What's going on with the Padres?
San Diego just got swept by the Phillies, so you know things can't be going very well for the Padres. In fact, the club is 10 games under .500 and looking at a fourth straight season without a playoff appearance.
As usual, offense is a problem for the Padres, but in 2014, it's been an even bigger problem than it usually is. Even though it has been boosted by a pleasantly surprising performance from Seth Smith, the San Diego attack is last in the National League with an OPS+ of just 77. Following his PED suspension last season, Everth Cabrera has looked like a shell of his former self and is walking just 4.3 percent of the time. Similarly, players that showed potential last year like Jedd Gyorko and Will Venable are doing very little to help in run production.
Unless some of San Diego's young players start to turn things around quickly, it doesn't look like the team has the bats to compete for a playoff berth. The pitching isn't terrible shape, but the staff, led by strong performances from Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy, isn't strong enough to overcome an anemic offense.
So should the Padres blow up their roster and start over? Perhaps, but it doesn't look like that is going to happen in the near future.
Who are these guys?
Jace Peterson was hitting .330/.441/.560 in 113 plate appearances at Triple-A El Paso, so when starting second baseman Gyorko hit the disabled list with plantar fasciitis earlier this month, the Padres figured it was a good time for Peterson to make his major league debut. Despite a .231 isolated power at El Paso, Peterson is never going to be a power hitter, but he's posted terrific strikeout and walk rates throughout his pro career, and he could turn into a leadoff hitter in the mold of Cabrera. Right now, though, he's struggling in the big leagues with 10 strikeouts to go with just one walk and four hits in 38 plate appearances.
For a guy who doesn't play much against lefties, Smith is having a heck of an impact on the Padres this season. Since coming up to the majors in 2007, he was a useful platoon piece for the Rockies, but his numbers predictably dropped off when he was shipped to Oakland in 2012. His first season by the bay wasn't terrible, but last year, Smith slugged just .391 and struck out a career-high 23 percent of the time. Nevertheless, Padres GM Josh Byrnes must have sensed a buy-low opportunity, because he swapped relief pitcher Luke Gregerson for Smith this winter. The results have been wonderful for the Padres, as Smith has dropped his strikeout rate down to 16 percent and his hitting for more power than he ever did in Denver. At this rate, the 31-year-old out of Ole Miss could have a career-high fWAR by the All-Star break.
Previously an outfielder who hit a career-high 26 home runs for the pennant-winning Astros in 2005, Jason Lanejust this month made his first big league appearance since 2007. The amazing thing is, he did so as a left-handed pitcher out of the Padres' bullpen. After switching jobs in 2012, Lane has made it back to the majors in relatively short order. Whether that shows how strong Lane's determination is or just how desperate MLB teams are for left-handed pitching is up to you, but either way, the reverse Rick Ankiel job is pretty amazing. Although Lane just cleared waivers and is back with Triple-A El Paso, I felt compelled to mention him here anyway.
Who's on the mound?
For a guy who throws as hard as Cashner, he doesn't strike out many batters. Since he punched out 11 Tigers in a complete game one-hitter on April 11, the big right-hander has maxed out at just six strikeouts. That doesn't mean he's not an effective starter, though. Cashner has kept his walks under control and gets ground balls more than 50 percent of the time. That's a solid formula for success, especially at Petco Park, where Cashner's ground game has made it nearly impossible for opponents to take him deep. A case of elbow soreness threw a monkey wrench into what was turning into a great season for Cashner, but he just returned from the DL to shut down the Nationals for six innings last Saturday.
Allowing 10 batters to reach base in less than six innings is no way to go about lowering your ERA, but Colon managed to do just that in San Francisco over the weekend. It wasn't a great start for him, but he managed to allow just one earned run to the Giants, and now Colon's ERA is starting to come more into line with his strikeout and walk numbers. Unfortunately, while home runs haven't bothered Colon lately, he just walked multiple batters in consecutive starts for the first time in 2014. For a guy with Colon's expert command, that qualifies as going completely out of control.
The Padres have not officially announced a starter for Saturday as of this writing, but Stauffer is the most likely candidate. He's already made three spot starts for the team this season, and he looked pretty good while mopping up for Eric Stults last Sunday. However, Stauffer's previous two starts -- versus Pittsburgh on June 2 and at Arizona on May 28 -- were both disasters, so you can forgive San Diego for being hesitant. Points in favor of Stauffer include his dominant five-inning outing against the Cubs on May 23, and a career-high strikeout rate that has seen the swigman punch out 34 batters in just 30.1 innings this year.
Just when it looked like Wheeler was turning his season around, he turned in a bummer of a start in San Francisco last Sunday. The right-hander lasted just three-and-two-thirds innings while allowing four runs on six hits and two walks. The Padres are a good team for Wheeler to get back to dominating against, and that would be swell, because there's already enough to fret about with the Mets as things stand.
Sunday: Ian Kennedy vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka
The switch from Arizona red to San Diego blue appears to be just what the doctor ordered for Kennedy's pitching career. In this, his first full season on the Pacific coast, the redhead has lifted his strikeout rate above 25 percent and shrunk his walk rate below six percent. That's led to a 2.94 FIP and the re-establishment of Kennedy as a baseball asset after a couple of troubling campaigns in the desert.
Though Mets management would probably prefer it if a young pitcher played well enough to take his place, Matsuzaka has pitched well enough to stick around this rotation at least one turn longer. On Tuesday against Milwaukee, the Japanese veteran allowed just one run in six innings and led the Mets to a surprise victory. The Padres haven't had much luck when they make contract with the ball, so they'll do well to take advantage of Matsuzaka's still-frustrating lack of control.
Prediction: This is the Mets' best chance in a while to get a sweep, so I'm going to say that they get it done.
How about some GIFs?
Rain is no fun for us on the east coast, but I suppose when you're in San Diego and used to perfect weather all the time, the wet stuff can be a hoot. Here is Everth Cabrera using Philadelphia's tarp as a slip-and-slide.
Yasmani Grandal knows that when you throw the bat at your own dugout, it's less likely to incite a brawl than if you throw it at the third baseman.
Chris Denorfia used catches like this one to accumulate a 3.9 fWAR last season.