Jim & Bob's Palatial Baseball Blog

Thursday, February 14, 2008

San Diego Padres 2008 Preview: Sins of the Padres

2007...the year that sucked/was groovy (pick one)

The 2007 Padres spent 43 days in first place and finished 89-74, but Padres fan can be forgiven for thinking that the year sucked anyway. Needing one win on the final Saturday or Sunday to nail down a postseason spot, Padres legend Trevor Hoffman blew a save on Saturday at Milwaukee (ironically on a triple by the son of Padres legend Tony Gwynn); the Pads lost that day and were blown out the next. That pushed them into a 163rd game at Denver to decide the wild card spot; after scoring two runs in the top of the 13th to take the lead, Hoffman blew the save again and the Padres went home for the winter. Over the winter management turned over three lineup spots and two more in the rotation.

They can put it on the board, yes! no! maybe!

They could in 2007, although it doesn't look like it. Petco Park is the anti-Coors; it depressed offense last year by about 12%. The Padres scored only 3.99 runs per game at home, but were fourth in the league in road scoring at 5.10 runs per game. The teams' best hitter, Adrian Gonzalez, is a perfect example of the trend; he had a batting line of .266-.335-.424 at home, but was .295-.358-.570 in road games, driving in 64 runs away from home. Brian Giles hit 12 of his 13 homers on the road; Kevin Kouzmanoff, 13 of his 18.

LF Brian Giles
2B Tadhito Iguchi
3B Kevin Kouzmanoff
1B Adrian Gonzalez
SS Khalil Greene
CF Jim Edmonds
C Josh Bard
RF Scott Hairston

Even at his advanced age, Giles is still an effective hitter, posting a .361 on-base percentage. Kouzmanoff got his rookie season off to a horrid start but batted .317-.366-.524 after the all-star break. Gonzalez is one of the best hitters in the league, a fact masked by his home park. Edmonds can't be counted on for more than 100 games and is declining fast. I think that the Padres will score a few more runs in 2008 than in 2007, but not a significant amount.

Pitchers, or belly itchers?

The Padres led the league in fewest runs allowed in 2007. There's that park again. In home games, the Padres allowed a full run less than the next best team. However, on the road they were mediocre; eighth best out of 16. Jake Peavy won the Cy Young and deserved it; his league-best 2.54 ERA broke out to 2.51 at home and 2.57 on the road. However, second banana Chris Young's home/road ERA split was 1.69/4.52 and Greg Maddux went 3.59/4.65. Hoffman's two season ending blown saves are more understandable when you check his home/away splits: 1.80/4.84.

SP Jake Peavy
SP Chris Young
SP Greg Maddux
SP Randy Wolf
SP lots of wishcasting

CL Trevor Hoffman
RP Heath Bell
RP Cla Meredith

Peavy, Johan Santana, Brandon Webb, and Roy Oswalt are the elite starters in the NL. Young is a decent pitcher and I think that his home/road differential will improve this year. Between age and injuries the three remaining spots will stay interesting. The Padres are really, really hoping that Mark Prior will finally be healthy enough to pitch at least part of this season; I'm sure that Bob wishes them good luck with that. For some reason they have invited Shawn Estes and Glendon Rusch into camp to compete for the fifth starter spot; I'm sure Bob wishes them good luck with that, too. The Padres have made a strength out of the bullpen for several years now by finding castoffs that get the job done; Heath Bell and Cla Meredith were found this way and will again set up Hoffman.

On a side note, the Padres have apparently made a spot on the 40-man roster for Che Guevara, the famous Argentinian revolutionary. Guevara, well-known for his role in the Cuban revolution, was thought to have been killed in Bolivia in 1967. At age 80, he will compete with Kevin Cameron, Wil Ledesma, and Clay Hensley for a spot in the bullpen.

Oh wait, that's actually Carlos Guevara, a 26-year old rookie from Texas. Never mind.

Witnesses for the defense

The Pad people were a good defensive team in 2007, third in the league in defensive efficiency and posting an above average fielding percentage. I'm not sure I see them as being as good in 2008. The aging Edmonds is replacing Mike Cameron in center; that's a hit to the defense. Iguchi is not a plus second baseman, and Hairston is a converted infielder playing right. Moving Giles from right to left is a plus; he no longer has either the range nor the arm for right.

Farm aid

The Padres signed Iguchi to cover second for just a year; Matt Antonelli should take over the spot in 2009 and will be good. Third baseman Chase (that's) Headley and first baseman Kyle Blanks are good prospects but both are blocked by good young regulars at the big league level. If the Padres are in a pennant race this year either might be moved. Outfielder Kellen Kulbacki is a solid bat but is a few years away. Lefthander Wade Leblanc could be a midseason reinforcement for the rotation.

Watch out for that tree!

Lots to worry about here. Edmonds will choose to crash into the tree rather than pull up and play the ball off the trunk; that style of play combined with his age (38) will put him on the DL at least once this year. His offense has fallen in steps each of the last three years; his OPS+ since 2004 are 170, 137, 110, and 88. The Padres may be unpleasantly surprised by the next number in this sequence. Maddux isn't going to be helped by the changes in the defense, but I think he's probably got another year or so in him before the breakdown comes. Giles showed in road games last year that he still has a bit of power, but if he loses that he's no longer an asset. Hoffman is very carefully protected; he pitched less than an inning per game last year. All his peripheral stats were far worse on the road last year; he may hit the wall this year, and he's going to hit it hard when he does. Wolf, Prior, Estes, and Rusch have warning labels right on the box.

I can make a hat, or a broach...

If we agree to forget about the Giants (which is easy), the NL West has four very competitive teams. I would tend to put them into two tiers; the Dodgers and Diamondbacks in the first, and the Padres and Rockies in the second. The first tier teams look a bit better, but both are perfectly capable of screwing themselves up (the Dodgers through bad management, the Snakes by the lack of development of young players). That leaves plenty of room for the second tier teams to sneak past them. The Pads are going to have to have luck on their side, however, and adding a Jim Edmonds at this stage of his career is just asking for bad luck. The worst part of this is that they seem to have no backup plan. Despite a recent mlb.com article touting the Padres improved bench, I can't see much depth. Signing Tony Clark is all well and good, but when your first baseman is one of the best in the league, a lefthanded hitter, and plays every game, what good is having Tony Clark? Kevin Towers needs to find some depth for the outfield, because Edmonds and Giles need plenty of nap time. A team with Peavy, Gonzalez, and Kouzmanoff is going to be pretty decent no matter what, but a couple of injuries could cause the wheels to come off fast.

I want to close by saying that I am rooting a bit for the Padres simply on the basis of having Callix Crabbe on the roster. Because how can you root against a guy named Callix Crabbe?

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