What's going on with the Padres?
The Padres are in a similar spot as the Mets this season: around 10 games under .500 and well out of contention for a division title. However, while the Mets have the pleasure of putting Matt Harvey on display every fifth day, San Diego has marched out disappointing veterans like Edinson Volquez and Jason Marquis. That's led to a team ERA of 4.21 that is 22nd in the major leagues. At least the offense is improving with young potential-filled players like Yasmani Grandal and Jedd Gyorko starting every day, although losing Everth Cabrera to suspension was a harsh blow to suffer. Carlos Quentin is a guy who could provide a boost, as he is on his way back to full health.
San Diego got off to a pretty good start to the season's second half, but the team has recently fallen back on hard times. A recent 14-2 embarrassing loss in Denver led to veteran manager Bud Black going on a rare dugout tirade. The Padres won the next game versus the Rockies 7-5.
Who are these guys?
Jaff Decker (pronounced like "Jeff") is a left-handed outfielder who knows how to draw a walk. Last year at Double-A, Decker posted a ridiculous 21 percent walk rate which allowed him to deliver a .365 OBP despite a .184 batting average. He'd be a minor league Adam Dunn if not for the absence of any sort of power (three home runs in 190 plate appearances, .109 ISO). This year, Decker's power showed up at Triple-A Tucson, although it's unclear how much of his .450 slugging percentage and .157 ISO was league-related. Decker's walk rate has dropped to a more realistic, but still good 13.5 percent, and he was promoted to the big leagues earlier this month.
Logan Forsythe should not be playing shortstop on a major league team, but that's what he's been doing with Cabrera out on suspension. Perhaps his struggles at the position would be more tolerable if he hit more like he did last season, bur Forsythe has seen his strikeout rate rise from 16 percent to 22 percent since last season. Compound that with a drop in BABIP from .316 to .243, and you've got one lousy utility player. Black is using more of Ronny Cedeno at shortstop recently, which is a good idea. It would be an even better idea if Forsythe's bat was actually suited to the outfield.
Who's on the mound?
Thursday: Tyson Ross vs. Zack Wheeler
Acquired last November in a trade with Oakland, Ross has pitched like a boss recently. For a good portion of the summer, he's been stuck in the bullpen or in the minor leagues, but Ross has been a revelation since his promotion to the Padres rotation in late July. Four straight dominant starts are nothing to mess around with, especially when two of them are on the road against Cincinnati and Arizona. With 28 strikesouts, 10 walks, and 27 innings pitched in those outings, Ross could still stand to improve his control, but at 26 years old, he may be breaking out before our eyes.
Friday: Ian Kennedy vs. Jon Niese
Kennedy was having a rather nightmarish season in Arizona before he was dealt to the Padres at the trade deadline. His walks were up from last year by more than one batter per nine innings and he was sporting a rather unsexy 5.23 ERA. Kennedy hasn't been brilliant in his two starts since being moved, but with a career 37.5 percent ground ball rate, it's hard to doubt that his talents are better suited for PetCo Park than Chase Field. With two years left of arbitration for Kennedy, the Padres may have found themselves a decent rotation piece for the near future. Kennedy had one of his best starts of 2013 against the Mets on July 4 when he struck out eight batters and allowed two runs in seven innings to kickoff the 15-inning marathon played that day.
Saturday: Edinson Volquez vs. Jenrry Mejia
Volquez had one season in 2008 that made the trade exchanging himself and Josh Hamilton seem like a good deal. It's been all regret for Reds fans after that, but now that Hamilton looks washed up and Volquez is elsewhere, they've probably gotten over it. Pitching for a contract this season, Volquez isn't doing himself any favors with 4.28 walks per nine innings, but at least that figure is less than the rates he posted for the past four seasons. Prospective buyers could convince themselves of Volquez's worth by looking at his .330 BABIP against (career .307) and 64 percent strand rate this season, while Volquez would wish that other teams would forget about his Opening Day start against the Mets. He allowed six runs in three innings back on April 1 to get New York's campaign off to a good start.
Sunday: Eric Stults vs. Matt Harvey
This Sunday game is fun because it matches up one of the game's most excited players with one of its least exciting players. No, Stults is not a left-handed version of Harvey, but the Padres may have a diamond in the rough with the 33-year-old journeyman. After bouncing around the major and minor leagues for seven years, Stults has for the first time reached 100 big league innings pitched in a single season. With a fastball that doesn't quite get up to 90 MPH, Stults is having success by limiting walks, and PetCo has afforded him a very friendly home-run-to-fly-ball ratio. He's a guy who makes it seem like anyone can be successful in a pitcher's haven like San Diego, but then you look around the rotation and realize that that isn't quite true.
What about some GIFs?
Opening Day was a long time ago. Here's Collin Cowgill's grand slam from April 1, when everything was glorious.
Matt Harvey got his season off to a dominant start with 10 strikeouts in seven innings on April 3.
Also from April 3, Ike Davis hits the Shea Bridge, sunglasses-at-night guy goes crazy.