Thursday, June 3, 2010

Why are the Padres good this year?

We're just past the 1/3 of the way through the 2010 baseball season. Small sample sizes are giving way to developing trendlines.

And on June 3, 2010, the San Diego Padres find themselves in first place in the NL West with a record of 32-21. This is the team that finished last year 75-87 and fired GM Kevin Towers, replacing him with a great get of a GM candidate in young Jed Hoyer from the Red Sox.

So how are they doing it? Is it the offense? Ummm, no...I don't think so.

They have a grand total of 3 regular starters above 100 OPS+, with Chase Headley at 99. They have super-sub Scott Hairston at 130 and co-catcher Torrealba at 112, but the rest of the lineup is kind of poor.

C -- Hundley 140 OPS+ with an OPS of 848. His first two seasons, he had an OPS of 636 and 719.
1B -- Gonzalez 144 OPS+ with an OPS of 865. He's one of the best 1B in the NL.
2B -- Eckstein 105 OPS+ with an OPS of 722. He has had an OPS+ above 100 one time, back in 2002.
SS -- J. Hairston 78 OPS+ with an OPS of 628.
3B -- Headley 99 OPS+ with an OPS of 701.
LF -- Blanks 72 OPS+ with an OPS of 607.
CF -- Gwynn (not that one) 70 OPS+ with an OPS of 594. Putrid.
RF -- Venable 95 OPS+ with an OPS of 693.

Hundley and Eckstein will regress a little, Headley may improve slightly, but that's it. This offense is pretty poor.

But at least this year they're not trotting out the rotting corpse of Brian Giles with his 55 OPS+ and 548 OPS. Blaaaccchhh.

When you turn to look at the pitching, you see the reason why the Pad Squad is in first place. Especially when you consider half the games are in spacious Petco Caverns.....

Clayton Richard 2.87 ERA (career ERA 4.31)
John Garland 2.15 ERA (career ERA 4.34)
Mat Latos 3.08 ERA (young career ERA 3.78)
Kevin Correia 4.55 ERA (career ERA 4.38)
Wade Leblanc 3.67 ERA (career ERA 4.47)

So you have 4 starting pitchers pitching, in some cases, well below their career ERA's. And one guy pretty much right at it. And then you see the bullpen....

Heath Bell 1.13 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 12.0 K/9
Luke Gregerson 1.57 ERA, 0.453 WHIP, 10 K/9 --- seriously 0.453 WHIP
Edward Mujica 3.46 ERA, 0.885 WHIP, 9 K/9
Mike Adams 2.96 ERA, 0.904 WHIP, 10.7 K/9
Joe Thatcher 1.74 ERA, 0.484 WHIP, 13.1 K/9 -- again, seriously, 0.484 WHIP

Think of how dominant Evan Meek has been at times this year. His stats are 0.89 ERA, 0.956 WHIP, 9.2 K/9. There's two guys in the Pads' bully that are twice as dominant as Meek.

What does it all mean?

It means that unless the voodoo spell they all jointly cast can last the whole season, this pitching staff is due for some SERIOUS regression to the mean. But the thing about getting off to a hot start is that even if you tread water for a little bit, you can coast off the good record you've built up.

And the NL West is very up for grabs. The Dodgers may not be able to add at the deadline due to the financial lockdown the team is in thanks to McCourt's divorce. The Giants have even less offense than the Padres and are GM'ed by Brian Sabean. The Rockies have been a slight disappointment this year, but they are capable of a run late in the year. And the D-Backs are already out of it.

The Padres are definitely above their heads, but perhaps they can pull it off and hang on down the stretch.

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