRC+ of 40 in the month of June. The offensive unit, as a whole, has produced exactly the same WAR for the entire season as Yangervis Solarte, who was just optioned to Triple-A. Some guy named Kevin Kiermaier has nearly twice the WAR of the entire Padres lineup. But that’s for a different post. The position players have been historically bad in San Diego, but the pitching hasn’t been much better.

The Padres pitching staff is 21st in WAR. After a breakout season last year, Eric Stults has a matching ERA and FIP of 5.00. Free agent addition Josh Johnson got hurt and never pitched a game. 16 starts have been given to a lousy combination of Donn Roach, Billy Buckner, Robbie Erlin, Tim Stauffer and Odrisamer Despaigne. Ian Kennedy has been good, but not great. Andrew Cashner has been good, but he’s also been hurt.

Then there’s Tyson Ross.
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Padres Continue To Be Weird, Extend Seth Smith

Over the last couple of years, the Padres have done some weird things. Despite being a lower revenue club, they spent a decent amount of money to have Huston Street close games, and then spent a decent amount more money to have Joaquin Benoit pitch in front of Huston Street. Instead of either extending or trading Chase Headley, they’ve done neither, and are now primed to either sell when his value is lowest or just let him leave as a free agent. They acquired and then extended Carlos Quentin, despite his health problems and their inability to offer him a designated hitter role.

All the way through, it has appeared as if the team couldn’t decide whether they were building for the future or trying to win now. They planted one foot firmly in both camps and ended up going nowhere, which is why they just fired Josh Byrnes and are looking for a new GM to provide direction to a franchise that has been swimming upstream for a while now.

Generally, firing your GM mid-season is a pretty good sign that you’re not a contender. And the Padres certainly are not. Despite having acting-GMs in place, they have a large for sale sign in the yard, and will likely be one of the more active sellers in July. But despite all this, the Padres are apparently not done being weird.

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The Padres and Unrealistic Expectations

Last week, Ken Rosenthal reported that the Padres could be getting ready to clean house. On Sunday, the Padres fired General Manager Josh Byrnes.

Ron Fowler, executive chairman of the Padres, bristled a bit Sunday when he was asked if the dismissal of Josh Byrnes as general manager was a step back for the organization.

“This is a reset,” Fowler said. “This is not a step back. We’re doing this so that we could move forward. We expect continuous improvement from the organization. We’re getting it in other areas. We are not getting it on the baseball field.”

There’s nothing controversial about this statement. At 32-44, the Padres have the third-worst record in baseball, and they’ll have to play better than .500 baseball the rest of the way just to finish with the same 76-86 record that they’ve recorded the last two years. While there are some individual success stories, this team is not any better than the mediocrity that they’ve been for several years now. But this isn’t necessarily just about not seeing improvement.

There had been rumblings and rumors locally that the team was considering changes, either up top with Byrnes or possibly manager Bud Black. Mike Dee, team president and CEO of the Padres, said the Padres will keep Black at least through the end of the season.

“This was a decision that was not made in a day or two or a week or two. The last couple months, we’ve seen a team we had high expectations for. Those expectations have not been reached,” said Dee.

It’s understandable to say that the Padres have not been good this year, and even that they’ve played worse than expected. But I guess my question would be this: if the management team had “high expectations” for this roster, isn’t that their fault? Because I can’t find anyone else who thought this team was any good.

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Tony Gwynn Was Always in Control

It’s rare that a player becomes synonymous with his team. Tony Gwynn was one such player. He is literally known as Mr. Padre. The address of Petco Park is 19 Tony Gwynn Drive. When John Moores owned the team, he even paid for a new stadium at Gwynn’s alma mater, and it was named Tony Gwynn Stadium. Today however, we lose the opportunity to speak of Gwynn in the present tense, as he has unfortunately passed away at the age of 54.

The records that Gwynn holds in Padres history are essentially all of them. He holds the top nine single-season batting averages in team history. Cumulatively, his .338 career average is 24 points higher than the next man on that list, Mark Loretta. That is made all the more remarkable when you consider how long Gwynn wore the San Diego uniform — he played nearly twice as many games as the next player on the list, Garry Templeton. And he did rack up more than double the at-bats and plate appearances than did Templeton. Gwynn retired with an even 65.0 WAR. No other Padres player has even 30. Among active players, Chase Headley is the leader, but at 19.6 WAR and very close to free agency, he’s not going to sniff Gwynn any time soon. In fact, it’s probably not hyperbole to say that the player most equipped to surpass Gwynn isn’t on the Padres right now.

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San Diego’s Historically Tenuous Trio

The San Diego Padres currently own the worst offense in baseball. Maybe that’s not surprising given that they play half of their games in Petco Park, one of the league’s most pitcher-friendly confines. Still, an average of three runs per game is paltry, and the fact that they’ve scored three runs or less – when teams win just 22 percent of the time this season – in 26 of their 40 games is rather astounding, especially since they’ve managed to go 19-21.

It’s so bad, in fact, that even when the park is controlled for using weighted runs created plus (wRC+), the Padres still grade out as the worst offense in baseball, and by a significant margin. Their wRC+ of 75 is indicative of an offense 25 percent worse than the league average, and they’ve produced quite a cushion between themselves and the next worst offense (the Cubs, with a wRC+ of 81).

Where does the blame fall for this kind of offensive ineptitude? You’d think it would be a team-wide epidemic but most of the blame can fall squarely on the league’s most tenuous trio.
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Corey Kluber and Kluberization: Ditching the Four-Seam

If Corey Kluber‘s road to the big leagues was long and winding, the reason for his recent success might be short and simple. One day, some time in 2011, the pitcher finally gave up on his four-seam fastball and started throwing a two-seamer. And now you have the current Corey Kluber. A contrite pitcher talking about a simple change doesn’t make for a long interview, but the Corey Kluber Process might be applicable to some other young pitchers around the league.

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How Yasmani Grandal Stole Third Base

In the first 2014 regular-season baseball game played in the Northern Hemisphere, the Padres hosted the Dodgers. A 1-0 game became a 1-1 game late, and then Yasmani Grandal got on and stole third base. Moments later he scored the go-ahead run, and the Padres held on to win 3-1. That steal happened to be the first of Grandal’s major-league career. It also happened to be the first of Grandal’s professional career. Grandal is a slow-moving catcher and he’s coming off knee surgery. You’re right to identify this as an unlikely turn of events. It was also, in part, the consequence of an unlikely turn of events.

Not long ago I wrote a few posts about the challenge of bunting. Bunting, see, has the reputation of being something absurdly easy to do, but it’s really quite hard, even if certain position players don’t do it enough. Sunday night’s attempted bunting was a mixed bag. There were seven attempts overall. There were two successful sacrifices. There was one blown sacrifice, where the lead runner was thrown out. Two bunts went foul. Another bunt went foul into a glove on the fly. One attempted bunt was missed completely. That missed bunt, by the Padres, was instrumental in the Padres earning the win.

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The All Sure-Handed Team

If there are two somewhat separate skills when it comes to defense — getting to balls and converting the chances you can get to — we all know which one gets more attention. The leapers and divers get the oohs and ahs while those watching the ball all the way into the glove gets golf claps at best. It’s time to appreciate the guys that make the plays they are supposed to.

The All Sure-Handed Team.

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Cameron Maybin And The Padres Are Off To A Bad Start

On Sunday afternoon in Arizona against the Dodgers, San Diego center fielder Cameron Maybin made a nice diving catch to rob Juan Uribe of an extra-base hit:

maybin_dive_2014-03-02

Wonderful! That’s a fantastic play, even if one perhaps that might have been made much easier by the right fielder, Rymer Liriano, although you understand if a young player with just 53 professional games above Single-A may have hesitated to call off a major league center fielder. Still, Maybin made the play, and he looked good doing it. Great play, beautiful day, all is good in the world.

Except, after spending most of the next inning looking like this…  Read the rest of this entry »


Cory Luebke And Difficulties In San Diego

Two years ago, things looked to be headed in the right direction for San Diego. True, they were coming off a 91-loss 2011 season as they transitioned out of the Adrian Gonzalez / Heath Bell era, but the signs were at least pointing the right way. Keith Law ranked them as the #1 farm system in baseball, saying “in terms of total future value of players likely to play significant roles in the big leagues, they’re ahead of everyone else,” and “they are well-positioned to compete even with modest major league payrolls during the next five to six years,” thanks in no small part to the rewards reaped from the trades of Gonzalez and Mat LatosCameron Maybin had finally shown some of the promise that had made him a centerpiece of the Miguel Cabrera trade by putting up over 4 WAR, and so the Padres gave him a five-year extension. Nick Hundley took a big step forward with a .356 wOBA and 3.3 WAR, so San Diego bought out most of his remaining team control years too.

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Rays, Padres Fill Needs And Challenge One Another

If you had told me at the start of this week that Logan Forsythe was going to headline a seven-player trade, I’d have said that you just must be bored because nothing has been going on. After all, how often do seven-player trades happen? I mean, that’s just crazy talk. That it did actually happen, and that the headliner has compiled a grand total of 1.7 WAR is cool, in an odd sort of way. The trade is also rare in the sense that it both fills distinct needs for both clubs, but also is a bit of a challenge trade.

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Mike Piazza’s Greatness

Mike Piazza didn’t cross the 75% threshold required for election into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Still, at 62.2% in his second year on the ballot, he’s probably close enough that his election is eventually assured. And that’s good, because he was the greatest offensive catcher in baseball history.

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Who is the Next Joaquin Benoit?

Joaquin Benoit got a two-year, $15.5 mmillion deal to pitch for the Padres this week. The signing didn’t make many waves — after all, Benoit has been a very good reliever the last three years. But three years ago, Benoit’s three-year deal seemed like a head-scratcher. Are there any multi-year reliever signings going on right now that we might look back on as favorably as Benoit’s with the Tigers? Are there any past relievers, future closers still on the market? Who’s the next Joaquin Benoit?

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Steamer Projects: San Diego Padres Prospects

Earlier today, polite and Canadian and polite Marc Hulet published his 2014 organizational prospect list for the San Diego Padres.

It goes without saying that, in composing such a list, Hulet has considered the overall future value those prospects might be expected to provide either to the Padres or whatever other organizations to which they might someday belong.

What this brief post concerns isn’t overall future value, at all, but rather such value as the prospects from Hulet’s list might provide were they to play, more or less, a full major-league season in 2014.

Other prospect projections: Arizona / Chicago AL / Miami / Minnesota / New York NL / San Francisco / Seattle / Toronto.

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